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Ancnoc Peatheart (2019, OB, 46%)

Every time we get ready to review an anCnoc, we feel the weight of the duty to divulge information like some less cool Richard Attenborough. And like Richard Attenborough with Cleopatra, we return to the great dilemma of the name of this whisky. For those who missed it, when InverHouse bought the Knockdhu distillery in 1988, a few miles east of Keith but already outside Speyside, they were embarrassed. In fact, Knockando was already on the market and the marketing boys were already anticipating a lifetime of difficulty trying to get people to understand the difference and the different pronunciation. So, with all-Scottish wisdom, they call the whisky anCnoc, ‘the black hill’. As a rule, the anCnoc spirit is among the friendliest of all, good-natured and honeyed, not exactly ‘black hill’. In recent years, however, there has been an increasing number of peaty expressions, made from peat from the hills near the distillery. Alongside the peat collection, for the last couple of years there has also been Peatheart, a NAS made from 40 ppm peat barley, of which we taste batch no. 2.

N: a breath of fresh air, with a sweet and tart fruitiness between decana pear, lime and gooseberry. In time, even plantain. All obviously burnt, giving a sense of a mojito spilled in an ashtray. In spite of this description, in reality the general sensation is good and the nose shows no particular defects. It is young (and you can feel it from the vivid candied fruit), it is peaty (green wood fire, rather smoky). Everything speaks the language of fresh lightness, notes of talcum powder, fern and something of granny apple flash here and there. Lots of rosemary and grilled friggitelli, but in a very clear and persistent way.

P: here the profile becomes less graceful, in the sense that the very fresh sweetness of the nose becomes a little easier (loaded vanilla, sugar syrup, yellow fruit candy). And even the peat becomes less delicate, taking the path of the burnt: the smoke of burnt olive oil, to be precise. The body is not very structured, but leaves a pleasant oily patina. Green banana, growing lemon (even the nuts) and perhaps burnt sugar. Alongside the rosemary, more evident than on the nose, that talcum note reappears. And we would have gladly avoided it.

F: rather long, ash, balsamic with burnt camphor and mojito made with Ardbeg (idea for bartenders, we’ll send you the bank details later). Curiously, a sweet and marine note emerges, like a smoked scallop.

As is often said of peaty speysiders: ‘You can tell it’s not Islay’. Having filed away this obviousness, all that remains is to sum up: an honest whisky, which does not hide its youth and does not fire random bursts of violent peat. Instead, it remains rather fresh and pleasant, even if not overly complex. Generally speaking, the palate is a little less convincing than the nose, even if the finish does pick up a bit. 83/100.

Recommended soundtrack: Cypress Hill – Yo quiero fumar mota.

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