men of knock: ian dingwall
Posted on June 22, 2015
Any single malt whisky can only be as good as the people who shape it. The Men of Knock, as our team became to be known, are a vital part of anCnoc’s success story. Their dedication to remarkable craftsmanship is second to none. Today we’d like to introduce you to Ian Dingwall who started working at Knockdhu in December 1991. All current anCnoc expressions except the 1975 Vintage passed through his hands.
Tell us a bit about what it was like to start working at Knockdhu. Are you keeping track of how long you’ve been here?
I have worked at Knockdhu for twenty three and a half years, twenty three of which have been on shifts as mashman/ stillman. First day on the job was a bit daunting, as any new job is, but the manager at the time, Stan Harrower (good old-fashioned type) and all the other workers made me feel very welcome and part of the family. First day was spent stencilling casks and learning how to handle them. Being shown round the distillery and seeing the copper stills made me wonder if one day I could be looking after them.
How did you learn the distilling craft? Who were your mentors?
I feel very lucky to have been taught the craft of mashing and distilling by two of the most genuine and friendly guys I have ever met, Bill Pennet who was 63 at that time and Bill McWilliam who was 49. These two lads arrived at Knockdhu In 1963 when the malt barns were still in operation, the copper stills were coal fired and the railway was still running.
I will never forget them, the knowledge and experience they passed on was invaluable, also some of the stories of times gone by are quite humorous.
What was the most difficult lesson you've learned as a whisky-maker?
A lesson is only as difficult as you make it!
anCnoc's motto is Modern Tradition. What do you consider to be modern and what traditional in the production process at Knockdhu?
I suppose when you speak of modern, I consider computers, internet, social media and mobile phones all of which has to be used in today’s world, to an extent, to promote our brands and products and to stay in touch with everyone else.
Traditional, is the methods and ways in which we produce our whisky at Knockdhu, (encouraged by our manager Gordon Bruce, a modern and traditional guy). It’s not a computer programmed plant, there were just practical improvements made over the years.
The distillery doesn't have a visitor facility but you've famously never turned anyone away. Why?
We all have a fair bit of pride in our distillery and our whisky, so I always think that if someone is interested and willing enough to visit our distillery, the least we can do is our best to show them round and answer any questions they may have. Hopefully they enjoy their experience and whisky and spread the good word.
Do you have a favourite task/part of your job at Knockdhu?
I treat every part of my job the same. I feel lucky to be fit and able to do a job I enjoy and get paid for it (don’t tell the boss that)! I also like being involved in improving any parts of the distillery that need a bit of work done, seeing the difference of before and after gives a good bit of satisfaction.