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Whiskymag 137 July _Aug 2016

Cardhu Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Speyside Distillery Information

Cardhu Distillery History

When John Cumming became the leaseholder at Cardhu farm in 1811 he started distilling whisky This was a typical sideline of the tenant farmer using barley, peat and water from the land to good productive ends. The Mannoch Hill nearby provided both the spring water and the peat with which Cardhu whisky was made. In those days when it was illicitly distilled, the small kegs of whisky were carried on ponies, often at night, over the Mannoch Hill and down into Forres and Elgin where there was always demand.


His wife, Helen looked after the mashing and fermenting disguising the aromas as bread making and if by chance Excise officers came by. She would sit them down for tea and while they ate, would slip out and fly a red flag from the rear of the farm – a prearranged signal to her neighbours to hide their distilling apparatus


The distillery was first licensed in 1824 and because John Cumming liked the status of being one of the smallest and best distilleries in Scotland Cardhu’s whisky continued to be produced in the traditional small farm distillery way


His son Lewis Cumming and daughter-in-law, Elizabeth, continued with this approach after he died, (1872). However, in 1884, the worn-out distillery was replaced by the new Cardhu distillery located on additional land leased in perpetuity by Elizabeth, now widowed.


Elizabeth Cumming is regarded as a talented, dynamic woman and probably the most accomplished woman distiller of her time. Among the equipment she sold off during reconstruction was a pair of often repaired and thin-skinned pot-stills to a new distiller a Mr.William Grant for £120 who was confident that he could do well with the whisky he was going to produce in his Glenfiddich. Distillery


By the 1890s, the Cardhu whisky had become the primary malt in the blends produced by John Walker & Co., Kilmarnock. In 1893 the Cardhu distillery was sold to Walker’s and remains an important component of Johnnie Walker blends  


Control of Johnnie Walker passed to DCL in 1925 then became part of Scottish Malt Distillers in 1930 A major refurbishment of the distillery was carried out in 1960 and the Stills were increased from 4-6. In 1971 Cardhu’s three pairs of stills were converted to heating by internal steam coils.


Today the office, the malt-barns and the kiln, including pagoda heads are all that remain of Elizabeth Cumming’s ‘New’ Cardhu of 1884; When John Cumming first licensed his Cardhu distillery in 1824, he had a string of convictions as a whisky smuggler behind him. Such brushes with the law seem to have been the equivalent then of parking on a double yellow line today. They even became a kind of alternative pedigree and at Cardhu the court judgements are framed and hung proudly on the wall of the distillery manager’s office.


Cardhu means “Black Rock” in Gaelic. The whisky had been known as the Anglicised  “Cardow”. The name was changed to the Gaelic Cardhu in 1981.

The visitor’s reception centre was opened in 1988


Cardhu Distillery Bottlings

Tasting Notes supplied by  Diageo


Cardhu Single Malt Scotch Whisky 12 year old

Spirity nose with sweet apple blossom and heathery aromas, well-balanced palate with good viscosity. Warming with a dryish finish.


Strength: 40% ABV

Appearance: Golden honey.


Nose: At full strength, heady, nose prickle, pear drops and tightly integrated heather, resin and sweet honey-nut notes. Enticing. Intriguing.

With a little water, still harmonious but less pronounced, allowing some malt-cereal, soft, spicy wood, moorland and faint traces of wood-smoke to appear.


Body: Soft, pleasing, medium.


Palate: Palate Well balanced, smooth mouth-feel; short punch, sweet and fresh, then a pronounced drying effect.  Enjoyable at any time, with little or no water.


Finish: Quite short. Some lingering sweet smoke in the attractive, drying aftertaste.


Cardhu Single Malt Scotch Whisky Special Cask Reserve

A deep-coloured, well balanced malt whisky of exceptional flavour and smoothness, in which all of Cardhu’s luscious ripe fruitiness is balanced by a delicious spicy dryness.


Strength 40% ABV  Appearance; Rich, burnished gold.


Nose; Mature, mellow, very fruity and hay-like. Good mature notes, with spice and increasing orchard and especially tropical fruits: overripe nectarine, water melon, pineapple, mango, peach skin, passion fruit. The interplay between dry and sweet continues: hay, cedar and high cocoa solid chocolate drift away slightly to reveal firm pinewood and nutmeg. Water reveals mature mossy notes and a dry yet fragrant mintiness. Has complexity and intriguing balance.


Body; Soft, medium to full.


Palete; Excellent length. Mouth filling and tongue coating. An immediate stimulating hit of sweet coconut, balanced by drier spices; cinnamon and nutmeg. Quite lively when neat, whilst under this flow soft flavours of caramel and nutty chocolate. Water reveals its great depth and accentuates the chocolate. Soft and generous, with a very light grip and just a hint of peat. Still balanced; lemon, grass, passion fruit and guava playing against vanilla and macadamia nut.


Cardhu Single Malt Scotch Whisky Older Distillery Bottlings

Cardhu 22 year old 57.8% Released 2005

Cardhu Aged 25 Years (Rare Malts Selection) 60.5% vol (Distilled 1973)

Cardhu Aged 27 Years (Rare Malts Selection) 60% vol (Distilled 1973)


Cardhu Single Malt Whisky Independent Bottlings


Founded Legally in 1824 by John Cummings

Location Speyside region, Aberlour District

Water source Springs on Mannoch Hill


Cardhu Single Malt Scotch Whisky Distilling Equipment

Mash Tun

8 Scottish larch washbacks

6 Swan necked stills

Matured in American oak bourbon butts and hogshead casks

Cardhu Distillery, Knockando,



AB38 7RY

Tel: +44 (0)1346 810204


Visitor Centre

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Cardhu Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Distillery Style Tasting Notes


Nose: Floral, herbal, honey, fresh.


Palate:Honey, vanilla, sweet and clean.


Finish:Vanilla, honey, malty.


A very easy drinking dram.