While it might be infamously known for the “pure malt controversy” from the early 2000s, Cardhu has been in almost continual production since its founding by John and Helen Cumming, though for much of its history was known as Cardow after the original farm the distillery started on in 1824. There is a great deal of history around Helen and her daughter-in-law Elizabeth Cumming used in their marketing, for both women ran the distillery during early years to develop and refine the character of the whisky. Around the turn of the 20th century, Cardhu was sold to Johnnie Walker. Cardhu was for many years one of the smallest distilleries in Scotland and has been a staple in Johnnie Walker blends ever since. The current iteration of the Cardhu 12 year began in 2006 and is part of a range that includes the 12, 15, and 18 year single malts, plus two with No Age Statements.
Age: 12 years
Nose: Pear, spice, caramel apple, Christmas candle, potpourri
Palate: Cinnamon, brine, pear, smoke, green apple
Finish: Smoke, pear, honey
Comments: It is (or was) the best selling single malt in Spain.
Adam – This Cardhu 12 is a great autumnal scotch, maybe influenced by the season I’m currently drinking it in. Still, a lot of spice and pear, along with a touch of smoke and some green apple. The green apple/pear combo are not my favorite combination of flavors, but I think it works here with the honey and baked goods sensation floating around the edges. I can see why it makes a good element of a blend like Johnnie Walker, as the flavors seem rather periphery at times. It’s very pleasant and smooth, with a great price point.
Meghan – This smells like crayon. I am the only one to identify that particular scent but every time I pick it up, I find eau de Crayola. Luckily, I kind of like the smell of crayons. To my knowledge, it does not taste like crayons. This is good, since despite my childhood dog’s penchant for eating them, I do not believe it is a preferred flavor profile for whisky. The Cardhu does, however, have an oily/waxy mouthfeel. It coats my mouth and lingers, as if one accidentally took a bite of wax fruit. There is a nice spiced pear flavor throughout the palate that I wish appeared in the nose. I do like the finish, which blooms with a nice spice and then lingers in the chest much more than the average Speyside. I do not believe this will ever be one I consider a favorite, or even a top 20 (if I kept such a list), but it is an acceptable single malt. It has a touch of everything, even if none of those aspects particularly shine.
Michael – I found the taste was more fruity than the smell. There’s a tang there. It’s very coastal. Kind of stormy. I picture myself on the coast while drinking this.
Peter – The taste is thin and distant. I just tasted it, and it was wet and sweet and tangy and very close. Lovely.
Mary-Fred – I found this to have many layers.
Caitlin – This Cardhu 12 reminds me of summer, specifically of Wisconsin summers. It has this vintage quality, this old lady quality. It tastes like Red Hots.
Ben – I don’t know how to express this but the first smell I get is the smell of my grandmother’s bathroom when I was a kid. There is some fruit but not fresh ones, the smell of fruit when it is no longer good to eat. This is okay when the weather is cooler, then it is pleasant, but if it’s warm then it smells like rotting. I think I like the taste better than the smell.