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.
Pike Creek is a relatively newer Canadian spirit that first saw light of day several years ago when the spirit was finished in Port casks and released by Corby Distillers along with Lot 40. After a couple of years, reportedly due to sourcing issues, the Port casks were replaced with rum barrels. This attention to finishing is in part due to their master blender, Dr. Don Livermore, whose PhD is appropriately enough in wood science. This focus on the wood gives the distillery another element to make their whisky stand out. Pike Creek has been labeled by some reviewers as a “high-end” whisky, and maybe that is true when compared to regular Canadian blends, but we sure hope this attention to details becomes the new normal.
Loved or hated, flavored whiskies have been on the market for quite some time in various guises. This particular dram is pretty unique. In Canada, it is called Dark Horse but a conflict of trade names in the US means the version we picked up goes by Dark Batch. Made by the largest rye whisky producer in North America, it is a 50-50 blend of two Canadian ryes, aged 6 and 12 years. This rye blend makes up 91% of the total. Another 8% is Old Grandad bourbon, with the last 1% sherry. Yes, not ex-bourbon or ex-sherry casks for finishing, but actual bourbon and sherry. This whisky is so unlike anything we’ve ever tasted, we simply had to try it for ourselves. Of note, the majority of its marketing promotes it primarily for cocktails.