Review : Cardhu 12 YO Single Malt Whisky

Dealings marred in illicit liqour with a name mildly deviant from todays, the Cardow was one of the oldest speyside distilleries that began its operations at a farm owned by John and Helen Cumming way back in 1811. Camouflaging and hiding from excisemen, the police and authorities, illicit liqour continued to flow through its gates and into people’s pockets for over a decade with the owners finally “settling” to procure a license sometime in 1824 once the Excise Law was passed.

The distillery went through a refurbishment during the end of the century, with the then owner, Elizabeth, Helen’s daughter in law, selling off their older stills to William Grant who was looking to start off a distillery at Dufftown – yes, you guessed it, Glenfiddich!

It was in 1893, that the distillery was sold off to John Walker & Sons, forming the base of much of their blends. Cardhu even now, continues to be leveraged both as a malt on its own and as a constituent within Diageo’s blended range of spirits. Funny story (is not)…at the start of the century, when the single malt was a favourite with the Spanish and the French, JW released a vatted malt by sourcing malts from its other distilleries to combat Cardhu’s limited supplies. What’s surprising is that they kept much of the labelling and the bottle’s shape unchanged – cheeky aye?! This whole farce wasn’t taken lightly, forcing JW to take off its Pure Malt in 2004 and replace it with the 12 YO Single Malt a year later.

ABV : 40%

Eye : Deep Gold |Artificial Colouring, Chill filtered

Nose : Cereal, maple syrup and some grain subtly fused with vanilla cupcakes; slices of freshly cut plums, sundried raisins with hints of green pepper that resonate throughout the nose. Bits of earthiness, some grass with floral undertones and the freshness of green apples with a bit of char and spice.

Taste : Vanilla and grain with raisins and caramel toffee; a pinch of coconut shards, some green tea and charred melons followed by a whiff of white pepper.

Finish : Some sweetness and char, with a bit of dryness left on the palate.

This 12 YO exhibits characteristics that’s very aligned to a young whisky, light bodied with fine long legs and a tea like viscosity. Crisp but not as light, the expression is interesting more so on the nose, bringing with it some sweetness from the vanilla and fruits, counterbalanced with some smoke and a hint of spice. The palate however is mundane with flavours that aren’t bold or exhibiting but unidirectional. Having said that, the honey – vanilla sweetness combined with the play of earthiness was welcoming but with a short window, I honestly expected a bit more oomph.

Coming in at AUD $68, this whisky shares the same platform as a Glenlivet or Glenfiddich 12; however misses the mark if made to stand shoulder to shoulder. Overall a good entry level scotch, especially tailored for a newcomer looking to set out into this golden wonder world, but not for the enthusiast or for someone looking to take the next leap.

Preference : As is or with some ice, not really potent coming in at 40% abv.


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