Cardhu is a single malt distillery that is located in the picturesque Mannoch Hills in Speyside. It is both a single malt brand and an important component in the famous blended Scotch whisky range of Johnnie Walker. As a result, Cardhu is one of the most influential distilleries owned by Diageo, Scotland's largest whisky producer. This is reflected by their decision to make Cardhu one of their new Four Corners of Scotland visitor experiences to tell the story of the Johnnie Walker brand.
Cardhu single malt is known for its light, floral and fruity style. It is medium-bodied and smooth with distinctive tasting notes of sweet green apple, crisp pear and citrus blossom with an underlying earthy cereal characteristic. The spirit is predominantly matured in ex-bourbon barrels from the American whiskey industry. Smaller percentages are also matured in ex-sherry, rejuvenated American oak and virgin oak casks.
The core range of Cardhu has catapulted the brand into the world Top 10 list for single malt sales by volume. Over three million bottles are sold globally each year and it is Diageo's third highest-selling single malt. Only The Singleton and Talisker beat it. The range features three no age statements - Amber Rock, Gold Reserve and Special Cask Reserve - plus age statements at 12, 15 and 18 years old. Occasional limited editions appear also, most recently within the 2020 selection of Diageo Special Releases.
The annual capacity of Cardhu is 3.4 million litres. Mashing is completed in an eight-tonne copper-topped mash tun and they run on 21 mashes per week. There are 10 washbacks with a fermentation time of 75 hours. Eight of the washbacks are made of wood and two are stainless steel. Cardhu has six pear-shaped stills (3x wash still and 3x spirit still). These work in pairs for double distillation. Water for production and cooling is taken from the Lyne Burn in the Mannoch Hills.
Cardhu was founded in 1824 by John Cumming and was originally called Cardow. It is located in the hamlet of Knockando in the middle of the Speyside region of Scotland. The distillery only became known as Cardhu (translating as 'black rock' from Gaelic) as recently as 1981. When John died in 1846, his wife Helen and son Lewis took control. Helen Cumming is widely regarded as the first-ever woman distillery owner in Scotland. She was followed by her daughter-in-law Elizabeth Cumming in the 1870s after Lewis' death.
Cardhu's involvement with the Johnnie Walker brand began in 1893. John Walker & Sons purchased it as their first distillery and Cardhu has been an important ingredient of the blend ever since. Cardhu was selected as one of their Four Corners of Scotland visitor centres - four new Johnnie Walker experiences, each at an important distillery for the brand. Cardhu represents Speyside. The other three locations are Caol Ila (Islay), Clynelish (Highlands) and Glenkinchie (Lowlands).
Cardhu was one of the six founding whiskies in the Classic Malts collection. This legendary set of whiskies was launched by United Distillers, Diageo's predecessor, in the late 1980s. Cardhu represented Speyside but has now been replaced by the neighbouring distillery of Cragganmore. Cardhu is also a featured distillery on the touristic Malt Whisky Trail that winds through Speyside.