They start the Cardhu tour by telling you that this distillery was founded by a husband and wife couple and then was eventually run and grown by their daughter in-law. They word it as “the first female founded distillery”. Of course in the late 1800’s women still weren’t allowed ownership of these types of things, but Helen Cumming actually did distill the first ever batch of Cardhu in 1874. She eventually sold the distillery on to John Walker and that is why the signage around the distillery has the “Johnnie Walker” logo on it. Cardhu is accredited for being a significant part of the Johnnie Walker blend to this day. Now the distillery is owned by Diageo.
The Cardhu tour was laid out like most Diageo distilleries, but they do keep some of their original process traditions that are unique. They run about 21 mashes per week in a copper topped, stainless steel mash tun. They don’t use three specific waters and temperatures to get the wort. They run continuous water through the grist over a 6 hour period. The water will continue to increase in temperature as it starts at 64 degrees Celsius and will end at 84 degrees Celsius. There are eight wooden washbacks and two stainless steel. Of course I found the stainless steel one’s while snooping and asked about them. They didn’t lead the visitors anywhere near those when they could look at the pretty wooden ones! Their fermentation period is extremely long. They run it for about 75 hours. There are 6 stills and neither the wash nor spirit still have a reflux bulge, but the lyne arm is slightly sloped upwards to help create a lighter whisky.
Most of their whisky will end up in an already once used American Oak bourbon barrels. They will use a few sherry casks upon occasion for special bottlings. On site there are about 13,000 casks in dunnage warehouses. Capacity stands at about three million liters per year with a significant amount going to blends. I was fortunate enough to try three different samples at Cardhu, but I gave a significant amount of my samples to my AirBnB host. The couple that was hosting me were so lovely and he wanted to try some Cardhu, so I unfortunately only have tasting notes for one!
Cardhu 18 Year Old
Holly’s Tasting Note..
Nose: Pineapple, pastries, vanilla.
Palate: Milk chocolate, honey and hot chocolate.
To be honest the expressions I tried from Cardhu didn’t do much for me. I like the shape of their bottles, but it wasn’t one of my favorite distilleries.
Up next is Aberlour..