Cardhu is an exponent of the soft, sweet, approachable Speyside style and is Diageo's best-selling single malt with a huge following in France and Spain, the latter of which accounts for 75% of volume sales.

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This popularity, combined with a rumoured shortfall in mature stock, gave rise in 2003 to a notorious episode in the distillery's history when Diageo began selling a 'pure' malt under the name of Cardhu in the same packaging as the previous single malt expression.

This 'pure' malt was believed to include spirit from up to four other distilleriesas well as Cardhu. Cue an almighty uproar, with questions asked in Parliament, Diageo vowing to stand firm andthe rest of the industry threatening legal action against Diageo for misleading customers and devaluing the status of single malt whisky. Thankfully the scale of this hullabaloo was sufficient to force Diageo into withdrawing the Pure Malt version of Cardhu (which has now become something of a collector's item), and re-instating the brand as a single malt, to general relief.

Cardhu is normally sold as a 12 year old, although following the success of a couple of Rare Malt expressions at the end of the 1990s, a 22 year-old cask strength version was issued as part of Diageo's Special Releases in 2005. The year after, a no-age-statement Special Cask Reserve expression was also released and has proved a success. Cardhu is also a key constituent in the Johnnie Walker blend. For reasons which should be very clear, independent bottlings of Cardhu are extremely rare to non-existent.

From the website

Cardhu Distillery – previously called Cardow – must be one of the best located distilleries in Speyside. High on the hills on the north side of the Spey Valley with extensive views to the south, it is set in attractive grounds ideal for picnics (complete with picnic tables).

The malt itself – which is presented in an elegant decanter with a beechwood stopper - is pretty typical of a Speyside malt. It is highly approachable – smooth, sweet, mellow and uncomplicated. It has good body and length. ‘The malt whisky produced at Cardhu has a cleanliness of taste – often described as silky. It’s a taste that is obviously popular as it is known and loved all over the world.’

Such is the popularity of Cardhu single malt in Spain that worldwide demand has outstripped the capacity of this small distillery, with the result that its malt is sadly no longer available in many countries.


By the time John Cumming bought a license for his Cardhu distillery in 1824, he and his wife Helen had already been producing illicit whisky for 13 years.

Whenever the Excise officers passed by, Helen would disguise the mashing and fermenting as bread-making. Then, while the officers drank the tea she made for them, she would fly a red flag from the barn to warn their neighbours that revenue men were around.

Once the distillery was officially licensed, John and Helen Cumming continued to value quality over quantity. Their son and daughter-in-law, Elizabeth, followed in their footsteps. The qualities of the malt they produced became essential to John Walker and Sons (of Johnnie Walker fame – unsurprisingly). So much so, in fact, that in 1893, Cardhu was the first distillery that they bought – although it was still run for a time by John and Helen’s grandson, also called John.

By the end of the 19th century, Cardhu had gained a reputation as one of Scotland’s top malt whisky distilleries.


Character and Style of Cardhu

  • Malt Malt
  • Apple Apple
  • Honey Honey
  • Toffee Toffee
Food suggestion
Cardhu Single Malt is the perfect accompaniment to pata negra ham – a dried ham from Spain.
Taste style
Strongly perfumed. This is a highly aromatic malt, often described as being one of the more ‘feminine’ single malts available.

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