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Cardhu Distillery

Cardhu is a Speyside distillery near Archiestown, Moray, Scotland, founded in 1824 by whisky smuggler John Cumming and his wife Helen. The distillery is now run by Diageo and the distillery’s Scotch whiskymakes up an important part of the Johnnie Walker blended whiskies. The word “Cardhu” derives from the Scots Gaelic Carn Dubh, meaning “Black Rock”.

  • Owner

    Diageo

  • Status

    Operational

  • Country

    Scotland

  • Region

    Speyside

  • Production type:

    Single Malt
    Blended malt (johnnie Walker)

  • Founded

    1811

  • Production yearly

    3.300.000 Liters

History

One of the oldest distilleries in Speyside, Cardhu (at that point Cardow) started life as a farm whose ‘tack’ was taken by John Cumming and his wife Helen in 1811. They soon started making illicit whisky – research suggests it was Helen who was in charge of operations – and operating the farm as an early warning station for the moonshiners in Glen Livet. Legend has it when the gaugers arrived at the farm, Helen would distract them and run a red flag up a pole alerting their cronies.

It is not surprising, perhaps, that Cardhu is also accepted to have been the first of the Speyside distilleries to take out one of the new licences after the Excise Act was passed in 1823.

Helen Cumming’s daughter-in-law Elizabeth took charge of operations in 1872, completely rebuilding the primitive set-up in 1884, and selling the old stills and waterwheel to William Grant, who was planning to build his family distillery, called Glenfiddich, in Dufftown. By then, Cardhu had established itself as a favourite of blenders, but was also available as a single malt in London as early as 1888.

In 1893, the distillery was sold to long-term customer John Walker & Sons on the understanding that the family would still run the distillery and have a seat on the Walker board. The distillery was expanded from two stills to four in 1899 and then up to six in 1960.

By that time, Cardhu was seen as being the Highland base of Johnnie Walker, but as well as supplying liquid for the world’s top-selling blend, from 1981 it was also the first venture into single malt branding in the modern era for industry giant DCL (today known as Diageo), whose chairman from 1963-67 was John and Helen’s great-grandson, Sir Ronald Cumming.

Having a make which is both an important element of a blend and a single malt necessitates some tricky balancing acts. In 2002, this balancing act failed. Projected sales for the single malt in Spain and France were estimated to outstrip the distillery capacity – which also had to supply fillings for the growing Walker range.

The solution was to turn Cardhu the single malt brand into what was then known as a vatted malt (a mix of single malts from different distilleries), while retaining its overall character. Needless to say, this was deemed to be somewhat confusing to the consumer and, after a brief and somewhat farcical period when the distillery name was changed back to Cardow, the policy was dropped.

The fall-out from the incident resulted in a complete overhaul of Scotch whisky labelling regulations and the creation of a new term: ‘blended malt’.

Today, Cardhu continues to act as ‘home’ for Johnnie Walker – complete with an impressive visitor centre – and bottlings of the single malt are once again increasing.

In 2018, Diageo revealed plans to spend £150m on upgrading tourism facilities across Scotland, including a new brand home for Johnnie Walker in Edinburgh, and improved visitor centres at Cardhu, Clynelish, Caol Ila and Glenkinchie, representing some of the regional styles present in Walker.

Cardhu’s upgrade will highlight the history of the distillery, including the influence of Helen and Elizabeth Cumming. Access will be improved and an orchard created.

“Cardhu is a single malt whisky that can stand on its one but is great as a blended whisky as well. It plays an unforgettable part in the Johnnie Walker range.”
Livingbythedram

Distillery Facts

Taste profile

Johnnie Walker

Cardhu is one of the blended components in the Johnnie Walker blend. The Cardhu gives its its sweetness and roundness in the blend. 

Diageo quotes: 

“Cardhu proudly serves as one of the Four Corner of Scotland Distilleries of Johnnie Walker. We distil the Speyside Malt that is enjoyed around the world on its own and as the heart of Johnnie Walker whiskies.”

Want to read more about Johnnie Walker 

Click here

Core range 

At this point Benromach’s core range is: 

  • 12 year old 
  • 15 year old 
  • 18 year old 
  • Amber Rock
  • Gold Reserve
  • Game of Thrones- Gold Reserve – House of Targaryen 
  • Special cask reserve

Archive bottles: 

  • Cardhu 1973 rare malts
  • cardhu 21 diageo special releases 2013 
  • cardhu 1982 diageo special release 2015
  • Cardhu 11 yea rold Special Release 2020
  • cardhu 14 year old diageo special release 2019

Distillery Tours

THE DISTILLERY TOUR

A guided walk around the distillery, followed by a tasting.

DURATION:

About 1 hour

1 DRAM

 

THE CLASSIC TOUR

A guided walk around the distillery, followed by a tasting.

DURATION:

About 1 hour

DRAMS:

3 drams
 

THE COLLECTION TOUR

A guided tour including the history of the distillery, followed by the tasting of five different Cardhu Single Malt Whiskies.

DURATION:

About 90 minutes

DRAMS

5 drams
 

HOME OF JOHNNIE WALKER

As Cardhu is also the spiritual home of Johnnie Walker to which it is closely connected you will learn a lot about the brand’s history and whisky blending here at Cardhu as well.

DURATION:

About 2 hours
 

MALT WHISKY TRAIL

Cardhu distillery is proud to be part of the Malt Whisky Trail that attracts many tourists interested in Scotch whisky.

 
 

Visitor center 

OPENING TIMES

April – September

OPENING TIMES

 

DayTimes
Monday10:0017:00
Tuesday10:0017:00
Wednesday10:0017:00
Thursday10:0017:00
Friday10:0017:00
Saturday (May- Sept)10:0017:00
Sunday (July- Sept)10:0016:00

 

October -March

OPENING TIMES

DayTimes
Monday10:0015:00
Tuesday09:0015:00
Wednesday09:0015:00
Thursday09:0015:00
Friday09:0015:00
SaturdayClosed 
SundayClosed 

 

CONTACT DETAILS

Cardhu Distillery
Knockando
Moray
AB38 7RY
United Kingdom

Cardhu social media links

Livingbythedram social media links 

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