Thursday, January 9, 2014
Have just tried - Cardhu Special Cask Reserve
Cardhu translates as ‘black rock’ from Gaelic and is located in the heart of the Speyside region, close to the village of Knockando. The distillery was founded in 1824 by farmers John and Helen Cumming. Previous to this, they were famous in the local area for illegally producing whisky and selling it from the farm’s kitchen window. Once legalised their whisky was sold as Cardow and the distillery remained in the Cumming family until 1893, when it was sold to blender John Walker. Cardhu has been involved in the Johnnie Walker blended range that he created ever since.
The distillery is currently owned by Diageo and it has an annual production capacity of two million litres. Only 30% of this is released as Cardhu single malt. There are four bottlings in the core range - this Special Cask Reserve, plus age statements of 12, 15 and 18 years. The other 70% contributes as a major ingredient for the famous Johnnie Walker range and other blended whiskies in Diageo's portfolio. Special Cask Reserve is bottled at 40% ABV and is available from specialist whisky retailers for around the £50-55 mark.
The first UK release carries the batch number CSCR.12.14. This is the one that we are sampling.
Our tasting notes
The colour is golden amber and the nose is full of rich, sweet aromas. The most prominent of these are toffee and caramel, and they are backed up by some warming woody spices (think of cinnamon) and malty cereal aromas. There are also background aromas of dried fruits (imagine raisins, mango and peach especially), vanilla and a hint of white chocolate.
On the palate the whisky feels buttery and soft to begin with. The woody spices and bittersweet cereal notes from the nose increase with time to give a slightly drier feeling. However, the sweetness is most prominent feature in this whisky - this manifests itself as toffee, butterscotch and caramel-like notes, backed up by juicy dried fruits (think of sultanas and raisins, along with tropical mango) and some green apple. There are also late hints of candied orange peel, ginger, cocoa powder and some further cinnamon.
The finish follows a similar path to the palate - it begins soft, sweet and a little sugary before switching to be drier and spicier as the woody and cereal notes increase. A lovely chocolate orange is the lasting memory.
What's the verdict?
The Special Cask Reserve is a lovely whisky and definitely one to search out if you like your whiskies rich, sweet and with a bit of wood spice. It has a nice depth and complexity, and is very pleasant to drink. A dash of water also brings out the dried fruit and apple notes further, while knocking back the spices. It also offers decent value for money as their is clearly some old whisky involved, although how old 'very old' is remains to be seen ...