Whisky review: Cardhu 12

Cardhu 12 year old, a Speyside Staple

Continuing with my closet clean-out project, here we have the Cardhu 12 year old, a Speyside whisky from the Cardhu Distillery, another workhorse in the Diageo stable. Most of the Cardhu production is destined for various blends, including the Johnnie Walker line, so there aren’t a ton of offerings beyond the prominent 12 year old, but this one is generally available in your local retail shops. The Cardhu 12 is commonly described a soft, pleasing, and inoffensive scotch whisky, but if you take the time to sip this one, I think you’ll enjoy the experience. 


Review: Cardhu 12 year old, Bottled 2012,  L20951X000 04067850, 40% abv

Color: Light amber-gold

Nose: (N) If I were asked to offer a broadly general description of a Speyside whisky, I imagine that this Cardhu 12 is what I would describe. Although it seems rather delicate, at the same time, the nose is richly aromatic and with a beautiful blending of soft floral notes mingling with ripe fruits. This is a very easy nose with the 40% abv, which makes it very inviting. There are touches of ripe pear, warm malt, a hint of orange, some buttery vanilla, a little cinnamon, perhaps some nutmeg, and a slight whisper of campfire smoke. (W) Adding very little water (I was worried about drowning this one) brings out some notes of caramel and vanilla toffee, pears and unripe peaches, black pepper, just a hint of orange marmalade, and dried flowers.

Taste: (N) Again, delicate seems to be the most appropriate descriptive term for the Cardhu 12 yo. This is soft and supple on the arrival, sweet-ish, but not overly sweet; candied pear, vanilla cream, sweet malt, some lemon juice, a bit of peppery spice, herbs and dried flowers, orange pith adding a softly bitter, dry-ish aspect, dried vanilla bean, and some apple peel. On the tongue, the smoke is move evident, although it is still very much a secondary feature. The low abv is revealed in the body, which starts out nicely, but quickly thins. (W) Much more vanilla in the initial arrival along with a quick burst of lemon pepper. Cinnamon, dried pears sprinkled with powdered sugar, vanilla cream, a sweet malt, a couple drops of fresh lemon juice, a bit of warm bread, and an evaporative smokiness. Even with just three small drops of water, the body just becomes that much more delicate. Skip the water.

Finish: Sweet malt and vanilla, pears, lemon juice, some soft bitter tannins, in a surprisingly dry finish. 

Overall: I can’t see anyone not liking this one. Sure, it’s a bit middle-of-the-road, but it is well-constructed, balanced, reasonably complex, delicate, and, well, just plain nice. Or in dating terms – it has a great personality!

While smooth may not be the most desirable description to use when evaluating a whisky, smooth is a term that I think most people would accept as the overriding impression of the Cardhu 12 yo, and which also means that it would make a very good introductory whisky for someone wishing to begin an exploration of scotch. Like the Cragganmore 12, this one flies under the radar a bit, but is one that shouldn’t be overlooked entirely! And it is a pretty good value-for-money option in today’s crazy whisky market. 


Rating 81




Region: Speyside

Distillery: Cardhu Distillery, Morayshire, Scotland

Type: Single Malt

Age: 12 years

ABV: 40%

Maturation: not disclosed

Price: $45 (USD)

Availability: Readily available 

Sample Source: My own bottle


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