Change is afoot at Diageo’s Cardhu Distillery

Jene J. Long
In numerous means, Cardhu is a classic Speyside distillery with a vintage Speyside pedigree, developing a traditional Speyside model of solitary malt whisky. It is positioned at Knockando, deep in what was once prime illicit distilling state. The internet site has not too long ago reopened to the public immediately after a dramatic re-imagining of its customer featuring, in line with those people of its fellow ‘Corners of Scotland’ distilleries: Glenkinchie, Clynelish, and Caol Ila, the latter still a get the job done in progress.

In each scenario, the distillery in problem is remaining celebrated in element for the purpose it performs in the Johnnie Walker household of blends, with Cardhu staying promoted as the Speyside home of Johnnie Walker. Of the four ‘Corners,’ Cardhu unquestionably has the strongest ties to the Kilmarnock blenders, possessing been acquired by John Walker & Sons in 1893 – the initial distillery to be owned by the organization.

Prior to that, nevertheless, Cardhu experienced a notably colourful record, and as with a lot of long-founded Speyside distilleries, its origins lay on the wrong facet of the regulation. John Cumming and his spouse Helen took out a 19-year lease on the remote Cardow Farm in 1811 and ended up soon producing whisky illicitly, with Helen in cost of distilling functions.

John Cumming received a few convictions for illicit whisky producing in the course of 1816, and Helen would warn their illegally distilling neighbours when excise officers had been in the space by hoisting a pink flag on a pole at Cardow. Occasionally, the officers actually stayed at the farmhouse though performing in the area. John Cumming was persuaded to operate on the appropriate facet of the law as a result of the ground-breaking Excise Act of 1823 and was granted a licence to make whisky the pursuing 12 months.

Pursuing John’s demise in 1846, his son, Lewis, and daughter-in-law, Elizabeth, ran the distillery. Right after Lewis’s death in 1872, Elizabeth adopted the part of principal distiller. She registered the ‘Car-Dow’ trademark, and the single malt was out there in London by 1888.

4 years previously, Elizabeth experienced overseen the generation of an fully new Cardow distillery adjacent to the now-antiquated original. The outdated devices, which includes a rather worn pair of stills, was bought to a Johnny-appear-currently former shoemaker who was developing his own distillery across the valley – his title was William Grant, and the distillery was Glenfiddich.

The ‘new’ Cardow allowed generation to raise from 25,000 gallons (113,000 litres) to 40,000 gallons (182,000 litres), in accordance to distillery chronicler Alfred Barnard, who frequented not extended just after the new distillery grew to become operational. He wrote that the Cardow spirit was “…of the thickest and richest description, and admirably tailored for mixing applications. Our guidebook informed us that a single gallon of it is ample to address 10 gallons of plain spirit, and that it instructions a extremely significant value in the market.”

Settling in at the Cardhu tasting room

With blended Scotch whisky profits escalating at a swift pace, requiring larger sized portions of malt spirit, it was rarely astonishing that in 1893 John Walker & Sons, a extensive-standing consumer of Cardow, obtained the distillery for £20,500. The Cummings family members ongoing to operate the plant, acquiring 100 Walker shares (worth £5,000) and a seat on the Walker board. In 1899, two new, larger sized stills have been additional, and the character of the whisky grew to become lighter-bodied as a result.

John Walker & Sons subsequently became aspect of The Distillers Enterprise Ltd in 1925. Cardow ongoing to offer a useful resource of malt for mixing applications, with an further two stills extra during a main rebuilding programme in 1960. Acquiring operated as ‘Cardow’ for so lengthy, the name was adjusted to the existing Cardhu in 1981. The unique customer centre opened in 1988 to cater for the development of community interest in the whisky and its distillery, with Cardhu subsequently becoming the ‘brand home’ of Johnnie Walker and the location where by viewing VIPs from house and overseas have been entertained.

Cardhu endured a rather torrid time in the course of 2002–2004 when, owing to abnormal need, DCL’s successor organization, Diageo, converted the Cardhu brand name from a single malt into a blended malt containing spirits from other Diageo distilleries. Labelled as Cardhu Pure Malt, such was the outcry at the use of the solitary malt distillery’s name and the widely misunderstood descriptor that, in 2004, the merchandise was withdrawn from the marketplace. It is also extremely very likely that the fracas prompted the altering of Scotch whisky labelling principles in 2009 to precisely prohibit the use of ‘pure malt’ as a descriptor. Right now, Cardhu is Diageo’s 3rd-to-most effective-providing single malt after The Singleton (which is seriously 3 single malts, Dufftown, Glendullan and Glen Ord, bottled individually underneath one brand name title) and Talisker. The Singleton concept, in specific, demonstrates that the balancing act of matching source and desire which the Cardhu Pure Malt was supposed to counteract continues to this working day.

In 2018, it was announced that Cardhu would turn into just one of the ‘Four Corners of Scotland’ distilleries, which brings us again to currently and the new customer encounter on present. As with the other three ‘Corners,’ the re-imagining of Cardhu is the do the job of celebrated style and output agency BRC Creativity Arts, which brought the kind of fresh standpoint only an outside eye can offer.

The principal Cardhu tour is named The Flavour Journey and is a step back from the much more production-oriented excursions of the past. Catriona Copland, heritage visits coordinator, clarifies, “It’s now a sensory working experience – engaging with flavour and going absent from way too quite a few facts and figures.” Even the personnel uniforms have been redesigned. “The red major is encouraged by the purple flag employed by Helen Cumming to alert her neighbours of the existence of excise officers and the black trousers arrives from the simple fact that Johnnie Walker Black Label has Cardhu at its heart,” suggests Copland.

Through the tour, the histories of Cardhu Distillery and the Johnnie Walker model are skilfully interwoven. In advance of the tour correct gets underneath way, two wall panels titled ‘Illicit Distilling’ and ‘Resilient Women’ set up themes that are formulated in the course of the subsequent film presentation. Correctly, the narrator of the film which explores the heritage of Cardhu is feminine, and progressive engineering makes sure that the tale remains participating in the course of. Conversation with a flavour wheel and bell jars made up of scents then seeks to elicit a team consensus that Cardhu solitary malt majors in contemporary fruits, cereal and new-slice grass notes.

Waving the flag for Cardhu and Johnnie Walker”s Striding Gentleman

Armed with an comprehension of how the distillery got to exactly where it is nowadays and the principal attributes of its whisky, a stop by to the manufacturing spot is following on the itinerary. Near to the copper-domed mash tun is a ‘station’ where the information points out the processes of mashing, fermentation and distillation – a walk-by of manufacturing procedures follows. Copland factors out that a distillery operative is generally offered to solution more technological or arcane thoughts posed by tour participants, describing, for case in point, that the six stills are operate slowly and warm to support develop Cardhu’s signature green-grassy character, and going so much as to specify the operational range of temperatures.

Next, in warehouse 7, the tour manual talks by way of maturation, aided by a ‘props table’ showcasing sections of oak from diverse cask sorts, whilst a array of casks may perhaps be nosed. They involve Johnnie Walker blend factors these kinds of as Caol Ila malt and Cameronbridge grain spirit, just about every of which support to enhance the intimate romance involving Cardhu and Johnnie Walker.

“In time, there will be a version of the tour with sampling from a range of Speyside whisky casks in warehouse amount 7, for an ‘elevated practical experience,’ ” Copland notes. “We also have the Guess Dhu Tour and Tasting Problem, which consists of a distillery tour, followed by a blue-glass nosing and tasting of five drams – some Cardhu and some Johnnie Walker. If you get 5 out of 5 right, your picture goes into the ‘Hall of Fame.’ ”

In an beautiful new bar and lounge region, eyeglasses of Cardhu 12 Several years Aged, a no age assertion (NAS) distillery-exceptional bottling and a Johnnie Walker Black Label are served, together with a Johnnie Walker highball cocktail. There are also dram flights to order and a tasty platter menu from which to opt for food to accompany the drams.

Last but not least, the roomy and attractively made store characteristics a variety of Cardhu branded presents, Scottish craft and foodstuff goods, and there is, of training course, lots of whisky. The crucial Johnie Walker component malts are all in evidence, of Cardhu. The presenting consists of Cardhu 12, 15 and 18 A long time Outdated NAS expressions Gold Reserve and Amber Rock distillery-distinctive expressions and, last but not least, the splendid Four Corners of Scotland Selection 16 Years Previous bottling – only offered at the Four Corners distilleries and by way of There is also a well known fill-your-possess option, which at this time characteristics a initially-fill ex-bourbon hogshead from 2011.

A piece of distilling heritage at Cardhu

Outside the house the newly refurbished Glenkinchie Distillery, the signature Johnnie Walker Striding Guy statue wears a floral jacket and is placed at the distillery entrance. At Clynelish, he greets people in a textured, waxy, honey-colored jacket to mirror that distillery’s prevailing spirit character. Meanwhile, at Cardhu he is dressed in a fetching multi-colored jacket, top hat and using boots, in which reds predominate.

At Glenkinchie and Clynelish the Striding Man stands by itself, but at Cardhu he has a woman companion – none other than a golden Helen Cumming. The statues are located in a recently landscaped spot on a brae just past the distillery, which features panoramic sights throughout Speyside and is probably the spot in which, in times of previous, Helen would have elevated her pink flag of warning.

Photo credit: Diageo &#13

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