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Intro: I decided to buy a bottle of Cardhu 12 for several reasons: 1)I was curious about the separate flavour of a malt that served as a big component of the Johnnie Walker blends and that is not often encountered outside of them, 2)Jim Murray rated it at 90/100 pts in his current Whisky Bible, 3)I like both the name and the bottle art, and 4)the bottle was not expensive.
Cardhu is a Speyside distillery owned by Diageo. The 12 year old expression is currently the only malt available from Cardhu. The reviewed bottle has been open for two days.
Nose: Lovely sherried nose with strong floral notes of rosewater and carnation. There is pear, apple, apricot, and slight lemon here as well. Alcohol is surprisingly strong at 40% ABV and a little more than I would like. The scent of malted barley provides a nice backdrop to the other flavours. Overall this is a very enjoyable nose.
Taste: The flavours from the nose translate onto the palate with the addition of a very pleasant peating underpinning the proceedings. The peat was not very noticeable in the nose. This tastes similar to a lot of the Glenrothes malts I have tasted, but with more peat emphasis. The sherry is very nice, and conjures up candied fruits. The barley is pleasant and integrated. Wood flavours are present in the background but don't draw much attention to themselves. There is a lot of flavour here for a 40% ABV malt.
Finish: the fruits and flowers last a medium length, with a pleasant warm slightly sweet peated and sherried ending.
Balance: This is a mild-mannered whisky which has good balance and significant complexity, if you are willing to look for it. There is a lot of contrast within the Cardhu 12 between peat flavours and fruited barley malt flavours. The light lemon citrus here actually reinforces the peat in giving additional balance to the fruited sherried sweetness. I like the result, and I like this whisky.