To date, I’ve found Cardhu to be a very consistent whisky. I visited the distillery last year and tasted a raft of different expressions – they all by and large tasted exactly the same. Cardhu started its life as many whiskies have done so – as a blending component – it’s been a key Highland component of Johnnie Walker for many decades. DCL (forerunners of Diageo) chose the distillery to be one of their earliest forays into single malt production – a 12 year old released in 1981 with the name ‘Cardhu’ rather than the previously used ‘Carlow’. It’s success quickly overtook the capacity of the distillery resulting in DCL producing a ‘vatted malt’ from a range of its distilleries. Confusion with both customers and within the industry ensued and the bottling was dropped and vatted malt abandoned as a official labelling term.
Cardhu Gold Reserve House Targaryen is simply a relabelled version of the commonly available Cardhu Gold Reserve. You’ll have to pay substantially more for the GoT themed bottle than for the normal edition (despite them being the same liquid) - £48.64 from Master of Malt vs. £34.95 for the standard edition. Note how MoM suggests ‘only 1 per customer’ in a effort to reinforce the belief that this bottle is some way highly limited. Little can be gleaned about the make-up of the whisky, save for the use of ‘handpicked toasted casks’ – in other words – casks.
Nose: Fresh orchard fruits (apples and pears) alongside candied versions thereof – Jolly Rancher apple and pear drops – quite saccharine and artificial. A big dose of vanilla runs throughout joined by gentle honey and spongecake. In the background, icing sugar, grassiness and fresh cotton sheets.
Taste: Somewhat thin (as expected) with pear cider sitting with bitter steeped tea. Vanilla and toffee provide a generic Speyside character with sappy oak pushing through consistently throughout the development. Dried cereals reinforce a grainy youth and sit with hedgerow leafiness, copper coins and burnt bitter caramel.
Finish: Short with tannic tea and charred oak.
Cardhu Gold Reserve House Targaryen is about as exciting as much of Cardhu’s single output – I.E. not very. It’s perfectly satisfactory, but offers nothing more than total generic predictability. It’s the sort of single malt that I’d have no qualms in drowning with ginger beer and ice. All well and good at £35 – a lot less so at £48.