Cardhu distillery uploaded by Ben, 16. Feb 2015
Cardhu pot stills uploaded by Ben, 16. Feb 2015


Cardhu is one of the most famous distilleries of the Speyside with an impressive history and whisky that is not only essential for the Johnnie Walker Blends but also a high demanded Single Malt Whisky. Cardhu was the first distillery that John Walker & Sons bought and Cardhu Single Malt Whisky was one of the six brands that started the Classic Malts Selection, representing the Speyside.

Details about the Distillery

The Whisky

Cardhu Whisky is known to be very smooth, balanced and silky. It’s got a sweet and fruity character with delicious mellow aromas. The shape of the bottle with its square form and the big closure was typical for Cardhu until it was also used from some other brands. Cardhu Single Malt Whisky is well known worldwide with a big presence in Spain and France.
The flagship of Cardhu is the Cardhu 12 year old: smooth, sweet and malty with hints of pear drops and honey it is a nice every day dram and very popular as an entry-level single malt.
The Cardhu 15 as a further development of the 12 year old and keeps up the smooth and silky style of the Speysider. The aromas are more delicate, complex and rich.
With the Cardhi 18 the fruitiness is richer and the long term of maturation makes this Cardhu a very sumptuous one, that doesn’t lose its sweet and fruity basic structure.
The Cardhu Amber Rock is a no age whisky that was supplemented to the core range of Cardhu in 2015. A double maturation in toasted cask that had been seasoned with bourbon enriches the Speysider with extra vanilla and spicy notes for an enriched aroma.
From 1982 to 2004 a “Cardhu Pure Highland Malt Scotch Whisky” was available and caused some confusion and a debate in the whisky industry: Diageo vatted Single Malts of several Speyside distilleries and bottled the malt with an equal bottle shape as the Cardhu Single Malt. This was a trigger for the Scotch Whisky Association SWA to work over the regulations and define the terms that describe categories like single malts or blended malts.
Although Cardhu Single Malt Whisky is very successful most of the distillery’s production is still used for the blends of Johnnie Walker.

Some bottles in the Cardhu distillery shop.


To ensure a 3.4 million liters production was to be carried out 7 days a week at Cardhu Distillery from 2015 onwards. The water sources for Cardhu’s production are wells that are situated in the Mannoch Hills and water of the Lyne Burn.

View of the Cardhu Distillery.

The Mashing

The stainless steel mashtun of Cardhu with its copper lid can take about 8t. 

The Fermentation

The ten wash backs of Cardhu are made of three different materials: four of them of Scottish lark, four of Douglas fir and two of stainless steel. Fermentation time is about 75 hours.

The mash tun of the Cardhu Distillery.

The Distillation

Three pairs of stills, heated by steam, are the heart of Cardhu’s whisky production. The wash stills together take 36.000 liters, the pot stills 31.500 liters. This hasn`t of course been the equipment from the first day on. The first expansion happened in 1899 when the stills were doubled to four. Since reconstruction and expansion in 1960 the stills have been increased to six. 

The pot stills of the Cardhu Distillery.


Approaching to the distillery the old large stone warehouses come in sight. Most of the Cardhu production is indeed not stored here but in the central warehouses of Diageo.

The warehouses of the Cardhu Distillery.

The History

The history of Cardhu - which was written Cardow in the beginning- is closely connected to the history of two women: Helen and Elisabeth Cummings. Helen and her husband John Cumming run a farm at Cardow in the late 18th/early 19th century. It is known that in 1816 John was convicted for distilling without official license three times. Distilling to small extends was usual for the farmers at that time and nearly no one cared for licenses. The just couldn’t afford it. At Cardow it wasn`t John but his wife Helen that distilled and she was known to have an eye on approaching excise officers and warn farmers in the neighborhood by setting up a red flag. Helen didn’t just only distill for their own needs, she also sold her whisky from her kitchen’s window it is said.
In 1824 the Cummings could afford to buy a distilling license after the Exise Act of 1823 had reduced duties. They bought new stills and in the beginning were helped selling and distributing their whisky by their friend George Smith, later founder of Glenlivet.
After John died in 1846 his wife Helen and his son Lewis carried on running Cardow Distillery. The distillery and farm officially were handed down to Lewis and in the following years he employed a brewer and a maltman. When Lewis passed away in 1872 his wife Elisabeth supported by her mother-in-law Helen and her two young sons carried on operating the distillery. Seeing the demands for whisky grow Elisabeth bought new ground not far away from the previous farm and built a new Cardow distillery using the same water sources. It could produce three times more whisky than the old one.
In the year 1893 Elisabeth made a very important decision: She sold Cardow to John Walker & Sons for 20.500 pounds and ensured her family to hold shares in Walker’s company. She died one year later and didn’t have the chance to see the success of her wise decision: Under the shield of the big company Cardow could stand the hard times caused by the whisky market crash in 1898.
In 1899 the stills of Cardow were doubled and the distillery was connected to the railway buy building a new road.
Distillers Company Ltd, today Diageo, acquired the distillery in 1930. In 1960 a reconstruction and expansion followed the increasing demand for whisky in the post-war era.
In 1965 the word “Cardhu” became a trademark and the brand was used to sell the whisky as single malt. In 1981 the name of the distillery was also changed from Cardow to Cardhu – a lightly different spelling for the original gaelic word that means “black rock”. 

The former kiln of the Cardhu Distillery.

Visitor Center

The visitor center of Cardhu is opened all year, at high season from July to September even on Sundays. In October there uses to be maintenance. The visitor center is opened during that time but tours might not be offered during that time.

Different Tours are available at Cardhu.
Distillery Tour: A guided tour including the history of the distillery, followed by the tasting of a dram Cardhu Single Malt Whisky
Classic Tour: A guided tour including the history of the distillery, followed by the tasting of three different Cardhu Single Malt Whiskies.
Collection Tour: A guided tour including the history of the distillery, followed by the tasting of five different Cardhu Single Malt Whiskies.

Home of Johnny Walker
As Cardhu is also the spiritual home of Johnny Walker to which it is closely connected you will learn a lot about the brand’s history and whisky blending here at Cardhu as well.

Malt Whisky Trail
Cardhu distillery is proud to be part of the Malt Whisky Trail that attracts many tourists interested in Scotch whisky.

Cardhu Distillery, Knockando, Aberlour, Banffshire AB38 7RY
Phone: 0044 1479 874635

To plan a visit at Cardhu it is highly recommended to book in advance!