While Cardhu boasts one of my favourite histories in the world of whisky – read about it in my piece here for The Alcohol Professor – I must confess it is not a whisky that I’m incredibly familiar with.
The Speyside malt has long had a solid presence in European markets like Spain and France, but in the UK it is not as bright a star on the whisky shelf as others from this most populous of whisky regions.
So I was keen to try out the company’s latest release called Amber Rock during my recent visit to the distillery.
Made from whisky matured in American oak, which then goes through a secondary maturation in toasted American oak casks, this is the first new whisky release from Cardhu in a while.
Its name is based on the distillery’s – Cardhu means ‘Black Rock’ in Gaelic – and the amber colour of the whisky itself.
I sampled it both at the distillery and then again at home, and here’s what I thought of it.
Cardhu Amber Rock: 40%: £41:
(c): Indeed, it’s as amber as its name suggests.
(n): Butter, honey, oak, orange peel, vanilla pods and cinnamon – quite zingy on the nose, with a good balance between the sticky-sweetness and the citrus spice notes. A more complex nose than I’d have expected. With water: it’s a bit sharper and more red fruits come out.
(p): Fairly gentle, with a good amount of toffee and nuttiness at the front of palate, before a grassy wave and a slightly tannic, coffee-ground and orange pith note. Brown sugar and less vanilla than the nose would have suggested, and some red fruits upon second and third sip. With water, more oranges and a bit less of that grassy bitterness; becomes quite soft but doesn’t lose edge as still a nice pepperiness present.
(f): Buttery oranges – like marmalade on toast a bit.
In conclusion: A solid, easy-drinking malt that would find itself welcome in both cold and warm months. Nice structure with lots going on on the nose and a good amount of layers on the palate. Preferable to standard Cardhu releases and one I’d happily have on my shelf for that price point.