*A sincere thank you to the good folks at the SMWSA for the sample.
Part three of three taking a look at The Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America’s 2012 Holiday Outturn. I saved my favorite of the five for last. I’m not sure about their title of this one, though, it struck me more as holiday-ish dram…though to be fair, it is a lot more holiday-ish right now than Summer-y…
The Cardhu distillery, where this one hails from, bills itself as the “Spiritual Home of Johnnie Walker” and indeed, its whisky accounts for one of the main malts in that universally ubiquitous blend. In contrast to some lesser-known distilleries that send practically all their output away to be used in blends, Cardhu is also a popular single malt in its own right, its 12 year old expression being part of Diageo’s Classic Malts line-up.
The Nose: A beautiful nose…one of those, “shhhh, I’ll be with you in a minute, my nose is stuck in this glass” noses. Thick, rich, orange blossom honey and caramel apples initially, joined shortly after by fresh-baked cinnamon rolls with vanilla icing and tinned pineapple. More woody notes of cedar and polished oak hover more in the background with just a hint of mocha off in the distance. Not that it necessarily needs it but water toned down a bit of the lush sweetness and played up the lush wood spice.
The Palate: Opening notes of lightly burnt butterscotch, orange, and dark chocolate fudge are joined by roasted salted almonds and candied pecans as the wood influence grows. Strong and full yet smooth and balanced clove, nutmeg, raw ginger and fresh-cut oak. Water adds a bit more fruity complexity early, raisins and plums, and only slightly smooths out the wood and spice notes further.
The Finish: Dark chocolate and lingering brown spice, cinnamon and soft clove with just a bit of salted nuts in the background.
Thoughts: Beautiful stuff. I find the Cardhu 12 Year Old to be a sturdy workhorse of a malt, it’s decent on its own and easy to see why it’s used a base, backbone malt in blends. Having the chance to try an older single barrel expression of theirs definitely gives me new respect for the distillery . The re-fill cask used here adds less wood influence than I was expecting, but as it turns out, probably just the right amount. I found that while water did temper and smooth things out a bit, it also did not necessarily need it. Though it’s not exactly awash in the most unique of flavors, there’s a wonderful richness, balance and progression here that makes this one a pleasure. Highly recommended.