Saturday, October 23, 2010

how do cardhu what you do to me; I wish I knew

Here's that whisky round-up I promised the other day.

I was in Sainsbury's a few weeks ago and noticed that they were knocking out Cardhu 12-year-old for about £22, about a tenner less than the usual price. Clearly this was like a red rag to a bull, so I snapped it up.

Cardhu is quite hard to get hold of - Sainsbury's is the only supermarket I've seen it in, and they don't always have it - for a number of reasons; firstly well over half the volume of whisky they produce ends up in the various Johnnie Walker blends, and secondly for some reason the Spanish are absolutely nuts about the stuff - it's the biggest-selling malt whisky in Spain. So there isn't a great deal left to be bottled as single malt and sold in the UK. I suspect that the page for Cardhu at the normally reliable Malt Madness may exaggerate slightly when it claims that "more than 3,000,000,000 bottles" of Cardhu are sold every year. I assume there's an accidental factor of (at least) 1,000 error in there, otherwise after two years everyone on the planet would have a bottle.

Anyway, the whisky. It's hard not to be subconsciously influenced by the funky squashed square bottle, which makes it look less like a single malt and more like something liqueuer-y like Glayva or Drambuie. So you're half-expecting something sweet. And then, as if in some kind of elaborate double-bluff, that's what you get anyway. You get a big inviting whiff of honey and shortbread, and something similar when you drink it, though it's thinner (subtler, you might say, if you were in a charitable mood) than you'd expect. It's nice, but it's probably something you'd have to be in the mood for - better suited for a warm house, a roaring fire and an Arran sweater than a hip-flask on a cold night in a bothy, when you might want something a bit beefier and more aggressive.

Secondly, Cragganmore - I acquired a duty-free litre bottle of this for about thirty quid on the way out to Turkey. It's another Speysider, and reputed to have been one of Michael Jackson's (no, the other one) favourites. It's another one of Diageo's Classic Malts, which in real-world unspun English means "distilleries owned by Diageo", as were the Oban, Caol Ila, Royal Lochnagar and Talisker. And the Cardhu and Johnnie Walker, come to that.

It's instructive to compare this with the Cardhu - the Cragganmore is a fair bit darker, and when you have a sniff you get the same sort of dry fruit-cake with a faint wisp of smoke that came with the Glenfiddich Caoran Reserve (though that was a bit smokier), and just the faintest bit of the almondiness you get with the Aberlour and the Tormore. It's much more satisfyingly chewy to taste as well; imagine a Christmas cake that someone's peeled the marzipan off, and then set fire to just a corner of. Probably my favourite Speysider of all the ones I've tried so far, which is not to say it's up there with the best of the Highlanders, but it's pretty good.

No comments: