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Issue 33 - Clear as mud?

Whisky Magazine Issue 33
September 2003


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Clear as mud?

When is a Cardhu not a Cardhu? Dave Broom investigates

Say you have the fastest-growing single malt in the world, but that distillery is at full capacity. How do you continue to increase the brand's sales and not change its age statement?

That's the dilemma faced by Diageo with Cardhu. It could have built a new still house, but would still have needed to wait for a dozen years for the whisky to mature, by which time the market might be (would be) entirely different. Its answer is to make Cardhu a vatted malt.

Is this bad for whisky? Not as long as it is properly managed. In fact, it may just be the answer on how to grow the whisky category in ‘new' markets (Spain, Portugal etc.) and get blend-resistant young people in ‘old' markets (the UK, US, France) drinking whisky.

Vatted malts as the new blends? Now there's a thought. Is it the death of single malt? No. Diageo has given a cast iron guarantee that this won't happen with front-line brands such as Lagavulin, or Oban – though don't expect to see much Glendullan on the market in the future.

It begs the question, who makes the decision what malt is worthy to be a front-line player?

But it does make me wonder, what is Cardhu? It's like going to see a band called The Temptations. The muscians might sound like The Temps, but there might be only one original member left – and he's a drummer.

The whisky called ‘Cardhu' which you are buying today might look and taste much the same, but ultimately isn't the same Cardhu as you bought yesterday. In turn, ‘Cardhu' has made...

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