Haha! You thought I was done reviewing long-dead Game of Thrones special editions from Diageo! Wrong! I have two more…
At least this Cardhu with the House Targaryen moniker on it can still be found at sale prices in some retail locations.
I’ve enjoyed Cardhu in the past, a single malt that is oddly popular in Spain and which famously destroyed its reputation by marketing a blended malt containing Cardhu as “Cardhu Pure Malt”. Whoops. Still, it’s a sherried malt with good balance, even when bottled as an NAS at 40% ABV like this.
Despite being named after the Game of Thrones character with the least satisfying final storyline (and that’s a low bar), this Cardhu may be one of the standouts from the many many many Game of Thrones single malt releases from Diageo.
Not because it’s so good, mind you. No, no. It’s because the closeout price makes it such good value for the money.
Nose: Decadently honeyed, with pear drops, nonpareils, toffee, roasted hazelnuts, and a touch of just-ripe banana. The aroma is assertive despite the low ABV, but the youth of the malt comes through in vague wisps of grain, like white dog or (uncharitably) rubbing alcohol. Those notes are very mild, though. A rest in the glass adds caramel and disperses most of the grainy aroma.
Palate: Thin body. Nutty upfront, with slightly bitter walnuts, hazelnuts, etc. There is almost no tongue burn at all. Aside from the honey-and-nut profile, it’s a bit one-dimensional.
Finish: Short. Honey continues through the finish. Some mouth-drying tannins, but little bitterness. Fades quickly into an unfortunate cardboard note.
With Water: A few drops of water increase the nose tickle without adding any detectable aromas. The palate seems (even) thinner, with more bitter compounds. Skip the water here. At 40% ABV it certainly doesn’t need it.
Overall: This is the kind of thing you pray you get with a $25 bottle of budget single malt: Forgivable faults paired with robust positive flavors, at guilt-free daily-drinker prices. If this exact bottle were available perennially at $25 a bottle, it would be a permanent part of my cabinet rotation. At suggested retail however it’s a bit of a joke. $70 for a bottle that’s maybe slightly better than Glenmorangie 10 year? No thanks.
This is a rare “Recommended” rating with a caveat: I would only recommend this bottle below $30.