Cardhu Gold Reserve – Game of Thrones “House Targaryen”

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.

ScotchNoob™ Mark:

About The Distillery

Located in the heart of Speyside, Cardhu is Diageo’s best-selling single malt (which is surprising to me: none of my local California liquor stores carry it), and is perhaps best known as the heart of the Johnnie Walker blends. In 2003, Cardhu single malt had grown so popular in Spain that owner Diageo made a move to extend stocks by vatting together Cardhu single malt with two other lesser-known single malts from other distilleries, producing what was generally then called a “vatted malt whisky”, and proceeded to market the product in Spain as “Cardhu Pure Malt.” This caused something of a furor in the whisky industry, and while Diageo quickly scrapped the project, the Scottish Whisky Association (SWA) used the opportunity to put new whisky labeling rules into effect, first declaring that a distillery’s name may only appear on the bottle if that bottle contains only whisky from that distillery. In addition, the word ‘pure’ (being vague in its interpretation) mustn’t appear on labels, and lastly that the phrase ‘blended malt whisky’ replace the earlier unofficial ‘vatted malt whisky’ (meaning whisky made only with malted barley: No other grains or unmalted barley). Cardhu’s reputation is still recovering from this misstep. The water comes from springs in the quarzite hills of Carn na Cailliche.
Cardhu Gold Reserve – Game of Thrones “House Targaryen”
40% ABV
ScotchNoob™ Mark:
Price Range: $40-$50
Acquired: (750ml Bottle) purchased at Mission Liquor, Pasadena, CA, $22

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