The name of the Cardhu distillery in the middle of Speyside means something like black rock. Cardhu was written as Cardow until 1975. The famous Cardhu Distillery is also noteworthy as the only distillery founded by a woman.


John Cummings and his wife Helen ran the Cardow estate around 1810. The company, which initially emerged as an illicit distillery, was legally licensed in 1824. It is said that Helen baked cakes to mislead the tax collectors and raised a red flag to warn potential traders of the uninvited visit. Her daughter-in-law Elizabeth Cummings had a lasting impact on the whiskY industry at the time. In 1874 she planned and built the new distillery on the current site.


After the renovation was completed, the old stills were sold to William Grant & Sons to build the Glenfiddich distillery around 1880. The new stills were increased by two more to a total of six in 1960. The still gets the water for its production from the springs of the two rivers Lyne Burn and Mannoch Hill. So today you are still burning for 3 pot and three spirit stills. While in the past most of the single malt production was used for the Blend Johnny Walker, this changed after Cardhu became more and more popular as a single malt and most of it is now sold as a single malt.

At the time when Cardhu did not have enough single malt in stock, the owner, Diageo, tried to market a blend with other malt whiskies from various distilleries under the name Cardhu Pure Malt, but failed because of the admission of Glenfiddich. The terms “Pure Malt” and “Vatted Malt” have been replaced by “Blended Malt”.

Distillery Factsheet

Name Pronounced AKA Region Country of Origin
Cardhu Cardow Speyside Scotland
Status Active Whisky Type Website Tours Available
Active 1824 - Present Malt Cardhu Tour Link
Manager Distiller Blender Owned by Parent Group
Andy Cant Diageo

Cardhu Timeline:

1811: John Cumming leased the site and went into illicit distilling

1824: John Cumming got a licence and built the Cardow Distillery. Before that he got convicted three times of unlicensed distilling

1839: John Cumming died and let the farm to his son Lewis Cumming (1846 mentioned as well)

1872: Lewis Cumming died leaving the farm and distillery to his wife Elizabeth Cumming. She became known as the "Queen of the Whisky Trade" due to her work at the distillery for nearly twenty years

1884: Elizabeth leased another four acres (1.6 hectares) of land adjacent to the farm and built a new distillery capable of producing 60,000 gallons (over 270,000 litres) annually to take advantage of the vast popularity of the "Glenlivets", as the Speyside malts were named, for blending (1886 mentioned as well)

1887: Distillery extended

by 1888: The malt produced was sold in London as "Cardow". This popularity didn’t stay unnoticed and several take-over bids were turned down by Elizabeth because she wanted the Distillery to be retained by the family

1893: Elizabeth negogiated a deal with John Walker & Sons Ltd. of Kilmarnock, Cardhu’s major customer. Her son John Cumming became a salaried director of John Walker & Sons Ltd. while remaining at Cardhu Distillery. John Walker & Sons Ltd. then bottled Cardhu as Old Vatted Cardhu, and as Cardow from 1908

1897: John Walker & Sons Ltd., Kilmarnock expanded output

1923: John Cumming retired from the board and succeeded by his son Ronald Cumming

1925: Merged with the Distillers Company Ltd. (DCL)

1930: Transferred to Scottish Malt Distillers Ltd. (SMD)

during WWII: All of the production went into the Johnnie Walker brands

1960-61: Rebuilt when extended from four to six stills

1960s: Cardhu is reintroduced as a single malt

1971: Stills became steamheated

1975: Name changed to Cardhu and licensed to John Walker & Sons Ltd., Kilmarnock

1992: Licensed to United Malt & Grain Distillers Ltd. (UMGD)

1999: Owned by United Distillers & Vintners Ltd. (UDV)

....: Renamed to Cardhu Distillery as the distillery began to promote a bottled single malt

....: Renamed to Cardow Distillery as the distillery changed the Cardhu single malt to a vatted malt