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The History Of Cardhu

People and places don't just shape a Single Malt Scotch Whisky's flavour. They change the course of its future. Get a taste of how the whisky you love today came to be, with this brief Cardhu timeline.

1811

1811

John Cumming and his wife lease a farm at Cardow – pronounced ‘Cardoo’ – and like other farmers near the river Spey, they begin small scale distilling.

1816

1816

John Cumming is convicted three times for distilling without a licence – although it would likely be his wife Helen who was the distiller. Neighbours watch for a red flag flying at the Cumming’s home, Helen’s sign an excise officer was lodging with them.

1824

1824

The Excise Act of 1823 reduces duty and farmer-distillers can afford to pay for a license. John Cumming is among the first to buy one. John’s son Lewis has many friends in the whisky industry, and they advise the Cummings to buy new stills for their fledgling distillery. George Smith, founder of Glenlivet, is one such friend – he buys and distributes Cardow’s whisky until the Cummings can find their own brokers.

1832

1832

Lewis takes over the running of the distillery. Though it is described as the country’s smallest, Lewis earns Cardow a strong local reputation.

1846

1846

John Cummings dies. The running of the farm and the distillery is handed down to Lewis.

1854

1854

Lewis has two employees, a brewer and a maltman. They distill from autumn to spring, with summer the ‘silent season’ when they work on the farm.

1863

1863

Other distilleries are nourished by the newly constructed Strathspey railway, but Cardow is over four miles from the nearest station on poor roads.

1872

1872

Lewis Cumming passes away, leaving his mother and his wife, Elizabeth with two young sons to support. Elizabeth takes on the distillery management, registering Car - Dhu as a trademark, and making a great success of the business.

1874

1874

Helen Cumming dies aged 97.

1884

1884

Blenders offer a ready market for Speyside malts, and Elizabeth can’t make enough Cardhu to meet demand – despite whisky production growing every year since 1872. With only a short lease, the distillery can’t be expanded. So Elizabeth buys four acres of land nearby and builds New Cardow, a distillery with the same water supply, but three times the capacity. Business is booming.

1886

1886

Elizabeth’s son, John Fleetwood Cumming, begins to learn the ropes. Though the market does slump, 1888 sees the start of a decade-long boom.

1892

1892

Demand has outgrown Cardow’s capacity once again.

1893

1893

Elizabeth sells Cardow at the right time, to John Walker & Sons. She buys 100 shares in Walker’s prosperous business for her son and the family fortune is made.

1894

1894

Elizabeth Cumming dies.

1898

1898

Thanks to their parent company, Cardow survives the whisky market crash.

1899

1899

Cardow doubles its stills to four and a new road, part funded by the Walkers, finally links the distillery to the Strathspey railway.

1914

1914

William Fraser is appointed distillery manager.

1917

1917

The need to conserve barley for the war halts production.

1919

1919

William Fraser is released from active service and the distillery reopens. He is to manage Cardow until 1940.

1920

1920

One new wash still and one spirit still are introduced.

1922

1922

An experiment heats the stills with oil-fired steam. It’s the first time this method is used at any malt whisky distillery.

1923

1923

The experiment is over. Quality remained the same, but coal was cheaper.

1925

1925

Walker’s business goes public in 1923, and merges with others in The Distillers Company Ltd by 1925.

1933

1933

John Cumming dies ten years after his retirement. At the same time, George Thomson, who started at Cardhu as a clerk in 1927, becomes Walker’s Production Director. Ronald Cumming, John’s son, becomes Walker’s Export Director.

1960

1960

Post-war austerity means it is only at the turn of the 1960s when Cardhu is rebuilt and re-equipped.

1961

1961

Ronald Cumming becomes Chairman of The Distillers Company, and sees to it that Cardhu is sold as a malt again – ‘Cardow 100% Pure Pot Still Highland Malt Whisky’.

1965

1965

The word `Cardhu’ is registered as a trademark and the product is relaunched as a single malt, although there is little promotion.

1973

1973

The oil crisis and the recession which follows means sales of blended whiskies fall and for the first time there are sufficient amounts of good malt whisky to promote in their own right.

1981

1981

The distillery’s name is changed from Cardow to Cardhu, to match its product.

1982

1982

`Cardhu Pure Highland Malt Scotch Whisky’ is relaunched in a new pack and for the first time becomes available to markets across the world.