Highland Park 12

hp12Last week I reviewed the Highland Park 15, the least loved of the Orkney distillery’s regular line and apparently marked for extinction. Today I have its younger sibling, the Highland Park 12, an altogether better known and more popular whisky (though not the youngest in Highland Park’s range anymore). As you have doubtless become sick of hearing, the Highland Park 12 is considered the all-rounder of single malt whisky, bringing together the major characteristic aromas and flavours of single malt whisky. If someone is new to single malt whisky and wants tips on what they might like it’s not uncommon to hear whisky geeks recommend that they try Highland Park 12 and note which aspects of it they like—the smoke, the sherried notes, the citrus, the sweetness, the brine. It is also remains a very reasonably priced whisky—available in Minnesota for less than $40.

It was one of my gateway malts—along with the Clynelish 14, the Talisker 10 and Laphroaig 10, it confirmed my ensuing obsession with single malt whisky and with Highland Park in particular (it is one my very favourite distilleries). And it has been a staple on my shelves ever since. I am pleased to finally be reviewing it for the blog. Continue reading

Bowmore 11, 2002 (Exclusive Malts for K&L)

Bowmore 11, 2002I received a sample of this Bowmore 11 in a swap with Michael K. of Diving for Pearls and after I received it I realized I already had an unopened bottle of it. I finally opened it a few months ago for one of our local group’s tastings and we finished the rest of the bottle at our August tasting—I occasionally repeat bottles that were contentious in some way or the other to see if our responses might change as the whisky does with time and air. I’d planned to review it when the bottle had just been opened but didn’t get around to it because I read Michael’s review and wanted to forget about it before tasting—and then I forgot about the whisky completely. This review is of the last pour from the bottle, but please keep in mind that the evening before this had been at the halfway point—so it’s not a hugely oxidized pour that’s been sitting at the very bottom of the bottle for a long time (and the bottle itself was only open for less than five months).

(I’d also assumed I’d photographed the bottle when I’d originally planned to review it but while posting this review realized I never had: hence the picture of the empty bottle.) Continue reading

Origami (Minneapolis)

uniFor years I’ve been down on sushi in Minnesota, all the while harbouring a guilty secret: I hadn’t actually eaten at any of the better reviewed places. It just seemed highly unlikely to me that sushi at any of these places would be any good. No, I didn’t think this because we’re in the middle of the country. Given how much fish flies around the world and how much of what shows up in most sushi places in the US is previously frozen anyway that’s not the problem. Which is not to say that it wouldn’t be nice to get live Santa Barbara uni and spot prawns as you can in the better places in LA (for example, at Kiyokawa) but there’s plenty of other good fish that should be theoretically available. To be clear, I wouldn’t under any circumstances expect there to be sushi bars here on par with the top or second-tier places in Los Angeles but theoretically, at least, one might expect there to be places on par with the better neighbourhood establishments in LA. But I didn’t think this was likely either. Continue reading

Ardmore 25, 1988 (Gordon & Company)

Ardmore 25, 1988, G&CArdmore, as you probably know, is one of the few distilleries in the Speyside known for peated malt—though it is rarely smoky to the extent of the peated Islays and others of that ilk. There’s not a lot of Ardmore available, either officially or from the indies, and so I’m always on the lookout for any new bottles. I don’t really know who Gordon & Company are; until I came across some of their bottles on Whiskybase a few months ago I had never heard of them or their “Pearls of Scotland” line which includes this Ardmore. If you know who they are or if they have any relationship to Gordon & Macphail please let me know via the comments.

Anyway, as I like Ardmore a lot, and as I’ve never had an Ardmore of this age before, I was very interested but didn’t want to commit to a full bottle until I’d tried a sample. Of course, after purchasing the samples I completely forgot about them and so am very pleased to discover that this is still in stock at Whiskybase. Of course, if I like it a lot I won’t post the review till I’ve secured a bottle for myself. You’re welcome! Continue reading

Highland Park 15

highlandpark15Situated between the more famous 12 and 18 year olds in Highland Park’s core range, the 15 year old tends to get lost in the shuffle. I know a lot of people who’ve had a lot of Highland Park but have not tried it. It may be, I suppose, that it’s not as widely available as its siblings or that it falls into an awkward price category, being neither entry-level not qualifying as a “special” purchase. As it happens it is different from the 12 yo and the 18 yo in production terms as well: as Gerry Tosh is quoted as saying on this blog’s review from 2010, whereas the 12 yo and the 18 yo are aged primarily in sherry casks made of European oak, the 15 yo is aged predominantly in sherry casks made of American oak.

I’m not really sure, by the way, what the status of this expression is. I’d heard rumours a couple of years ago that it was being discontinued, but it’s still listed on the distillery’s website and is still widely available in Minnesota. Continue reading

Glenmorangie Signet

Glenmorangie SignetHere is another of Glenmorangie’s special edition whiskies (though this is, I think, an ongoing small batch release). Unlike the Ealanta, the Signet carries no age statement, but like it it has somewhat unusual origins. Whereas the Ealanta’s claim to difference is its 19 years in virgin oak casks, the Signet’s claim to fame is both the use of roasted “chocolate barley” malt as well as “designer bespoke casks”. What exactly makes the casks different or how much of the malt used is the special kind, I’m not sure. The information is probably out there but I’m too lazy to check. I’m not in the business of providing information, after all, only unreliable reviews.

I’ve had the Signet before and liked it a lot. On that occasion I bemoaned its asking price (about $180 in most US markets) which is, in my opinion, out of keeping with its quality: it’s good but it’s not that good, and I’ve never really been tempted to get a full bottle. However, I have wanted to taste it again and so when another sample swap provided an opportunity, I took it. Continue reading

Piccolo III

sucklingpigOkay, so we like Piccolo a lot. Despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that we can only manage one restaurant dinner in the cities each month (living an hour south, with small kids, and a limited fine dining budget) we’ve now eaten at Piccolo three times this year, passing up the opportunity to eat at other local luminaries that we have not yet visited (Corner Table, Meritage), visited in a while (Heartland, 112 Eatery), or which we used to revisit regularly in the past (Alma). What can I say, Doug Flicker’s modernist soul food (though the restaurant might not describe it this way) is in our sweet spot. We haven’t always loved everything we’ve eaten at every meal there but it’s always a stimulating experience. Continue reading

Glenmorangie Ealanta

Glenmorangie EalantaThis was the 2013 release in Glenmoangie’s “Private Edition” series. Not having cared overmuch for most of the others I’ve tasted (the Artein and Companta, for example) this is not in and of itself a huge recommendation for me. Then there’s the fact that this has been aged for 19 years in heavily charred virgin oak casks—I’ve not generally had a good track record with whisky aged in virgin oak casks, though I will grant that I’ve never had one aged for 19 years in virgin oak. It was expensive on release, as most of these Glenmorangie limited editions are, but at least it has an age statement.

There was also some amusing marketing blather on release. Bill Lumsden told The Scotsman that he “hid the barrels in a corner of a warehouse 19 years ago so the whisky didn’t get used in a blend”. Yes, Dr. Bill, that’s obviously the way to make sure one of your experiments doesn’t go astray, “hiding” it in a warehouse; it’s a wonder the children who run the distillery and warehouses didn’t stumble upon it while playing conkers during their lunch break. Continue reading

Longmorn 11,1999 (Alambic Classique)

Longmorn 11, 1999, Alambic ClassiqueOld Longmorn (especially from the late 1960s and early 1970s) is usually utterly brilliant stuff—see here and here, for example—but I’ve not had quite as much luck with more recent/younger Longmorn, whether official or independent—see here and here (and here for an exception). As to whether this is just the luck of the draw or whether Longmorn’s spirit reaches its peak at a much later age, or if there was something crucially different about that earlier period, I don’t know. I do know that this 11 yo from the German bottler Alambic Classique does not lift the average of recent/young Longmorns.

I bought it a while ago and opened it a couple of months ago for one of our local group’s tastings—and while no one hated it, it didn’t really ring anyone’s bells either. For that reason, mostly, I’ve been putting off returning to review it despite having listed it in my “Coming Soon…” forecasts for quite some time now. But here I am now. Continue reading

Glen Ord 15, 1997 (Archives)

Glen Ord 1997, ArchivesThis Glen Ord was part of the fourth release of Whiskybase’s Archives series in 2012. I don’t think they’d started selling samples then and though I was very intrigued—I’ve not had too many Glen Ords but I’ve liked all the ones I’ve tried quite a lot—I was put off chancing my arm on a full bottle by the low scores it received from the Whiskybase community. And then I kind of forgot about it. Recently, however, I noticed it was still available at the store and that samples were now also available, and so here I am. What a deeply uninteresting introduction this has been. Let me see if I can manage another paragraph that can compete with it.

The Glen Ord distillery is the last distillery remaining on the Black Isle in the northern highlands. The Black Isle is not an island at all but a peninsula and therefore is not the setting of the early Tintin story, The Black Island, which was one of the first Tintins I ever read—the other was King Ottokar’s Sceptre. I believe The Black Island was my sister’s and the other was mine. There’s no distillery in The Black Island (and no Captain Haddock) but Tintin’s dog Snowy gets drunk on Loch Lomond whisky. Okay, this paragraph may possibly be more interesting than the previous; but the interesting bits are mostly redundant as I’ve gone over it all before here. What do I win? Continue reading