Benriach 27, 1984, Cask 4050

Benriach 27, 1984, Peated, Tawny Port Finish
This Benriach, peated and finished in a tawny port cask, was brought by my friend Rich to a whisky gathering to celebrate his birthday last fall. It is from a cask that won a “Gold Medal” from the Malt Maniacs back in 2012, also picking up their award that year for the best peated whisky. The Malt Maniacs may award a lot of medals but very few of them are gold and so this would seem to be a sure thing. At our tasting, however, it got a less rapturous reception. While no one came close to disliking it, most of us—including me—found it a bit of an oddball (though I liked its oddness a lot), with vegetal, meaty and sweet flavours going in and out. It was not clear, however, if it was suffering juxtapositional effects: everything else we had that night was fairly straightforward ex-boubon or ex-sherry and it’s possible aspects of the port/peat character got exaggerated as a result. I came away with a large sample though and so am able now to evaluate it by itself. Continue reading

Varq (Delhi, January 2016)

murgh-sirka-pyaaz2
Varq, at the Taj Mahal hotel in Delhi, is said to be one of the most important restaurants not just in the city but in all of India. The force behind it, Chef Hemant Oberoi, is considered one of the most important and influential figures in Indian haute cuisine in the last 20 odd years. He retired last year but his newer restaurants Masala Art and especially Varq remain at the forefront of the movement to re-articulate classic high-end Indian restaurant food in a contemporary/modern idiom. Personally, I am not convinced of the need for this sort of thing because usually when people say “contemporary” or “modern” in this context they mean “Western” and I’m never quite clear on why that should be so. It’s not as though in fashion or film or even non-high-end food Indian modernity is reliant on Western cues. Continue reading

Lagavulin, “Distillery Only” (2010 Release)

Lagavulin, Distillery Only, 2010
As a fan of the Lagavulin Distiller’s Edition—the regular Lagavulin 16, “finished” for a few more months in PX sherry casks—I’d often wondered what it would be like at cask strength. Thanks to this release, which was available at the distillery only, I am able to find out. Sort of. It’s not the same age as the regular Distiller’s Edition (which, as noted, is 16 years and a few months, usually): this was spirit left over from the 1991-2007 Distiller’s Edition that was left to mature for a few more years in refill casks. Or so I’ve gathered from this account from someone who tasted it at the distillery in 2011—other sources are either vaguer or present different accounts (see WhiskyNotes, for example). I’m inclined to believe the person who got the story directly from the distillery manager though. And, no, I didn’t get the bottle at the distillery; a friend who procured a bottle was kind enough to share.  Continue reading

Strathisla 25 (Gordon & MacPhail)

Strathisla 25, Glen Grant
I purchased this Gordon & MacPhail Strathisla 25 at the same time as this Glen Grant 21. Both used to be familiar sights in better American liquor stores some years ago. As with the Glen Grant, this was bottled by G&M at 40%. It’s quite striking that G&M continue to bottle older vatted whiskies at lower strengths; one would expect that the segment of the market that is willing to pay larger amounts of money for older whisky now wants and expects higher strengths and single casks (or at the very least vintage statements). Of course, they do release many in those formats too. I think I’ve mentioned before my theory that the older whiskies they release at the lower strengths and/or without vintage statements might be vattings intended to rescue casks that have fallen below 40% in their legendary warehouses. Well, even if that’s true, some of the resulting whiskies have been very fine indeed (see this Longmorn 40, for instance).  Continue reading

Coast Cafe (Delhi, January 2016)

Coast Cafe: Red Snapper Chilli Curry
Coast Cafe is the restaurant I referred to at the end of my review of my quite good meal at Mahabelly. It is, unfortunately, located in the hellhole that is Hauz Khas Village but presents a good argument for going there during a weekday. (There is, however, no argument for going to Hauz Khas village on a weeknight or on the weekend; and especially not on weekend nights.) It is a small restaurant operated by Ogaan, a company I’d always thought was entirely in the lifestyle magazine racket but apparently now also has a range of clothing stores and at least one restaurant. Coast Cafe is that restaurant and is situated on the two floors above the Ogaan shop. Oh yes, another point in Coast Cafe’s favour is that it is located at the very entrance to the hellhole that is Hauz Khas Village and so you don’t have to go very far in. I met another old friend there for lunch and despite my hatred of Hauz Khas Village and reservations about aspects of Coast Cafe’s menu I enjoyed the food very much indeed.  Continue reading

Pulteney 8, 1990 (Cadenhead’s)

Pulteney 8, 1990, Cadenheads
I think this review has been long promised/threatened. It’s a good thing I didn’t get around to it when I first said I would because this is one of those whiskies that went from being blah when first opened to being quite pleasant after it had sat with some in the air in the bottle for a few weeks/months. The very high strength doubtless had something to do with that. Anyway, this is somewhat unusual because it’s an independent Old Pulteney: you don’t see too many of those around (I believe the distillery requires that the indies drop the “Old” from their labels). And this bottle itself is not a recent release. It’s from a Cadenhead’s series from before they left the US market (only to come back again a couple of years ago). A number of the whiskies released in this series in the mid-late 1990s can still be found here and there: the prices and quality are variable but, as I said, you don’t see too many indie Pulteneys around.   Continue reading

Mahabelly (Delhi, January 2016)

Mahabelly
I met an old friend at Mahabelly in Saket just a couple of days after our dinner at Dakshin. As it turns out, Mahabelly is located right behind the Sheraton that houses Dakshin, in the service lane at the rear of the DLF Place mall, one of several monstrous malls in a row in Saket.

Mahabelly serves the food of Kerala and the focus is on classic, often rustic preparations. It’s an altogether more easygoing affair than Dakshin: lighthearted decor, no heavy brassware in sight, no overwrought menu book etc. One long wall of the restaurant features playful cartoons which spell out the English alphabet via various self-deprecating Malayali stereotypes. The other wall sports a striking mural of a kathakali dancer—I believe performing the role of Mahabali. Yes, it’s true: the name of the restaurant is a terrible pun: Mahabelly/Mahabali.  Continue reading

Coming Soon…

Coming Soon
January is at an end and so (almost) are my travels. I will be back in Minnesota in a couple of days and drinking again (I’ve barely had a drink in a month). And the blog will be back to something resembling normal operations as well. That is to say there will be more whisky than food posts in February. I do still have a few restaurant reviews from Delhi left to post, and I haven’t even started yet on our meals in Hong Kong (where I am typing this), but there’ll be more whisky than food posts each week in February. We are moving house at the end of the month, though, and the excessive whisky collection was boxed up before I left town in December—as a result, reviews in February, and probably March too, will be almost entirely of samples that are more easily to hand (I cleverly did not label the boxes in which I packed my regular bottles).  Continue reading

Clynelish 29, 1984 (SMWS 26.102)

Clynelish 29, 1984 (SMWSA)
This is the oldest sherried Clynelish I have yet happened upon, and as I think about it, it’s the oldest Clynelish of any kind I’ve yet happened upon (the previous oldest was this lovely 28 yo from 1982 bottled by Speciality Drinks in their Single Malts of Scotland line). Will it be as good as that one or only as good as the last SMWS Clynelish I reviewed (this solid but unexciting 23 yo)? Let’s get right to it and find out.

(Oh, the SMWS dubbed this one “Pomanders in a Lady’s Parlour”.)

Clynelish 29, 1984 (56%; SMWS 26.102; refill shery butt; from a bottle-split)

Nose: Honey and apple juice followed by a pleasant grassiness (not metallic or astringent) and then some wax accompanied by a minerally prickliness. The sherry influence is really restrained: just a bit of toffee and a mild raisiny sweetness. Gets more floral as it goes and there’s some dusty wood too now. With more time the fruit wakes up: lemon, hints of apricot. With a few drops of water it gets even more floral and sweet (with some cream too now).  Continue reading

Rustom’s Parsi Bhonu (Delhi, January 2016)

menu3
Once upon a time Delhi had no Parsi restaurants (that I knew of or anyone talked about, at any rate), now we ate at two of them in the course of three days. The first was Sodabottleopenerwala, a meal, you may recall, I was unenthused by; the second was Rustom’s Parsi Bhonu. This was a much better meal in every way. Now, I should reiterate that I am in now way an authority on Parsi cuisine. I’ve eaten at a couple of Parsi/Irani places in Bombay and at the homes of friends but none of this has added up to a basis on which to opine in any confident way on the “authenticity” of the food served at these places. I do have some sense though of when food is made well, and the food at Rustom’s was superior, the distinction most marked in the dishes we ate at both meals.  Continue reading

Punjabi by Nature (Delhi, January 2016)

Punjabi by Nature: Tandoori Chicken
In my review of Dakshin yesterday I mentioned the rise in Delhi in the last decade and a half or so of what I called upper/middle class Indian restaurants: restaurants that filled the space between affordable places that were low on ambience and the super-expensive name restaurants in five star hotels. Much of this has coincided, as I noted last week, with the proliferation of restaurants specializing in regional cuisines. It is likely though that the restaurant that could be said to have led the way is one that serves the Punjabi cuisine most associated with Delhi—tandoori chicken, butter chicken, dal makhani etc.: Punjabi by Nature.

Continue reading

Dakshin (Delhi, January 2016)

chutneys
Once upon a time in Delhi, restaurants at five star hotels were pretty much the only option if you wanted to go out for a fancy meal. The pre-eminent restaurants in the category were the Maurya Sheraton’s Bukhara and Dum Pukht, and through the late 1980s and 1990s they set the tone for similar restaurants at the other five stars: meat-centric North Indian food with either a Northwest frontier or nawabi focus. The hotels usually also all had Indian Chinese restaurants (each of which pretended to be “authentic” Chinese) and 24-hour coffee shops, and some had one outlier restaurant: the Meridien had a French restaurant, for example, (Pierre, I think its name was—for all I know, it still exists.) and the Oberoi had an excellent Thai restaurant for a while: Baan Thai.  Continue reading