I think I had my first pour of Laphroaig 10 in 2005. Until now I’ve not had any iterations of this classic malt distilled/bottled in earlier eras. The whisky in this sample, which I received in trade from Sku, was bottled in 2000, so it’s not so very much older than the earliest I’ve had but it will still be interesting to compare it with very recently bottled Laphroaig 10. Everyone says Laphroaig’s character has changed in just the last 10 years or so (and for most people this is a narrative of decline)—it’ll be interesting to see if I find it to be very different, and if so, in what ways. Accordingly, I am nosing and tasting it alongside an equivalent pour from my previously reviewed bottle of Laphroaig 10, which was probably bottled in the last couple of years (I’ve still not found time to hunt for and squint at its bottling code).
To make things easier I’ve pasted in the notes from the previous review in brackets above each section of this one (I didn’t bother taking fresh notes on the other bottle this time as it doesn’t seem appreciably altered since my review).
I’ve not had too many Glen Speys. But I’m not alone in this—very few people have had very many Glen Speys. This is because Glen Spey isis mainly a producer of bulk malt for Diageo’s blends and is rarely seen in single malt form. Diageo did release an excellent 21 yo as part of the annual special release a few years ago (and I really liked it), but there are no other official releases out there. Nor does it see much exposure from the independents. This part is more mysterious as, usually, indies tend to get their hands on a lot of casks from these kinds of distilleries: compare a total of 120 entries on Whiskybase for Glen Spey against 202 from Braeval or 320 from Benrinnes (only five of those 120 Glen Speys on Whiskybase are OBs, by the way, and of those three were the aforementioned one-off 21 yo and the likewise one-off Manager’s Dram and Manager’s Choice—the other two are an older 8 yo and one in the Flora & Fauna series that may or may not still be a going concern).
As such it’s always hard to resist a Glen Spey when it is available. And as this one was released by Whiskybase in their Archives series, it seemed like a good bet: everything I’ve had in the series has been at least solid, some have been very, very good, and none have been duds. Let’s get to it.
No, not our fifth anniversary, the restaurant’s. Piccolo turned five this month. We only ate there for the first time last March but it has quickly become our favourite fine dining restaurant in the Twin Cities. So when I saw a reference to a fifth anniversary dinner in a glowing piece on Chef Doug Flicker on Eater in December it took only a few minutes for me to find a phone and call the restaurant about reservations. As far as I can tell, they didn’t really advertise this dinner—I didn’t see anything on their website nor did I see any tweets from the restaurant touting it in the weeks preceding. From this I conclude that most of the tables were set aside for regulars and friends of the house*, and as we are neither (this would be “only” our fourth visit—see here, here and here for reviews of our prior meals) I felt we were very fortunate to get a table. And even more fortunate that due to a cancellation the evening prior we managed to get our reservation moved from 9.30 pm to 8.45 pm.
This is one of the oldest Clynelishes I’ve had—though at the Clynelish tasting I opened this at we also drank a 28 yo from Single Malts of Scotland (review forthcoming in a few days or weeks). It was bottled in 2011 by the German indie Malts of Scotland. Since then Malts of Scotland’s prices seem to have gone up dramatically and I haven’t noticed very much older Clynelish coming on the market either. Most of what’s available now seems to be from the mid-late 1990s, and this seems to have led some people to develop the usual magic vintage theories about some of those years—1997, in particular.
Who knows what the future holds for Clynelish. I’ve speculated before that Diageo may be positioning it for promotion to the premium end of their portfolio; if that’s true we’ll probably see less and less of it available to indie bottlers, and god only knows what prices will be charged in the future by boutique bottlers like Malts of Scotland and the Whisky Agency.
In the first edition of Indian Home Cooking Week I promised a post on chapatis, parathas and pickles and only provided chapatis and parathas. For this edition I promised a post on pickles and here I am with a post on one pickle. But it’s a good pickle. And with some easy variations it becomes as many as three pickles—so, as you can see, I did not lie a second time. That’s just not the kind of person I am. I have also not always been the kind of person who made pickles. It always seemed a daunting proposition involving greater patience and a lower propensity to screw up and kill people with botulism than I possess. But, as with most forbidding things, it turns out that when you look into it’s not actually very difficult.
While posting my recipe for Masala Salmon in the first edition of my Indian Home Cooking Week series I mock-apologized for not including a Bengali fish dish. This because I am a Bengali and Bengalis are renowned fish-eaters and for my first fish recipe to be a non-Bengali dish seemed like a bit of a betrayal, even to one who spent most of his life in India outside Bengal and who speaks Hindi better than Bengali. Well, here I am now with one of the most iconic of Bengali fish dishes: shorshe-bata maach. (Maach=fish; shorshe=mustard; and here bata=ground into paste.)
For the first two entries of this edition of Indian Home Cooking Week I’ve posted two fairly traditional parts of a Bengali meal. This third entry is neither traditional nor Bengali. It is my take on non-Indian roasted squash soups with Indian flavours and techniques. It is very easy to make and I think you will like it a lot—it’s a great winter soup. You can serve it as part of a multi-course meal (Indian or otherwise) or just have a big bowl of it as a standalone meal. It could even probably work as a sauce for fish along with rice. The possibilities are endless. By which I mean that there are at least three possibilities.
You’ll often see the word saag (shaak in Bengali) used as a synonym for spinach in the US. In fact, saag/shaak refers to any kind of leafy greens. Thus spinach (palak in hindi, palok-shaak in Bengali) is only one kind of saag/shaak and various other kinds of leafy greens (from mustard greens to beet greens to amaranth leaves to water spinach) are eaten as saag/shaak. As far as I know Swiss chard is not grown much (or at all) in India, but unsurprisingly it is very good when used in most saag/shaak recipes (though I wouldn’t use it in recipes that call for leafy greens to be steamed and pureed).
Traditionally, Bengali meals incorporate one shaak dish, and this recipe is for the simplest possible such preparation plus an easy variation. It will go excellently with yesterday’s mushoor dal for a simple vegetarian meal. You could make it with spinach, radish greens, beet greens etc. (or some combination)—I used chard here because it’s what I had at hand.
In my recipe for chholar dal, with which I kicked off the first edition of my Indian Home Cooking Week series, I hazarded that the triumvirate of dals in the Bengali kitchen comprises chholar, moog and mushoor dals (to use their Bengali names). And for this edition of the series I will begin with a recipe for mushoor dal.
Mushoor dal (masoor in Hindi, banal “red lentils” in American) is not a fancy dal and I don’t know of any fancy ways of preparing it (at least not in Bengali cuisine). You boil the dal, you add some tadka/phoron (or maybe you don’t) and that’s it. But subtle variations in the few ingredients can make a big difference in the final result. This recipe is for how I usually make it, following my mother and especially our cook when I was growing up, with whose name my sister and I associated this dal. For us it wasn’t mushoor dal, but Ram dal. This version of mushoor dal remains my definition of comfort food and in culinary terms it is the constant link from my childhood to now—it may not be the first thing I remember eating (bananas, I think) but it is the first thing I remember loving. But enough about me.
As threatened, I have another all-recipes week coming up. The first edition was posted in December—and while not all my whisky readership seems to have cared for the innovation (much lower page views for recipe posts than for whisky reviews) I very much enjoyed doing it; and so will be doing these every 4-6 weeks on a regular basis (with occasional one-off recipe posts in between). If nothing else, it makes for good variety for me—hopefully warding off the risk of reviewing burnout that so many whisky blogs seem to eventually be afflicted by.