Inchgower 24, 1990 (Maltbarn)

Inchgower 24, 1990, Maltbarn
Here is another 24, yo from 1990 from another relatively obscure Speyside distillery in Diageo’s portfolio: Inchgower. Inchgower produces mostly for blends—as with other Diageo workhorses, a Flora & Fauna bottling may be the only regular official release (I’m not counting the special Rare Malts and Manager’s Choice/Dram releases). Johannes of Malt Madness says of Inchgower that “the malt whisky is of excellent quality – at least the stuff they used to distill around 1980”. I am hopeful that someday soon I’ll get to experience some of this. I’ve not had very many, all have been pretty old and none have excited me (see here for quick notes on the two I’ve reviewed for the blog).

This one is from 1990, so well past Johannes’ cut-off for excellence, but who knows, it might be special too. Like Wednesday’s Glen Garioch it’s also from Maltbarn and is also still available.  Continue reading

Auchroisk 24, 1990 (Signatory for Binny’s)

Auchroisk 24, 1990, Signatory for Binny's
I passed through Chicago recently and after moaning on Twitter that there was nothing very inspiring on Binny’s website, I found myself inevitably standing in the whisky section of one of their outlets anyway (the branch on W. Grand Ave.). Binny’s has sadly stopped shipping liquor and beer completely. This is a great contemporary American tragedy (and stems from the ancient and ongoing farce of American liquor laws and hypocritical public morality). If Binny’s had not been shipping when I began to take a serious interest in malts I would probably not have developed a serious interest in malts and I would not have a blog now and then where would the world be? Anyway, I went to Binny’s—how can you go to Chicago and not go to Binny’s? And I was glad to see that the store I was in had a decent selection of their recent “handpicked” single malt casks. Brett Pontoni and team don’t make a lot of noise about their selections—no breathless, hyperbolic emails and dubious narratives—but they pick good whisky. And when it comes to ex-bourbon cask selections from less-heralded distilleries there is no American store I trust more. I walked away with bottles from three of them, aged 19-25 (plus a young, sherried Tamdhu). First up, this Auchroisk. Continue reading

Glen Garioch 21, 1993 (Maltbarn)

Glen Garioch 21, 1993, Maltbarn
At least one person has asked me why I did not mention anything from Glen Garioch in the “austere whisky” category in my post on stocking a well-rounded single malt bar. After all, Glen Garioch rarely presents easy pleasures but has a strong reputation anyway. My answer was and is that I have not had much luck with recent official releases, and those are what are most easily available (especially the Founder’s Reserve and the 12 yo). Independent releases are a different matter and show the distillery in a better light, in my view. That said, it is true that the indies I’ve tried tend to be from earlier eras than the standard OBs—in fact, all three of the indies that I’ve reviewed were distilled in 1990 and were quite a bit older. This one is from 1993. 1994 is said to be when Glen Garioch stopped using peated malt and so it probably also does not have too much in common with contemporary official releases. But this is still around itself so you can see if my take sounds enticing enough for you to consider a bottle. Continue reading

Sushi Nozomi (Los Angeles, July 2015)

Nozomi: Unagidon
Nozomi is in Torrance, a city in the South Bay area of Los Angeles County, but for the purposes of my reviews Los Angeles more or less refers to all of LA County (the San Gabriel Valley isn’t part of the city of Los Angeles either). Torrance has a very large Japanese population, especially as a percentage of the total population. A large part of this stems from Toyota opening its US headquarters there in the late 1960s, followed by other companies. Nissan moved out in 2006 and, more seismically, Toyota announced plans to move to Texas last year. This has doubtless been a big blow to the many businesses that cater to Japanese executives—a clientele that has also driven the high quality of Japanese food in Los Angeles at large. It remains to be seen what the long-term effect will be, or if there’s now going to be a Japanese food renaissance in Plano, Texas (which is where Toyota is going). Continue reading

Laphroaig 25 (2014 Release)

Laphroaig 25, 2014 Release
After last week’s 2014 release of Lagavulin 16 let’s do another 2014 release from an iconic Islay distillery. This one is quite a bit more expensive than the Lagavulin 16, though, despite being only nine years older: the 2014 release of the Laphroaig 25. This is now down to 45.1% abv. Considering that earlier iterations hit the bottle at much higher strengths, and that global warming hasn’t lifted Scotland’s temperature quite that much yet, it seems likely that this is a case of trying to stretch stocks as far as they can. Whether this is to try and sell even more of this overpriced malt (though the price seems to slowly be creeping down, it’s far away from being reasonable), or whether it’s because they’re genuinely strapped for aged stock (see again the demise of the 18 yo), I’m not sure. At any rate, I’m curious to see if I like this more than the other two Laphroaig 25s I’ve had—the 2009 release (which I’ve reviewed) and the 2011 (which I haven’t). I liked both of those, but not as much as far cheaper and younger standard bottlings from Laphroaig. Continue reading

Pot Roast with Indian Spices

Pot Roast with Indian Spices
There’s a lot of ahistorical nonsense going on right now in India about the eating of beef (see here for the latest outrage and here for some context) and so you can consider this a political recipe.

It represents a melding of American/European technique with Indian flavours. Though Indians (and other South Asians) do roast and braise larger cuts of meat, there is nothing traditional about this recipe: it is improvised by me. It takes the usual American approach to beef roasts—season the meat, sear it and then braise it with liquid and aromatics in an oven or on the stove—and merely switches the seasoning and aromatics. It might look like fusion but if I were to cut the beef into cubes and do everything else more or less the same way it would look like a very unremarkable “curry”. Anyway, you can do this with larger cuts of lamb and mutton (goat) too, though you might have to adjust the cooking time. And you could also do it in the slow cooker as well, though in that case you might need to use less liquid. Continue reading

Lagavulin 16, 2014 Release

Lagavulin 16, 2014
I’ve reviewed the Lagavulin 16 before. That was from a bottle released in 2012. As I’m constantly annoying people with my skepticism about narratives of decline, when the opportunity came to review a more recent issue, I couldn’t turn it down. As it happens, this sample is from the legendary merchant of doom, Michael K., and so we can at least argue about the exact same whisky if we happen to disagree. I’m not sure, actually, if he’s already reviewed this one—but I’m going to avoid looking so as to not contaminate my own take. I am also going to avoid looking at my previous set of notes till I’ve finished the review. It may well turn out that I produce a near identical description. If so, I’ll post this anyway. You’re welcome!

(If this sort of thing interests you, you may also want to see my head-to-head notes on two Ardbeg Uigeadails from different years.) Continue reading

Coming Soon…

Here, as usual, is a look ahead to the coming month on the blog. Those who used to chafe against my steady diet of reviews of esoteric and unavailable whiskies will be pleased to know that there will be even more reviews in October of currently available and recently released whiskies—including some I picked up while passing through Chicago this past weekend. I will also finally get around to the post on the question of “distillery character” that I promised/threatened here. I’d hoped to do it earlier but the busy season at my place of employment started two and a half weeks ago and it wasn’t possible to find the time to do anything on the blog that required sustained thought.

On the food front, I still have some write-ups to come from my July trip to Los Angeles and then it’ll be back to a steady diet of Minnesota reviews till we’re back in Los Angeles in late December (and then in Delhi and Hong Kong in January). I’m also tempted to write up some Chinese food misadventures off Highway 90 to Chicago and back. Continue reading

Bowmore 15, 1998 (Chester Whisky)

Bowmore 15, 1990 (Chester Whisky)
Talk about Bowmore’s notorious period in the 1980s seems to have largely died down these days. As you doubtless know, their distillate then was very often marred by an extremely perfumed and soapy character, the cause of which was never accounted for (indeed the distillery never acknowledged it). I’ve noted before that in my view this period more or less ends by 1989, and that by the distillation years of 1990/91 Bowmore is no longer a chancy proposition. Others put the boundary line a bit later, but there’s general agreement now on there being a Bowmore renaissance in the 1990s.

Recently, however, I’ve had some bad luck again with some bottles from casks filled at the end of the decade. No, it’s not the perfumed thing again, and it may just be bad luck, but I’ve come across a few that exhibit an astringent soapiness on the palate and finish. This 15 yo from 1998 is one of them; next month I’ll be reviewing a 7 yo from 2000 that also has it. I don’t mean to start a new hysteria about Bowmore—which remains one of my favourite distilleries—but I am interested to hear if others have encountered this as well in any consistent manner. I welcome corroboration in the comments and I especially welcome a rubbishing of the notion by those who’ve had a larger random sampling of Bowmores from this general period. Continue reading

The Publican (Chicago)

The Publican
I first ate at the Publican in Chicago in early 2010. This was just over a year after it opened and it was hot, hot, hot. I enjoyed that dinner very much*. And so even though it is now 2015, and I haven’t really kept up with its reputation, it was my pick for a place to go to when we passed through Chicago this weekend with the kids in tow: their regular menu is very kid-friendly; and there is no way in hell that even very badly behaved children can put a damper on anyone’s evening at the Publican (they’d have to be screaming into a megaphone to be heard) and ours are very well-behaved indeed when an iPad is deployed.

On the whole, it was a nice meal but it didn’t get me as excited as the previous. Continue reading

Breckenridge Bourbon

Breckenridge Bourbon
I know almost nothing about the Breckenridge distillery from the town of the same name in Colorado. I got this sample from Michael K. at Diving for Pearls and so the following information is from his review. There is some confusion over the source of the whiskey in the bottle (it may just be easier with newer American distilleries to note when this is not the case). The distillery originally bottled bourbon distilled in Kentucky while waiting for their own distillate to come on line; around the time they bottled this one (in 2012, I think) they were apparently in the process of transitioning over from a mix of sourced bourbon and their own distillate to bottling only their own distillate. As to whether what they’re selling now is uncontroversially their own distillate I have no idea. Still, it’s notable that a) they are in fact making their own whiskey now and b) their sourced bourbon wasn’t from Indiana. These facts, alone or in combination, distinguish them from most American “craft” distillers. But is what’s in the bottle distinguished in anyway? Let’s see. Continue reading

Balcones True Blue

Balcones True Blue
It is with some trepidation that I approach this review. Dedicated readers of the blog—should any such depraved people exist—will remember that my first encounter with Balcones, a batch of their much ballyhooed Brimstone, was not a happy experience; I think it remains my lowest score to date. I did like the other batch of the Brimstone that I got to try later quite a bit more, but, in general, I remain dubious about Balcones from the Chip Tate-era. It seems to me, and I’ve voiced this opinion before, that falling in love with Balcones, which a number of whiskey bloggers did, might have required falling in love with Chip Tate, or the idea of Chip Tate first. Of course, the Chip Tate era ended in a very controversial manner last year and it may well be that new era Balcones will make even me nostalgic for their original product (the new bosses certainly seem much harder to fall in love with). And it remains to be seen what Tate’s new whisky, once he is legally allowed to start making it again next year, will be like. Continue reading