Four Roses Small Batch Ltd. Ed. 2013

Four-Roses-Small-Batch-2013I have previously reviewed the 2010 and 2012 releases of Four Roses’ annual limited edition release of their Small Batch series. The 2012 release was one of the most lauded bourbons of that year and this edition, commemorating the 125th anniversary of the distillery, debuted to no less acclaim. It was also much harder to obtain. I found the 2012 edition on the shelf of a store I wandered into looking for something else, and there were many bottles still on the shelf when I left with mine. For the 2013 release, however, you had to promise your firstborn child just to get on a list for a raffle and as ours was already fully toilet-trained and sleeping through the night it didn’t seem like a good deal. As bourbon in any case is not really my major obsession in the world of whisky, and as I am inordinately lazy, I was only too happy to leave the chase to those with more energy and desire (I haven’t even bothered to look around for the 2014). Fortunately, thanks to a sample swap I get to taste it anyway.

I’m not sure what the mashbill for this release was but doubtless someone will soon chime in in the comments with the details.

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Hmongtown Marketplace


I know what my all but non-existent Minnesota readership is thinking: finally, someone’s gotten around to reviewing this Twin Cities mainstay! But you should really curb that cruel sarcastic impulse and bear in mind that I did not have a blog till just over 18 months ago and only got around to reviewing restaurants regularly this summer. So, here it is, only seven years or so too late: your review of the food court at Hmongtown Marketplace. Any week now you can expect a detailed breakdown of a Jucy Lucy at Matt’s.

I am embarrassed to say that despite having lived in the general area for more than seven years now I’ve not really made too much of an attempt to explore the Hmong food scene. In my defense this is largely because we happened very early on Hmongtown Marketplace in St. Paul and didn’t really feel the need to branch out. Continue reading

Lot 40, 2012 Release

Lot-40I don’t really know too much about Canadian whisky—like all things Canadian, it is an impenetrable, exotic mystery. My understanding is that most of it is distilled on a small farm in Vermont and shipped back to Canada where it’s mixed with neutral grain spirit, artificial rye flavouring and maple syrup and bottled at as high an abv as 43%. Someone should really write a book about Canadian whisky—there’s so much bad information around on it.

I do know that this Lot 40 release from 2012 has been highly lauded. It was named Canadian whisky of the year for 2013 by Whisky Advocate, narrowly beating out the two other Canadian whiskies your average American whisky drinker can name; and it’s even been spoken of warmly by people who don’t normally throw scores in the 90s around like so much confetti. I really don’t know too much about Canadian whisky and have tasted even less; part of me suspects that there’s a bit of hyperbole surrounding Canadian whisky these days, an attempt to make it the Next Big Thing by people hoping to raise their own profile by association—but I’ll be very pleased if this lives up to the hype.

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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