Craigellachie 18, 1995 (Hepburn’s Choice for K&L)

Craigellachie 18, 1995, K&L
I don’t have very much experience with Craigellachie; in fact, I’m not sure if I’ve had anything other than this G&M bottling for the Party Source. As with Diageo’s Mortlach, Craigellachie produces a heavier, meaty spirit and the G&M cask I tried was as close to Mortlach as I’ve come from any other distillery. I did like that one quite a bit and so have been on the look out for more since: of course, there hasn’t been very much of it around—especially in the US—since, as with so many distilleries, it mostly produces for blends (it is a core component of the Dewars blends). The owners, Bacardi announced last year that they would be launching a new range of single malts from Craigellachie. The new 13, 17 and 23 year olds have been well-received, on the whole, but from what I can tell they’re not deeply sherried brutes. And so when K&L announced this single sherry cask I put aside my misgivings based on their 2013 selections and got a bottle.

Well, I opened it for my local group’s April tasting and it was quite popular. Due to the vagaries of schedules we actually did two small group tastings separated by a couple of weeks, and while I liked it fine the first time, I liked it even more on the second occasion. Let’s see what I think of it now that it’s been open for about a month. Continue reading

On’s Kitchen 2

Pad Sator
No, On’s Kitchen hasn’t opened a second location: this is my second review of On’s Kitchen. It’s not the only time we’ve eaten there since the first review, it’s only the second review I’ve gotten around to writing; and, in fact, it’s a compendium of our two most recent meals there. In the time since the first review—way back in late 2013 when I’d first started to post restaurant write-ups on the blog—I’ve covered a number of the other Thai places that get attention from Twin Cities foodies and food media and have confirmed what everyone knows to be true: at the top are On’s Kitchen and Bangkok Thai Deli and everyone else is well below that. What not everyone wants to say, however, is that even the better places below them are not even really in the same weight division. But rather than dwell on the shortcomings of the rest of the scene, I’ll note once again how lucky we are, in a region without a large Thai population, to have two Thai restaurants that offer up very good renditions of more than your standard-issue Thai restaurant fare, and where it is possible to get even the standard-issue fare cooked at a high level and unsweetened or otherwise watered down. Continue reading

Kilchoman 100% Islay, 3rd Ed.

Kilchoman 100% Islay, 3rd Ed.
It’s been a while since I last tasted (or reviewed a Kilchoman). I have a large number of samples sitting on my shelves from swaps and previously deceased bottles and it’s time to bring their number down a bit.

Kilchoman, as you probably know, is the youngest distillery on Islay. They’re a very small distillery, with very limited output (compared to the big boys on the island) but their reputation is quite high. They may not be set up to produce much but what they put out is invariably good. For their regular releases they use barley peated at the Port Ellen maltings on Islay to about 50 ppm (which is at Ardbeg levels) but for these 100% Islay releases (of which this is the 3rd edition) they use only barley malted on site to 20-25 ppm (see Jordan D.’s post from late-2013 confirming this). This means this will be quite unlike the other Kilchomans I’ve tried and so I’m quite looking forward to it. Continue reading

Coming Soon…

Dali: Figure at a Window
The long list of reviews for May is below. I’m still trying to clear my huge backlog of swapped and purchased samples and there will be a bunch of those. From open bottles you can expect a review of another of the ancient G&M Longmorns I split with friends (probably the 1968), a few of the recent K&L exclusives and maybe a bunch of Amruts that I will probably be opening for a vertical tasting with friends this month. As always, please feel free to make nominations for the short list and I’ll try to get to as many as I can (and I’ll also try to catch up to promises and requests from the last couple of months that I lost track of).

Food posts will continue as well: cooking and restaurant reviews. Despite my continuing obsession with getting pictures accepted by Foodgawker, I do think my cooking posts are different from those on a lot of food blogs out there in that my primary focus really is on the recipes and not on stories or multiple high resolution pictures of finished dishes. I do hope that people are cooking along from time to time and that you’ll write in if you are. Continue reading

Simple Egg Curry/Dimer Dalna

Dimer Dalna
I don’t make egg curry very often but was moved to write this up after reading a comment by someone I follow on Twitter that referenced a complicated recipe they use. This foxed me because, in Bengal at least, one of the chief attractions of egg curry is more or less the fact that it’s a simple, quick thing to make: something you make because you don’t want to go through the hassle of cooking chicken or mutton (or if you don’t have any). As you’ll see, the recipe below is as basic as it gets. You boil the eggs and some potato; you make a spiced tomato “gravy” and then you simmer the potato and peeled eggs in it for a little bit longer; you eat it with rice. It’s certainly possible to add more twists along the way, and it’s also possible that there are more elaborate approaches by default in other parts of India, but you should be able to make a pretty decent egg curry in not more than 30 minutes.

By the way, in Bengal the dish is called “dimer dalna”. Dim (pronounced closer to “deem”) means egg, and “dalna” refers to the specific mode of prep (dalnas have thicker gravies than jhols). Continue reading

Glendronach 17, 1996, Cask 1491

Glendronach 17, 1996
Let’s do another Glendronach. Unlike yesterday’s 20 yo this one is from a PX cask and was a US exclusive, I believe. I’m not sure if the distillery is still putting out “single casks” in general release in the US or if they’re only doing store exclusives now. While the last PX cask Glendronach I had was no great shakes, I’m hoping this one will be as good as the excellent UK exclusive PX cask 4681, a 15 yo from 1995 which was my first ever “single cask” Glendronach (I still have a large reference sample saved; I should review it sometime).

Anyway, let’s get right to it.

Glendronach 17, 1996 (53.2%; PX cask 1491; from a sample received in a swap)

Continue reading

Glendronach 20, 1993, Cask 33 (for Abbey Whisky)

Glendronach 20, 1993
Of my two previous Glendronach reviews one was of a 21 yo,1993 from an oloroso cask that was quite good and the other was of a 23 yo, 1990 from a PX cask that was mediocre. This one is also from an oloroso cask and also from 1993; and like the other 1993 was also bottled for a store, in this case for Abbey Whisky in the UK. And where that was cask 23, this is cask 33—and since these were both distillery releases the proximity of the number suggests a strong likelihood that they were from the same distillation run and perhaps even the same parcel of quality sherry casks. So all the signs seem to point to a good outcome. Then again not every cask can be a winner. And it’s also the case that given the lack of clarity of what “single cask” means at Glendronach this may not all have started out in oloroso casks, and may have been re-racked into a cask 33 in a completely different year (if you read my piece on Glendronach’s “single cask” shenanigans you might remember that I was told that the cask numbers are often recycled every year). Continue reading

Balvenie 15, Sherry Cask 4453

Balvenie 15, Sherry

The bottle from which I poured my sample.

The Balvenie Single Barrel 15 used to be entirely a single bourbon cask series and as such was rather beloved of whisky geeks (give us the opportunity to explore the vagaries of cask variation and we will run with it). I have not tasted as many of the bourbon cask releases as some but all of the ones I’ve tasted ranged from good to very, very good. They were also easily available and quite reasonably priced: in Minnesota it was not difficult to find them for less than $60. As such, I gnashed my teeth with the rest when word came down that the series was going to be scrapped in favour of a new 12 yo single barrel series. But just as I was considering stocking up a rumour also emerged that the 15 yo single barrel was not in fact going away. I wish I hadn’t listened to this rumour because first the prices of existing stock of the 15 yo bourbon casks went up and then the series did indeed get discontinued. Or rather it got reconfigured as a single sherry cask series—of course at a fairly higher price.

This new Single Barrel 15 series, all drawn from single oloroso casks, maintains the old series’ tradition of every release being at 47.8%; I’m not sure, however, if the quirky tendency to sometimes release far older barrels as 15 year olds continues (I rather expect it does not). Well, I’ve been looking forward to trying it and I hope it will be good. Even if it is, however, I will still mourn the passing of the bourbon cask series: along with Glenlivet’s Nadurra it provided the quintessential pleasures of high quality bourbon cask malt (with the Nadurra at the fruitier end of the spectrum and the Balvenie at the toasted wood end of the spectrum) and class “naked” malt of that kind is harder to come by these days. Anyway, let’s get to it.

Continue reading

A&L Chinese: Dim Sum in Inver Grove Heights (Minnesota)

Sticky Rice
We’re not very enamoured of the dim sum choices in the Twin Cities metro area. Yangtze is the best, in our opinion, and it’s no great shakes in the abstract, and certainly not worth the long round-trip or the long waits on the weekends. Mandarin Kitchen is the other popular choice and our last meal there was downright depressing, bordering on disgusting. As a result we tend to save dim sum eating for when we’re in Los Angeles and only make the trek out to St. Louis park to Yangtze if guests or friends really want to go. (I wrote about all this last year in a post that I gather made some people a little unhappy with me.) Continue reading

Ben Nevis 1996-2012

Ben Nevis 1996
I’ve had more Ben Nevis in the last year or so than I had in all my years drinking whisky before then. But I don’t think I’ve had very many in this general age range that were from sherry casks and so I’m very interested to try this one. Ben Nevis is a pretty idiosyncratic malt at the best of times and it’s possible that sherry could saw off some of its rougher edges in either a good or bad way. In the case of this excellent 25 yo the sherry had a very nice impact but that was a case of double maturation, not full-term sherry maturation.

I’m also interested to see how this distillery bottling compares to the younger independent releases I’ve had. Ben Nevis’ profile seems to be on the rise of late with more and more vintage based releases, at seemingly higher prices than in the past. Having said that though they’ve just released a 48 yo from 1966 at €600, which is a lot of money but less than some distilleries charge for their 25 year old malts. Anyway, let’s get to it. Continue reading

Alur Dom/Dum Alu

Alur Dom
Alur dom (in Bengal) or dum-alu (in the Hindi belt) is a popular dish made in a variety of ways across India. The name implies cooking on “dum”, or in a tightly sealed vessel so that the potatoes cook in their own “breath”, so to speak; in practice, however, it’s rarely prepared that way in most homes. At least the potatoes are rarely cooked entirely on “dum”. This is certainly the case for this recipe, which comes to me from one of my aunts who is one of the best cooks in the extended family and has a very successful, small catering business in Calcutta. Ideally, you’d eat it with luuchis (luuchis are a lighter, fluffier version of puris) but it goes very well with parathas and rice. Indeed, match it with some chholar dal and rice and you’re all set for a great vegetarian meal. Continue reading

Spicy, Shredded Beef

Shredded Beef
This is cooked with Indian spices but there is nothing traditional about this dish, nor does it originate in any particular region. I improvised the general approach some years ago for pork shoulder in the slow cooker (though I use a slightly different spice mix for pork). You cook it low and slow all day long, take the meat out when done and shred it with a fork and mix it in with the sauce. The end result is very close to the Mexican barbacoa in looks but, of course, tastes quite different. You can eat it in much the same way: with rice, or with chapatis or parathas (rolled up in them or otherwise). I suppose if you really wanted to get fusiony you could even put it in a sandwich.

But whether making a sandwich or an ersatz taco/burrito I find it difficult to add cheese. This is entirely my problem. Despite all the similarities between Mexican and Indian cuisines—both in terms of form and flavour—I can’t wrap my head around putting cheese over Indian meat dishes (or any other dishes for that matter). Those not bound by a lifetime of associations should feel free to experiment that way and report back. Continue reading