Domaine Hubert, 2006 (Calvados)

Domaine Hubert, 2006 (Calvados)
After two weeks of Armagnac let’s go back to Calvados Wednesdays for a bit. You may recall that my first Calvados review was of the new release of Domaine Hubert from K&L. You may also recall that I expressed some skepticism about the claim that this was essentially the same as their original release of Domaine Hubert, which had a vintage stated and was 6-7 years old. It certainly didn’t taste like it was very much more than four years old. Well, Florin, winner of the second season of Celebrity Apprentice, is a big fan of that 2006 Hubert and insisted that I try that one as well. (By the way, I’d sent him a sample of the new Hubert and he shared my reservations about it, though he did like it more.) He gave me a sample and here I am now with a review. I tasted it alongside a pour of the recent version. It couldn’t be done blind because the difference is obvious before you even taste them: the 2006 vintage is much darker—make of that what you will…
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London Whisky

Milroy's of Soho
I’ve been in London for little over a week. By the time most of you will read this—Wordpress stats tells me that most of my readership is in the US—I will be in a plane flying back to Minnesota. Instead of putting up another London restaurant review—believe me, there’ll be quite a few more in the coming weeks—I thought I’d put up a gallery of images of and in some of London’s major whisky stores. If you’re like me before this trip you may have wondered what these stores whose names we know actually look like. If so, here’s a peek at Cadenhead’s, Milroy’s, Berry Bros. & Rudd, and Hedonism Wines. Continue reading

Glen Grant 36, 1975 (Archives)

Glen Grant 36, 1975, Archives
It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a bottle from Archives, the excellent series from the Whiskybase shop which almost always provides good value; and so let’s go back to a bottle from their “First Release” (though if I recall correctly, this wasn’t actually their first release—it was preceded by an “Inaugural Release”). As with the Glencadam of similar age and vintage that I reviewed last month, this bottle is another reminder that just four years ago it was possible to purchase bottles of very old whisky of high quality for less than $200. And you didn’t have to be in a huge hurry either—I didn’t buy this as soon as it came out: I waited till reliable reviews of it were available.

I’m sorry if the above seems like a tiresome refrain. It just seems worthwhile to constantly remind ourselves of how much pricing has changed and in how short a period of time.
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Springbank 11, 1999

Springbank 11, Recharred Sherry Butt
I started the week with a review of a 20 yo Craigellachie which I pronounced to be very Springbank. Here now is a Springbank that is also likely to be very Springbank.

This is an 11 yo from a recharred sherry butt; it was bottle for the Springbank society—I am not a member; I got part of a bottle split from someone who probably purchased it in Europe. This was distilled from local prisma barley. I believe this was from the same set of casks that were aged a few years more for this year’s release of the Springbank 16, Local Barley. I have a bottle of that one that I haven’t yet opened but it has received very strong reviews. Odds are good then that this one will also be excellent. Truth be told the standard issue Springbank 12 CS is usually very good too, as were the old 12 year old sherry wood variations (see here for the oloroso cask from 1996)—I’ll be interested to see if the local barley introduces any discernibly different qualities.  Continue reading

Trishna (London)

Trishna: Hariyali Bream
A quick report today on a meal at Trishna, one of London’s higher-rated Indian restaurants; in fact, it has a Michelin star. I’ve always been a little suspicious of Trishna’s acclaim, as it is affiliated with a Bombay restaurant of the same name, an acclaimed coastal seafood restaurant whose far greater acclaim than its peers among foreign visitors has long been a mystery to my food obsessed friends in the city. Nonetheless, I was going to eat one fancy Indian meal on this London trip and when I was figuring out where to go the facts that they offer an attractive four course lunch tasting menu and that they are located very close to the Cadenhead’s whisky shop overcame my irrational bias. And so off to Marylebone I went (in an expensive and inefficient cab—I learned my lesson and got an Oyster card for the Underground right after lunch). And I was quite glad I did. Continue reading

Delord 25 (Armagnac)

Delord 25
Last week I posted my first Armagnac review, of the 30 yo Domaine de Baraillon bottled for K&L in California. That one is long gone. I remarked that at $80 a bottle it had seemed like an unthinkable value for someone like me who is reeling from the sharp increase in single malt whisky prices over the last few years. (Truth be told, it has been a very, very long time since any officially bottled 30 yo single malt whisky has been available for less than $100, leave alone any that were actually of high quality.) Well, today’s Armagnac is slightly younger, but only slightly at 25 years old, but it is an even better value on the face of it: it is available for close to $60 in a number of markets. Unlike the de Baraillon, it’s also widely and seemingly continuously available. As such I am hoping that I will like it a lot too.

Given the fact that they have a very snazzy website Delord is obviously not a small-scale farm producer. I have to admit I have a knee-jerk inclination to favour the idea of farm producers when it comes to Calvados and Armagnac—I have to constantly remind myself that almost no Scottish distillery fits that bill. Anyway, let’s see what this is like.  Continue reading

St. John Bread and Wine (London)

St. John Bread and Wine: Grilled Sardines
I am in London for a little over a week—I arrived yesterday. I am here mostly on bidness but obviously am going to do a spot of eating as well. I didn’t actually have anything planned for my first evening in town, as I didn’t know how exhausted I would be. As it happens, despite an exhausting, delayed flight and long lines at immigration at Heathrow, I was ready to have a good meal. I guess when your last two “meals” have been provided by an American airline real food becomes more urgent. As my hotel is within walking distance from the Spitalfields St. John Bread and Wine, the satellite location of Fergus Henderson’s famed St. John, I decided to call and walk over. A table was easily secured and it was a pleasant walk—just short of a mile—that whetted my appetite further. And let me just say that between the snatches of Hindi and Bengali conversations overheard on the streets and people crossing those streets with no regard for traffic lights—to say nothing of all the looted Indian antiquities in the museums—I’m feeling quite at home in London.

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Craigellachie 20, 1995 (Malts of Scotland)

Craigellachie 20, 1995, Malts of Scotland
The last sample of a sherried 20 yo from Malts of Scotland that I reviewed—this Mortlach—made me rue that I had not gotten around to tasting it while the bottle was still around. Will that be true of this Craigellachie as well? It’s odd to say that I hope so, but I don’t want to be rooting for a bad review either!

Craigellachie, like Mortlach, used to be pretty obscure until their owners decided to take them mainstream with a line of official releases. Because it is owned by Bacardi and not Diageo the prices for this line are not obscene. At least the 13 yo and and the 17 yo are reasonably priced—the 23 yo is pretty expensive (though still about half the price of the Mortlach 25 yo). Indie Craigellachie is a far more reasonable affair and single sherry casks more fully demonstrate the meaty character of the distillate (which it also has in common with Mortlach. Well, let’s see what this is like.  Continue reading

Thanks for the Feedback

Thanks to all those who responded to my recent poll looking for feedback on the relative interest in the whisky and food split of the blog. There weren’t quite as many responses as last year—106 to 140—but enough probably for it to be meaningful. My own interest, again, was to see if with another year of restaurant reviews and recipe posts on the blog I was developing any sort of food-specific readership. Well, the answer seems to be that while my food readership does seem to have risen a little, whisky remains the chief interest of most of my readership (I’m a little curious to see what the results would be of a poll asking about the more recent split whisky/brandy focus of the booze component of the blog, but I’ll spare you that one). That’s not to say that interest in the food content is at the same relative low level as last year. If you are really so bored as to be interested in this, take a look at the side-by-side results below and you’ll see some differences.  Continue reading

King’s Legend “Old Special” (Ainslie & Heilbron)

King's Legend, "Old Special"
You’re not really a whisky blogger till you’ve reviewed at least one blend that was bottled before you were born and about which not much is known. Here I am with my first; now I can finally retire—what a relief! Well, I guess I should say I don’t know much about this blend; somebody else may well know a lot. If you are that somebody, please write in below. All I know is that it is thought to have been bottled in the 1950s, that its strength is unknown and that Ainslie & Heilbron (now defunct) were once the owners of Brora/Clynelish. This last probably means this harbours some quantity of very old Clynelish, though it probably bears little resemblance to contemporary Clynelish. Bottles of this seem to have (re)appeared recently. Serge reviewed it in February and I got a sample as part of a bottle split a few months ago. How this has come to be I’m not sure either. Did some collector unload a stash? Anyway, let’s get to the whisky itself!  Continue reading

Spice-Crusted Tip Roast

Roast Beef
We go in with friends on half a cow/steer each year but this year we doubled our take. Rather than all of us take 1/8 each as we usually do, our household took a quarter and the others took 1/12th each. I’m sorry for beginning this post about food with advanced mathematics. The point is we have rather a lot more beef in our freezer than we usually do. It’s good beef, so having a lot of it is not a problem in and of itself. The cattle are raised locally, without any hormones or antibiotics, they roam freely but are not  entirely grass-fed. When it comes time for slaughter they are taken to a local meat-processing facility/butcher’s and we place our cut order. This is not a fancy artisanal butcher and most of the cuts available are standard-issue: we get flank and skirt, for instance, but not flat iron or hanger. This is not a problem either. The problem is that when you have a quarter of a large cow or steer in your freezer you need to come up with many ways of cooking it for, no matter how delicious they are, if only a few recipes comprise your repertoire, monotony must follow, as the night the day or as hateful inanity follows the opening of Donald Trump’s mouth.  Continue reading

Domaine de Baraillon 30, 1986 (Armagnac)

Domaine de Baraillon 30, 1986, Armagnac
Okay, let’s stay in the brandy family for Wednesday reviews but let’s mix in some Armagnac with the Calvados. I know even less about Armagnac than about Calvados, if such a thing is possible. I blame Charles Neal for this: unlike his great book on Calvados, his book on Armagnac is out of print (and the reviews for it are not as strong). I know it is a grape brandy like Cognac: I know that unlike Cognac, and like a lot of Calvados, it is single-distilled; I know that it hails from Gascony; and I know that it has three sub-appellations, of which bas-Armagnac has the status that Pays d’Auge has in Calvados. That is more or less where my knowledge ends. I know very little about the producers and about which have stronger reputations than others. This is a bit of a shame as the variety of Armagnac available in the US is greater than that of Calvados and the prices are much better. If you know of a good guide to Armagnac producers please point me in its direction.  Continue reading

Piccolo VII

Piccolo: Black cod with sesame seed, crispy garlic, wasabi, and green juice
Five months after my last Piccolo review, here I am with a write-up of our second dinner there this year and our seventh overall. Not that we need any excuse to go back to Piccolo—we have to make a concerted effort to not just go there every time we plan a dinner out in the Twin Cities—but this visit was sparked by the intriguing news that Chef Flicker will be overseeing a new restaurant at the Walker Center that will be opening this winter. We look forward to eating there once it’s open and on its feet but the news was a good reminder that we’d planned to eat at Piccolo more often this year. Well, I am glad to say that the meal did not disappoint. Unfortunately, with the busy season at work about to start, and travel plans in October (to Montreal, if things hold) and December (to Delhi and Calcutta via Hong Kong again), I’m not sure we’ll be able to go back again this year but this meal will do nicely to tide us over to our next.  Continue reading