Hmongtown Marketplace: Shopping


On Tuesday I posted a brief writeup of our recent lunch at Hmongtown Marketplace in St. Paul. Lunch was only part of our visit. We spent as much time after the meal walking around the market and buying vegetables etc. If you’ve never been to Hmongtown Marketplace, you should know that the market sections are by far the largest part of the space. The larger part of the market is indoors, in two large warehouses/sheds that sit on either side of a central outdoor space. This outdoor space has stalls selling clothes and cds/dvds and also a large green market. During the height of the growing season, this green market is filled with produce sellers (there’s also live poultry available); currently, it is filled with vendors selling vegetable and plant starters—and if you’re a home gardener, you should go check them out this weekend. There’s also a green market indoors all year around, and this part of the market is already on the go. In other words, you don’t need to wait another month to go vegetable/fruit shopping here. Go now.  Continue reading

Old Blends: Dewar’s White Label, Late 1940s/Early 1950s


Some of you would like me to review more blends. You will accordingly be pleased to know that starting this week, for the next two months or so, I will be posting one review of a blended whisky per week. You may be less pleased to know that these are all blends released many decades ago.

First up is a Dewar’s White Label released sometime in the late 1940s or early 1950s. I’ve previously reviewed the current Dewar’s White Label and I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that I found it barely drinkable (in fact, I barely drank it). This doesn’t make me nervous about this incarnation of the whisky though. My (limited) experience with old blends has led me to expect a much higher malt content and also a higher peat content. At the least, I expect it will be interesting.  Continue reading

Blair Athol 26, 1988 (Signatory)


In 2014/2015 there were quite a few Blair Athol 1988s on the market, all in the mid-20s age-wise. Many of these were bottled by Signatory—21 of the 47 Blair Athols listed on Whiskybase are from Signatory*; and another 8 are from van Wees, who source from Signatory, I believe. I’ve reviewed some of these: I really liked this 26 yo bottled for K&L; I also liked this 26 yo and this 25 yo, both from van Wees. Most recently, I thought this 25 yo bottled for LMDW was excellent as well (I could be wrong but I think Signatory was the source of this cask as well—if you know differently, please write in below). All of these casks have proximate numbers, by the way, suggesting perhaps that a big parcel of casks was purchased all together by a broker.

Does that guarantee high quality for this one? Let’s see.  Continue reading

Hmongtown Marketplace: Food


This is my second account of eating at Hmongtown Marketplace. I posted the previous three and a half years ago. If you’re interested in finding out a bit more about the demographics of the Hmong in Minnesota, and also in a bit of description of the market as a whole, please take a look at that post—I won’t repeat it here. We went back this past weekend with a friend in town from India. She’s a documentary film-maker and when I offered her a list of Twin Cities food experiences she might be interested in, this was at the top of her list. It had been a couple of years since our last visit, and I was curious to see what the condition of the market would be—given the success of the larger and relatively shinier Hmong Village, a bit further north in St. Paul. Well, I was glad to see that they’re still thriving.  Continue reading

Amrut Peated CS, Batch 9


It’s been almost three year since my last review of an Amrut. The distillery’s strong reputation among single malt whisky drinkers endures, even if they’re not quite as exciting a prospect as they were a few years ago. Their lineup hasn’t changed very much either, and in the US we mostly see the Fusion and the regular and cask strength editions of their standard and peated releases. As far as I know, we have still not begun to get the single casks that go to the UK and EU and even to Canada. If true, I’m not sure why that is—is the market for Amrut in the US not strong enough to sustain that? I’d imagine that those paying >$100 for the Intermediate Sherry and Portonova releases would be fine shelling out for the occasional single cask as well.

Anyway, I’ve reviewed the Amrut Peated CS before—that was Batch 4, released in January 2010. This is Batch 9 and was released only a few months later. I assume by now they’re on to Batch 50 or so. I liked that previous bottle a lot and when I opened this one recently for one of my local group’s tastings, I liked it a lot too (as did the others: it was our top whisky on the night, beating out the Lagavulin 12 CS, 2016 release). Here now are my formal notes.  Continue reading

Mortlach 28, 1989 (Faultline)


And here is the last of my five reviews of recent K&L casks. The score so far is 3-1: I really liked the Bowmore 20 and the Bunnahabhain 25, and thought the Bunnahabhain 28 was solid; it was only the Mortlach 22 that I was not crazy about. Well, this is also a Mortlach and, like the Bunnahabhain 28, it’s also a Faultline. Which way will it go? Let’s see.

Mortlach 28, 1989 (42.5%; Faultline; first-fill sherry hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: Raisins, a bit of orange and some oak. With time the orange expands a bit but there’s not much of note happening here. With more time still there’s some toffee. With a few drops of water the fruit expands significantly: orange and apricot.

Continue reading

Back to Scotland in a Month: Help Me Plan


We went to Scotland at the end of our extended sojourn in London last year—spending time mostly on Skye and Islay. While planning that trip I’d thought that it would be my first and only trip to Scotland. There are many parts of the world we want to visit as a family, and as we can’t do international trips every year, it didn’t seem likely that we’d double up instead of going somewhere new. But we loved our time in London and our trip to Scotland so much, we’ve been plotting a return ever since we got back. As luck would have it, an academic conference the missus and I were both interested in is taking place in Edinburgh in June; we applied and were accepted. Accordingly, we will be in Edinburgh for four days in early June and will then go up for another week to the Speyside and then further north to Orkney. I have the broad contours of the trip planned but invite your feedback here.  Continue reading

Bunnahabhain 28, 1989 (Faultline)


My series of reviews of recent K&L casks continues. The score so far is 2-1. The two casks I liked a lot were both Old Particular releases (a Bowmore 20, 1997 and a Bunnahabhain 25, 1991). The other was a Mortlach 22, 1995, an Alexander Murray cask bottled in K&L’s own Faultline series, and I thought it was ordinary. This one’s also a Bunnahabhain but it’s also another of the Alexander Murrary Faultline releases. That doesn’t bode well. Will this be another of K&L’s older whiskies that seems like a great value but isn’t actually worth it anyway? Let’s see.

Bunnahabhain 28, 1989 (42.1%; Faultline; first-fill sherry hogshead; from a bottle split)

Continue reading

Bangkok Thai Deli IV (St. Paul, MN)


Rounding out my recent run of reviews of the mainstays of the Thai restaurant scene on University Avenue, here is my fourth review of Bangkok Thai Deli. (Here are my recent reviews of On’s Kitchen, Lao-Thai, Thai Cafe, and Thai Garden.) Like almost everyone else, we have Bangkok Thai Deli at the top of our Twin Cities Thai ranking, usually just a bit behind On’s Kitchen (which, as you probably know, began as a breakaway from Bangkok Thai Deli when they were still in their original space). I’ve always felt that at their respective bests, On’s is superior; on the other hand, Bangkok Thai Deli has been less variable for us, and given the very different ethnic demographic they draw, the food tends to come out hotter and less sweet as a default. Well, we thought the meal I’m reporting on here was superior to our last meal at On’s, even though there were a couple of dishes that disappointed (one of which was a dud).  Continue reading

Bunnahabhain 25, 1991 (Old Particular for K&L)


On to review #3 of K&L’s recent single cask releases, and the oldest one so far. As you may recall, the first was a Bowmore 20, 1997, bottled by Douglas Laing’s Old Particular, and I quite liked that one. The second was a Mortlach 22, 1995 bottled under K&L’s own Faultline label (the cask came from Alexander Murray). I did not have much of an opinion of that one. Will this Bunnahabhain, also bottled by Old Particular, get things back on track? Like the Mortlach 22, it’s priced very well—I should say “was”, as it’s already sold out: $160, I believe. Considering the lowest price for the OB 25 yo on WineSearcher is $342, that seems like a very good deal indeed. But, as we saw with the Mortlach, age isn’t everything. Paying a relatively low price for an older whisky isn’t much of a steal if the whisky in the bottle isn’t very good. Older Bunnahabhain can be very good indeed, however, so I am hopeful. Let’s see how it goes.  Continue reading

Mortlach 22, 1995 (Faultline)


On Wednesday I posted the first of five reviews of some recentl K&L exclusive casks. I very much liked that Bowmore 20, which was bottled in Douglas Laing’s Old Particular line. Today’s Mortlach is a couple of years older but was bottled under K&L’s own Faultline label. More than any K&L casks, those bottled in the Faultline series have proven the most disappointing. Then again, I had low expectations of Wednesday’s Bowmore as well and those were easily exceeded. Will that be true of this Mortlach as well?

Sherry cask Mortlach—which is the most common version—can be a bit of a bruiser. The distillery produces a meatier, rougher spirit—their production process uses old-fashioned worm tubs for the condensation step, and with lower copper content in worm tubs, the spirit retains more of a sulphurous character. This can be a bit of an acquired taste but once you acquire it, it becomes a very specific pleasure. And a good sherry cask can amplify those pleasures. Let’s see if that has happened here or if this will be a regression to K&L’s cask selection mean.  Continue reading

La Colonia (Minneapolis)


My previous restaurant review was of Andale, the excellent taqueria in Richfield, in the south metro. With this review I go further north in the metro area, to Northeast Minneapolis (locally known just as Northeast), and further south in Latin America, to La Colonia on Central Avenue. Their specialty is Colombian and Ecuadorian food. I don’t know very much about either cuisine. My only previous encounter with Ecuadorian food was at Chimborazo—further up Central—and I don’t know that I’ve ever eaten at a Colombian restaurant before. As such I am the furthest thing from an expert on this food. I can tell you with certainty, however, that you are likely to leave a big meal at La Colonia wanting to lie down and that it may take you many, many hours to emerge from a meat coma.  Continue reading

Bowmore 20, 1997 (Old Particular for K&L)


I’m going to start the month with reviews of some of K&L’s recently released exclusives. This may seem timely but keep in mind that most of these have already sold out. This Bowmore, bottled under the Old Particular label from Douglas Laing, might still be available, however. The last time I reviewed a bunch of K&L selections—back in December 2016, starting with this Linkwood)—things didn’t go so well. Will this lot be any better? The odds, frankly, are not great. K&L’s strategy seems to be to look for casks with high age and low price numbers on them with the quality an afterthought. A lot of people want deals and 20-30 yo whisky for less than $200 seems like a great deal in this market in the abstract. It’s in the marketing copy that they’ll seek to convince you that you’re also getting amazing whisky. And even though David Driscoll is now gone from K&L, their ability to turn on the tap of hyperbole remains unaffected.  Continue reading

Coming Soon…


And so it’s May. In Minnesota we’ve gone straight from never-ending winter to summer. The mosquitoes might even get here before the tree pollen. You’re right, none of this has anything to do with what I might or might not post on the blog this month. Well, the tree pollen might: two years ago, two months after moving to the street we live on, allergies made it impossible for me to smell or taste anything for weeks on end. What I’m saying is that if there’s anything on the long list of whisky reviews that you’d like me to get to for sure, you should let me know soon.

In addition to whisky, I’ll have a number of Twin Cities restaurant reviews as well—and I remain open, as always, to recommendations for places to get to.  Continue reading