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.

Continue reading

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

Clynelish 36, 1972 (G&M for LMDW)

Clynelish 36, 1972; G&M for LMDW
This is the oldest Clynelish I’ve yet had and the second from a sherry cask. I quite liked that SMWSA 29 yo from a refill sherry butt, but not as much as the Single Malts of Scotland 28 yo from a bourbon cask I’d reviewed last year. This is not because of the sherry influence per se. In fact, the sherry influence in the SMWSA 29 yo was quite muted—what held that one back was a lack of complexity, on the whole. This one is also from a refill cask but it is a hogshead and so there’s a good chance that the prized Clynelish characteristics of honey and wax might get drowned out by stronger notes of sherry and oak (from the smaller cask). That didn’t happen with the excellent Manager’s Dram release, but at 17 years old that was less than half the age of this one. But if it’s good, I don’t really care too much one way or the other. And given its antecedents there is a pretty good chance this will be good. It was bottled by Gordon & MacPhail for the reputed French store, La Maison du Whisky.  Continue reading

Mortlach 20, 1994 (Malts of Scotland)

Mortlach 20, 1994, Malts of Scotland
Here is an indie release from the Diageo distillery, Mortlach. Unlike Linkwood, Mortlach was promoted from obscurity to the frontline a few years ago when Diageo decided to put out a number of overpriced releases. (This was also the occasion for my whiffing badly in public as I’d anticipated that those releases would be priced very differently.) I’m not sure how those releases have worked out for Diageo. Whisky geeks have not been overly enthused about them but they may well be selling well to regular punters—if you have good information on this please chime in below. I’m also not sure how much Mortlach has been available since then to the independents; before then, of course, Mortlach was available almost entirely from the independents—the Flora & Fauna 16 yo being the only regular official release. Anyway, this was released last year by Malts of Scotland and looks to be very richly sherried.  Continue reading

Requesting Feedback, 2016 Edition

Here is the second iteration of a poll I ran last July. I was curious then to see what my regular readership made of the split whisky/food focus of the blog and which of those subjects my readers were more interested in. It was quite clear at the time that my readership was overwhelmingly a whisky crowd. 77% of those who responded said they visit primarily for the whisky posts. A year on, there are a lot more restaurant reviews and recipes on the blog and more and more of my referral traffic seems to be from food sites; and each month some of the most viewed posts seem to be either recipes or restaurant reviews. Accordingly, I am curious to see where the audience split falls today. To clarify again, I am not looking for feedback on what I should be doing on the blog and I am not going to be changing anything on the blog based on the feedback—hopefully this will not keep you from taking a few seconds to respond.

I will keep this poll open for a week. Thanks very much in advance!  Continue reading