Game of Thrones Whisky: The Night’s Watch (Oban)


You think watching the last season of Game of Thrones was hard? You should have tried watching the last season of Game of Thrones *and* reviewing all eight of Diageo’s Game of Thrones malts. Sure, only a couple have been completely dull but only a couple so far have been better than decent (the Lagavulin and the Clynelish). Nor have very many of the pairings made much sense: House Lannister (built on gold mines) got the smoky Lagavulin while the dragon-riding Targaryens got the Cardhu Gold. The Night’s Watch being assigned Oban makes very little sense as well. The Night’s Watch is at the very north of the known world of Westeros; shouldn’t they have been matched with one of the northernmost distilleries? If you ask me, House Stark should have been given Glen Ord or Teaninich instead of Dalwhinnie (which should have gone to House Tyrell), and the Night’s Watch should have got Clynelish. I’m upset about this because none of it matters. On to the whisky. Continue reading

Game of Thrones Whisky: House Targaryen (Cardhu Gold)


Could it be that the fate of the Breaker of Chains on Game of Thrones was signaled by spirits behemoth, Diageo? You see, as part of their Game of Thrones whisky marketing gimmick they matched House Targaryen with the Cardhu distillery. The natural pairing would have been with the one highly smoky whisky in the lineup; but that Lagavulin was given to House Lannister who really should have been paired with this release of Cardhu Gold. As it happens, House Lannister survived the ending of Game of Thrones while Daenerys Targaryen’s corpse was probably dropped into the sea when Drogon absent-mindedly flexed his claws mid-flight. Her heel turn prior to her demise shocked a lot of people—it had been signaled but not properly developed on the show—but we should have seen it coming, No house is going to rule a continent that has as its namesake whisky an artificially coloured malt from a minor distillery bottled at 40%. Daenerys Targaryen deserved a better arc on Game of Thrones and a better whisky too. All men must die, as that cheerful Valyrian saying goes, but it does not follow that all men must drink mediocre whisky while still among the living. Continue reading

Revival (St. Paul, MN)


Revival opened some years ago in Minneapolis. In a metro area devoid of much by the way of Southern cooking or barbecue it received strong reviews from the get-go. We wanted to go but between our then very young children and their no-reservations policy it never quite worked out—and then they dropped off our radar. But then friends suggested it for a pre-theater matinee lunch in St. Paul last weekend and I remembered that a year or three ago they’d opened a branch in St. Paul. (Since late last year there’s also the counter service Revival Smoked Meats at the Keg & Case complex.) Revival by the way is owned and run by Thomas Boemer and crew, who also operate Corner Table and In Bloom (the high-end anchor of Keg and Case). It’s quite the meaty mini-empire they have in the Cities. Continue reading

Game of Thrones Whisky: House Tully (Glendullan)


So, Game of Thrones is done. No matter how you feel about Daenerys Targaryen, I can’t help feel she deserved to go out better than Roose Bolton. I mean the magic was strong with her: she was able to project her voice so that people hundreds and hundreds of feet away were able to hear her over the neighing of horses. And then she got stabbed by a guy who couldn’t be trusted to take his sword into a guarded cell but could apparently walk up to the queen with multiple stabby weapons with no guards present. Oh yes, SPOILER ALERT!

I was expecting to have the review right after the series finale be of the House Targaryen whisky but I’ve decided instead to go with House Tully, in honour of Erdmure Tully who re-emerged right on cue to be embarrassed again. House Tully is a dull, dull house and fittingly Diageo have matched them with Glendullan, a dull, dull distillery. I know I always say that every distillery is capable of producing great whiskies but I’m not sure anyone has ever had a great Glendullan. It would be a Game of Thrones level shocker if this turned out to be a great one but, alas, it is not. Oh yes, SPOILER ALERT! Continue reading

Chaat x 2 (Delhi, December 2018)


Here, finally, almost five months after I returned to the US, is my last food report from Delhi. Fittingly perhaps, it covers the two most informal meals I ate out in India on this trip and the genre of food I look forward to eating more than any other when getting off a plane in India: chaat. The last time I wrote about chaat on the blog I went on rather a lot—if you’re interested you can read that earlier post to find out a little more about the ins and outs of chaat and also for a rare autobiographical reverie on my part. I’m not sure if chaat is still something that American foodies are excited about—or if novelty in Indian cuisine in America is now being sought elsewhere—but it is never going to stop being popular in India. And it’s one of the few things that I think cannot be improved on: the essential of the chaat experience—paapdi chaat, gol gappas/paani puri, alu tikkis etc.—were perfected a long time ago and people know better than to mess with them. Continue reading

Glen Ord 31, 1983 (Cadenhead)


Okay, let’s do another older Glen Ord bottled by Cadenhead. This is 10 years older than Wednesday’s 21 yo (yes, that makes it 31 years old) and was bottled in 2014 from a single bourbon hogshead. I think this might be the oldest Glen Ord I’ve yet had. Considering how much I like the official 30 yo—and the fact that I really liked Wednesday’s 21 yo—I have my hopes up. Will they be fulfilled? Let’s see.

Glen Ord 31, 1983 (51%; Cadenhead; single bourbon hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: Malty and a little bready off the top and then on the second sniff too. There’s some lemon and some wax as well but mostly it’s the malt that registers. After a minute or so fruit begins to emerge, mostly in the citrus family: lemon and grapefruit; some gooseberry too. Muskier with water and the lemon turns to citronella. Continue reading

Chor Bizarre (Delhi, December 2018)


Walking into Chor Bizarre is like walking into the past for me. I don’t know when it opened in the Hotel Broadway on Asaf Ali Road in Daryaganj but it looks exactly the same as it did when I first visited in the early 1990s (memory is unreliable, of course—especially at my increasingly advanced age). This was before the liberalization of the Indian economy and the upper/middle class restaurant boom that followed (along with so much else). At the time the kitschy decor of Chor Bizarre was quite unusual, if not entirely original. Well, the particular kitsch of Chor Bizarre (unchanged to the present day) was and is original—they bring together in their decor items from chor bazaars (or thieves’/flea markets) that can be found all over India; but the general genre of kitsch they occupy was not—the Dhaba at the swanky Claridges hotel, for example, evoked informal highway roadside trucker restaurants for moneyed Delhi-ites and tourists alike, right down to having a truck parked inside the restaurant. Nowadays, of course, high concept restaurants can be found all over Delhi but the other thing Chor Bizarre is known for is still a rare find: Kashmiri food. Continue reading

Glen Ord 21, 1996 (Cadenhead)


Glen Ord, up in the northern highlands, is a curious case. A massive whisky factory pumping out spirit for Diageo’s blends, it nonetheless produces an austere spirit that can be very elegant indeed. It’s hard to take its measure, however. Diageo barely does anything with it—other than making it one of the three expressions in its Singleton range (I think the Singleton of Glen Ord is for the Asian market). And despite the high volume of spirit it pumps out there doesn’t seem to be as much of it available from the indies as one might expect either—at least not in the US. Cadenhead seem to be the only bottler that has been releasing casks of Glen Ord at a steady clip over the last few years. Despite this neglect Glen Ord has steadfast fans. And even though I cannot say I’ve had so very many Glen Ords I am one of them. I’m always looking to try more and so when I had the opportunity to get my hands on a few independent releases from the last decade, I went for it. First up is this 21 yo bottled by Cadenhead in 2017. Continue reading

Popol Vuh (Minneapolis)


Popol Vuh, a high-end Mexican restaurant, opened in trendy Northeast Minneapolis—or Nordeast as the really trendy people refer to it—last autumn and we’ve been planning to eat there ever since. This even though they describe their cuisine in terms I deplore: “elevated Mexican cuisine”. Mexican cuisine does not need to be elevated. We don’t refer to high-end French or Italian or Japanese restaurants as serving “elevated” versions of those cuisines and there is really no need to justify higher prices for a high-end, cheffy iteration of Mexican cuisine by calling it “elevated”. And people who might be iffy about paying the big bucks for any form of Mexican food—alas, I am sure such people exist, and not just in the Twin Cities—are not, I think, very likely to go, “Oh, so it’s elevated Mexican food, that’s entirely different!” In other words, you’re not convincing anyone to come by billing your food as “elevated”, you’re only displaying anxiety about the status of what you do and inadvertently implying that the rest of the cuisine is down there somewhere near a gutter. Continue reading

Game of Thrones Whisky: House Tyrell (Clynelish)


There’s just one episode of Game of Thrones to go and nobody has any hope of the show suddenly beginning to make sense again in the finale. Too much has been rushed for the last couple of seasons—and really rushed this season—and consistency of character and plot have been sacrificed to the need to just get to the end. The show gained its identity—via the books—from unexpected reversals of genre expectations but then got trapped in the cycle of having to constantly present the unexpected (arguably this is true of the books as well). We are all prisoners to plot, serving out our sentence and there’s only one more episode to go. At least the show is making it hard for us to miss it when it’s gone.

And speaking of things that don’t make sense, here is the House Tyrell whisky from Diageo’s Game of Thrones marketing tie-in (see here for the ones I’ve previously reviewed). I’m sure Diageo has their reasons for making the House Tyrell whisky a Clynelish but from where I’m sitting it makes about as much sense as the zombie Mountain suddenly developing agency. Clynelish is in the northern Highlands whereas House Tyrell’s seat at Highgarden is in the south of Westeros. Clynelish is by the sea, Highgarden is by a river. And so on. On the plus side, this is the only cask strength release in this series. The Queen of Thorns would have approved. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading

Rui Ji Sichuan (Los Angeles, December 2018)


On our recent trips to Los Angeles our Sichuan eating has happened entirely at either Chengdu Taste or Szechuan Impression in the San Gabriel Valley (in the Alhambra motherships of both restaurants). This limited focus is not a mistake on our part: these are probably the two best Sichuan restaurants in the US. As our last meal at Szechuan Impression was in 2016 we’d planned to go back there on this trip. However, late-breaking extended family plans on the day we’d set aside for that meal saw us heading down to the South Bay instead. Casting around for possibilities in the general area we were going to be in I lighted upon a reference to Rui Ji Sichuan in Lomita. The cousins we were dining with were only too happy to give it a go and so we arrived for lunch in a large’ish group: four adults, one teenager and four kids below the age of 10. I am happy to report that all were very pleased with their meal. Continue reading

Mahabelly, Again (Delhi, December 2018)


Back to Delhi in December, back to another restaurant with “belly” in its name. While Potbelly serves Bihari food, Mahabelly serves Malayali/Kerala food. (As a side-note, it irks me no end to see the adjective “Keralan” used for people and things from Kerala; I usually see this in British outlets, and even from writers of Indian origin who otherwise seem very invested in correcting errors about Indian food made in mainstream publications. Well, I suppose “Keralan” is not an error per se but in Indian English it is Keralite that is the term that’s used, though most people will say Malayali to refer to the people and culture of Kerala; and don’t get me started on “Goanese” instead of the proper “Goan”. Well, this side-note is already about five times as long as the text it digressed from and so I guess I should get back to it.) I ate lunch at Mahabelly on our trip to Delhi in January 2016. On that occasion I ate there with an old friend and as we were just the two of us I couldn’t taste very much of the menu—a sad thing as I liked almost everything we tried very much. On this trip, however, I was one of seven adults for dinner and we did a fair bit of damage. I am happy to report the meal was again very good. Continue reading

Longrow 13, 2003, First Fill Sherry


Longrow, as you know, is the name of the more heavily peated malt made by Springbank (there are other differences in the production process as well).  Most of the bourbon cask Longrows—or ex-bourbon heavy releases—I’ve had have been very good, and those are most of the Longrows I’ve had. Indeed, it has been a long time since I’ve had a Longrow matured in sherry casks, and I don’t think I’ve reviewed any on the blog. I have reviewed a couple of wine cask Longrows, however. I did not care very much for the 14 yo Burgundy Wood release from 2012 or so which had a bit too much sulphur for my taste. I liked the 11 yo port cask Longrow Red better. Of course, none of this may have any bearing on this single first fill sherry cask which was bottled for the German market. The general stereotype (fact?) goes that German drinkers in general are fairly sulphur-positive or at least more so than most others. Will this cask play to that (possible) preference? Let’s see. Continue reading

Lous Pibous 20, 1996, Cask 188 (L’Encantada)


Last month I reviewed the first of two casks of Lous Pibous 20, 1996 from the Armagnac bottlers, L’Encantada, who are all the rage in American brandy circles these days. That was cask 187 and I liked it quite a lot even though I didn’t find a whole lot of complexity in it. Here now is cask 188. Both samples came to me from Sku who was involved in the selection of these casks for the American market. I have no further introductory patter, so let’s get right to it.

Lous Pibous 20, 1996, Cask 188 (53.6%; L’Encantada; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: Orange peel, cola, cinnamon, raisins, caramel. Not much change really with time. With water the stickier notes get a little more emphasis and the oak/cinnamon recedes a little. Continue reading