Chilli Club (Hong Kong, December 2018)


Back to Hong Kong but not to Cantonese food. After four Cantonese meals in a row after arrival, I had Thai food for dinner on my second day. Lunch had been a dim sum blowout at Maxim’s Palace and my friend wanted to take me to one of her favourite Thai places for dinner. Though I put up knee-jerk resistance (“I want to eat Cantonese”, I whined), I was secretly curious to see what Thai food in Hong Kong would be like. On our previous trip we’d eaten at a well-regarded Sichuan restaurant and had not been terribly impressed. Would Hong Kong do better by a non-Chinese cuisine renowned for its heat? Read on. Continue reading

Laphroaig 18, 1998 (Cadenhead)


Another Islay whisky. This Laphroaig 18 was bottled in 2017 by Cadenhead. Like the 12 yo OMC release I recently reviewed it is from a bourbon cask. I was expecting to like that younger cask a lot but was a little underwhelmed by its unidimensional, heavy smoke. Will this 18 yo bear out my usual confidence in teenaged ex-bourbon Laphroaig? Let’s see.

Laphroaig 18, 1998 (55.9%; Cadenhead; bourbon hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: Ah yes, this is the Laphroaig I love—big phenolic smoke but interlaced with acidic fruit (lime) and a bit of cereal. The smoke is pungent but the fruit is unmistakable too (with time there’s pear and melon as well). With more time some vanilla pops up too but it’s not obtrusive. Water brings the acid out to the front, pulls out a bit more of the vanilla; and there’s a briny, hammy quality to it too now.  Continue reading

Bowmore 22, 1996, Cask 17078 (OMC 20th Anniv. Release)


On Monday I posted a review of one of two Bowmore 22, 1996s released by Hunter Laing to mark the 20th anniversary of the Old Malt Cask line. I really liked that one. Here now is my review of the second which I hope I will like at least as much. It is also from an ex-bourbon cask.

This is the last of my OMC 20th anniversary reviews—if anyone has any first-hand reports on any of the others released in the series, please write in below. I’m particularly interested in those that are still available: as you know I don’t approve of talk of whiskies that are not currently available. Thanks in advance.

Bowmore 22, 1996 (50%; OMC 20th Anniversary; cask 17078; from a bottle split)

Nose: Milder than the sibling cask with the floral notes, a bit of cream and a bit of smoke. With a few drops of water it’s a bit maltier and muskier but not very much more expressive.  Continue reading

Lung King Heen, Executive Set Lunch (Hong Kong, December 2018)


Other than Crystal Jade at the airport, Lung King Heen was the only restaurant I ate at on this trip to Hong Kong that I’d eaten at before. That was during our short family sojourn in the city in early 2016. We’d gone there with every intention of eating their Executive Set Lunch but on arrival got seduced by their a la carte menu. That was a very expensive lunch but also a very delicious one. I did nonetheless harbour a bit of a sense of unfinished business re their Executive Lunch; and so when I had a meeting on this trip at the IFC, I couldn’t resist walking over to the Four Seasons and inquiring about the possibility of a lunch seating later in the week. Once again, I managed to get a table with only a few days notice; once again it was in a corner of their dining room, far away from their fabled view of Victoria Harbour. But I was not complaining.  Continue reading

Bowmore 22, 1996, Cask 17091 (Old Malt Cask 20th Anniv. Release)


Another week, another whisky released to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Old Malt Cask line, once part of the Douglas Laing portfolio, and now owned by the Hunter Laing company that spun off from it. (I still cluster all of these whiskies under the “Douglas Laing” umbrella in my categorization but that’s because it’s too much of a pain to go back and re-categorize whiskies released under labels that were once Douglas Laing lines and are now Hunter Laing). There seem to have been a rather large number of releases in the OMC 20 anniversary series, but I only have two left from the bottle split I went in on. Following last week’s Arran 21, Laphroaig 12 and Glen Grant 27, my last reviews of this series will be of two Bowmores. Each is 22 years old and distilled in 1996, matured in a hogshead and bottled at the classic 50% of the OMC line. As bourbon cask Bowmore of this age is usually very good indeed, I’m hoping for good things.  Continue reading

Jai Hind Lunch Home (Bombay, December 2018)


The food of the southwestern coast of India is something I had almost no sense of when I was growing up in India. I grew up all over India but, other than brief visits to Goa, never went further south than Hyderabad; and as an adult I didn’t spend much time in Bombay till after I’d left India for the US. It wasn’t until I ate at Swagath in Delhi in the early 2000s that I realized just how different the cuisine of coastal Karnataka, particularly Mangalore, and of the adjoining Konkan coast is from the South Indian cuisines I was more familiar with. And I just loved it. But as good as Swagath was in its heyday, its food cannot compare to what is available in Bombay—which makes sense as the cuisine is both seafood-heavy and because Bombay, due to proximity, is chock-full of people from those parts of the country. As a result, whenever I am in Bombay I try to eat at at least one restaurant that specializes in Mangalorean/Konkani/Malvani cuisines. On this trip Jai Hind Lunch Home was my first such stop.  Continue reading

Glen Grant 27, 1991 (Old Malt Cask, 20th Anniv. Release)


Let’s keep the run of OMC 20th anniversary releases going. As you may recall, I really liked the Arran 21 and thought the Laphroaig 12 was a bit too mono-dimensional. Here now is a Glen Grant 27, the oldest of the bottles in the split I went in on. (I don’t really know what the complete line-up of these releases was—it’s possible there were others that were even older). I’m a big fan of older Glen Grant and a big fan of older, sherried Glen Grant—both of which this is. In theory, at least, this has every chance of being my cup of tea. Let’s see if that turns out to be the case.

Glen Grant 27, 1991 (50%; Old Malt Cask, 20th Anniv. Release; sherry cask 17079; from a bottle split)

Nose: The first impression is of oak, not tannic, a little mentholated; past it come sweeter notes of red fruit (raspberries) and vanilla. On the second sniff there’s some citrus (orange). With more time there’s some milk chocolate and some of the leafy stuff from the palate. With a few drops of water the fruit expands nicely: apricot now to go with the orange.  Continue reading

The Sichuan Chef (London, June 2018)


Okay, back to London in June and back to Sichuan food. We’d planned to eat at the Sichuan Chef on our much longer trip in 2017, after seeing a Fuchsia Dunlop tweet about it but somehow it never came to pass. It had apparently just opened then, a branch of Sichuan Folk in Spitalfields—which we also did not eat at. But on this trip we were staying within walking distance of it in Chelsea. As it happened, we ate there right after moving to our AirBnB from our friends’ place in Kingston, building up our appetite with a 25 minute walk, and then walking off our meal at the Natural History Museum.  Continue reading

Swati Snacks (Bombay, December 2018)


Delhi has probably overtaken Bombay as the premier food city in India* but there are a number of cuisines for which Bombay is rather obviously superior. Malvani, Mangalorean and Parsi are three of these cuisines and Gujarati is another. And if you are in the city the very best place perhaps to eat Gujarati food is the venerable Swati Snacks in Tardeo. A Bombay institution that first opened in 1963, Swati Snacks is the kind of place where you can get a handle on how difficult it is to talk glibly about “traditional” food in the Indian and especially in the Gujarati context. Culture does not stand still and there’s no tastier way to confirm this truism than by taking the measure of the menu at Swati Snacks where thalipith with pitla can be had alongside bajri paneer pizza. A meal at Swati Snacks is a must for every first-time visitor to Bombay. Me, I go on every visit to the city.  Continue reading

Laphroaig 12, 2006 (Old Malt Cask, 20th Anniv. Release)


Here’s the next whisky from the set of bottle splits I got in on of Hunter Laing’s releases to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Old Malt Cask label. I very much liked yesterday’s Arran 21, 1997, and all signs point to a strong likelihood that I will like this one a lot as well. Laphroaig is my favourite distillery and I have noted on many an occasion that my general feeling is that the sweet spot of Laphroaig is in ex-bourbon casks aged for 10-15 years. Let’s see if that holds up.

Laphroaig 12, 2006 (50%; Old Malt Cask 20th Anniv. Release; cask 17094; from a bottle split)

Nose: A big wave of peat and smoke with mezcal’ish notes mixed with the phenolic (Dettol). Not much of the cereal note that I like a lot in most bourbon cask Laphroaigs of this age. On the second sniff those mezcal’ish notes have taken a rubbery turn (rubber bands) and the smoke has some bitter, ashy edges. A couple of drops of water pull out faint musky notes.  Continue reading

Arran 21, 1997 (Old Malt Cask, 20th Anniv. Release)


Douglas Laing, the originators of the Old Malt Cask label, was established in 1948. I believe that for a long time their business was blends. I’m not sure if the Old Malt Cask line was their first foray into independent bottling of single malt whiskies but when I got into single malt whisky in a big way in the mid-late 2000s, it was a very established series with a very good reputation. You could have convinced me it had been around forever. As it happens, it was only introduced in 1998. At some point in the last few years the company split into two and the Old Malt Cask and Old & Rare labels went with the new Hunter Laing company (they also own the First Editions, Hepburn’s Choice and Sovereign labels). The Old Malt Cask packaging has remained the same, with the iconic hexagonal box and the whiskies are still bottled at 50%. Anyway, to mark the 20th anniversary of the label the company put out a number of releases last year, and through bottle splits I acquired a few of these. Over the next week and a half I’m going to go through them. I’m going to begin with this Arran 21. I actually purchased this bottle before tasting my sample, on account of a glowing review by Matt G. of Whisky Musings. Thankfully, I did like it a lot when I did try it and I’ve also been enjoying the bottle, which I opened right away. Here are my notes.  Continue reading

Sorabol (London, June 2018)


Okay, let’s take a break from Hong Kong and go back to June again. After the end of our Scotland sojourn we went down to London for ten days. For the first few days we stayed with good friends in Kingston and then moved to an AirBnB in Chelsea. While in Kingston our friends took us to a Korean restaurant in New Malden, a nearby town which is apparently one of the Korean hubs of the Greater London area—indeed, when we lived in London in 2017 New Malden is where we came from Korean groceries. We were all very interested to see what the food at Sorabol would be like. In 2017 Korean restaurants didn’t seem to be very prominent in London—I’m not sure what the Korean population in Greater London is or if our impression of the presence of Korean restaurants is accurate. At any rate, we quite liked the food at Sorabol.  Continue reading

Balblair 1999-2016, 2nd Ed.


Once upon a time the most confusing whisky on the market was official Glenrothes. Their vintage releases had labels that noted the year of distillation and also the date on which the whisky was said to have been not bottled but “checked”. I don’t know if anyone quite understood what that meant. Then arrived Kilkerran’s Work in Progress series, with the different releases marked not by a clear year of release or number but by differences in label colour, some of which were very subtle indeed. Glenrothes has now gotten into the regular age stated game but Balblair is carrying the torch for confusing vintage releases. In their case both distillation and bottling years are clearly marked but there are multiple releases of editions marked by the same distillation year. Thus the 1999 Second Edition has come out in 2014, 2015, 2016, while the 1999 First Edition has come out in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and now 2018 (some of those seemingly as Travel Retail exclusives). In case you’re wondering if the two editions can be distinguished by cask type, they all seem to be from a mix of sherry and bourbon casks. And nor is it clear what it means for the same edition to be released in different years. This is the kind of thing that drives people to drink. And so I might as well pour this sample.  Continue reading

65 Peel (Hong Kong, December 2018)


Going into my trip to Hong Kong I was pretty much set on eating all hardcore Cantonese food all the time. When somebody I was meeting for dinner early in the trip suggested going to 65 Peel, a relatively new beer bar and small plates place in Soho, I resisted mightily. I talked him into a roast goose outing instead. But then lunch that day was somewhat heavy and the thought of crispy and melty goose skin and fat was not as appealing as it normally is. I began immediately to think of other Cantonese places we could go to but then remembered how much I’d enjoyed Chôm Chôm‘s food the night before and stopped being a resistant asshole. And what do you know, the food at 65 Peel was excellent. I liked it so much in fact that I went back for dinner a couple of nights later—making this the only place other than Law Fu Kee where I ate more than once. Herewith the report.  Continue reading