Bunnahabhain 28, 1987 (Maltbarn)


I reviewed a 28 yo Auchroisk earlier this week. Today’s whisky is the same age but we go south and west to Islay, to Bunnahabhain, and one year in the past, to 1987.

It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a Bunnahabhain. Coincidentally, the last one I reviewed was also a 28 yo and also from a sherry cask. That was distilled in 1989 and was bottled last year by K&L in California under their Faultline label. I quite liked it. In theory, this 28 yo, distilled in 1987, should be better as it was bottled by an outfit with a much better reputation, the German independent, Maltbarn—no longer the upstart they once were. This was their 43rd release and I suspect only a bit of the cask was bottled for it. This because there were only 89 bottles in this release and two years later they put out 88 bottles of a 30 yo, 1987 at a very similar abv. In fact, I now wonder if the 121 bottles of the 26 yo, 1987 they’d put out in 2014 was the first release from this cask (similar abv again), and if there’s more being saved for another older release. I guess we’ll never know for sure, but I’ll keep an eye out for more 1987 Bunnahabhains from Maltbarn.  Continue reading

Indian in Edinburgh: Khushi’s


Man, there are a lot of Indian restaurants in Edinburgh. On our second day I began to photograph the exteriors of each one we passed but had to stop because I was doing nothing else. That’s only a slight exaggeration. Of all the Indian restaurants in Edinburgh, Khushi’s is the oldest. It was opened in 1947 by the eponymous Khushi, though it was not called Khushi’s then. It was then the Lothian Restaurant and operated under that name until the mid-1970s. Its location has changed more often than its name, and as far as I can make out, it has only been at its current Antigua St. digs for a few years. I would imagine that when it opened in the new location it featured an all-new look. I say this because their aesthetic is now very much in the post-Dishoom vein. (And, yes, there’s a branch of Dishoom in Edinburgh too.) The walls are loaded with an eclectic mix of images: from reproductions of classic Bombay film posters to pictures from the Indian independence movement to pictures of random urban scenes.  Continue reading

The Well-Rounded Single Malt Bar, 2018 Edition


It has been almost four years since I posted the first version of this list. It was spurred by questions from friends who are not whisky geeks, and are in no danger of becoming whisky geeks, but who wanted some suggestions for a small but balanced selection of whiskies they could stock in their bars. A lot has changed in the whisky world since then. Whisky prices have shot up, many once-standard expressions have gone away, and others have changed. And, of course, newer whiskies have shown up on the market that might be worthy contenders for a list like this one. As such, it seems useful to go back and revisit those selections and see if they still hold up.  Continue reading

Holy Land Market (Minneapolis)


Holy Land, located on Central Avenue in Northeast Minneapolis, is a Twin Cities institution. It is not only one of the most iconic immigrant markets in the area, it is one of the most iconic markets period. When I began my series of posts on immigrant markets I didn’t think I would ever profile a place like Holy Land because, after all, anyone interested in finding out more about these markets wouldn’t need to be told about Holy Land. But then in the last few weeks I had conversations with a number of people who’ve lived here longer than we have and who’d never been to Holy Land. In the hope therefore of reducing by even a little the numbers of the sorry people of whom this is true, here is an extensive look at what you can find in Holy Land and why you should go shop there this weekend.  Continue reading

Auchroisk 28, 1988 (Malts of Scotland)


Let us continue with this series of older whiskies. And following last week’s Tomatin 25, Caperdonich 27 and Ben Nevis 27, let’s stick with the “distilleries known for fruity whisky” theme. Like the Tomatin and the Ben Nevis, this Auchroisk was a recent release, and like the Tomatin it was distilled in 1988 and bottled by Malts of Scotland.

Auchroisk continues to not have much of a reputation, which means that independent releases of its whisky can be had for reasonable prices (there’s not much by way of official releases beyond the occasional inclusion in Diageo’s annual special release rosters; well, I guess there’s a “Flora & Fauna” release as well, but I don’t know how regular that is). I’ve not had so very many Auchroisks but have liked most of the ones I’ve had quite a lot, precisely on account of their fruity nature, especially past the age of 20. This 24 yo from Binny’s, in particular, stands out for its exuberant fruit, and I’m still kicking myself for not having got a second bottle. I liked this 27 yo (also from 1988 but bottled by Cadenhead) as well, but it was not quite as much of a fruit bomb. Let’s see where this one falls.  Continue reading

Simple Chana Masala


Chana masala is a very popular dish in Indian restaurants in the US and its popularity is not a mystery. It is also one of the rare dishes made in North Indian restaurants in the US in a manner not unlike that of home kitchens. This is not to suggest that there is only one proper way to make chana masala. Like most Indian dishes, it is subject to a wide variety of variations—of texture and flavour—depending on what part of the country you are in. And dishes that may seem obviously to be in the chana masala family may have different names in different parts of the country—see ghugni in Bengal, for example.

The recipe I have today is my lazy, short-cut method for making chana masala in a North Indian style. Well, it’s not so much of a short-cut, I guess, as it involves first cooking Rancho Gordo garbanzo beans on the stove-top. But that’s the only bit that requires time—everything else is quick and easy!  Continue reading

Ben Nevis 27, 1990 (Archives)


Continuing my miniseries of older whiskies (after Monday’s Tomatin 25 and yesterday’s Caperdonich 27), here is a Ben Nevis. Unlike the other two, it was released this year but, alas, this review is not very timely. I purchased the bottle from Whiskybase—who bottled it under their Archives label—a couple of months ago and waited a bit too long to open and taste it. After my first taste I raced back to their site to get another but it was gone. Yes, I liked it a lot. What is the other proof of this? Well, I’ve finished the bottle less than a month after I opened it. Also, I recently took it to a whisky gathering in St. Paul that featured some very heavy hitters (early 70s Ardbeg, early 80s Port Ellen and Caol Ila, late 70s Laphroaig 10 and so on) and it held its own. Lovers of fruity malts already know this, but the once dodgy Ben Nevis distillery is now one of our very best sources for exuberantly fruity whisky. Of course, as it’s Ben Nevis it’s got some funky notes mixed in but that’s part of the fun.  Continue reading

Caperdonich 27, 1974 (Old Malt Cask)


Caperdonichs of the late 1960s and early 1970s are celebrated for their fruitiness. The year 1972 is particularly fetishized by many whisky geeks. As I never get tired of pointing out, much of this has to do with the fact that there has always been far more Caperdonich 1972 available than from surrounding years. Why more should have survived from this year is hard to say but it’s the case. Just to update the numbers: Whiskybase currently has 79 listings for 1972 but only 24 for 1970, 1971, 1973, 1974 and 1975 combined (this includes 0 for 1973 and 1975). Given the scanty evidence about the whisky distilled and laid down in the years immediately before and after, there’s not much grounds for believing that there was something special about 1972; only that a lot of it somehow escaped being blended away and got matured to ripe old ages in the glut years that followed.

Here is a sample from a bottle of one of the few 1974 casks that survived. I received it in a sample swap some six years ago and forgot all about it. Hopefully, it hasn’t deteriorated in the sample bottle. Let’s see.  Continue reading

Ansari’s (Eagan, MN)


Ansari’s has been around in Eagan for almost as long as we’ve been around in Minnesota and yet I was not aware of their existence until I saw them included a month or so ago on some website or the other’s list of “hidden gems” of the Twin Cities’ east metro. I was chagrined to discover that we’ve been driving past them on a near-weekly basis  for the last 10 years! They are located in a strip-mall right where Cliff Rd. hits the 35E. In our defense, they’re not visible from the freeway, and I don’t think too many people have ever driven to Eagan expecting to find a Middle Eastern restaurant there. Well, this one is there and—based on our recent lunch—while I would not drive to Eagan expressly to eat there, I am happy to add them to my list of south metro establishments to eat at on the way back from the airport or from Ikea or similar. That is to say, the food was not amazing but it was more than serviceable. Details follow.  Continue reading

Tomatin 25, 1988 (Malts of Scotland)


Please excuse me as I start a small run of reviews of progressively older malts, few, if any, of which are still available. If I were Serge I’d post all of them together on one day and have another 27 over the new few days but I am a mere human.

First up is this Tomatin 25, bottled a few years ago by the German outfit, Malts of Scotland. Older Tomatin can be very good indeed. I rather liked the old Tomatin 25, a malt that—at 43% abv—probably never sent too many whisky geeks’ pulses racing. I liked even more this Tomatin 25, 1975 bottled by MacKillop’s choice. Even though late-80s Tomatin does not have the reputation of mid-70s Tomatin, I expect to like this one too as the aforementioned Serge’s review, as well as the tasting notes on Whiskybase, lead me to expect a very fruity whisky and that’s my favourite kind these days. Let’s see if reality matches expectations.  Continue reading

Karuizawa 13, 1997, “Spirit Safe”


Here’s a particularly pointless review to start the month. Japanese whisky as a category has been rather fucked for the last couple of years—and probably will be for more than a couple more. Very little is available, very little of that is worth buying, and what is worth buying is not worth buying at the prices being asked for them. (The one exception is the Nikka Whisky from the Barrel, which is now available in the US for a reportedly good price.) And in the general landscape of fucked Japanese whisky there is little as fucked as Karuizawa, the closed distillery all of whose remaining stock was purchased by a cartel that has figured out how to stoke and exploit an overheated market. For reference, the Whisky Exchange recently released a 29 yo and a 31 yo for £6000 each and you had to enter into a lottery for the privilege of making a fool of yourself by buying one. Then again, no one who is paying that amount of money for a single bottle of whisky is particularly concerned about money. Anyway, the Karuizawa I am reviewing today was released well before all this madness began: in 2010. I don’t know how much this cost then but back then you could purchase 28 yo Karuizawa from the Whisky Exchange for less than $200. I think this was bottled for Whisky Magazine Japan for OXFAM. There was another release that bore this “Spirit Safe” label that was a 19 yo. I have no idea what that was like but let’s see about this one.  Continue reading

Coming Soon…


Here for the penultimate time in 2018 is a look ahead to what’s potentially coming on the blog. There’s a long’ish list of potential reviews below and, as always, I invite requests for the shortlist. I think I got to all the requested reviews for October. All the ones that were requested on the blog, at least. Some people did make requests on Twitter but I tend to lose sight of things there. So, if you’re coming to this post from Twitter and would like to request a review please do so by leaving a comment on this post.

Two of my more popular posts in the last month were reviews of American whiskies (the Wild Turkey 101 Rye and the Russell’s Reserve Private Barrel). Alas, I don’t have very many samples of other American whiskies in my stash. However, I do plan to review more bourbons and ryes next year. As the value proposition of single malt whisky continues to tank, (re)discovering the pleasures of bourbon and rye may be key to financial responsibility. But for now I have mostly a list of single malts for you to choose from for November. Have at it!  Continue reading

In Praise of the Twin Cities’ True Eat Street


Minneapolis and St. Paul may be referred to as the Twin Cities but they do not wield the same cultural power. Yes, the actual state Capitol may be in St. Paul but as far as Twin Citizens and the world outside are concerned, the cultural capital of Minnesota is Minneapolis. And this is true of the reputation of the two cities’ food scenes as well. I don’t know if denizens of Minneapolis feel smug about this; I do know that many denizens of St. Paul feel angsty about it. Thankfully, I, a resident of a small town 50 minutes south of both Minneapolis and St. Paul am here to settle this once and for all: the best food in the Twin Cities is in St. Paul, and what’s more, it’s on and around one 3 mile stretch of University Avenue, from just west of Snelling to just east of Western. You may disagree but I hope you like being wrong.  Continue reading

Glen Keith 21, 1996 (Single Malts of Scotland)


Yesterday’s review of a Glen Keith 22, 1995 doubled my erstwhile total, taking it to an awe-inspiring two reviews. Today I multiply that by a further time and a half with my third ever Glen Keith review. Feel the mastery! This is a year younger than yesterday’s bottle and distilled a year later. It was released by the Whisky Exchange’s sister company, Elixir Distillers (the artists formerly known as Speciality Drinks) under their Single Malts of Scotland Label. It is stated as being from a sherry butt but the label also says that only 294 bottles were released. That’s a bit low for a sherry butt at 56.2%. You might wonder if it was in fact a sherry hogshead but in that case 294 bottles would be a bit high. The only explanation I can think of is that the cask was split with someone else and that Elixir Distillers has only listed the number of bottles their share yielded. (Or maybe they put the rest to some other use: conditioner for Billy Abbot’s beard?) Anyway, let’s get to the whisky!  Continue reading