Bunnahabhain 30, 1988 (Old Particular for K&L)


I am almost at the end of my run of reviews of K&L’s recent exclusive casks. This Bunnahabhain 30 is the oldest of them—well, the oldest I acquired a sample of, at any rate. K&L have brought in older Bunnahabhains before. I’ve previously reviewed a 25 yo and a 28 yo. The 25 yo was another Old Particular and the 28 yo was in their own Faultline series (is that still on the go?). Both were from sherry casks and I liked both a fair bit. This one, as with a number of their exclusives in this run, was matured in a refill hogshead. Let’s hope it’ll be closer to the two aforementioned in quality anyway than to the 21 yo from a hogshead they’d put out in 2013/14. That one had seemed like a very good value for the age; I purchased a bottle and was very disappointed.At $99 for a 21 yo in 2013-14, it was, in the abstract a very good value for the age—and these days $350 for a 30 yo is similarly, in the abstract, a good value for the age—but you’re not drinking the age to price ratio, you’re drinking a whisky. Let’s see what this particular one is like. Continue reading

Maachher Jhol


Maachher jhol is a name for a rather broad genre of fish dishes in Bengal—it’s not actually very descriptive at all. “Maachh” means “fish” in Bengali and “jhol” (rhymes with “goal”) would translate to “gravy” or “sauce” in English. So “maachher jhol” literally means “fish in gravy”. As such, in English “fish curry” would be an entirely adequate translation in the sense in which “curry” is used in India. The particular sub-genre of the preparation that this recipe falls into involves a paatla or thin jhol and various versions of this form one of the central pillars of Bengali comfort food. In its most basic form the dish involves mustard oil, kalo jire, ginger, green chillies, fish and water. Vegetables are often added: sometimes potatoes, sometimes brinjal/eggplant, sometimes cauliflower. It’s also not uncommon to add bori (a type of dal-based fritter). Though tomatoes and garlic are not very traditional in Bengali cooking, it’s not unheard of for either or both to be used as well. Some may use no tomato, some may use a little, some more than a little. My approach comes to me from my mother, who learned to cook after marriage while living outside Bengal. Her cooking therefore employs more tomato than that of my Calcutta aunts but is—as far as I’m concerned—no less Bengali for that. Continue reading

Bowmore 11, 2001 (Maltbarn)


Hello, the blog is seven years old today. As per Sku, I have three more years before I have to shut it down. Though, truth be told, I’m having some trouble right now mustering enough enthusiasm to keep it going through the isolation/quarantine—and judging by readership numbers very few of you are currently enthusiastic enough to show up to read this shortly after it posts. But an anniversary is an anniversary.

My very first review was of a Bowmore—the lowly Bowmore Legend of years past—and since then I’ve marked every anniversary with a Bowmore review. What can i say? I’m notoriously sentimental. I am feeling particularly sentimental today as this is the fourth of five reviews of bottles I opened during my 50th birthday week that mark significant years of my life (see here, here and here). This Bowmore was distilled in 2001, the year I met my partner. We’re currently 19 years in but this is only an 11 yo. Continue reading

Linkwood 1988-2013 (Gordon & MacPhail)


I first promised a review of this Linkwood a long time ago, I think. Here it is now. I took these notes right after returning from India in February but unaccountably forgot to take my usual ratty photograph of the sample bottle. And so I’ve posted alongside a picture of a bottle lifted from Whiskybase. Against my usual rules, I know, but there are no rules during a pandemic.

This was bottled by Gordon & MacPhail for the Soho Whisky Club. It was well-received right off the bat but got even more attention when Jim Murray randomly awarded it 97.5 points in the 2015 Whisky Bible. It nonetheless remained available for a while but was gone by the time I got to London in 2016. I’ve been curious about it for a while and so when the opportunity came to taste it via a bottle split I jumped at it. Here now are those notes. Continue reading

Balblair 10, 2009 (The Whisky Barrel)


Earlier in the month I began a series of reviews of recent exclusive casks from the Whisky Barrel with a 10 year old Bunnahabhain from a first-fill oloroso hogshead. That one handily surpassed my low expectations. Here now is another 10 yo from a first-fill oloroso hogshead, this time a Balblair. Will this turn out to be as good? I can’t think of any recent sherry bomb Balblairs I’ve had. Anyway, let’s see.

Balblair 10, 2009 (59.4%; The Whisky Barrel; first-fill oloroso hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: Big sherry (raisins, orange peel, a metallic note) mixed in with roasted malt and some powdered ginger. As it sits a leafy note develops as well. Water brings out some plum sauce. Continue reading

Caol Ila 19, 1995 (Maltbarn)


I’m having a tough time summoning the energy to write stupid preambles to these reviews that were written a couple of weeks ago. Here is all I could manage for this one: this is a 19 yo Caol Ila distilled in 1995 and bottled by Maltbarn. Accurate!

Caol Ila 19, 1995 (52.8%; Maltbarn; from my own bottle)

Nose: Lemon and phenolic peat with olive brine running through it. In other words, quintessential Caol Ila. On the second sniff there are sweeter notes of cereals and vanilla behind the smoke and just a hint of gasoline. With a few drops of water the vanilla turns to cream and expands

Palate: The peat is in the lead here and there’s more tar than was indicated by the nose. Very nice texture at full strength and very approachable. With time the lemon and olive brine expand here as well and there’s some smouldering leaves in there with the tarry smoke. Water brings the pepper out earlier and it’s sweeter/creamier here too now, though the smoke and lemon are still the top notes. Better balance on the whole now. Continue reading

Pork and Beans II


One of my earliest recipes on the blog was this one for an Indian-style stew of pork and beans. Five years later, here is another. It is a simpler preparation than the previous but no less delicious. There are a number of similarities. Both use large white beans from Rancho Gordo. The first uses the very popular Royal Corona bean, this one uses the Large White Lima. The Large White Lima is a very underrated bean, in my opinion, if somewhat in the Royal Corona’s sizable shadow (I don’t mean to set up a Royal Corona backlash on account of its namesake.) You set the beans to cook simply with water and while they’re getting done you prepare the pork. When both are done, you add the pork to the beans, stir, cover and simmer for 10 minutes or so to let the flavours meld. You’re basically adding the pork as a sort of tadka to the beans. The pork itself in this recipe is made very simply, with very few ingredients, as a dry’ish curry. The combination of the pork and beans, however, is anything but basic: the flavour is complex and rich; and the whole is highly comforting. That’s a good thing at any time but especially in these times. Give it a go: you won’t regret it. Continue reading

Help Your Local Food and Drink Businesses


This is where a Twin Cities Metro restaurant report would usually go. I don’t have one today. We haven’t gone out to eat for more than a week and even if we had, what would be the point of my telling you about a meal you can’t actually go out to eat for god knows how long. Instead, let me be the 450th person to remind you that restaurants and bars are businesses that are particularly badly hit right now. Minnesota has joined the states that have mandated dining-in closures; social distancing recommendations and restrictions are in effect in most states that have not mandated closures yet. These closures and restrictions are highly necessary (let me also be the 45,000th person to tell you to help flatten the curve) but that doesn’t change the fact that the restaurant/bar business—precarious at the best of times—is going to take a huge beating; and that many restaurants and bars—including some of your favourites—may not come out on the other side. And restaurants and bars aren’t just businesses that give us pleasure, they’re also businesses that employ people, many of whom live precariously even when a pandemic is not in progress. Continue reading

Highland Park 27, 1984 (The Whisky Agency)

Well, friends, the pandemic is here. By “here” I mean Minnesota but really it is probably now wherever your “here” is. The time for denial and bravado, governmental and personal, is done. Now we have to all do our bit to restrict the pathways of infection and—also to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe: no one is immune.

Speaking of loved ones, the bottle I have a review of today was one of those I opened to mark my 50th birthday last month, all commemorating significant years in my life. I’ve already posted a review of the Glendronach distilled the year I left India for the US and the of the Springbank bottled the year our older son was born. This Highland Park was bottled the year our younger son was born. It is one of the oldest Highland Parks I’ve had and almost certainly the oldest bourbon cask Highland Park I’ve had. It was bottled by the Whisky Agency, in their very attractive “Bugs” label series. Continue reading

Staoisha 6, 2013 (The Whisky Barrel)


Last week I had a review of a young first-fill oloroso sherry cask Bunnahabhain released by the Whisky Barrel. This week I have for you a review of an even younger Bunnahabhain released by the Whisky Barrel, this one from a first-fill bourbon barrel. It is bottled as a Staoisha, which is one of the names used for peated Bunnahabhain. This “Staoisha” business is, I think, relatively new. I’m not sure if the distillery mandates that name for independently released peated Bunnahabhain or if this is something the indies came up with on their own (there do seem to be more than a few new’ish Staoishas around). I’d suspect the former but, again, as I don’t follow industry news I can’t say for sure. If somebody who knows more is reading along, please write in below. Well, to begin to get to the whisky: I wouldn’t normally be very intrigued by a 6 yo whisky but last week’s 10 yo was very good; odds should be good that the Whisky Barrel did a good job of picking this cask as well. Let’s see if that turns out to be true. Continue reading

Hog Worth (Goa, Jan 2020)


After a shaky start at our first lunch on the beach (more on this later), we had our fourth very good lunch in a row at Hog Worth. I’ve already posted write-ups of the three previous: at Martin’s Corner, Palácio Do Deão, and Fernando’s Nostalgia. Unlike those three places, Hog Worth is not located in South Goa. It is located in Panjim, the capital of the state. This was another restaurant recommended by Vikram D. (who’d also recommended Fenando’s Nostalgia) and after the previous day’s experience we were looking forward to a meal there after a spot of tourism at various cathedrals. It did not disappoint. Continue reading

Copper & Kings Pear Brandy (for Kenwood Liquors)


Copper & Kings is the Kentucky-based upstart American brandy producer. They started out releasing brandy sourced from other producers that they had matured further in bourbon barrels at their own location—where I think loud rock and blues music is played to the casks or some such. I believe their own distillate is now online and presumably being used in their current releases. As I haven’t really been keeping up with spirits news for the last three or four years or so, I haven’t really been following what Copper & Kings has been up to. If you’d asked me before I got this sample (from Sku) what kind of brandy they make/release, I would have said grape (I’ve reviewed one of those: the Butchertown). I had no idea they also did pear brandy. That said, I don’t know if they still do pear brandy (or whether they distilled or sourced the pear brandy they released). The products list on their website makes no mention of pear brandy, though a couple of apple brandies are listed. This one was apparently a single cask released for Kenwood Liquors in Illinois. Was it a one-off? I’d assume it was also aged in a bourbon barrel with loud rock music played to it. Hopefully a more reliable source will chime in, and I won’t be surprised if it’s Joe Heron, the lively and enthusiastic proprietor of Copper & Kings. I was not a huge fan of the Butchertown; but I am very interested to see what this is like as I am very partial to the pear-heavy calvados produced in the Domfrontais region. Continue reading

Sakura (St. Paul, MN)


You’ll never believe it but I went and ate sushi again in the Twin Cities. What can I say, I didn’t make it to Los Angeles with the family in December and my last sushi meal was in New York last August (and that was no great shakes either). My raw fish longing therefore overcame the disappointment (and worse) that I’ve experienced in the past at lauded Twin Cities spots such as Origami, Sushi Fix, Kyatchi and even Kado no Mise (where I found more theater than substance). Where did I go in the desperate hope that I might find some decent fish? To Sakura in St. Paul. This is another place that I’ve been told for years is good; but thanks to my experience at the places listed above, my trust in recommendations of good sushi in the Twin Cities has dwindled. Did this experience bear out my old skepticism and suspicion? Read on. Continue reading

Springbank 12, 1996, Fino Cask


Last week’s review of a Glendronach 19, 1993 was the first of five reviews of bottles I opened to mark my 50th birthday. As I said last week, all five whiskies were distilled and/or bottled in significant years of my life. That Glendronach was distilled in 1993, the year I left India for the United States, where I’ve lived ever since. Today’s Springbank was distilled in 1996 which is not a particularly significant year in my life; but it was bottled in 2009, the year our first child was born. I really liked last week’s Glendronach; I’ll be really bummed if I picked a less than good cask to mark the year of his birth.

The odds, however, are good. I’ve liked all the other casks in this sherry wood series that Springbank’s old importers, Preiss Imports, released back in 2009. I’ve previously reviewed the Oloroso cask; others included a Cream Sherry and an Amontillado cask (bottles emptied pre-blog). I could be wrong but I think this was among the first of what turned out to be a regular series of single sherry cask Springbank releases in the US (there were a couple of wine cask releases before this). It was followed by a 14 yo sherry cask series a couple of years later and there’s been a regular trickle of these ever since, at ever increasing prices. I purchased this not too long after release and have been sitting on it ever since for no good reason. Well, let’s open it now and see what it’s like. Continue reading