Glendronach 25, 1968

A third 25 yo whisky to end the week and this is an official release with a rather big reputation: a Glendronach distilled in 1968 and bottled in 2003. I’ve had small pours of it on a couple of occasions before; this large sample came to me from the ever-generous Sku. This is a throwback to Glendronach’s past, distilled and bottled before the Billy Walker era (which itself ended last year). Indeed this whisky was bottled when the distillery was still owned by Allied Distillers and before it was mothballed in 1996. It’s an old-school sherry monster that does more at 43% than most others of its kind do at cask strength, and I’m looking forward to making its acquaintance again.

By the way, the usually restrained Johannes van den Heuvel gave this whisky 97 points! I’m not sure when in his whisky tasting career he rated this or what he would make of it now. Anyway, let’s get to it.  Continue reading

Craigellachie 25, 1990 (SMWS 44.67)

Let’s do another 25 yo today. Unlike Monday’s Caol Ila 25 from the Bladnoch forum, this was not bottled almost a decade ago. Which is not to say it is a very recent release: it was bottled in 2015 or 2016. It’s also an independent release, this time from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. They gave it the “fun”, or more accurately, highly stupid name, “Charming Chalice of Cha-Cha-Cha”—which means that this is the rare occasion when one prefers to use their complicated coding system to refer to the cask. Said cask was a refill hogshead and represents the oldest Craigellachie I’ve yet tasted. It’s also the first ex-bourbon Craigellachie that I’ve tasted. As such, I have no expectations.

Looking forward yet again to our trip to the Speyside this June, I should ask if anyone particularly recommends an in-depth visit to Craigellachie. My plan is to do drive-by visits of a number of distilleries in that general area—Craigellachie among them—and only tour Aberlour. (Elsewhere in the Speyside, I will probably tour Benromach, Glen Moray and Glenfiddich). Again, as this is a family trip, I will be restricting myself to a single tour on the days that I do visit distilleries. Anyway, on to this Craigellachie!  Continue reading

Lao Thai (St. Paul)

My last four Minnesota restaurant reviews have been re-reviews—of House of Curry, Spoon and Stable, On’s Kitchen and A&L Chinese. One of the nice things about being an independent blogger is that there’s no compulsion to only review new places or places you haven’t been to before. And I hope that to my few readers from the Twin Cities (and environs) there’s some value to seeing follow-up reports from places that the professionals haven’t covered in a few years or more. This week’s review, however, is of a place I’ve not only not reviewed before, I’d not eaten there before the meal covered in this review: Lao Thai, or as they also bill themselves, Family Lao Thai. It’s another institution on University Avenue in St. Paul: opposite Trieu Chau and not too far away from Thai Garden or Thai Cafe. As the name proclaims, their food is a mix of Thai and Lao; and I am happy to tell you that you should go and eat their food.  Continue reading

Caol Ila 25, 1984 (Bladnoch Forum)

Here’s a very untimely review to start the week and it takes me back to the time when my interest in single malt whisky had just gone from enthusiasm to pathology. I’d joined the then-vibrant WhiskyWhiskyWhisky forum and was learning more and more about independent bottlers not seen in the US. One of these was the Bladnoch Forum. This was a side concern of Raymond Armstrong, then the proprietor of the Bladnoch distillery, and it offered single casks at unbelievably reasonable prices to members of the forum (though in practice you didn’t really have to be a member). I think this is pretty much where Martin Armstrong’s Whiskybroker business may have had its origin. These offerings included single casks of Port Ellen for less than £100 (unless my memory is exaggerating) and also a number of excellent older Caol Ilas. This is one of them. I acquired this sample in what may have been my first-ever swap, not long after it was released. I took a few sips then and put it away for another day. That day is here.  Continue reading

Laphroaig 18, 1997, Cask 54 (Berry Bros. & Rudd)

A while ago I reviewed a Laphroaig 18, 1997 bottled by Berry Bros. & Rudd for the The Whisky Exchange. That one was one of the best recent releases of Laphroaig I’ve had, packing a big fruity wallop alongside the expected smoke and phenols. Here now is another Laphroaig 18, 1997 bottled by Berry Bros. & Rudd. I believe this one was bottled for Whisky Import Nederland (you’ll never believe it but they’re based in the Netherlands). Like the TWE cask, this one was a bourbon cask and it’s only 8 serial numbers away from the other; I think it’s safe to assume that they were filled at the same time in 1997 and probably bottled at more or less the same time in 2015. Given all of this it seems safe to expect this one to also be quite fruity. After all, many whisky geeks believe deeply in the shared qualities of particular vintages, and you’d accordingly expect two casks of the same type, filled with distillate made at the same time, and then bottled after the same period of maturation to be very close to each other. However, oak can be an unpredictable variable and whisky isn’t actually whisky till it’s matured in oak. Will this cask have given or taken away what the other did? Let’s see.  Continue reading

Malai Curry

Malai curry is a quintessential Bengali dish of prawns cooked in coconut milk (in this version, with potatoes). It involves very few spices and is very easy to make. Doubtless, there are many variations among Bengali families. This recipe is from one of my aunts, one of the most redoubtable cooks in the extended family (my mother’s version is far less canonical). In Bengal it is common to make this with larger, head-on prawns. Head-on prawns/shrimp are always better because a) the more shell the more intense the prawn flavour, b) the texture of the meat is always better and c) the roe and other goo in the head both improve the flavour immeasurably and give the gravy a richer, red colour. I do make malai curry with head-on shrimp from East Asian stores from time to time but I try to avoid that as far as possible: given all the dubious stuff surrounding the harvesting of seafood in the region—from environmental concerns to the maltreatment of workers—without more knowledge of provenance it’s an ethical grey area. If only stores that did supply the provenance would stock head-on shrimp! Anyway, when I do succumb to temptation it’s usually for malai curry.  Continue reading

Glen Ord 28

Benromach isn’t the only distillery from the northern Speyside/Highlands region that I have not reviewed very many whiskies from. This is only my sixth review of a Glen Ord. Given that Glen Ord is a workhorse producer for blends—which means its casks are no strangers to the warehouses of brokers and independent bottlers—there’s less obvious reason for my not having reviewed very much Glen Ord than there is for Benromach. Especially as I rather like almost everything I’ve tasted from Glen Ord—though next month I will probably have a review of the Singleton 12 yo…Of the prestige bottlings that Diageo has seen fit to release, I’ve previously reviewed the 30 yo that was part of their 2005 Special Release slate and the 25 yo that was part of their 2004 Special Release. Here now is my review of the 28 yo that came out before both of those in 2003. I don’t think Glen Ord has shown up as a Special Release since 2005—presumably because their malt might have been diverted to feed the Singleton monster. Anyway, I hope Diageo will get around to releasing more official Glen Ord beyond the Singleton sometime soon. The marriage of orchard fruit and oak in Glen Ord can be really special.  Continue reading

House of Curry II (Rosemount, MN)

Let’s get this out of the way right off the top: House of Curry is the best South Asian restaurant in the Twin Cities metro area; and it’s not even close. Now you may say that comparing a Sri Lankan restaurant to the Twin Cities’ Indian restaurants is misguided but you’d be wrong. Sri Lankan food is closer to South Indian food—especially of Kerala and southern Tamil Nadu—than either are to North Indian food of any kind. And Sri Lankan food is also closer to North Indian food than North Indian food is to the cuisines of the states of the North East. In South Asia political geography does not always map on to cultural connections. And though the food served at House of Curry is some distance from the Bengali flavours of my own home state, it still checks most of my boxes; when I eat it I feel at home. And this makes sense also because the food at House of Curry tastes like good home cooking. If you haven’t been, you should go. And if like us at the first of the two meals covered here, you haven’t been in a couple of years you should go soon. We are happy to drive 20 minutes to Rosemount to eat there and we’d happily drive further as well. So should you.  Continue reading

Benromach 9, 2001

I’ve reviewed far too few Benromachs on the blog. As with some other distilleries, this is largely because there are very few Benromachs available from independent bottlers. In fact, while I haven’t looked it up, I suspect that the vast majority of indie Benromachs are from before Gordon & MacPhail purchased the distillery (in 1992) and brought it back online (in 1998). I guess when an independent bottler purchases a distillery, making their malt available to the competition is not high on their agenda. Then again, I am probably wrong and if so, I apologize to the good people at Gordon & Macphail for impugning their generosity.

This release, put together from seven first fill bourbon barrels, came out in 2010 and apparently hung around for a long time. It contains malt distilled in the G&M era.  Continue reading

Tobermory 18, 1994 (Wilson & Morgan)

Let’s start the month with a review of a malt from a distillery that is probably one of the most acquired of tastes in all of whiskydom, and a taste that I have not yet quite managed to acquire: Tobermory. The two Tobermorys I’ve liked the most have both been from sherry casks (this 19 yo from The Whisky Exchange, and this much older one from Alambic Classique). I’ve not fared as well with ex-bourbon Tobermory, where the idiosyncrasies of the distillate really get a chance to shine. I’m not a fan of the official 10 yo and nor was I particularly enthused by the 17 yo from Glen Fahrn that I reviewed in January—though I did find things to like about it. (It’s a different story with their peated variant, Ledaig, which I’ve been getting more and more into in the last few years—both ex-sherry and ex-bourbon.)

Well, let’s see how this 18 yo goes.  Continue reading

Coming Soon…

The end of this month will mark the fifth anniversary of the start of my blog. I tell you this now so you may prepare appropriately for the celebrations when the actual day of the anniversary arrives. I began the blog with a review of a Bowmore and have marked each anniversary since with a review of a Bowmore. You can expect that to continue. As for what other whiskies I review this month, as always, I invite your input below.

I should say, however, that of late it seems like my food posts are getting more views than my whisky posts. Of the ten most viewed posts of February three are restaurant reviews (including the top two posts) and one is a recipe. Of the six spirits reviews that rounded out the top 10, two were of bourbons and one was of a rum. Only three malt whisky reviews in the list. Accordingly, I have a long list of potential malt whisky reviews for you to make nominations from for March.  Continue reading

Spoon and Stable II

After a long run of reviews of more affordable places in the Twin Cities metro area, here is a review of a recent dinner at one of the top contenders to be the Twin Cities’ best fine dining restaurant: Spoon and Stable. We enjoyed our first dinner there in late 2015, less than a year after they opened, and had always meant to go back soon for another meal. However, more than three years past their opening they remain a difficult reservation and so it took almost 2.5 years for us to finally get back (I don’t mean to suggest that we were trying to get a table every month after that first meal). I guess it’s a positive development that we were able to get in on a Friday this time—but even booking a month ahead, the best we could do was 9.15. Anyway, this dinner was as good as the first in some ways, lesser and better in others.  Continue reading

White Bean Curry with Green Peppers

It’s been a while since I last posted a recipe. I don’t know how you’ve all coped: you’ve probably been on bread and water, praying. Your prayers have been answered. Especially if you are a vegetarian. In fact, not only is this recipe vegetarian, it’s also vegan and gluten free. Alas, it is probably not paleo (though I’m not entirely sure what a paleo diet forbids) and nor is it nightshade free (I’m not making this one up). Nor is it made in an Instant Pot; though I don’t doubt that the more enterprising among you will be able to figure out how to make it in an Instant Pot—I assume you will use the time you save in some activity that will better your mind and character.

I kid, I kid: I make fun of the Instant Pot in order to bug friends who are high up in its cult; the truth is most Indians do cook dried beans in pressure cookers (though we were doing so long before the Instant Pot came along). This recipe, however, uses my friend Steve Sando’s excellent Rancho Gordo beans and those cook implausibly fast on the stovetop. If you’re using beans from some other source, a pressure cooker may be the prudent choice. If you’re using canned beans then I will pray for you.  Continue reading

Laphroaig 14, 1998 (Archives)

Here is another untimely review of a bourbon cask, peated Islay whisky released in 2013. This is a bit older than last week’s Bowmore and was released not by Malts of Scotland but by the lads at Whiskybase under their Archives label. It was part of a set of releases that marked the first anniversary of the launch of the Archives line—hence the “Anniversary Release” moniker (at least I think that’s what the anniversary was of). I own a couple more of these Anniversary Release bottles (a 22 yo Caol Ila and a 22 yo Littlemill) but given how long it has taken me to open this one, I’ve no idea when I will get around to those. This was their second release of a teenaged, bourbon cask Laphroaig. There was a 13 yo in their first release (I reviewed it a while ago). I can tell you that this one is as good as that one was: I opened it last month for a tasting of peated whiskies for my local group and I’ve drunk down the rest of the bottle at a very rapid clip. As I type this introduction only a couple more pours remain. Here are my notes.  Continue reading