Benromach 2009/2018, UK Exclusive


I last reviewed malts from Benromach just over two years ago. That was a set of capsule reviews of two young wine-finished malts that I was just about whelmed by. Today I have for you a straight-up bourbon cask Benromach. It was bottled in 2018 as an exclusive for the UK markert and is either 8 or 9 years old. It is from a first-fill bourbon cask. I’ve previously reviewed another Benromach of similar age from first-fill bourbon but that was a vatting of a few casks. Still, I rather liked that one and take that as a positive portent for this one. I can’t help but be positive—it’s in my nature. You should try it sometime. Where was I? Oh yes, I was about to say that I generally really like Benromach’s old-school Highland peat profile—quite some distance from Islay peat’s phenolic wallop or the earthy, farmy peat of Campbeltown or Mull. And without heavy sherry covering things up this should be an opportunity to take a clear measure of what that profile is looking like in the whiskies the distillery is now putting out. Let’s get to it. Continue reading

Peshawri (Calcutta, Jan 2020)


Yes, we went to Calcutta from Delhi and ate North Indian food. Given the fact that in the last couple of decades there’s been an explosion of Bengali restaurants in Calcutta this may seem like a particularly silly thing to do. But we ate one meal a day at the home of one aunt or the other every day while we were there, and so we were not really hurting for the hardcore Bengali food experience. And then one of the events at the wedding we were in the city for had food catered by Peshawri, the North Indian restaurant at the ITC Sonar Bangla; and it was so goddamned good we decided we’d spend one. of our meals there rather than go to 6 Ballygunge Place or some other restaurant whose food would be excellent but couldn’t compete anyway with what we’d been eating at the homes of various aunts. And a good choice it was too. Continue reading

Amrut, Sherry Cask (Blackadder)


It’s been a year and a half since my last Amrut review—what kind of an Indian am I? It’s not my fault though: there just isn’t so much Amrut around in the US. The last one I reviewed—the Amaze, a single cask release for an Indian club—was bottled in late 2018. This one came out half a decade earlier. A NAS release (like most Amruts), I purchased it right after it was bottled in 2013. Like most Amruts it’s also been bottled at an eye-wateringly high proof. The bottler is Blackadder. They’ve put out a large number of Amruts, far more than any other bottler—Whiskybase only lists a handful of others and they only seem to have one or two each. I wonder what Blackadder’s connection is. The cask was first-fill sherry. I rather liked the last sherry cask Amrut I had—this PX cask—and their Intermediate Sherry is one of my favourites, if now a little too expensive for my wallet. And so I have high hopes for this one. Let’s see if they’re borne out. Continue reading

Toor Dal with Turnips


This recipe has its origins in one of my favourite recipes posted to the Another Subcontinent cooking forum, back in its heyday more than a decade ago. Most of my readers will not know what I am talking about. Another Subcontinent was a collection of forums on South Asian culture that a few friends and I started back in 2004 (a bit later we also added a features site). Well, technically both the features site and the forums still exist but both have been in suspended animation for a long time now. The cooking forum was the beating heart of Another Subcontinent and in my (not unbiased) view it was in its heyday the best resource on Indian cooking there has yet been on the internet. Populated by avid home cooks, both in India and the diaspora, the cooking forum brought together people who knew their own regional cuisines but not necessarily each others’ and we all learned a great deal from each other. And then the rise of first food blogs and then Facebook and, let’s face it, cliques and feuds among the membership killed it off. Nonetheless I still cook recipes I learnt on that forum pretty much every week. Continue reading

Coming Soon…


Another month of barely leaving the house behind us, another about to begin: good times! In keeping with the unchanging nature of our days here is the latest evidence of the unchanging nature of this blog. I will once again offer you three booze reviews a week, along with at least one restaurant review and one recipe. And possibly the occasional post on books and movies. And if I can be arsed to do it I may become the 543rd person on the internet to offer a take on Padma Lakshmi’s new Hulu show, Taste the Nation, which I was looking forward to but found extremely disappointing.

By “restaurant review” above I mean takeout reviews. I do still have a few reports from our India trip remaining that were of actual meals eaten in actual restaurants but there will be no dine-in reports from Minnesota for a long time. The state has allowed restaurants to re-open with social distancing but it’s going to be takeout-only for us for a while. Anyway, here is the usual long list of potential booze reviews. If there’s anything that catches your eye please nominate it to the shortlist in the comments below. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 13: Bangkok Thai Deli (St. Paul, MN)


We began the pandemic getting takeout food only from places in our town or within a 20 minute or so drive. We then expanded our range to Bloomington and then to South Minneapolis. Now, more than three months in, we’ve finally made it up to St. Paul; and—with apologies to Joy’s Thai of Lakeville—we’ve finally eaten really good Thai food for the first time since this madness began. Yes, I drove up to University Avenue and picked up a box full of food for another socially distanced lunch on a deck with friends. A 50 minute drive to get there only to turn around and drive another 50 minutes back: but it was worth it. Continue reading

Glenlossie 35, 1975 (The Whisky Agency)


I started the month with a review of the then oldest Glenlossie I’d ever had—a 29 yo from a bourbon cask. Here now to close the month is a review of what is now the oldest Glenlossie I’ve ever had—a 35 yo, also from a bourbon cask. This was bottled by the Whisky Agency for Shinanoya in Tokyo. I got a sample of it from my friend Nick in Minneapolis a few years ago and completely forgot about it before finding it last month during my ongoing cull of the vast hoard of samples I’d accumulated over the years. I’ve tasted it before at one of our friend Rich’s whisky gatherings up in the Ciites. I remember liking it a lot but those sessions usually involve a fair number of over-the-top whiskies and others sometimes get a little lost in the shuffle. And so I’m pleased to be able to spend a little bit more time with this one. Let’s see what I make of it now. Continue reading

Golden Joy (Calcutta, Jan 2020)


Indian Chinese food, as I’ve said before, is arguably the country’s true national cuisine. (I am speaking here not of the more recent, putatively more “authentic” Chinese food that has made inroads into the higher end of the market in major metros but which has a more limited reach.) This is true in two senses. It is available all over the country—in large cities and small towns, from fancy restaurants to street stalls to dhabas in the middle of nowhere—and has been for many decades. And it is a cuisine that at this point has been adopted without much/any rancour in every part of the country it has gone to (which is to say, again, to every part of it). This latter cannot be said, for example, of North Indian restaurant food—which is also everywhere but whose popularity inspires grumbling in many places outside North India. The only other contender is South Indian food of the idli-dosa-vada-sambar kind (I refer to it generically because that’s largely how it’s presented and received outside the South)—but that has never quite shed its (broad) regional origins. Indian Chinese food, on the other hand, is now of everywhere and from nowhere. And in most places there are no Indian Chinese people actually associated with preparing or serving it. Continue reading

Red Curry Chicken


“Red curry chicken” is my children’s name for the chicken curry that has been my gateway to slowly Indianizing their palates for the last few years. It is one of their absolute favourites of all the things I cook for them (though Marcella Hazan’s pesto is in unassailable first place). The “it” however is not a stable referent. By which I mean that this is a recipe that has been subtly, progressively tweaked to bring them along into an appreciation of spicy/spicier food without their quite realizing it’s been happening. Please note that when I say “spicy/spicier” I am not referring to capsaicin heat but to a fuller flavour via the use of a greater body of spices: cumin, coriander seed, fennel seed, cinnamon, black pepper, cardamom etc. And, yes, also increasing amounts of red chilli powder. That said, though they eat hotter food than most of their Minnesotan peers, the current iteration of this curry is not very hot either. But over the last four or five years it’s gone from being a fairly bland chicken stew with tomatoes to becoming something that the missus and I enjoy eating alongside them. Here is the current iteration for your enjoyment as well. Continue reading

Nikka 12, “Woody & Mellow”


I started last week with a review of a Japanese whisky (this Hanyu); I may as well end this week with a review of another. This one is not a single malt. It was one of a series of limited edition whiskies released by Nikka, all of which were 12 years old and all of which were marked by two key characteristics. I’m a bit fuzzy on whether the idea was/is that these are the whiskies that in some combination go into Nikka’s blends or that they were to be purchased as components for home blending—I do believe they were only available at the Yoichi distillery (please correct me if I’m wrong). I’ve previously reviewed the Yoichi “Peaty & Salty” from the same series, and I quite liked that one. This, however, is a grain whisky, and one distilled in a coffey or two-column continuous still that is commonly used in grain whisky distillation. My track record with grain whisky is not very good but, as always, I live in hope. Maybe this will be the best grain whisky I’ve had in a while. Let’s see.
Continue reading

Fettercairn 17, 1995 (Exclusive Malts)


I keep saying this about most of the minor Scottish distilleries but I have very little experience of Fettercairn. I’ve only reviewed a couple of them before this one and have maybe tried twice as many in total. As such I have no expectations. Of the two I’ve reviewed one did nothing for me and the other was average—which leaves the door open for this one to be the first Fettercairn that will really move me. Okay, so it also leaves the door open for this to be the first Fettercairn I end up pouring into the sink—why do you have to be so negative?

This particular Fettercairn was bottled by Exclusive Malts for K&L in California. Being negative, you might say that this is not a very promising combination but I have had very good whiskies from both. Let’s see if this is another one of those. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 12: Kumar’s (Apple Valley, MN)


Last year I wrote up a couple of meals at Kumar’s in Apple Valley—a local outpost of Kumar’s Mess, a popular Texas-based franchise that specializes in Chettinad food (though their menu has more than just Chettinad food). That write-up from December—which included my thoughts on developments in Indian food in the Twin Cities metro that seem to have eluded the professional critics—focused on what is normally Kumar’s specialty: thali-based meals. They’ve been doing takeout through the pandemic but I doubt thalis have been involved. They are now open for socially distanced dining-in but we only stopped in on Sunday to get some takeout for another socially-distanced meal on a deck with friends. The dining room is restricted to 24 guests only, and it’s a large space, but it’s going to take me a long while to get comfortable with eating in at a restaurant—and frankly, the sight of customers going in and out without masks, as we were waiting in our car outside for curbside pickup, did not help. The food, however, was pretty good. Continue reading

Ardbeg Corryvreckan, 2011 Release


Last week I posted reviews of whiskies from three closed distilleries. First the Japanese distillery, Hanyu, then Brora in the Scottish highlands and finally Port Ellen on Islay. Today I have a review of a whisky from a distillery that is still in business, Ardbeg. But in a sense this whisky is also from a distillery that is long gone: the Ardbeg that once made high quality whisky and made it available at reasonable prices. The irony of this statement is that in fact the Corryvreckan may have been the first in the series of concept whiskies that have brought us down to the permanent state of folly in which Ardbeg now resides. Yes, the Uigeadail and the Beist were released before it—and the Uigeadail was already NAS—but those are fairly traditional whiskies. The Corryvreckan, on the other hand, first released widely in 2009—after a “committee release” in 2008—has a lot of virgin French oak casks in the mix (at least this was the talk when it was first released) and is more of a “designer malt”. My first bottle was a 2010 release and I loved it. I haven’t followed it through the years since but it’s remained a highly-rated whisky. Alas, my review will not speak to its current quality as this is a bottle released in 2011. Let’s get to it. Continue reading

Eating at the Tollygunge Club (Calcutta, Jan 2020)


I finished up with my Goa reports from January two weeks ago. All that remains from that India trip are a few reports from Calcutta, which is where we went directly from Goa. We were there for just short of a week for a family wedding. For the first few days we were put up at one of Calcutta’s many hoity toity private clubs, the Tollygunge Club. The father of the bride is an ex-president of the club and set this option up for everyone from the bride’s side of the family who wished to partake. This was an opportunity I was all too glad to seize as I’ve had a morbid fascination with these clubs since I was a young boy—never having seen the inside of any except the Tolly on a few occasions as a teen, as the guest of either said ex-president of the club or of wealthy classmates from the boarding school I went to in Darjeeling in the 80s. Continue reading