London Whisky: The Whisky Exchange


Last summer I visited a few prominent whisky stores in London (and wrote them up). Thanks to stupidity I did not make it to the Whisky Exchange. For some reason—probably the fault of Florin, Prince of Persia—I came to believe their store was closed on Sundays when it is not, and so I didn’t stop in even though I was right in Covent Garden for lunch on a Sunday. That omission is now being set right with a dedicated photo collage of their Covent Garden store. Located right off the Strand on Bedford St., this store is dangerously within walking distance of our flat and I’ve already contrived to walk by it twice and stop in. On both occasions I have purchased a bottle (Glenfarclas 15 on the first occasion and a bottle of their own Elements of Islay Lg6 on the second) and on both occasions I have confused the staffers by taking many pictures of the store: they either think I’m mad or casing the joint or both. Thus do I sacrifice my dignity for you, my ungrateful readers.  Continue reading

Glenrothes 27, 1989 (Cadenhead’s)


Let’s take a break from the Glenfarclas reviews but let’s stay on the Speyside. Here is a somewhat unusual Glenrothes bottled by Cadenhead’s earlier this year. I don’t believe I’ve ever come across rum cask Glenrothes before and for that matter there’s not that much bourbon cask Glenrothes around. This is from Cadenhead’s “Small Batch” series and is apparently a vatting of a single bourbon barrel and a rum cask of some sort. Wild to think that there was a 27 yo rum cask just laying around. Also intriguing that they wouldn’t just have released it as such—has anyone come across a single rum cask malt of that age? Of course, this might imply that the contents of the cask might not have been that great on their own but it might have been worth it for novelty alone. It’s also possible, of course, that the rum barrel was a finish/double maturation of a cask put away in 1989—though again you have to wonder why that wouldn’t have been worth releasing by itself. Anyway, I haven’t reviewed much Glenrothes on the blog so I’m hoping this will represent the distillery well. And I suppose if I like it there’s a decent chance that it might still be available from the Cadenhead’s shop in London. Let’s see.  Continue reading

Bowmore 11, 2000 (Douglas Laing OMC)


A second whisky review this week as today is the fourth anniversary of this blog going live, and I’ve always marked the anniversaries with a review of a Bowmore. My very first review was of the (then) entry-level Bowmore Legend. On March 24, 2014 I reviewed the official 12 yo, in 2015 the official 18 yo, and in 2016 another official release, the Prestonfield House Malt. This year I have an indie Bowmore. This is from Douglas Laing’s Old Malt Cask line and was bottled before the Laing business split, I think. It is from a sherry butt. There are actually two sherry butt OMC Bowmore 11s from 2000 released in November 2011 (as per Whiskybase). While the label on my sample bottle does not specify, I am pretty sure this is from Cask DL 7791; this because the source of my sample is listed as one of the raters for this cask on Whiskybase but not for the other—Jerome, if you’re reading, can you confirm? Well, whichever cask it is, let’s see what this is like.  Continue reading

Dim Sum at Joy King Lau (London)


The word on the foodie street is that Chinese food in London is nothing very special and that, unlike Indian food, there’s no good reason to seek it out when visiting. Accordingly, when I was here last August I didn’t look at any Chinese restaurants. However, when your visit is not for a week or two but for three months the prospect of going without any kind of Chinese food is untenable—for us anyway. As it turns out, one of London’s better reviewed Sichuan restaurants is a hop, skip and jump from our flat—we’ve already eaten there once and I’ll have a report once we’ve eaten there again. But how about non-Sichuan Chinese food?  Continue reading

Glenfarclas 10


Last week I reviewed the Glenfarclas 8—the malt that may or may not be the youngest age-stated malt in their lineup. The confusion stems from the fact that Winesearcher shows it on sale in many places in the EU (it was never available in the US) but Glenfarclas themselves don’t seem to list it on their website. The status of the 10 yo, however, is far clearer. Glenfarclas do not deny its existence on their website and it’s widely available everywhere, including the US. It may then be more accurate to say that this is effectively the entry-level malt in the Glenfarclas portfolio. In Minnesota it can be found in the low $30s but its average price nationally is $46. By the way, if you haven’t done so, you should check out the latest in Michael Kravitz’s annual parsing of production and price trends of Scotch whisky; the final entry in this year’s series lists, among other things, the rate of increase of price of most popular single malts—the Glenfarclas 10’s price has gone up almost 22% in the last 10 years. But what is it like?  Continue reading

Cauliflower-Corn Soup


As we are about to go out of town soon and about to turn our kitchen over to the people who will be living in our house while we are gone, I have been engaged for the last week in cooking to clear space in the fridge and cupboards for them. This, it turns out, is a pretty useful exercise. I’ve used up lots of vegetables that I would normally have probably forgotten about and allowed to rot; and I’ve also managed to use up some canned stuff I might have been embarrassed to have people see in my pantry. In the process I’ve actually come up with some recipes that we’ve really liked and which will enter my normal rotation when we’re back. This cauliflower-corn soup fits all those descriptions. It’s also easy, delicious and healthy: rich and creamy without the presence of cream. And if you’re the enterprising sort you can also replace the one potentially embarrassing ingredient with a more virtuous freshly made version. Continue reading

Squirrel, Three Ways

Braised squirrel with potatoes and olives.

No, nothing kinky: it’s just that about 10 days ago I cooked up squirrel in three different ways for a gathering at our house. I have a friend—well, let’s say acquaintance…or even better, let’s say there’s this guy I can’t avoid meeting from time to time who fancies himself a butch, outdoorsy type. He’s so much of a man that he even dares to take on the most dangerous game of all: squirrel. Late last year he bagged a few and I was supposed to cook them up back in December. We never quite got around to it but in all the talk other people got involved and interested and finally he had enough for us all (he’s not a very good shot, you see). Now, don’t worry there was nothing illegal about any of this. Squirrel hunting is legal (and our hunter is an environmental biologist)—there’s a daily limit of seven in our parts and the possession limit is thirteen; we had a total of eleven taken on several different occasions (see above for his issues with aim) and so we were square with the law. Oh yes, it’s also illegal to shoot firearms within city limits but before you call our mayor you should know that these were hunted outside the town.

[Be warned: there be pictures of squirrel carcasses ahead.] Continue reading

Glenfarclas 8


Here’s one for those who complain that I don’t review enough entry-level whisky. That said, I don’t think the Glenfarclas 8 is available in the US. I can’t remember seeing it, at any rate. Then again I haven’t looked for younger Glenfarclas for some time now. For what it’s worth, it doesn’t show up for the US market on Winesearcher either and nor does it seem to be available in the UK. It does seem to be widely available all over Europe and not for very much money. So it’s got that going for it. I’m mostly interested to see the progression from it to the 10 and 12 yo and from there to the 15 yo and 18 yo (this one’s Europe-only too, I think) and the 21 yo. I acquired most of these together in a bottle split some time ago (the 15 yo I’ve had many times before but I’ll probably buy another bottle for regular drinking in London). But let’s start with the 8 yo and see how it goes. I assume that, as with most Glenfarclas, this is from sherry casks of one kind or the other—but I could well be wrong.  Continue reading

Piccolo XI (One Last Time with Feeling)


Piccolo serves their last dinner tomorrow. Here now is my writeup of our last dinner at Piccolo.

Ever since we found out about the impending closing back in December we’ve gone back with a number of friends who enjoy the restaurant as much as we do, and we did so again last Friday. We are going to miss this jewel of a restaurant dearly. Yes, there are some other excellent fine dining restaurants in the Twin Cities—and yes, we’ll go back more often to some of them now (Alma and Spoon and Stable especially)—but what Chef Flicker and his team have accomplished at Piccolo is something quite unique. Yes, his mark is on Esker Grove at the Walker and will doubtless be on Tenant, the new restaurant from two members of his Piccolo team which will take over the Piccolo space, but of all the major closings in recent years this is, in my view, the most irreplaceable. Chef Flicker himself will be moving on to something altogether more informal and while I’m sure it will be excellent it is not going to be Piccolo. God knows he’s earned the right to do whatever he wants but this is a big loss for our dining scene.  Continue reading

El Triunfo, Three Years On (Northfield, MN)


It was almost three years ago that I first wrote up El Triunfo, a small family-run Mexican eatery and market in Northfield, MN. We’ve been eating there at a regular clip since and the time seems right to post a quick update on the blog. It’s not that there have been major changes to the menu. In fact, not only are there are no new things on the menu since I last reviewed them but a few things have dropped off the menu. Tragically, they no longer have goat barbacoa on the weekends (I was told a while ago that not enough people were ordering it) and some of the things on the regular menu have also dropped off. Business on the whole, however, I am happy to say, seems to be going really well. Continue reading

Aultmore 18, 1997 (SMWS)

Aultmore 18, 1997
This is the first Aultmore I’ve reviewed on the blog and it may, indeed, be the first Aultmore I’ve ever tried. I can’t recall another and nor can my spreadsheet. Always nice to taste the whisky of a distillery one has never tried before. Of course, there’s no guarantee that this is going to be representative of what they usually put out. Aultmore is in the Speyside and is part of Bacardi’s Scotch whisky holdings. The distillery was mostly known for producing for blends but a couple of years ago they suddenly starting releasing official single malts. Among their current regular releases are a 12 yo, an 18 yo and a 25 yo. I can’t recall how these have been received by the cognoscenti but if I like this one I might be motivated to seek at least the 12 yo out. In the meantime, I have absolutely no idea what Aultmore’s general profile is supposed to be like and so I am going into this with absolutely no preconceptions. Well, let’s get to it.  Continue reading

Tawakal (Burnsville, MN)

Tawakal: Mush Mush
Back to Somali food, back to Burnsville. Tawakal is located a little further south from the Twin Cities than Nawal: going north or south on Highway 35, you take the Burnsville Parkway east, turn left on Nicollet and it’s almost immediately on the right in a strip mall anchored, as is the law in Minnesota, by a Caribou Coffee. It’s much more established than Nawal is: it’s been around a while, has been written up in various Twin Cities publications (the pieces are pasted to a wall) and abuts a grocery store and boutique of the same name. But what is the food like? Read on.  Continue reading

Leaving Soon…

Queen
No, not the blog. Though I’m still not posting as much as was previously normal, and I’m not sure when I will be, the blog is not going anywhere. I am though. I am off to London in the middle of the month and will be there for a decent chunk of time on work. The trip will culminate—or so is the plan anyway—with a 10-day jaunt up to Scotland. The plan originally had been to take advantage of cheaper continental travel within Europe and go to Italy or France or Spain or the Netherlands, but if you are an Indian citizen living in Minnesota, getting a Schengen visa is a huge pain in the ass. So Scotland it is and it’s not just a consolation prize. I am telling you all this in order that I may ask for your input on a few things, some whisky-related, some food-related, and some Scotland-related. If you think you are in a position to answer these questions, read on!  Continue reading

Glen Grant 31, 1984 (Cadenhead’s)

Glen Grant 31, 1984, Cadenhead's
Last week I reviewed a bourbon cask Glen Grant that was distilled in 1985 and bottled in 2008. This week I have another Glen Grant from that era. This was distilled a year earlier but was bottled quite a bit later, in 2016 by Cadenhead’s. So, it’s not as untimely a review as the previous. It’s also not from a bourbon cask. Despite these important differences I’m interested to see if any obvious throughlines emerge from these two casks from the mid-1980s that might cause me to revise my skepticism about the notion of “distillery character”. I’m also interested to see how long-aged sherry cask Glen Grant from the mid-1980s compares to long-aged sherry cask Glen Grants from an earlier era—such as this excellent older release from Scott’s Selection.

(Cadenhead’s continues to use the -Glenlivet suffix on a number of their Speyside releases. Is this no longer prohibited?)  Continue reading