Ee-usk, Oban (Scotland)


When last seen eating in Scotland we were on Skye, at the Claymore in Broadford. I now pick up the story on the next day when we drove south to Tarbert to take the ferry to Islay. We’d left the day’s plans open. I was not sure of how much time to budget for the drive but decided to err on the side of caution—arriving an hour or more early for the ferry being a much better option than cutting it too fine and missing it. We weren’t sure where we’d stop for lunch. We’d hoped that that if the weather held up we’d be able to explore Glen Coe a little bit and figured we’d find somewhere to eat in the vicinity—maybe at the Lochleven Seafood Cafe. As it happened, the day was grey and wet and there was no question of stopping for a ramble. And it was too early for lunch. And so we kept going and stopped in Oban instead to eat. I’ve already posted a bit about the opportunistic visit to the distillery that resulted from this stop; here now is a quick account of our lunch at the wonderfully named Ee-usk*. Continue reading

Gazpacho a la Menu del Dia


It has been a while since my last recipe post—the last one was this one for a cauliflower-corn soup. Five months later I have another soup but it’s tomato-based and is actually seasonally appropriate: gazpacho. The recipe is from Rohan Daft’s excellent book of traditional, hearty Spanish recipes, Menu del Dia. I’m about the opposite of an authority on Spanish cuisine and I have no strong opinions about how a gazpacho should be made but I can tell you that I prefer this gazpacho to the styles more commonly available in American restaurants. It is thickened with stale bread and it is pureed to a smooth consistency. In August in Minnesota we eat a lot of it in our house: it’s when the tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers in my garden are coming ripe and our CSA has fresh garlic: it’s the very taste of summer.  Continue reading

Tomintoul 30, 1985 (Cadenhead)


Please admire the picture of the empty sample bottle at left. I failed to take a photograph of it before drinking the contents. I did remember to take tasting notes on it though, so that’s something.

I have so far reviewed only four Tomintouls on the blog. Only one was a young expression and that was a 8 yo from some decades ago. The others may well have been distilled around the same time as that one but were bottle at much older ages: a 45 yo for Chester Whisky, a 44 yo released in the US by Samaroli and a 42 yo from Kintra Whisky. I liked them all. For a while at least, super-aged Tomintouls from the late 1960s were ubiquitous and given the distillery’s low-key reputation, not very expensive. This one is also old—though not quite as old as those three indies—but is from 1985. It’s a single cask bottled by Cadenhead last year, I believe. And as with so many Cadenhead releases from Speyside distilleries it bears the Glenlivet suffix, which I was under the impression the Glenlivet distillery had long ago managed to prevent other distilleries from using. If anyone knows how Cadenhead gets to keep using it, please let me know. Continue reading

Fish and Chips at the Laughing Halibut (London)


As I began to write this post I was overcome by a huge wave of nostalgia; so much so that I began to look at Airbnb listings for London. This is not because I am so desperate to go back and eat fish and chips at the Laughing Halibut; it is because beginning to describe why we ate there at all took me back to everything we loved about our three months in London this spring. Courtesy my employers, we lived in a smart flat in Westminster. This was great in almost every way: a 15 walk to St James’ Park—where we went with the boys every other day; a 15 minute walk to Tate Britain (though we didn’t go as often as we should have); pretty much in the shadow of Westminster Abbey (though we only went a few days before we left); a 10 minute walk from the St. James’ Park and Westminster tube stations, a 20 minute walk from Victoria station; within easy reach of pretty much everywhere in central London. It wasn’t so good for for food though.  Continue reading

Kilchoman


Here now is my last distillery report from our visit to Scotland in June. Fittingly, it’s of the most recently built, functioning distillery on Islay, Kilchoman. The smallest distillery on the island, it’s the one that’s least like the others: the most remote (relatively speaking), located not on the water but among farms, and absolutely independently owned. I’ve liked their malt since the very first one I ever tasted—a 3 yo bottled for Binny’s in 2010—and so I was glad to be able to stop in for a few minutes on our way for a ramble around Machir Bay (Kilchoman may not be on the water but you’re never far from the water on Islay). Continue reading

Is It Worth It? Buying Old(er) Whisky in 2017


This post is brought to you by two recent questions. One was asked of me last week by (ir)regular commenter Ol’ Jas regarding a 1977 Pulteney bottled by Scott’s Selection in the mid-2000s: he wanted input on whether it was worth it at the price. This pointed question focused for me another I’d been turning over in the back of my mind in the last couple of weeks while drinking down a bottle of Talisker 18, purchased some years ago at a much lower price than is currently being asked for it: it’s a whisky I like a lot, it’s one of the first whiskies I thought of as great when I first started getting into single malts in a big way, but I can’t be sure that I will ever buy a bottle of it again. Both scenarios have shifting price in common—that bottle of Pulteney was also being sold for quite a bit more than would have been asked for it five years ago, leave alone at release—but they’re not quite the same thing. And there are, of course, other kinds of scenarios as well which arise in relation to changing prices and the nebulous questions of value. And so, I thought I’d turn this into a blog post in its own right, less with a view to settling these questions and more to ask my readers how you negotiate them. Continue reading

Aultmore 19, 1997 (Cadenhead’s)


Here is the fourth of five minis I purchased from Cadenhead’s shop in London in early May. They were all from their early 2017 outturn, I believe. I have previously reviewed the Pulteney 11, 2006, the Balmenach 12, 2004 and the Glen Spey 15, 2001: in order of increasing age, and I liked them pretty much in that order. If the pattern holds I should like this Aultmore 19 even more than I did the Glen Spey—which will be good as none of the others got me very excited. I’ve had and reviewed very few Aultmores before this but have liked the others—including the official 12 yo. My hopes are therefore high on that count as well.

(I seem to have unaccountably not taken a separate picture of this mini before opening it, drinking the contents and throwing the bottle away, but, if you hold up a magnifying glass and squint, you can see it right behind the Glen Spey.)  Continue reading

The Claymore, Skye (Scotland)


The Claymore was our fourth restaurant meal on Skye. We’d previously eaten at the Oyster Shed in Carbost, Cuchullin in Portree and Creelers in Broadford. Claymore is also in Broadford, more or less just down the hill from Creelers. We very much enjoyed all those other meals and were hoping to eat more excellent seafood at the Claymore. We were also hoping that we’d be lucky and manage to get a table. The Claymore does not take reservations and their website encourages people to not call for one (it’s also not clear from the website if the restaurant’s name is just Claymore or the Claymore Restaurant). Well, we got the last free table when we arrived at about 6.30. We couldn’t get a table in their bright, main dining room with a view of the bay; but with everyone after us being either turned away or being told to wait for 30-45 minutes, we had no complaints. And when the food arrived we had no complaints on that front either. Continue reading

Cinnamon Lounge (Isleworth, London)


I’ve already reviewed a London curry house with no ambitions to being anything other than a curry house. Here now is a review of a Sunday lunch buffet at another: Cinnamon Lounge. It is located even further west than Shepherd’s Bush, on Twickenham Road in Isleworth. Isleworth is part of the London borough of Hounslow—but I confess that I don’t quite understand London’s political geography: if Isleworth is not actually in London, please let me know. I can tell you with confidence that Hounslow and environs have a large South Asian population, and this is the kind of thing that gives you confidence in a curry house’s Sunday lunch buffet. The other reason for confidence was that this lunch was part of an extended family shindig organized by one of my cousins (who, indeed, lives in Hounslow). And everyone on that side of my extended family is obsessed with food. I am pleased to tell you that this confidence did not founder on the harsh shoals of reality—this was a nice lunch. Continue reading

Bruichladdich, Barely (Summer 2017)


Here is my penultimate distillery visit report from our recent visit to Islay. I’ve already gone over my longer visits to Lagavulin, Laphroaig and Bowmore (where I did tours) and to Ardbeg (where we ate lunch) and short stops at Bunnahabhain and Caol Ila. Here now is a brief look at Bruichladdich. We stopped here a little after my tour at Bowmore. We were on our way to Portnahaven, trying to figure out where to have lunch, and stopped at Bruichladdich to see if they might have a cafe (for some reason I’d thought they might). They do not, but I took the opportunity to take a quick look around and take a bunch of photographs.  Continue reading

Glen Grant 22, 1992 (Single Malts of Scotland)


Here is the last of the Glen Grants I’d said I’d review back in February; and it’s the last Glen Grant I’ll probably review for a while. Like the Whisky-fässle and Maltbarn bottles I reviewed recently, this is also from 1992, but it is two years older than those two. It’s also unlike them in that it’s smoky, which I was not quite expecting. Now, the Whisky Exchange’s notes do mention “a distinct whiff of wood smoke” but there’s quite a bit more than a whiff here—everyone in my local tasting group remarked it when the bottle was opened earlier this year and if anything it’s got stronger as the bottle’s stayed open. In fact, I would say it’s smokier than indicated in Whisky Magazine’s notes, which do mention smoke. Surprisingly, Serge Valentin’s notes on Whiskyfun don’t mention smoke at all—that one’s a bit of a head-scratcher; there are no notes on it on Whiskybase. If you’ve had it, please write in and let me know if you found no/faint/palpable smoky notes.  Continue reading

At Ardbeg, Pt. 2: Lunch (Scotland)


On Wednesday I posted a brief description of the Ardbeg distillery grounds and visitor centre, replete with far too many photographs. Today I have a brief write-up of two lunches at their Old Kiln Cafe, which were the focal points of our visits to the distillery. Don’t worry, there aren’t quite as many photographs today though I do have—in what represents either a high or low for me (depending on your point of view)—four separate pictures of the same dish. The food on Islay, with one exception, was far better than I’d expected it would be, and our lunches at the Old Kiln Cafe were, in sum, the best of our meals on the island.  Continue reading

Lunch at Cuchullin + Breakfast at Hillview, Skye (Scotland)


We only spent one full day on Skye—a fact that I sorely regret. But it was a very good day. We spent the morning at the so-called Fairy Glens up near Uig. Their location is a bit hard to get a fix on but and the last bit of the drive, on a very hilly one-track road with quite a bit of traffic, is not fun, but this was one of our favourite outings in Scotland. And we lucked into a bright sunny morning to boot. We decided to eat lunch in Portree before heading to Dunvegan Castle in the afternoon and it began to rain as we made our way there. We parked in the central square in Portree. None of the parking machines seemed to be working but everyone seemed to be parking anyway and we took a chance (and happily didn’t get a ticket). As the rain was picking up we went into the first restaurant that caught our eye, Cuchullin. And we didn’t regret it. Here is a quick report on our lunch followed by a quick plug for the b&b we stayed at in Broadford, Hillview, and especially their breakfasts. Continue reading

At Ardbeg, Pt. 1 (Summer 2017)


We visited Ardbeg on our first and second full days on Islay but on neither occasion was it for whisky-centered action. I did not do any of the tours or tastings the distillery offers. Instead, we were there to eat. Old Islay-hands already know this but Ardbeg’s Old Kiln Cafe may very well be the best place to eat on Islay—it certainly was where we had our best meals. I’d originally thought I’d only have the one post on our visits to Ardbeg, centered on food. But when the time came to resize and crop pics this weekend I discovered that, predictably, I’d taken an amount known to mathematicians as a shit-tonne—and I felt that it would be cruel to deny you the opportunity to look at all of them: many of which are of the same subject from multiple angles, taken with different white balance and aperture settings on different cameras. (There is no need to thank me.) Accordingly, my post on the Old Kiln Cafe will come on Friday. Today I have pictures of the distillery grounds and the visitor centre/shop, which we wandered while waiting for tables to open up.  Continue reading