Looking Back, Looking Forward

Happy new year to all my regular and irregular readers, and also to all the bots who make up the bulk of my traffic. I hope you will all enjoy the lint I will be picking out of my navel in this post.

2018 was the busiest year by far on the blog so far; in terms of page views anyway, which rose by 30% over 2017. The more meaningful number, however, of unique visitors rose by a much more incremental 10% over the previous year—and if that seems high as well, I should tell you that the total unique visitors this year was actually 2% lower than the number of visitors in 2016 (though higher than 2013, 2014 and 2015 as well). I read these numbers as reflecting a shift in my readership, which I think now maps onto my view of the blog as being about whisky and food. 

I suspect that many of my newer readers are more interested in food than whisky. The sharper rise in page views is due, I’m pretty sure, to the larger number of images in restaurant and market reviews. And I also suspect that a good number of these newer readers came to the blog from the “East Metro St. Paul MN Foodies” Facebook page. Late in 2017, or maybe in early 2018, one of the administrators of that group, Mike McGuinness started linking to my reviews of establishments in the Twin Cities East Metro and this has resulted for the first time in my developing a local readership beyond my friends and enemies. Many thanks to Mike for his support of local food bloggers and to the members of the group who read along and comment. And if you’re in the Twin Cities area and interested in food, you should really join the group, which is easily the best source of information on food in more than just the East Metro.

Those of you who despair of my food posts should know that I still have a backlog of restaurant reviews from London in June, to which I’ve added as yet unwritten and unposted reviews from my recent trips to Hong Kong, Bombay and Delhi, and from Los Angeles (where I am writing this post). But if you’re not interested in this stuff, rest assured that my largely irrelevant whisky reviews will continue to emerge at a steady thrice weekly clip.

Okay, here are the top 10 most read posts overall for 2018 (in ranked order):

  1. Pineapple Chutney
  2. Glendronach Confusion (or What is a Single Cask?)
  3. Under Bridge Spicy Crab (Hong Kong)
  4. White Bean Curry with Green Peppers
  5. Evan Williams Single Barrel
  6. Shorshe-bata Maach/Fish in Mustard Paste
  7. Black Beans with Cracked Spices
  8. Highland Park 17, 1999, Full Volume
  9. A&L Chinese, Dim Sum Again (Inver Grove Heights, MN)
  10. Viet Hoa Lao (Eagan, MN)

So 7/10 food posts once again. The top whisky post continues to be my look at Glendronach’s “single cask” shenanigans, though it now yields top place overall to the recipe for pineapple chutney, which continues to be pretty much the sole source of my Pinterest traffic. And I continue to be tickled by the fact that my brief write-up of dinner at Under Bridge Spicy Crab in Hong Kong in January 2016 somehow continues to be one of the top Google results for searches for that restaurant. Only two actual whisky reviews in the top 10 and neither were posted this year. Unusually, my review of the latest Laphroaig Cairdeas did not crack the top 10. On the other hand, I was surprised to see my brief write-up of a small Vietnamese store in Eagan, Viet Hoa Lao squeaking in.

Might as well look and see what the top 10 most read restaurant posts of the year were:

  1. Under Bridge Spicy Crab (Hong Kong)
  2. A&L Chinese, Dim Sum Again (Inver Grove Heights, MN)
  3. Kolap: Cambodian Cuisine in St. Paul
  4. In Praise of the Twin Cities’ True Eat Street
  5. Ansari’s (Eagan, MN)
  6. Homi Again (St. Paul)
  7. Ruam Mit Thai (St. Paul)
  8. Babani’s Kurdish Restaurant (St. Paul)
  9. On’s Kitchen III (St. Paul)
  10. The Clove Club (London)

8/10 Twin Cities East Metro write-ups: what a surprise! (#11 and #12 are my reviews of Sole Cafe and Ichiddo Ramen, by the way.) Actually, the only real surprise is that my review of the Clove Club in London from 2016 is still getting a lot of views.  Now to hope that the Minneapolis and West Metro Foodies Facebook page will pick up steam in 2019 and bring some attention to my West Metro reviews as well…

And here are the top 10 spirits reviews of the year:

  1. Evan Williams Single Barrel
  2. Highland Park 17, 1999, Full Volume
  3. Ardbeg Grooves, Committee Release
  4. Laphroaig Cairdeas 2017
  5. Oban, Distiller’s Edition 2003-2017
  6. Laphroaig Cairdeas 2018
  7. Old Grand-Dad 80 Proof
  8. Lagavulin 12 CS 2017
  9. Springbank 14, 2002, Bourbon Wood
  10. Bowmore 20, 1997 (Old Particular for K&L)

All Nine official releases that are/were widely available, no surprise. And bourbon again over-represented relative to the very small number of actual bourbon reviews I post. You will be pleased to read therefore that my whisky reviews in 2019 will be largely of obscure independent releases of no-longer available single malt whiskies. You’re welcome!

The major whisky highlight of the year was not anything I drank. It was our second trip to Scotland in as many years. I stopped at and toured a number of distilleries in the Speyside and the Highlands—Pulteney, Tomatin and Highland Park were the highlights. As much as I enjoyed the whisky stops, however, I am again hard-pressed to say that they beat the natural beauty of Scotland; Orkney, in particular, was a highlight, a few days that meant a lot to us.

In terms of whiskies I did drink, I want to highlight first three young whiskies that were both very pleasant surprises and possible harbingers of positive directions in the Scottish whisky market: the new Ben Nevis 10, whose status seems to be a little cloudy already but which I think is currently the best entry-level whisky going and—in the UK at least—very well-priced. The other two were also from a distillery whose reputation has largely been dodgy: Loch Lomond. The first was a single cask Croftengea bottled by the Whisky Exchange. I bought a bottle in London in June, drank it down and ordered two more (that were delivered to a friend in London who took them to Delhi and left them with my sister from whom I picked them up last week and which I am now carrying back to Minnesota). Just excellent peaty, fruity whisky. The other is the regular, newer Loch Lomond 12. This was not released this year and it’s not a great whisky but I think it is a very solid whisky and at well below $40 in most US markets, it is perhaps the best value and with an age statement to boot. Check it out—it won’t cost you much (and more importantly, won’t cost me anything). Oh, and though not a surprise, I want to salute the consistency of the Springbank 12, Cask Strength as well. There is still a lot of good whisky being made and released in Scotland and it’s not all at the high end of the market.

The other major whisky drinking highlight was drinking whisky with friends and my goal is to do more of that this year. I’ve particularly enjoyed following along as three of my friends, Mike, Daniel and John, have independently become more and more interested in whisky.

Okay, on to the list of potential reviews for January!

  1. Amrut Amaze
  2. Arran 21, 1997 (Old Malt Cask 20th Anniversary Release)
  3. Balblair 1999-2016, Second Ed.
  4. Baraillon 33, 1985, K&L (Armagnac)
  5. Ben Nevis 20, 1997 (Berry Bros. & Rudd)
  6. Blair Athol 22, 1995 (First Editions)
  7. Bowmore 21, 1996 (Old Malt Cask)
  8. Bowmore 22, 1996, Cask 17091 (Old Malt Cask 20th Anniversary Release)
  9. Bowmore 22, 1996, Cask 17078 (Old Malt Cask 20th Anniversary Release)
  10. Bowmore 30, Sea Dragon
  11. Caol Ila 33, 1984 (Gordon & MacPhail)
  12. Compass Box Flaming Heart, 15th Anniversary
  13. Glen Grant 27, 1991 (Old Malt Cask 20th Anniversary Release)
  14. Glenmorangie Taghta
  15. Glenmorangie Tayne
  16. Glentauchers 20, 1997 (Signatory)
  17. Heaven Hill 6, Bottled in Bond
  18. Kavalan Peaty Cask
  19. Laphroaig 12, 2006 (Old Malt Cask 20th Anniversary Release)
  20. Laphroaig 17, 1999 (SMWS 29.190)
  21. Laphroaig 18, 1998 (Cadenhead)
  22. Ledaig 10, 2007, Pomerol Cask Finish (Chieftain’s)
  23. Ledaig 11, Time Series IV (The Whisky Exchange)
  24. Talisker 8, Older release
  25. Teaninich 29, 1983 (Signatory)
  26. Tomatin 15

If there are some of these you’re more interested in than others, by all means please write in below.

4 thoughts on “Looking Back, Looking Forward

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.