Tap 8, Canadian Rye


Earlier in the month I had a review of a craft whiskey from a distillery in Montana that I had not heard of till a friend gave me the sample. Here now is a review of another whisky I had not heard of till a friend gave me a sample. It is from a place even more inscrutable and mysterious than Montana: Canada. And in no sphere is Canadian inscrutability better embodied than in its whisky industry. No one knows which distillery anything is distilled at. In fact, it’s not clear if there’s more than one distillery or if Alberta Distillers just slaps different labels on its bottles on different days of the week. Adding to the confusion is the fact that producers are allowed to flavour their whiskies with anything they like. I’m told most use maple syrup. Which means this mystery Canadian whisky is even more unusual still for it is made by adding amontillado sherry to the original rye. Now you might say that adding sherry to whisky is effectively what most Scottish distilleries do too, with their sherry finishes and whiskies “matured” in casks pressure treated with cooking sherry. But trust wild, impetuous, madcap Canada to flaunt their lawlessness in all our faces and just go ahead and pour sherry right into their rye. What a bunch of outlaws! Continue reading

Martin’s Corner (Betalbatim, Goa, Jan 2020)


As I’ve mentioned before, after two weeks in Delhi in January we went down to Goa for a week. Old college friends have a lovely home in South Goa that they opened up to us. Ten minutes from Cavelossim Beach and far, far away from tourist-intensive North Goa, this was as idyllic a family vacation as we could have hoped for—especially given how cold it was in Southern Minnesota at the time! We hired a cook from the village to cook breakfasts and dinners for us—the latter all centered on fish and shellfish I purchased from the local market (see my report on those shopping expeditions). Lunches, however, we ate out. Alas, our lunch on our first full day was not very good. Ignoring the warnings of far better informed people, we chose to eat at a shack at the beach. The food was marginal and the convenience of not having to leave the beach to eat it was not any consolation. We’d eaten dinner out as well a few hours after arrival the previous night, and while that had been a lot better than our beach shack lunch, it had not been any great shakes either. My dream of eating excellent Goan food twice a day was in danger of fizzling before our week even got properly underway—especially as miscommunication with our cook resulted in his preparing a debut dinner later that day that was centered mostly on sugar (I said, “put a pinch of sugar in the boys’ dal”, he proceeded to put a LOT of sugar into everything). Thankfully, everything was reset at lunch on our second full day. That lunch was at Martin’s Corner. We didn’t have a bad meal after that. Continue reading

Laphroaig 21, 200th Anniversary Release


Today is my 50th birthday. And to mark the occasion I have a review of a whisky from my favourite distillery, Laphroaig. These notes were, of course, not taken today, but I look forward to drinking some more of it tonight—along with a couple of other things. This 21 yo was released to mark the distillery’s 200th anniversary in 2015, one of several bottles released for that commemorative purpose. One of my favourite recent official Laphroaigs was also part of that larger release: the 2015 Cairdeas. On the other hand, I was not blown away by the one-off return of the 15 yo that was also part of the group. Hopefully, this 21 yo will be more in line with the former than with the latter. Unlike those releases this was only available as a 350 ml bottle and initially only available via ballot. It didn’t sell out immediately, however: £99 for 350 ml may have seemed like a lot to people then, I suppose. And the price didn’t seem to rise very quickly on the secondary market either. I purchased it at auction a couple of years later and I believe I paid the original price. Of course, now it would be a different story: £99 would seem like a steal for an official Laphroaig 21. Anyway, let’s see if it gets my 50th birthday celebrations off to a good early start. Continue reading

Bharat Bazaar (Bloomington, MN)


My slow-motion survey of South Asian groceries in the greater Twin Cities metro area continues. And I mean slow-motion: the last entry was made more than a year ago when I reported on the then new’ish Mantra Bazaar in Apple Valley; the one before that was on Lekali Pasal, the Nepali store in Hmongtown Marketplace. Mantra Bazaar has expanded since my report—it took over the space of the adjacent business and now has a meat counter. I’m not sure if Lekali Pasal is still around at Hmongtown Marketplace—I should check but in the meantime, if you know, please write in. Today I have a report on another Indian store in the suburbs. The suburb this time is Bloomington (also home to TBS Mart) and the store is Bharat Bazaar, which has been around since the middle of 2017. Continue reading

Benrinnes 15, 2003 (Old Particular for K&L)


Benrinnes is a distillery whose whiskies I always find interesting. Sadly, I don’t often get a chance to taste them as there’s not a lot of it around—not in the US anyway. I’ve only reviewed a small handful on the blog. The last time I reviewed a Benrinnes bottled as an exclusive cask for K&L the bottler was Signatory and the cask was 20 years old. Now the bottler is Old Particular and the cask is 15 years old. However, as you will see, I had a similar experience with both: finding notes in them that I was not prepared for by K&L’s tasting notes, in particular, a fair bit of peat. I noted last time that I had worried that the sample had been mislabeled but then heard from others who had found similar things in it. This time I’ve not heard from anyone else. If you too have a sample of this whisky or, better still, an open bottle, do write in below to say if my notes track at all with yours. I’m particularly interested in hearing from you if you are not an employee of K&L. Let’s get to it.
Continue reading

Punjabi By Nature II (Delhi, Jan 2020)


We enjoyed our buffet lunch at Made in Punjab at the start of our stay in Delhi but, as I said at the end of my review, we liked the Punjabi lunch we had the next week even more. That lunch was at Punjabi By Nature, the OG upscale new wave Punjabi restaurant. We last ate there in 2016 and that write-up has some background information on the restaurant and the larger phenomenon of the rise of fancier Punjabi restaurants in Delhi in the era of liberalization. I won’t go into all that again in this report—you can go read the first few paragraphs of the earlier one if you’re so interested. I am happy to be able to tell you, however, that this meal was as good as our previous, which is to say, it was very good indeed. Indeed having now eaten at most of the major contenders I would say that Punjabi by Nature may still be atop the category. Continue reading

Blair Athol 21, 1997 (Old Particular for K&L)


It’s time for my annual Blair Athol review. I’ve not reviewed very many of them and all the ones I’ve previously reviewed have been from sherry casks, I believe (this includes the official 12 yo Flora & Fauna release which may or may not be still a thing). This one, however, is from a bourbon cask, and like many of K&L’s casks from their recent release it’s from a refill hogshead. It’s always interesting to try a malt in a different guise than its norm and refill hogsheads are—in principle anyway—a good thing. Let’s see if this one rewards that confidence.

Blair Athol 21, 1997 (56.1%; Old Particular for K&L; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: Malt, a bit of sugar, some apple. Pleasant but somewhat generic right off the bat. With a bit of time there’s some more sweeter fruit (berries of some kind) but it’s still not terribly interesting. With more time there’s some vanilla and some pastry crust. With time and a few drops of water the fruit is a little more pronounced. Continue reading

Thai Street Market (St. Paul, MN)


Thai Street Market, which opened a couple of years ago is located in the northeast quadrant of St. Paul, just short of the northwestern snout of Maplewood (a very oddly shaped city; I cannot be the first to think that the top bit looks like the outline of a drawing of a dog’s head). I’ve been seeing very positive notices of it online for a while now but it’s been hard for us to go past the University Ave. stalwarts while on the hunt for Thai food. After a very satisfying exploration late last year of Krungthep Thai‘s menu, however, we were finally motivated to give Thai Street Market a go. In fact, it is also located on Rice St., just about a mile north of Krungthep Thai. We descended on them this weekend with four of our regular eating out crew. Here is what we found. Continue reading

Swiftcurrent Single Malt


Here is a whisky you have probably not heard of before, from a distillery you’ve probably not heard of before. At least I had not heard of either before my friend Mike offered me a sample from his bottle. Mike spends a lot of time in Montana—in his cabin, working on his manifesto—and the distillery, Glacier Distilling, is a Montana micro-distillery. You can read more about them and find out more about their products on their website. What you won’t find there is any mention of this particular release, Swiftcurrent. I certainly didn’t. Only 742 375 ml bottles were made and I believe they were only available at the distillery. The whisky is said to be 3+ years old, which I think we can take to mean that most of it is just about 3 years old. And as per the back of the bottle it was matured in quarter casks. Young whisky from a micro-distillery, matured in small casks? Sounds like a recipe for disaster. But you know me, I always assume the best. Let’s hope this doesn’t let me down. Continue reading

Cafe Lota IV (Delhi, Jan 2020)


We first ate at Cafe Lota in January 2014, just a few months after it had opened at the Crafts Museum. Since then we/I have gone back there on every trip (the one exception being in 2017 when I visited Delhi very briefly on account of a family emergency). We were enthusiastic about our first meals there in 2014; the two visits since then, in 2016 and 2018, yielded somewhat more uneven results with the departure of the original chef a possible reason. I still maintained, however, that it was one of the better and more interesting restaurants in Delhi and so there was not much question that we would go back there again on this trip. Continue reading

Made in Punjab (Delhi, Jan 2020)


My reviews so far from our sojourn in Delhi in January (we have been back in Minnesota for a week now) may have given you the impression that we did not eat any North Indian food on this trip. Now, it’s true that we ate far less North Indian food on this trip than we usually do but we did eat some. In fact, our very first meal out was at a Punjabi restaurant, the aptly named Made in Punjab. We were at the NOIDA Mall of India for some wedding present shopping for later in the trip and of the many restaurant options the boys selected this one. I didn’t put up too much resistance either. I have very little interest in North Indian curry houses in the US but the genre is a very different proposition in Delhi. The boys were motivated by the promise of tandoori chicken and naans—it’s somewhat pathetic just how much better these basic dishes are at pretty much any halfway-decent North Indian restaurant in Delhi than anywhere in the US. I hoped there might be other kababs that might also be pleasing. I am happy to report we were all happy with our meal. Continue reading

Ben Nevis 18, 2001 (Old Particular for K&L)


Let’s close out the week’s whisky reviews with yet another K&L exclusive. On Monday I reviewed a Tamdhu 19. I liked it, thought it was very drinkable indeed, but was not blown away by it. Today I have a Ben Nevis that is a year younger. As regular readers of the blog know, I am generally a big fan of contemporary Ben Nevis. The distillery’s malt usually provides a very unique mix of fruit, malt and a characteristic funk that is very hard to describe. Will this one be in that vein? I certainly hope so. Let’s see.

Ben Nevis 18, 2001 (52.8%; Old Particular for K&L; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: Takes a few seconds to open up and then there’s some lemon with a prickly, peppery mineral note alongside. Below that is some malt, some sweet notes of vanilla and cream and just a bit of that Ben Nevis gasoline funk. As it sits richer, muskier fruit begins to gather in the background but doesn’t quite pop out—maybe with more time? Well, not so much with time but with water there’s sweeter fruit (peach?) and it melds nicely with the malt and the cream. Continue reading

Old Blends: Black & White, Late 1940s/Early 1950s


There are a lot of things I post on the blog that most of my old whisky readership has no interest in: recipes, restaurant reviews, pictures of markets, reviews of old blended whiskies. Accordingly, here is a review of a Black & White released sometime in the late 1940s or early 1950s. I expect it will be enjoyed by the tens of visitors who also read my review of a late 1940s/early 1950s Ballantine’s back in December. As for myself, I will be happy if I like this one as much as I liked that one. This is not actually my first review of a Black & White from the days of yore. Back in 2013, just a few months into the blog’s existence, I’d reviewed one from the 1960s. That was an unscored review but my notes indicate that I quite liked it. Let’s see how this one fares.

Black & White (43.4%; Late 1940s/Early 1950s release; from a bottle split)

Nose: Mild sweet notes (orange) mixed with putty and a decent whack of peat (though not medicinal). The peat gets more organic as it sits (dead rat). Some brine in there too with time. Gets maltier with a few drops of water and some mildly honeyed notes emerge as well. Continue reading

Pho Valley II (Apple Valley, MN)


There are three dedicated Vietnamese restaurants in the Apple Valley-Lakeville area (that I know of): Pho Everest, Simplee Pho and Pho Valley. I’ve reviewed them all in the past and am now in the process of checking in on them all again. I re-reviewed Pho Everest last year and here I am now with a second look at Pho Valley. It is very conveniently situated for us for lunches on the way back from the Burnsville Costco—though the opening of Kumar’s Mess in the same mega-strip mall has cut a bit into the amount of custom we’ve been giving them of late. Still, in the Minnesota winter it’s hard to pass up a good bowl of noodle soup and Pho Valley’s pho broth has in the past  been superior in our estimation to that at their local competition. Is that still the case? Continue reading