Touring Talisker, Summer 2017


As I said on Wednesday, our trip to Scotland was not centered on whisky. We spent most of our time out and about, on and by lochs, up and down hills, on beaches and roads, and inside and outside castles. But I’m not going to be posting about that stuff on the blog. What you’re going to get here is going to be strictly whisky and food, giving you the impression that the trip was in fact very whisky-centered. I’m going to start with Skye even though it wasn’t our first stop. Nor was Talisker the first distillery I visited in Scotland; but it was the first I toured.  Continue reading

eastZeast (Liverpool)


eastZeast, or however it is they write their name (I have even less of an idea of how you’re supposed to say it), is a northern English chain of Indian restaurants, with locations in Manchester, Liverpool, Preston and Birmingham. I have no clue what the other locations are like but the Liverpool branch’s design is a monument to bad taste. It looks like it was modeled on the mansions of international smugglers in ’70s Bombay cinema. People who fill their lobby with such couches and lamps are capable of anything. An urge to run out the door (past the burly man in kurta-pajama and a turban who might or might not have been South Asian) came upon me as I entered but I had to feed 15 people and the only other options in range were a branch of Pizza Express or the inevitable fish and chips. And so we stayed and waited for a table to be put together. When it was ready we sat down on shiny silver chairs and watched massive naans go by us, hung from metal hooks like so much tortured laundry, and contemplated the menu. Wouldn’t you know it, when the food arrived it was pretty good.  Continue reading

A Map of Scotland

If you’re like me there’s nothing you enjoy more than hearing stories about other people’s vacations and looking at their photographs of the things they saw and did. Well, you’re in luck! I just got back from a 10 day trip to Scotland and over the next few weeks I’m going to go on about it in nauseating detail. And so that you can plan your life accordingly, I am going to first give you a sense of what to expect from these posts; a road map, if you will, or more in keeping with our trip experience, a bit of Sat Nav guidance (generally, but not always, accurate).  Continue reading

Chilli Cool (London)


Dim sum
isn’t the only Chinese food we ate in London; we predictably also ate a fair bit of Sichuan. Predictably, because our love of Sichuan food is of a piece with the general food culture’s love of Sichuan food. Just as the Twin Cities have no other decent regional Chinese food worth the name but boast a handful of quite good Sichuan places, London too has seen an explosion of Sichuan restaurants in the last decade or so. Leading the way is the Barshu group, which in addition to their upscale eponymous restaurant also has a few hipper, more affordable outposts. We didn’t eat at Barshu but we did eat at another pricey Sichuan place opened by an ex-Barshu chef (more on this later) and at one of the Barshu group’s aforementioned hipper outposts (more on this later as well). First up, however, is this writeup of the altogether less fashionable Chilli Cool on Leigh St. in the King’s Cross area, a hop, skip and jump from the British Library and not too far from the British Museum (or, for that matter, the Dickens Museum). Continue reading

Glen Spey 15, 2001 (Cadenhead’s)


This is third of five Cadenhead’s Authentic Collection releases that I purchased in mini form from their Marylebone shop in early May. I’m afraid I did not care overmuch for the first two I’ve so far tried and reviewed: the Pulteney 11 yo I found to be overly sour and yeasty/bready; the Balmenach 12 was better but nothing worth getting excited about. I’m hopeful that this Glen Spey may continue the upward trend and move this series more firmly into the territory of the good.

I’ve not had or reviewed very many Glen Speys so far, only two older ones: the Diageo Special Release 21 yo from a few years ago (which I really liked) and a 25 yo from Archives (which disappointed a bit). Let’s see where this one, which is also from a bourbon cask, falls. Continue reading

Springbank 12 CS, Batch 14


After a geographically appropriate review on Wednesday (of a Caol Ila, posted while on Islay), I’m back to commemorating my first trip to Scotland by posting reviews of whiskies from distilleries that I’ve not actually visited or gone very close to. Well, in this case, we will be within 37 miles of Springbank a few hours after this review posts, but we’ll be turning in the other direction to drive back to Glasgow, where we’ll spend one night before returning to London on Saturday and then to Minnesota on Sunday. This has been a wonderful trip and I’ll have more posts about it than you can bear in the weeks to come. Though I did not tour many distilleries I did visit a bunch and have a lot of pictures. I will also have some reports on eating in the parts of Scotland we visited.

Okay, to the whisky! This is the 14th (current?) release of Springbank’s cask strength 12 yo. I’ve previously reviewed the 7th—the review was written in London, where I purchased the bottle and then drank it down at a very rapid clip. Though I don’t note this below it paired really well with all kinds of cheeseContinue reading

Caol Ila 12, 2002 (G&M for TWE)


Okay, here’s a geographically appropriate review for a change from my ongoing visit to Scotland. I previously posted reviews of a Speysider on the day we left for Glasgow, an Old Pulteney while leaving Drumnadrochit for Skye, and a Highland Park while leaving Skye for Islay. We’re still on Islay and this is a Caol Ila.

I’m not sure if I will make it to Caol Ila on this trip though I would like to at least see the outside of the distillery. I’d thought this would happen as our ferry arrived in Port Askaig from Kennacraig on Monday evening but apparently views of the distillery are only available from the ferry from/to Colonsay. Nonetheless, here’s a Caol Ila. This was bottled by Gordon & MacPhail for the Whisky Exchange and I purchased a bottle on one of my visits to their Covent Garden store. I drank it down before leaving London—the notes below were taken well before this preamble was written. Continue reading

Tamarind (London)


Okay, I’ve recently written up an iconic curry house (Tayyabs) and a hip, newer, small plates place (Gunpowder); for the next review of an Indian/South Asian restaurant let’s go back to a more formal restaurant. Tamarind, which opened in 1995 in its Mayfair location, holds a Michelin star and has done so for most of the time since it became one of the first Indian restaurants to receive one in 2001 (in fact, it may have been the first Indian restaurant to receive a Michelin star). It has been a major restaurant in the Indian food world for some time. So, even though its star has dimmed in recent years in comparison to newer places like Gymkhana and Benares, I’ve wanted to eat there. I was particularly interested because Tamarind is quite different from the other high-end Indians we’ve eaten at in London on this trip. Continue reading

Highland Park 19, 1995 (SMWSA)


Allow me to continue my geographically-inexact series of whisky reviews. Last week I posted a review of a Speyside whisky (a Balmenach) on the day I left for Glasgow, and a review of an Old Pulteney when up in the Highlands (okay, so that one wasn’t so far off the map). Today is our last day in Skye and as I don’t have any Talisker at hand I am posting this review of a Highland Park (which is at least also located on an island).

This was bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America and they saw fit to give it the name “Nordic Nosh”. It’s from a bourbon cask. The distillery doesn’t put out anything (?) that’s exclusively bourbon cask—even though ex-bourbon Highland Park can be excellent—but the indies pick up the slack. I quite liked the last ex-bourbon Highland Park from the SMWSA that I reviewed, so I’m hopeful.  Continue reading

Old Pulteney 9, 2006 (Malts of Scotland)


A few hours after this review gets posted I will be driving north from Glasgow into the Highlands. I will not be going as far as Wick (where Pulteney is located), only to the Drumnadrochit area. Still, it feels appropriate to post a review of a northern Highland malt while I’m in the general vicinity. And so here’s a young Old Pulteney. This is unusual in several respects. First, that it’s an independent bottling of Pulteney. Second, that despite being an independent bottling it bears the Old Pulteney name—the distillery’s name is Pulteney; “Old Pulteney” is more like a brand name. Third, it’s from a sherry cask. It’s not that no sherry casks are used in formulating the malts in Pulteney’s regular lineup but it’s not a distillery you think of when you think of sherry bombs. And this is very much a sherry bomb. It’s also very much an alcohol bomb, at almost 60% abv. And it’s a brash youngster too. I can also tell you right off the bat that it’s a lot better than the Cadenhead’s 11 yo I recently reviewed, which was also from 2006. Continue reading

Balmenach 12, 2004 (Cadenhead’s)


[We’re off to Scotland today. In a couple of weeks I’ll have some reports, probably, of the parts of our trip that are whisky-related (not many); but to commemorate my first-ever trip to Scotland I’m also going to post more whisky reviews this week and the next than I have been since I slowed down my pace of whisky reviewing earlier this year.]

Devoted readers will remember that I went to Cadenhead’s in London last month and only purchased five minis. What, you don’t remember?! And why are you sniggering when you read the words “devoted readers”? Anyway, I did buy five minis. I did not enjoy the first of those that I reviewed: an Old Pulteney 11. Here now is a slightly older Balmenach, also from their recent outturn. This was the only one of which full bottles are still available and so if I really like it I might go back and get one. I’ve not had very many Balmenachs but they’re certainly capable of putting out the kind of fruity ex-bourbon cask malt that I really like (see this older one from Signatory); they’re also capable of putting out malt I’m not crazy about (see this other older on from Signatory). Let’s see how this one goes.  Continue reading

Padella (London)


There have been two terror attacks in London since we’ve been here. The Westminster attack, four days after we arrived, involved a spot we’re often at—in fact, a spot we’d crossed just an hour before. This weekend’s London Bridge attack, four days before our departure, culminated at Borough Market, a place we visited a few times, and where I bought fish, bread and cheese just the evening before. I note this not to insert my unharmed self into what has been unimaginable tragedy for a number of people and continuing trauma for many others but to build to an inadequate but genuine tribute to London. Continue reading

Benromach 10, 100 Proof


Benromach, as you probably know, is owned by Gordon & MacPhail. When they purchased the distillery in 1993 it was in poor condition and it was only in 1998 that it was restored to working condition and re-opened. G&M had to install new stills at the time of bringing the distillery back to production—so it’s not the same whisky made by new owners. Still, G&M’s version of Benromach stays true to the distillery’s tradition of lightly peated whisky in the old Highlands style (see, for example, this 1978 from Scott’s Selection). Their 10 yo was first released in 2009 and then in 2014 there was a bit of a revamp of the line with new packaging. I’m not sure if the composition of the actual whisky changed but the new 10 yo got very good reviews from most whisky geeks—indeed, Ralfy named it his whisky of the year. Even more popular among a fair number of whisky geeks was this 100 proof version (we’re talking the British 100 proof) which showed up with the revamp, though it took a bit longer to come to the US. Continue reading

Tayyabs (London)


A few weeks ago I reviewed a meal at Lahore Kebab House, the iconic Pakistani Whitechapel curry house established in 1972. Here now is a write-up of lunch at their even more iconic contemporary and near-neighbour, Tayyabs, also established in 1972. I noted in my review of Lahore Kebab House that there seemed to be a pattern to the recommendations for one or the other: while both are very popular, I seemed to get more recommendations for Lahore Kebab House from South Asian friends and come across more raves for Tayyabs on food blogs and forums populated largely by non-South Asian foodies. Nonetheless, I said at the time of the first review, published on the morning of the day I ate at Tayyabs, that I expected the differences between the two kitchens would be negligible with preferences for one or the other down to loyalty. This would certainly seem to be indicated by their menus—which are both abbreviated (as curry houses go) and more or less identical. As it turned out, however, I thought my meal at Lahore Kebab House was clearly better than this similar meal at Tayyabs, and I much preferred the spartan mess halls charms of Lahore Kebab House to Tayyabs’ interiors. Continue reading