Springbank 12 CS, Batch 19


I’ve sung the praises of the Springbank distillery so often that I am not going to bother doing it again. Suffice it to say that in an industry that for the last decade has been seeming to move further and further away from what’s in the bottle, Springbank (and their younger siblings at Glengyle/Kilkerran) have been keeping it real, making the whisky they’ve always been making. And one of those whiskies is the 12 yo, cask strength. I’ve had a number of batches of these over the years (and I’ve reviewed a few) and I do believe I’ve liked them all a lot. The formulation has changed over the years; there’s now more bourbon casks than sherry in the mix—indeed, if the Whiskybase entry can be trusted, this is composed from 65% ex-bourbon and 35% ex-sherry casks. The 18 yo and above and their single cask releases are all priced quite high—this is my only major complaint about them—but the 10 yo and the 15 yo are still relative bargains and at <$80 this will be too if it’s as good as previous batches. Let’s see. Continue reading

Clynelish 23, 1995 (Signatory for K&L)


As I said in my post looking ahead to this month’s reviews, I recently participated in a split of a large number of bottles from K&L’s recent run of exclusive casks. In so doing I broke a promise to myself that I would not fall anymore for the promise of these exclusive casks, very few of which have in the past delivered for me. But I have poor impulse control. Hence this Clynelish which is being sold for $250 before tax, accompanied by K&L’s usual mix of over-the-top lyricism and incoherence. I don’t really spend this kind of money on any whisky anymore but I couldn’t resist 2 ounces to see if it could possibly live up to the breathless descriptions of it as a “legendary cask” of “superlative quality”, “deep and profound like the ocean itself” posing questions to the unprepared drinker such as “if you were a hotdog would you eat yourself?” and so on. Of course, what they don’t say is that there have been a large number of these sherried Clynelishes hitting the market in the last couple of years, getting more expensive each year—I reviewed a 21 yo, 1995 almost exactly two years ago, a Signatory exclusive for the Whisky Exchange that went for £120. Will this cask, two years older, really be so different from the sherried mean? Let’s see. Continue reading

A Return to Homi and the Question of Who Makes Money Cooking Mexican Food?


As I have said before, since the demise of La Huasteca, Homi on University Avenue in St. Paul (where else?) has been our favourite Mexican restaurant in the Twin Cities. I’ve reviewed it twice before (here and here). But I like to keep up on the blog with our favourite restaurants, not just eating there but also reporting on their trajectories over time, checking in on how things are going. Accordingly, I have another report today on a recent dinner at Homi. We ate there two weeks ago with friends after a rather disappointing theater outing (The Song of the Summer at Mixed Blood). The dinner, I am glad to say, was much better. Continue reading

Glenfarclas 20, 1986, Family Cask #3434


Glenfarclas has always had a very strong relationship with the whisky geek community. A very big part of this is explained by the fact that they put out good whisky in a range of ages and price points. Through the decade of NAS whisky from which we are now emerging Glenfarclas has continued to release age-stated whisky from 10 to 40 years of age. And while prices have risen towards the top of the range it is hard to feel resentful about this when you consider how fairly priced their 25 yo continues to be; it can still be found in the neighbourhood of $150. Compare with whisky of similar age from any other name distillery. Another part of their appeal to the whisky geek community has been that they are an independent family-owned distillery. This latter fact is doubtless connected to the first: they have no shareholders to please by squeezing out maximum profit from the youngest possible whisky, no expensive, gimmicky branding and so on. This is not to say that Glenfarclas does not put out any high-end whisky. Their Family Cask series, an early release from which I am reviewing today, comes in wooden boxes and costs a pretty penny. But, again, when you compare these releases to the excesses being perpetrated by many other distilleries it’s clear how different their ethos is. I believe the Family Cask series was launched in the late 2000s. In fact, it’s possible that this cask from 2007 was from one of the earliest releases, if not the first. If you know more about this, please write in below. For now let’s get to the review. Continue reading

Coming Soon…


Well, the year’s almost over. It’s the end of a decade as well, I guess, but I don’t have a month of reviews of 10 yo whiskies planned. (Or should it be a parade of 10-19 yo whiskies?) Instead, I have my usual grab bag. Less usually, I have a fair number of actually available and/or recently released whiskies in the mix. Through bottle splits I acquired a large parcel of K&L’s recent exclusives and seven of them show up on the list this month. There’s also the new batch of the Springbank 12 CS, which is doing the rounds in American stores and this year’s Ardbeg Day release, the Drum. The rest are mostly my normal mix of irrelevancies. Let me know which of these catch your eye and I will try to get to them. There were some nominees from November’s list that are still un-reviewed—those will probably get priority. Beyond the booze I’ll keep to my schedule of weekly Minnesota restaurant reviews and recipes. There’s even a chance that a certain book review I’ve been threatening for the better part of the year will finally get written. Let’s see how it goes. Continue reading

Stir-Fried Broccoli with Kashundi


Like any other above average Indian home cook in the United States, I’ve been told over the years by American dinner guests that I should open a restaurant etc. It’s flattering to be told this, of course, even if in the context of most Indian restaurants in the US it seems like somewhat dubious praise. Of course, I am never going to open a restaurant. But two and a half years ago I decided to scratch that occasional itch without flirting with bankruptcy, and launched a little series of “pop-up in my own home” dinners for eight. As a tribute to the North American curry house I call it India’s Gandhi Tandoori Bollywood Mahal. The guests are all friends and friends of friends and the dinners have become quite popular. I’ve done 14 of them so far. The first 13 were seven course meals with each course served individually plated. The recipe I have today was the second course at the tenth dinner. It is, as you will see, very much a slight play on a very traditional dish. I thought it came out very well, and the diners enjoyed it very much. Continue reading

Old Forester, Bottled in Bond


Let’s close out not-single malt Scotch whisky week, and also the month, with a bourbon review. The bourbon in question is the long defunct Old Forester Bottled in Bond. Now, there is a more recent Old Forester Bottled in Bond: the 1897 Bottled in Bond, which was released in 2015. But this is not that one. This is from an earlier period. As per my bourbon informants, the split DSP (Distilled Spirits Plant) numbers marked on the sample label indicates that this was made after 1980—as that was when the bourbon going into Old Forester began to be distilled at DSP 354 (the Early Times distillery). The split DSP, I am told, likely suggests distillation at plant 354 (the 345 marked on the sample label is a typo) and bottling at the old plant 414; and I think I was also told that these split DSP releases began to show up in the late 1980s. At any rate, this could not have been released after 1995 as that is when the old Bottled in Bond release went away. Now, why can’t I just ask the person who organized this bottle split if they know more about it? Well, because I have no memory of who I acquired this from or when. I’ve checked with likely sources and have completely struck out. So, if you have any more insight into this matter please write in below. And now let’s find out if the bourbon in the bottle is worth any of this fuss of trying to establish its provenance. Continue reading

Knappogue Castle 12 (for The Party Source)


This is the week of reviews of things that are not single malt Scotch whisky, I started off on Monday with a whisky that is almost single malt Scotch Whisky: Old Perth 21, 1996, a blended malt, i.e a blend of two malt whiskies. Today we leave Scotland completely but don’t go very far. Just across the water to Ireland.

Knappogue Castle is not a distillery, it is a brand. There actually is a castle called Knappogue Castle and it is in fact owned by the people who release Knappogue Castle whiskey but there is no distillation happening there—though you wouldn’t know this if you read the “Process” page on their website. Instead, the company purchases pot still whiskies from other distilleries and releases them under their label. I’m not sure if their whiskey is even sold in Ireland. The “Store Finder” map on their website shows only retailers and bars in the US. Perhaps someone who knows more about the brand—possibly even the source of my sample, the Marvelous Mr. Michael (see his review here)—can fill in the particulars. All I can tell you for sure is what I think of it. Ah yes, this was specially bottled for The Party Source in Kentucky, hence the 6 extra points of abv over the regular 40% 12 yo. Continue reading

Hyacinth II


We first ate at Hyacinth in March. That was a nice dinner but nothing so very special; and on our drive south all four of us agreed that if we lived in St. Paul we’d eat there every once in a while but that it wasn’t anything we needed to drive an hour each way and pay a sitter a lot of money for. Nonetheless, I had wanted to go back in the summer or early fall to see what their kitchen would do with the best of Minnesota produce but, alas, it wasn’t to be. But I did get a chance to go back earlier this month with friends from work (the missus wasn’t along). As it happens, I liked this meal more than our first. Here are the details. Continue reading

Old Perth 21, 1996


So far in November I’ve done a week of whiskies distilled in the 1990s; a week of whiskies distilled in the 1960s and 1970s; and a week of peated whiskies. Let’s close out the month with another random theme: whiskies that are not single malt Scotch whiskies. First up is one that’s pretty close to being a single malt Scotch whisky.

This Old Perth 21, I am told, is a blended malt—which is to say it is a vatting of single malt whiskies from different distilleries; there is no grain whisky in there. As per the source of my sample, The Mighty Kravitz, there may be Glen Grant in here (I got this from his review which you can read here) and also some species of peated malt. None of that is for certain. What is certain is that this is supposed to be from a single sherry cask. Now, how does a blended malt emerge from a single anything cask? It seems highly unlikely that someone would have blended malts from two distilleries from the get-go and matured the vatting for 21 years in a cask. So, most probably, two casks were dumped into a single sherry cask for some small fraction of the 21 years on the label. And given that the outturn was 330 bottles it seems all but certain that cask was a butt (where did the rest of it go?). Anyway, let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading

Three More Thalis at Kabob’s (Bloomington, MN)


Hello! I ate my first lunch thali at Kabob’s in Bloomington late last month and had to post about it right away. That thali was so good, I pronounced t the best lunch deal and probably the best Indian food in the Twin Cities Metro. I’ve since eaten the lunch thali there on a few more occasions and I stand by both those assertions. If there is a better lunch deal in the area I would like to know what it is. And if there is better Indian food to be had I would love to eat it. In the meantime I find myself manufacturing reasons to drive through Bloomington at lunch time. I stopped in two more times just this week, once with the missus and once alone. Having come upon this unlikely jewel so late I have now predictably turned into a one-man advertising agency for them. They have no idea I am writing about them but I must urge you all to go eat their wonderful thalis. There’ll be no butter chicken, saag paneer or dal makhni; you won’t always know what’s in the bowls (see below for my recent confusion) but if you like delicious food prepared with care you will love it. Continue reading

Beetroot Poriyal


I’ve mentioned on many occasions before that growing up in India in the 1970s and 1980s my sense of South Indian food—like that of most North Indians—was restricted to the idli-dosa-vada-sambhar-rasam complex. It wasn’t till much later—not till I had left India, in fact—that my limited view of South Indian cuisines really began to open up. I don’t mean to imply that this opening up required leaving India because, of course, it did not: it’s only that it was in that time period—in the late 1990s and 2000s—that I began to become truly aware of the wider world of South Indian food. This  was due both to the publication in that period of higher profile English language Indian cookbooks on regional cuisines (see the titles in the excellent Penguin series) and to the first flowering of the South Asian food web on forums and then blogs. As I began to cook some of these dishes—this was also the period in which South Indian ingredients began to become easily available in South Asian groceries in the US—I was particularly drawn to poriyals. Continue reading

Who Judges Indian Food Writing? (And a Couple of Other Annoyances)


Here, just in time for Thanksgiving, is the latest entry in my series of occasional posts that cast a cold eye on the coverage of Indian food in the American food media. (See here for all the other entries so far.) Don’t worry: unlike my previous entry, on curry denialism, this is not 50,000 words long (even though curry denialism rears its head again here). You should be able to finish reading it before the year ends.

It’s true that with the busy season at work I’ve not had a lot of time to look at food Twitter—my main source of material for this series—very closely in the last few months. Nonetheless, it does seem to me that there’s been less egregious stuff written recently about Indian food than in months previous. If you disagree please point me to things I may have missed, in the comments or via private message. In the meantime, here are three things that recently caught my eye and which I have some reservations about. One of them is not even strictly speaking from the American food media, though it does have to do with a Condé Nast publication. I’ll start there. Continue reading

Glen Ord 18, 1996 (Blackadder)


Another whisky distilled in the 1990s, another Glen Ord. I wasn’t sure I was going to get to this one this month but after Diageo announced an 18 yo Singleton of Glen Ord as part of their 2019 slate of over-priced releases I figured the time was right: that if there was ever going to be a surge of interest in 18 yo Glen Ord it would be now; and who better than me to stand poised to ride that wave all the way to marginally less irrelevance than I now boast in the marketplace of content.

The last couple of teenaged Glen Ords I’ve had—including Tuesday’s 15 yo—have been very good but nothing very exciting. Let’s see if this 18 yo does a little more for me and makes me consider paying a large amount of money for the new Singleton 18 yo for a few minutes before I slap myself across the head for being a fucking idiot. Continue reading