Kavalan 8, 2006, Peaty Cask


It’s been a while since my last Kavalan review; more than three years, actually. That was a review of one of their Solist sherry casks. To be honest, I’ve not really kept up with Kavalan over the years. Their whiskies, at least the ones available in the US fall into two categories: affordable but unremarkable; and good but very expensive. And I’ve more or less given up on buying expensive whisky. And it’s also fair to say that it’s not just Kavalan that I’ve not kept up with—I’ve become rather disconnected from the the whisky world in general. But that’s another post for another day. Here is an unusual Kavalan: one of their “Peaty Cask” releases. I *think* this is regular Kavalan spirit matured or finished in an imported cask that had held peated whisky. If not, someone will be around shortly to correct me. And, no, this is not a new release—it came out in 2015 or so. I purchased a sample with a view towards possibly purchasing a bottle and then promptly forgot about it. I think I’ve been threatening to review it for the last year or so. Anyway, here it is now. Continue reading

Bantam King (Washington D.C.)


My first report from our brief sojourn in DC last week was of our first meal: dinner at Baby Wale. I’d planned to go in order but instead here is a report of our last formal meal in DC: ramen at Bantam King. As with Baby Wale, Bantam King was a recommendation from the excellent community at DonRockwell.com. We’d originally planned to do our ramen eating at Daikaya but it turned out that they were participating in Restaurant Week and were only serving a Restaurant Week menu for dinner with a minimum spend of $35/head. We were only too happy to swap it out for Bantam King. And then we were quite happy with our meal. Continue reading

Lagavulin 24, 1991, Feis Ile 2015


I’m hoping to get to this year’s Laphroaig Cairdeas release by the end of the month but in the meantime here is another Feis Ile release from Islay’s south shore. This is not this year’s Lagavulin release though; it is the one they put out in 2015. At 24 years old it’s one of the older releases at recent Feis Iles. It’s also somewhat complicatedly made, being triple matured: first in ex-bourbon casks, then in PX sherry casks and then finally in oak puncheons (presumably either not sherry or refilled so many times as to not matter). The PX sherry maturation was apparently the briefest of the three. This was said to have been selected by the excellent Pinkie McArthur but I’m not sure exactly what that means in this case as there were 3500 bottles released—probably 6-8 puncheons worth at 59.9%. Were there in fact far more of these triple-matured puncheons, a few of which Pinkie selected to be vatted for Feis Ile 2015? That would appear to be the explanation. That makes you wonder what is happening/happened with the rest. Well, I cannot answer that question but I can tell you what I think of this bottle which I recently opened several years after acquiring it at auction for a king’s ransom (well, maybe not a very important king). Continue reading

World’s Best Donuts (Grand Marais, MN)


For a small tourist town Grand Marais engenders quite a lot of disagreement about its restaurants. For every person who told me we had to be sure to eat at Angry Trout, another said it was overrated; some said the Dockside Fish Market was great, others said it had declined in the last few years; a few said the Naniboujou Lodge‘s dining room was a must-do, others advised steering clear. There were only two places that rose above this discord: Crooked Spoon Cafe and the provocatively named World’s Best Donuts. As it happened, we enjoyed our lunch at Crooked Spoon more than any of the other sit-down meals we had on our brief sojourn in the North Shore; but the only place we went to more than once was World’s Best Donuts. Here’s a quick look at why. Continue reading

Lheraud Petite Champagne 1973-2003 (Cognac)


On Wednesday I reviewed a Lheraud distilled in 1970 and bottled in 2007. I really liked that one. Today I have another Lheraud from the 1970s but it’s a bit younger. However, while the 1970 was from the Fins Bois cru, this one is from Petite Champagne, which is, along with Grande Champagne, one of the premier crus of Cognac. Apparently, the brandy made from Petite Champagne grapes can be particularly fruity. All of this bodes well in theory. Let’s see how it works out in practice.

Lheraud Petite Champagne 1973-2003 (48%; Cognac; Petite Champagne; from a bottle split)

Nose: Richer than the Fins Bois 1970 with prunes, dark maple syrup, apricot jam, dried orange peel and tobacco. Thins out as it sits. Let’s see if water unlocks any more richness. Hmm there’s an herbal thing that happens and maybe there’s a bit of plum but nothing more of interest. Continue reading

Baby Wale (Washington D.C.)


We’ve been in DC since the beginning of the week. Our major agenda here is non-stop visits to the various Smithsonian museums with the boys and trying to eat reasonably well, with lunches in the vicinity of the museums and dinners not too far from our hotel by the Convention Center. For the meals I received a number of excellent recommendations from members of the excellent DonRockwell.com forums—easily the best resource for DC area dining tips (and more). Among the places mentioned within walking distance of our hotel was Baby Wale. My kids were very excited when I told them we were going there and then less excited when they learned that the name referred not to infant cetaceans but to a type of fabric. Now, like them, you may be wondering why anyone would choose to name their restaurant Baby Wale. The answer is that this is the second restaurant opened (some 5-6 years ago) by the proprietors of a long-standing restaurant named Corduroy. That restaurant is in fact next door and is a fairly formal affair. Baby Wale is an altogether more informal place, from decor/feel to the casual livery of the servers to the menu. It’s not exactly a family restaurant—really more of a pub—but the menu worked really well for our family. And early’ish on a Monday night (well, I don’t know if 7.30 is that early) it was perfectly fine with two small kids. Herewith the details on our meal. Continue reading

Lheraud Fins Bois 1970-2007 (Cognac)


Monday I had a review of an armagnac; today I have a review of a cognac. Lheraud is a family business with a long history. I don’t know very much about them and am not going to try to give you the impression that I do. I can tell you that it is a house with a very fine reputation and prices to match. Lherauds of similar older vintages as Vallein-Tercinier etc. are available but they cost quite a lot more. Meanwhile, a number of cognac aficionados rave about them. The gents at Plebyak have made the comparison to 1960s Bowmore both in terms of profile (heavily fruity) and quality. That is a heady comparison indeed. But on account of the aforementioned high prices of Lherauds it was not enough to convince me to take a flyer on a bottle. However, when a chance recently arose to participate in a bottle split of a quintet of Lherauds I leapt at it. As a bonus, the quintet covers five of the six crus of Cognac. First up, a Fins Bois which also happens to be the oldest vintage in the set. Continue reading

Smoked Fish and Fudge (Grand Marais, MN)


No, not at the same time. Just a quick look at two quick stops we made in Grand Marais at the beginning and end of our North Shore sojourn in early July.

Dockside Fish & Seafood was actually originally on my list of places to stop at for lunch—friends who’d eaten there some years ago recommended their fish and chips highly. However, on a Facebook group a number of people said that ownership had changed and that quality had dipped and so we opted to eat lunch at the Angry Trout right alongside instead. And I wish we’d eaten lunch at Dockside on our second day instead of at the Naniboujou Lodge—there’s no way it could have been more underwhelming than that meal was. Continue reading

Lous Pibous 23, 1993


Let’s keep rolling with the themes and do a week of brandy reviews. First up, another Lous Pibous armagnac bottled by L’Encantada. I have previously reviewed casks 187 and 188, both distilled in 1996. Here now is cask 124, distilled in 1993 and three years older than the other two. You only need to take one glance at the label on the bottle alongside to know who my sample came from. Yes, it is he. Well, I liked those 1996 casks a fair bit, and I think this one is supposed to be even better. Let’s see if that’s how it works out for me.

Lous Pibous 23, 1993 (52.5%; L’Encantada; cask 124; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: Rich, notes of dried orange peel, dark marmalade, apricots, leather. On the second sniff there’s some cinnamon and oak. As it sits the apricot comes to the fore. With a few drops of water there’s more of the orange peel. Continue reading

Damas (Montreal)


In my recent review of the South Indian restaurant, Thanjai I noted that Montreal is home to a large number of restaurants from non-Francophone immigrant communities. I may have given the impression that these restaurants are all relatively obscure. This is not true. Indeed, my review today is of a Syrian restaurant that is one of the city’s most popular: Damas. It has been open for about 10 years now (I think), moving into its new, expanded digs about five years ago. On my first and second trips to Montreal in 2015 and 2016 no one told me I had to eat there. But this time it was probably the place most people told me to go to. I was planning dinner with old graduate school friends who live in Montreal, and they who once had the (now closed) Hotel Herman as their favourite restaurant in the city now said Damas is now in that spot. And so that is where we ended up for dinner on a Wednesday night. Continue reading

Glen Ord 14, 1997 (The Whisky Agency)


Yesterday’s Old Pulteney 14 I described as being in the Clynelish-Glen Ord part of the spectrum. I guess I may as well round out bourbon cask, northern highlands week with an actual Glen Ord. On our trip to Scotland in June 2018 I’d considered stopping at Glen Ord as well but no one who’d been there seemed to think there was much there of interest to anyone but the completist distillery visitor. And that is not what I am. I am someone who leaps at the chance to drink Glen Ord though. It’s not a sexy distillery but I’ve had a lot of fine bourbon cask Glen Ord in my time. Let’s see if this is another of those.

Glen Ord 14, 1997 (50.4%; The Whisky Agency; bourbon hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: Tart fruit (lime peel, green apples, gooseberries), just a touch of prickly oak and something mineral. As it sits a nice malty note develops. With a couple of drops of water the fruit expands and it’s a little sweeter now. Continue reading

Old Pulteney 14, 2004


Let’s stay in the northern highlands of Scotland and go a little further up, well all the way up the coast to Wick to Pulteney. This is, of course, the itinerary we covered in the June of 2018 on our way from Dornoch to Orkney. We stopped briefly at Clynelish and then longer at Pulteney where I took the surprisingly excellent tour. “Surprisingly excellent” not because I had any reason to think it wouldn’t be good but because Pulteney rarely seems to come up when people talk about distillery tours in Scotland. Anyway, I recommend a tour of Pulteney highly, though I’m not sure there’s much else to recommend Wick to someone on a short visit to Scotland.

This particular release was a single cask, filled in 2004 and bottled in 2018: cask 197, a bourbon barrel. Which, I guess, after Monday’s Clynelish 23, means both that we’re staying in the northern highlands and staying with bourbon casks. Continue reading

Cheng Heng II (St. Paul, MN)


One of my favourite meals of 2018 was eaten very early in the year, at the Twin Cities’ premier Cambodian restaurant, Cheng Heng on University Ave. in St Paul (where else?). We went there with a lot of friends and we all loved the food. It had taken us more than 10 years to get there and we resolved to come back very soon. Of course, as happens with most of our resolutions, we didn’t end up actually keeping it. We did make it to St. Paul’s other excellent Camboadian restaurant, Kolap, later in the year but it wasn’t until this past weekend that we finally made it back to Cheng Heng. There isn’t much of a point to this lead-up except to say that I hope you are better than us at going to Cheng Heng because it really is a very good restaurant and we really should all go there more often. Yes, we liked this lunch a lot too. Continue reading

Clynelish 23, 1991 (Van Wees)


I’ve never been clear on what the peating level is of the malt from which modern Clynelish is made. Scotchwhisky.com says their malt is unpeated but I consistently find at least mild levels of peat in almost all Clynelish I’ve had, including the OB 14 yo. And in some indie releases I find more smoke than that—never phenolic, usually leafy or dry wood smoke. This Van Wees release of two bourbon hogsheads vatted together is in the latter category. I found smoke in it when I opened the bottle and it seems to be more palpable in every pour. So, what’s the story? Is it that in the early ’90s Clynelish was using more heavily peated malt than they have been of late? Or is it that they do some peated runs? Or is the smoke showing up from random casks that may previously have held peated whisky from one of Diageo’s other distilleries? I don’t know but if you have any insight into this please write in below. Continue reading