Old Blends: Haig & Haig 12, 1940s Release


After a week off, here is the latest installment in my slow-motion series of reviews of old blends (blends released a long time ago, that is). (I have previously reviewed a Dewar’s White Label from the 1940s/1950s, a Hudson’s Bay “Best Procurable” from the 1950s, and a King George IV from the 1940s/1950s.) This is a Haig & Haig 12 yo that was released sometime in the 1940s. It is a 12 yo, and I think it may have been an US release. I assume its marketing back in the day included David Beckham’s old timey equivalent. I know very little about these old blends so can’t really shed any light on the subject of the importers of these whiskies back in that era or what the market as a whole was like. Frankly, I’m not even sure how people date these old blends to particular decades, but I do trust the source of this bottle split (who is also the source of all the other old blends I have reviewed, and will be reviewing in this series).  Continue reading

Glentauchers 17, 1996 (Whisky Doris)


Another distillery whose name starts with “Glen” and another that is quite unsung. Glentauchers is located in the Speyside and is part of Pernod Ricard’s portfolio. I can’t remember if we passed it while in the Speyside a couple of weeks ago—it did feel like we’d driven past every single Speyside distillery—but I don’t believe they have a visitors centre anyway. It’s another distillery that I have very little experience of: I’ve only ever reviewed one other. In that review I noted that I didn’t even know how the name of the distillery was pronounced. Almost five years later, I can proudly tell you that I have a better idea of that. Unless I’m completely confused—happens a few times a hour—it’s pronounced “Glen-tockers”. And if you do a deep dive on Google maps, you’ll see that there is a burn/small river named Tauchers in the Keith/Mulben area—as this is the area in which we coincidentally stayed, it’s likely I suppose that we did pass the distillery. Fascinating, I know.  Continue reading

Glenturret 33, 1980 (The Whisky Agency)


I noted in Monday’s review that Tullibardine is in the general vicinity of Glenturret; here now is a review of a Glenturret. This is my first Glenturret review and it may well be the first Glenturret I’ve ever tried, I purchased it in 2014 when 33 year old whiskies from unsung distilleries could still be had for very reasonable prices, and pretty much for that reason. I knew/know nothing about Glenturret’s general profile, but a long time in a refill hogshead is usually good news for whisky from any distillery. It was bottled by the Whisky Agency and sports one of the whimsical labels they were doing at the time. Well, I guess they might still be doing whimsical labels—I just can’t afford to buy Whisky Agency releases anymore. I opened this for my local group’s premium tasting earlier this year and it was very popular. I’ve been enjoying drinking the bottle down ever since and look forward to finishing it when I’m back in Minnesota next week*.  Continue reading

Tokyo Grill (Northfield, MN)


There isn’t much worth reviewing, food-wise, in Northfield, the small Minnesota town in which we live, and so I haven’t reviewed much: only El Triunfo, a small, unpretentious Mexican restaurant and store. For a town with two colleges, we certainly don’t have the usual college town staples: there’s no Thai or Vietnamese; the two Chinese places are execrable and the one surviving Indian place is not much better, despite a welcome change in ownership. Beyond that is mostly sandwiches and the Ole Store, whose food falls quite a bit short of its pretensions and its local reputation and popularity. Which brings us to Tokyo Grill, a Japanese restaurant on Highway 3 that opened about five years ago (I want to say), and of which the best that can probably be said is that it is mostly inoffensive. I hadn’t planned to review it either—I’d only eaten there twice in the years since its opening—but a friend mock-criticized me for not reviewing more local places just a couple of days before I was scheduled to take a visiting guest there, and so here we are.  Continue reading

Tullibardine 24, 1993 (Cadenhead’s)


Our trip to Scotland is now over (we’re still in the UK for another 10 days though). As we spent most of our time in the Speyside and in the highlands and Orkney, my reviews this month have all been of whiskies from distilleries in those regions. This is true as well of this review, of an older Tullibardine. The distillery is located in Perthshire—just a little north-east of Sterling, in the relative vicinity of Deanston and Glenturret. I did not visit it. I did, however, purchase this whisky from Cadenhead’s in Edinburgh on this trip (as I did Friday’s Glen Ord); and so this is also my third review in a row of a whisky purchased and consumed on this trip (the Skara Brae Orkney malt was the first).

Tullibardine is a relatively young distillery. They’ve been in business since 1949. Amusingly, if you look at their website they try to fudge this with talk of a story that begins in 1488 and sees a royal charter granted for a brewery on the grounds in 1503; “our story” then jumps to 1947 when the founder apparently began converting “this original brewery” into a distillery. The age of this malt—bottled by Cadenhead’s—is more clear-cut: it is 24 years old, which is these days a pretty old age for a malt, and one for which no dubious narratives are needed. I finished this with a friend over a couple of days after purchasing it on our first day in Edinburgh. Here now are my notes.  Continue reading

Glen Ord 13, 2004 (Cadenhead’s)


We are leaving Orkney today and as we’ll be spending the night in the Highlands before heading down to Edinburgh tomorrow, I figured I’d post a review of another Highland malt. This is from a distillery not too far from where we’ll be putting up: Glen Ord. I’d had no plan to visit Glen Ord on this trip but when Aberlour disappointed me with the complete lack of a “distillery only” cask, I started grasping at straws for distilleries along the way to Dornoch that might have one. Accordingly, I called the Glen Ord visitor centre and asked if they had an exclusive. The person answering the phone helpfully informed me that all their whiskies are exclusive as they’re sold only in Southeast Asia and at the distillery; yes, I said, but do you have a cask that’s only available to visitors at the distillery. She repeated her information about the exclusivity of all Glen Ord bottles. Thinking that perhaps we had a case of battling Scottish and Indian/American accents on our ears, I handed the phone to a Canadian who has lived in Edinburgh for a year. She was met with the same response. All this to say that I did not go to Glen Ord after all. But this review is still trip-specific: it’s of a Glen Ord 13 that I purchased 200 ml of at Cadenhead’s in Edinburgh last week. It didn’t take long to disappear and I took notes as it did.  Continue reading

Skara Brae 10, Orkney Single Malt Whisky


As I am known for my highly timely reviews, I am pleased to present this review of a whisky whose existence I did not even know of until a few hours ago (as of this writing)—at which point I purchased a 50 ml sample immediately. It also turns out to be a whisky about which the world—or the part of it represented in Google search results and on Whiskybase—knows nothing. There are five whiskies with the name Skara Brae associated with them on Whiskybase but this is none of them. No, I purchased this at Skara Brae, the amazing neolithic archeological site on mainland Orkney—which you should really visit if you’re ever on Orkney (and take a detour from there to the Yesnaby cliffs on your way to wherever you’re going next). As you may know, almost every major tourist site in Scotland seems to have a branded whisky on offer (see here for last year’s disastrous mini purchase from Blair Castle), and this one, fittingly is described as an “Orkney Single Malt Whisky”. As neither possibility—Highland Park or Scapa—inspires fear and loathing, I decided to take a chance with £6. Let’s see if I would have been better of saving that money to buy a couple of pints of beer on the ferry back to Scrabster in a couple of days.  Continue reading

Highland Park 1998


Way back in 2010, when the whisky world was a less complicated place, Highland Park released three vintage bottles to duty-free. There was a 1990, a 1994, and this 1998. All were bottled at 40%—which is the kind of thing we grumbled about then, not knowing that a day would come when Highland Park would replace ages and vintages on their bottles with names of Vikings. I purchased my bottle of the 1998 from World of Whiskies in Heathrow in 2010. It cost $55, which I guess was pretty steep even then for an 11 yo at 40%, considering the regular 12 yo was then available for $32 in the Twin Cities and the 15 yo for a bit less than $55. I cannot remember how much the 1990 and 1994 cost. I finished my bottle a long time ago but saved a large reference sample. I then forgot all about it, and only found it while rummaging around for a Highland Park sample that I might review to mark my visit to the distillery today. I also found a sample of the 1994 that I’d received in a swap a long time ago, but, alas, that sample seemed to have deteriorated a bit in the bottle (perhaps because of the low strength). I’ve consigned the remains of that sample to one of my home vattings and have instead a review of the 1998, which has held up fine. Continue reading

Edinburgh Whisky: Cadenhead’s

As you probably do not remember, my experience at the London branch of Cadenhead’s was not very positive. This is partly because the selection on the occasion of my visits was not very inspiring, and largely because the staff were not inclined to be very helpful—one gent, in particular, almost eccentrically so. I am happy to say that, as expected, the experience at the Edinburgh location—down the hill on the Royal Mile—was as different as could be imagined. I’m also happy to say that the Edinburgh Cadenhead’s turned out to be a 2-3 minute walk from our Airbnb. As a result, I went a couple of times. I’ll have reviews of the things I bought in the coming weeks (or next month, more likely); here, for now, is a brief write-up of the shop along with far too many photographs—if such a thing is possible.  Continue reading

Aberlour 13, 2000 (Exclusive Malts)


Though I am writing this review well before it will post, when you read it (if you’re in the US), I will have likely just finished touring Aberlour. This is set to be our last day in the Speyside on this trip to Scotland and I’ve been looking forward to visiting Aberlour in particular. I will doubtless have an image-heavy report from the distillery soon enough but in the meantime, here’s a review of an Aberlour 13 released five years ago. This was bottled by the Creative Whisky Co. for their Exclusive Malts label and was an exclusive for K&L in California. This cask is not listed on Whiskybase, by the way—the only Exclusive Malts Aberlour 2000 they have is a sibling cask that was a year younger. This is an ex-bourbon cask—which is a rare but pleasant treat from Aberlour, whose official releases all stress the sherry. I’ve quite liked the other bourbon cask Aberlours I’ve reviewed (relatively) recently and I’m hoping this will keep the streak going. Let’s get to it.  Continue reading

Old Blends: Hudson’s Bay “Best Procurable”, 1950s


Here is the third in my slow motion series of reviews of blended whiskies from earlier eras. (See here for my review of an old Dewar’s White Label, and here for a review of a King George IV bottled in the 1940s or 1950s.). I don’t know much about this Hudson’s Bay brand, except that I think it was made for the US market and that while this particular bottle was released in the 1950s, the brand is still around. And if it ever had a strong reputation, it’s not exactly high-end whisky now: you can get a 1.75 liter bottle of the current Hudson’s Bay for not much more than $20. (I am, of course, assuming it’s the same brand.) Then again, I really liked the older Dewar’s White Label despite finding the current version to be bordering on undrinkable; and so I’m not assuming anything about this one. Well, let’s see what it’s like.
Continue reading

Longmorn 24, 1990 (Single Malts of Scotland)


After three less than whelming whiskies to start the month, and also to start my run of reviews of malts from the Speyside and the Highlands this month, here is one that I know is very good. This is a Longmorn bottled by the Single Malts of Scotland label of Speciality Drinks (now Elixir Distillers, I think) a few years ago. I opened it for my local group’s February tasting and it went down very well with the group. Here now are my notes.

Longmorn 24, 1990 (53.7%; Single Malts of Scotland; hogshead #191954; from my own bottle)

Nose: Tart apple, lemon peel, dried leaves, grass, toasted oak. The lemon peel expands as it sits, getting oilier and zestier. Softer and maltier with water.  Continue reading

Auchroisk 18, 1988 (Blackadder)


On Monday I had a review of two red wine cask finished Benromachs; I did not care for either one very much. Today, I have a whisky from another Speyside distillery, but this one is altogether more conventional. It’s from Auchroisk, a distillery that does not have too much of a reputation but which often produces single bourbon casks that are rather fruity and pleasant. See, for example, this older one from the Binny’s/Signatory combo that I rather liked some years ago and this one—also from 1988—that I liked just a bit less. This Blackadder was bottled much earlier than the Signatory and the Cadenhead’s—all the way back in 2007, in fact.

The sample came to me from renowned parakeet breeder, Florin. He was his usual taciturn-bordering on sullen self at the time of exchange and I have no idea what he thinks of the whisky. I’m sure he’ll be around soon to tell me I’ve got it all wrong. That’s the kind of person he is—I expect it comes from all the nights spent playing romantic music to parakeets to get them in the mood. Anyway, let’s get to it (as he likes to say when the covers are on the cages).  Continue reading

Lao Sze Chuan (Minneapolis)


Sometime in the last year, Lao Sze Chuan, a Chicago-based mini-empire of Szechuan restaurants, opened a branch in Minneapolis. As I don’t really follow the Twin Cities food media very closely, I missed this. A chance reference to it on Facebook alerted me to its existence recently, and shortly thereafter we descended upon them with a group of friends to see if this was a worthy addition to the Twin Cities’ unexpectedly strong Sichuan scene. Short answer: it is. More annoying answer: it’s nothing very special, however. And while the original bills itself as “the best Chinese restaurant in America”, this one is not the best Sichuan restaurant in the Twin Cities; nor is it, for that matter, the best Sichuan restaurant within a 1/4 mile radius. That award would go to Tea House, which is walking distance from Lao Sze Chuan. The best Sichuan restaurant in the Twin Cities metro area, of course, continues to be Grand SzechuanContinue reading