Laphroaig 17, 1999 (SMWS)


It has been almost two months since my last Laphroaig review and more than six months since my last review of a sherried Laphroaig. Let’s end both those sad streaks in one go. This is from a refill sherry butt bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society in 2016 or 2017. They called it “Divine, Dark Temptation”, which coincidentally is also my stripper name.

Laphroaig 17, 1999 (58.1%; SMWS; refill sherry butt 29.190; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: The usual Laphroaig medicinal complex plus cereals, smouldering leaves, salt and butterscotch. The sherry becomes more pronounced as it sits with the butterscotch joined by toffee and, yes, the inevitable raisins. Brighter and sharper with a bit of water and also more coastal—and after a bit there’s a bit of vanilla. Continue reading

Canis (Toronto, June 2019)


From classic bistro fare in Montreal to an altogether more modernist meal in Toronto. Canis opened in downtown Toronto in 2016 and has apparently moved fairly quickly up the city’s fine dining charts. They show up at #27 in all of Canada in one of those restaurant ranking lists and if there are 26 better restaurants in the country then Canadians are doing very well indeed. The truth, of course, is that these restaurant ranking lists are all silly and highly subjective—just the next evening I ate at another place in Toronto that is higher in those rankings and thought Canis was far superior. Indeed, I thought my meal at Canis was the best fine dining meal I’ve eaten in a long time, far superior to anything I’ve eaten in the Twin Cities since the heyday of Piccolo. Outside the Twin Cities, I think I would have to go back to our dinner at Hotel Herman in Montreal in October 2016 to come up with one as good; and to Hedone in London in August of that year for one that might have been better. (All three of the aforementioned restaurants, alas, are now closed.) Continue reading

Ledaig 10, 2008 (Archives)


Here is the third of the five Archives bottles recently released in the US. I’ve previously reviewed the Glentauchers 21 and the Orkney 15 in the series and liked them both a lot. This Ledaig is much younger and much peatier than those two and like them is from a bourbon cask. The last 10 yo Ledaig I had was from a red wine cask but I still liked it a lot. Will this be as good as that or its Archives stablemates? Let’s see.

Ledaig 10, 2008 (54.9%; Archives; hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: Holy burning rubber! And below that there’s some of the usual Ledaig rotting rodent. It takes a few minutes but the rubber mostly burns off and the dead rat funk subsides a bit as well. Below that is some vanilla, some malt and some milky cocoa; and after a bit there’s expanding lime. A somewhat unlikely combination/progression but it works. A few drops of water—after almost any hour—pull out more of the citrus along with muskier fruit (melon, pineapple). The rubber and funk are distant memories now. Continue reading

L’Express (Montreal, June 2019)


I am at the end of a weeklong trip to Montreal and Toronto with a group of colleagues. We had some very interesting conversations with intellectuals and activists in both cities. We also ate very well. I will be digesting the intellectual material slowly; the meal reports, however, begin a few hours before I leave the group to return to Minnesota. First up, is the very first dinner we ate in Montreal, just about an hour after our (delayed) flight landed. While the rest of our meals as a group centered on the cuisines of more recent immigrant communities, for the first dinner we’d decided to go to one of Montreal’s classic bistros: L’Express. Continue reading

Ahgassi Gopchang (Los Angeles, January 2019)


Here finally is my last meal report from our trip to Los Angeles in late December/early January. And it indeed a write-up of the last meal we ate out on this trip. Our brats had wanted to eat Korean bbq on this trip and we decided to got Ahgassi Gopchang, a specialist in intestines (gopchang). No, our brats didn’t eat the intestines—you can also get more standard meat options for grilling, as well as other Korean dishes. But intestines are the star here and the adults in attendance enjoyed the hell out of them. We were joined at this meal by 50% of the Sku clan. Alas, it was probably our last meal together in Los Angeles. By the time we next get there, they will have moved across the country to Washington DC—which seems like a bit far to go to get away from me. But to the food! Continue reading

Auchroisk 24, 1994 (Old Malt Cask 20th Anniv. Release)

Just when you thought you were safe, here’s another review of one of the whiskies released in 2018 to commemorate Old Malt Cask’s 20th anniversary. Most recently from this series I’ve reviewed a Glen Garioch 24, a Teaninich 19, an Inchgower 20, an Ardmore 22, and a Tamdhu 20. All were in the good to very good range, with the Glen Garioch and the Ardmore teetering on the edge of excellence. I’m hopeful that this Auchroisk will be as good as those two—I’ve had other ex-bourbon Auchroisks of similar age that have been wonderfully fruity and malty and that’s a profile I really like—indeed it may be my current favourite profile. Let’s see if this fulfills my hopes.

Auchroisk 24, 1994 (50%; Old Malt Cask 20th Anniv. Release; from my own bottle)

Nose: Honey and big malty, almost bready notes. Beneath it is some toasted oak. As it sits there’s some tart apple and lemon peel as well. Muskier with a drop or two of water and there’s some cream too now. Continue reading

Glen Mhor 22, 1979, Rare Malts


On Monday I had a review of the recent Glentauchers from Archives. I noted there that I had very little experience with that distillery. Well, I have even less experience with Glen Mhor, a closed distillery. I’ve previously reviewed one Glen Mhor—a Scott’s Selection release that hung around in the US for a long time—and my spreadsheet tells me that’s the only I’ve had until now (though it must be said that my spreadsheet has become a little shaky/unreliable in the years since I started the blog. That was a 26 yo, distilled in 1978. This is a little younger and was distilled a year later—it was bottled in Diageo’s Rare Malts series from the early 2000s, a series that included some legendary releases but also some less than legendary ones. Where will this one fall? Let’s see.

Glen Mhor 22, 1979, Rare Malts (61%; from a bottle split)

Nose: An interesting mix of floral, leafy and mineral notes; some peppery peat too and some lemon and sweet pear. Gets sweeter as it sits and a malty, cereal note emerges. More expressive with a few drops of water with the floral notes expanding along with the cereal; some vanilla too now. After a minute or two there’s more fruit: sweet cherries and lemon peel. Continue reading

Indian–eeesh!: The Marketing


When I wrote the first of my pieces critiquing Indian-American food writing I noted that I was quite looking forward to Priya Krishna’s then-upcoming cookbook Indian(-ish) which promised to cover ground not so very often trod in the American food media: Indian American food. That was last autumn. Alas, my hopes withered in the winter under the onslaught of Krishna’s rather disastrous extended promotional campaign for the book and did not recover in the spring. Disastrous, I hasten to add, from the point of view of substance and accuracy; from the point of view of marketing per se it seems to have been a great success. The book has received a number of strong reviews in the American press and has been praised and promoted all over food social media. I bought a copy of the book as well. I have to admit that I did so largely in the hope that it might provide the kind of comedy not seen in this genre since the publication of Rani Kingman’s Flavours of MadrasThe content of much of the marketing certainly pointed in that direction. Continue reading

Glentauchers 21, 1997 (Archives)


Last week I reviewed one of the first five releases in Whiskybase’s Archives label to hit the American market—an Orkney 15 yo (Highland Park). Here now is another from the set: a 21 yo Glentauchers. I don’t have much experience with Glentauchers—not very far beyond the three I have reviewed on the blog. The most recent of those reviews was of a 20 yo from 1997, bottled by Signatory, a vatting of two bourbon barrels. I quite liked it though it didn’t rise to the level of anything special. Will this one be much the same? This is a single barrel, for what it’s worth. Let’s see what it’s like.

Glentauchers 21, 1997 (53.3%; Archives; refill barrel; from a bottle split)

Nose: Very juicy as I pour with orange, lemon and apricot. No sign of oak at all first. As it sits the citrus moves towards citronella and a slight chalkiness emerges along with a leafy quality and some dusty oak. With time the fruit gets muskier and there’s some sweet pastry crust as well. Water pushes the leafy note back and the musky notes expand. Continue reading

The Lunch Buffet at Surabhi (Bloomington, MN)


My renewed survey of the Twin Cities Metro’s Indian restaurant scene took an unexpected turn last week. I had an appointment in Minneapolis that ran a little longer than I’d expected and I found myself on the highway, approaching Bloomington and feeling too hungry to wait to get home to eat lunch. I remembered just in time that I’d been told that there was an Indian restaurant named Surabhi right off the exit at 98th street that was supposedly quite good. And so I did something I rarely choose to do: I stopped at an Indian restaurant for their lunch buffet. Did I regret this as soon as I started eating? Read on. Continue reading

Ardmore 24, 1985 (SMWS)


In my last review of an Ardmore I noted that it was a hard distillery to get to know. No further clarity has emerged on that front since that review and so let’s dispense with an introduction to this review and get to business sharpish. I will note only that this is not the first Ardmore from the 1980s I’ve tried and that while I liked that 25 yo fine, it wasn’t anything  so very special. In fact I didn’t like it as much as that last Ardmore I reviewed, which was a 22 yo from the mid-1990s. Where will this 24 yo, bottled by the SMWS in 2009, fall? Let’s see.

Ardmore 24, 1985 (52.5%*; SMWS 66.30, “An outdoor banquet”; bourbon hogshead; from a sample received in a swap)

Nose: Typical Ardmore smoke, sooty and mineral (not phenolic), mixed in with lime zest and some brine. As it sits there’s a hint of vanilla and the citrus moves in the direction of citronella. Brighter and brinier with a few drops of water. Continue reading

Longrow 18, 2019 Release

Here is the last of four reviews of recent  releases from the lords of Campbeltown. I’ve already reviewed the 2019 release of the Springbank 21, the Hazelburn 14, Oloroso and the new Kilkerran, Heavily Peated. Here now is the 2019 release of the revered Longrow 18 (Longrow, in case you don’t know, is the name for the heavily peated, double-distilled malt made at Springbank). I’ve previously reviewed two other releases of the Longrow 18: the 2008 release (which was, I believe the first release) and the 2011 release. I liked both a lot. I also have a bottle of the 2014 release on my shelves which I should really open some day soon. The reason I don’t go through Longrow 18 as often/quickly as some other regular releases from Springbank is that it costs the earth in the US. And so I wait to buy it in the UK or Europe once every few years. Well, my parents will soon be passing through London on the way to visiting us—so let’s see if this is good enough to have shipped to my uncle’s place in London, where they will be stopping for a week. Continue reading

Ben Nevis 10, 2008, Batch 1


I reviewed the (then) new Ben Nevis 10 early last year and really liked it. In fact, I asked—largely rhetorically—if it was the best entry-level malt whisky on the market (and it was very fairly priced too). In response it promptly went off the market. The distillery apparently ran out of stocks that would have allowed them to continue to make it to the same specifications—there’s an account of this in a review on Whiskybase or you could take a look at Michael K.’s recent review which summarizes matters. Rather than go completely off the market the distillery formulated this one-off cask strength release, which is a vatting of ex-bourbon, ex-sherry and ex-wine casks. And it is a vintage release from 2008 distillate. Since then the regular 10 yo has indeed come back on the market. This is good news, but it must be said that I have not read any reviews of the new release and am therefore only hopeful that it will be very similar, if not identical to the batch I really liked. This cask strength release I can tell you—spoiler alert—I don’t like as much, I opened it not too long after buying the bottle some months ago and thought it was just okay. I then took it to one of my local group’s tastings and it did quite well there. The bottle has since sat at below the halfway mark for a couple of months—I’m curious to see if it has improved further. Continue reading

Handsome Hog (St. Paul, MN)


Let me at the very outset reassure the people of the Lowertown, St. Paul Facebook group* that I did not have any trouble finding parking before our dinner at Handsome Hog this past Saturday. No trouble at all. Lowertown, St. Paul is the best! No one can have any complaints about any aspect of Lowertown, St. Paul! Alas, you will still have complaints about me though as there are many words in this review as well.

With that out of the way, let me tell you about said dinner. But first a bit about the restaurant which opened just about three years ago. They bill themselves as a contemporary Southern restaurant and are helmed by Justin Sutherland, a Top Chef alum who is also an alumnus of local kitchens, Meritage and the late, lamented Brasserie Zentral. Sutherland has since embarked on creating a local Southern mini-empire of his own and has a new place opening soon in Minneapolis. Handsome Hog remains, for now, at least, the center of his operations. It has received strong reviews locally and we were excited to finally go. Continue reading