Bunnahabhain 23, 1990 (Archives)


Well, I went almost three weeks but I’m breaking with my run of official distillery releases in order to finish the tour of Islay left incomplete last month. I’ve already hit Kilchoman and Bruichladdich/Port Charlotte this week; here now is a Bunnahabhain. This is quite a bit older than both of the others reviewed this week. It’s a single sherry butt bottled by Whiskybase for their Archives label back in 2014 or so. “Gather round, children, Grampa’s going to tell you how much more affordable single sherry cask whisky past the age of 20 was back then.” Okay, whatever, if you’re going to make fun of me I’m just going to review the damned whisky.

Bunnahabhain 23, 1990 (47.9%; Archives; sherry butt 52; from my own bottle)

Nose: Sweet raisiny sherry with some savoury gunpowder and leather interlaced with it. On the second sniff there’s some soy sauce and a touch of hoisin along with an earthy note of dried mushrooms (more like the soaking liquid). The salt expands as it sits and a big plummy note emerges. A few drops of water emphasize the orange—more juicy than dried now. Continue reading

Chicken “Korma”


A couple of times a year a local farmer sells these massive chickens that weigh roughly 8 lbs each and we buy a bunch at a time and freeze ’em. You’d think at this size the birds would be older and the meat tough but that’s not the case at all—must be some kind of large breed grown for meat. I usually separate the breast, take it off the bone and cube it up for chicken tikkas and use the dark meat for a curry. Right before Christmas I defrosted and cut up another one of these birds. But this time I turned them into two curries, one for the boys, one for us. Both started out the same way, more or less, with identical marinades, except added extra-hot chilli powder for this one. Both were marinated for quite a while and cooked in the marinade and the chicken’s own juices. They were finished very differently though and the final dishes were very different. I’ll post the milder recipe sometime next month (probably). Here now is this iteration that ended up resembling a korma even though it doesn’t follow a strict recipe for one. Whatever you call it it’s very tasty. Continue reading

Port Charlotte PC9, “An Ataireachd Ard”


Let’s stay on Islay and continue with the distilleries I didn’t cover in December. After Monday’s Kilchoman detour here is a stop at Bruichladdich. This was the fifth limited release of the peated Port Charlotte distillate en route to the eventual regular release of the 10 yo. I’ve previously reviewed the PC6, PC7 and PC8: here now is PC9. This is from the 2002 vintage, bottled in 2011 at the age of 9. The series was supposed to end with PC8 but they decided to keep going with more limited releases (this is bottle 1086 of just 6000; compare to the 30,000 of PC8). Well, they did say at the time of the release that this was going to be the last limited release before the “full-scale bottling” in 2012 but as it happens there was a PC10 (I have an unopened bottle). And then the PC11 and a PC12 were also released later. Both of the latter were travel retail releases and I do not have bottles of those. I assume the series ended there. By the way, the info sheet for PC9 only mentioned American oak but the official tasting notes refer to Spanish sherry casks. As it was not touted as a sherry-matured release, I think we can assume it was a vatting of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks (most sherry casks are also made of American oak). Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 41: Nawal (Burnsville, MN)


It has been almost five months since our pandemic takeout runs took us anywhere but to an Asian restaurant, be it Indian, Chinese or South East Asian. But this week finds us some distance away, in terms of culinary distance if not driving miles: at Nawal, a Somali restaurant in Burnsville. I last reported on a meal there almost exactly four years ago. That was right on the heels of the announcement of Trump’s first Muslim ban. It feels very good to be posting this review just before President Biden will finally nullify all of that nonsense. Continue reading

Kilchoman Fino Sherry Matured, 2020 Release


It’s the 18th of the month and this is my seventh review in a row of an official distillery release. No, I don’t know what’s going on either.

I missed Kilchoman on my mini tour of Islay in December and so here now is a review of a Kilchoman. (I also missed Bunnahabhain and Bruichladdich and will be stopping in at both of those distilleries this week as well.) I was a big fan of Kilchoman’s early releases of very young bourbon casks but have somehow lost track of them in the last five years or so. I’d hoped they’d graduate to putting out a regular 10-12 yo and it doesn’t seem like that’s happened yet. Their website only lists four NAS releases in their core lineup (of which I’ve reviewed releases of the Machir Bay and 100% Islay) and several annual limited editions. This was one of their limited editions for 2020, vatted from spirit fully matured in 11 fresh and one refill fino sherry butt. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading

An Incomplete Guide to Regional Indian Cookbooks, Part 2


Back in late November I’d posted an annotated list of regional Indian cookbooks available in English. This post was quite widely read, having been shared by a large number of people online. In the wake of that post friends and others wrote in to suggest other regional cookbooks that I had either missed/forgotten the first time around or that I had not known about then. I’d originally thought I’d post this second list in December but as anyone who actually follows my blog knows, I am very bad at follow-ups—some people are still waiting for the annotated list of 1960s Bombay films I’d promised back in September.  Even with these additions this remains an incomplete list and I hope to receive even more suggestions and recommendations. If you’ve made some in the past and don’t see those reflected in this second list, please don’t be offended. This is a list that I have to vouch for and so for books that I don’t actually have on my own shelves I am only comfortable listing those recommended to me by people I can also vouch for. But please know that I will do my best to track down your suggestions for myself and they may yet appear in further entries in this series. Continue reading

Caol Ila 16, Feis Ile 2020


After Wednesday’s Glen Scotia 14, here is another whisky that was released to mark an annual whisky festival that was forced to go virtual: Caol Ila’s release for Feis Ile 2020. This also now make two weeks in a row of reviews of only official distillery releases. It’s okay to be alarmed: Nostradamus had this as one of the signs of the apocalypse.

At Feis Ile 2019 Caol Ila released a pair of whiskies: a surprise bottle-your-own 28 yo from refill American oak barrels that was only announced on the morning of their Open Day and for their regular release, a 22 yo from what was billed as “sherry-treated American oak casks”. 2020’s release is more in the direction of the 22 yo. The whisky that went into this was matured in refill bourbon hogsheads and then received a finish in “Amoroso treated hogsheads”. It’s also a throwback to 2017’s Feis Ile release which was a 12 yo that had been finished in Amoroso casks. Presumably, all these Amoroso casks are leftovers from fellow Diageo stablemate, Talisker whose Distillers Edition release is finished in Amoroso casks. Well, sherried Caol Ila can be a very good thing. Let’s see if this proves to be one. Continue reading

Seafood Rasam


If you are familiar with rasams the idea of a seafood rasam may seem outlandish to you. Indeed, it would probably seem so to most Indians in India as well. In North India, in particular, South Indian food has long been associated with vegetarianism, and the same is true to an even larger extent outside India. The truth, in fact, is that the South is far more massively non-vegetarian than the North. Of course, in recent years non-vegetarian South Indian food has made more inroads into the North: the food of Kerala in particular has become more available and popular. Certain dishes, however, continue to be associated with vegetarianism, among them rasam, familiar to most North Indians as the peppery broth one drinks before getting stuck into a meal of idli-dosa-vada with sambar and coconut chutney. But, of course, that’s merely the hegemony of upper-caste Hindu norms at play. Non-vegetarian rasams abound in the South. All this to say that there is nothing very unusual or creative about the fact that this is a recipe for rasam with seafood. Which is not to suggest that what I have for you is a traditional recipe for seafood rasam. I have merely taken my usual prep for simple tomato rasam and enhanced the broth with the shellfish. Continue reading

Glen Scotia 14, Tawny Port Finish (for the 2020 Campbeltown Festival)


Thanks to you-know-what, none of the Scottish whisky festivals were held in 2020. Most distilleries released what would have been their festival bottles anyway. This would have been Glen Scotia’s at the Campbeltown festival. Was it their only festival release? I have to admit that I’ve not really tracked whisky festivals beyond Feis Ile very much; indeed, this may be my first review of a Campbeltown festival release (though I’m probably forgetting something). Unlike my last two official Glen Scotias (including the Double Cask and Monday’s Victoriana) this one has an age statement. It’s a 14 yo matured first in first-fill barrels and then finished in American oak hogsheads that had been treated with tawny port. How long in each container, I don’t know—if you do, please write in below. Will this be the first official Glen Scotia I like a lot? My track record with port-bothered whiskies would suggest that’s unlikely. But I’m famous for my open-mindedness. Let’s see what this one is like. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 40: Back to Indian Masala (Maplewood, MN)


As I mentioned in my write-up on Sunday of Spice Bazaar, currently the major/only Indian grocery in Woodbury, that we were up that way on account of having a date to pick up more takeout from Indian Masala. Yes, Indian Masala is in Maplewood but Maplewood is a very weirdly shaped town and for all intents and purposes you could say that Indian Masala is in Woodbury. We first got food from Indian Masala in October. I gave it a glowing review and later in the year placed them, along with Godavari in Eden Prairie, in the top tier of my rankings of Twin Cities Metro Indian restaurants. We’ve been planning to go back for more for a while. And given how much we enjoyed their South Indian offerings I’ve been keen to try their North Indian dishes even though that’s the genre that has soured me on Indian restaurants in the US for almost three decades now. Here now is a report on one such meal of North Indian dishes. Continue reading

Glen Scotia “Victoriana”


Now that I am a whisky blogger who only reviews official releases here’s one from Campbeltown. The Victoriana is a NAS release that was added to the revamped Glen Scotia lineup (which revamp, I can’t remember) in 2015. That it’s an official NAS release is no surprise: pretty much every distillery had at least one NAS release by 2015. However, it’s unusual in that it’s bottled at a relatively high strength, Also somewhat unusual is the manner in which it is put together: after initial ex-bourbon maturing 30% of the eventual vatting goes into first-fill PX casks and the rest goes into heavily charred American oak. Wouldn’t it just be easier to make a 12 yo ex-bourbon whisky from refill casks? I know, I’m a very simple man. But however it’s made, is this any good? I know I didn’t care at all for Glen Scotia’s other NAS core release, the Double Cask. At the time I said “I wouldn’t buy it for $20 leave alone the $75+ being asked for it in Minnesota”. Well, the Victoriana is currently $90+. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading

Spice Bazaar (Woodbury, MN)


Yesterday we went back to pick up takeout from Indian Masala (at the southern end of Maplewood where it’s almost Woodbury). As we did on our last takeout run there, we stopped first for a walk on the trails by the Battle Creek dog park. Here we discovered that those trails are now closed for anything but skiing. Luckily, the walking trail on the other side of Upper Afton road was open for regular bidness and we got in a nice walk around that area with friends we’ve met for these walks a few times during the pandemic. When we got done with the walk we still had 30 minutes before our takeout pickup time (I’d placed the order the night before) and so we repaired to Woodbury proper to check out a South Asian grocery there that I’d read about on the excellent East Metro Foodies Facebook group: Spice Bazaar. There were some things I needed to buy—curry leaves, ginger etc,—and it seemed like a good opportunity to see what else could be combined with Indian Masala outings in the future. Herewith a quick look at the store. Continue reading

Deanston 18, Bourbon Finish


I have only reviewed three Deanstons before this one and only one of those made it into the 80s. That was this 15 yo bottled for Whiskybase’s Archives label. The only official Deanston I’ve reviewed—the 12 yo—had me making analogies to Gerard Butler. But that was more than seven years ago. This Deanston 18 wasn’t even part of the distillery’s portfolio then, having been added to it in 2015. It’s fairly unusual in that it’s a bourbon cask finish. No, it wasn’t matured in sherry first; instead it started out in second-fill bourbon casks and was finished in first-fill bourbon casks. For how long I don’t know and I don’t know what I make of the idea: why not just vat second-fill and first-fill casks? Is it just a gimmick? Or is there precedent for this kind of thing? At any rate, I’m hoping this will be my second Deanston to crack the 80 point barrier. Let’s see if that proves to be the case. It’s actually available in Minnesota—though not cheap at $130 before tax—and so it’s not an academic question. Continue reading

Kolkata via Bangkok: Red Lentils with Coconut Milk and Lime Leaf

Almost five years ago we hosted some friends for an elaborate lunch to thank them for taking care of our dogs while we were in India for a month. I made multiple courses of traditional and non-traditional dishes and printed a menu and everything. This was the origin of India’s Gandhi Tandoori Bollywood Mahal, the bi-monthly dinners for eight that I’d been hosting for a couple of years before the pandemic hit. Those dinners too featured a mix of traditional and not-so-traditional dishes (there have been 14 dinners so far featuring 5-7 courses and only a few dishes have yet been repeated). This dal/soup which was enjoyed by guests at the 7th IGTBM dinner could in fact be said to be the seed of the whole enterprise as I’d first made it for that lunch in February 2016. My intention was to play on the boundary between Bengali and Thai cooking. At base this is a fairly traditional Bengali preparation of mushoor dal. Indeed, the core recipe is one I’ve posted before. The departures are that it’s blended and then simmered again with coconut milk and infused with the flavour of lime leaf (a play on the squeeze of lime typically added to traditional mushoor dal with rice). The fish sauce adds some umami depth. It works very well both as soup and as a dal with an untraditional texture. Continue reading

Tamdhu 15


I’ve reviewed a few Tamdhus over the years but this is my first review of an official release. When I first started drinking single malt whisky the Tamdhu 10 was always a very affordable malt that presented reliable, if unspectacular pleasures. But about 10 years ago the line got revamped—I think there was an ownership change—with new bottle designs (somewhat resembling cola bottles) and higher prices. I still had a few bottles of the older 10 yo in reserve and by the time I got through with them (though I still have one bottle squared away, I think) I had lost touch entirely with the distillery. Indeed when the chance for this bottle split arose I was not sure how long ago the 15 yo joined their lineup. A quick bit of googling suggests that it hit the market in early 2019 as a “limited edition” of 24,000 bottles. And it is apparently entirely aged in oloroso sherry casks, made from a mix of European and American oak. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 39: Grand Szechuan to Start the New Year


Can a year that begins with mapo tofu as excellent as the one pictured at left possibly be bad? Of course it can. We ate Grand Szechuan’s mapo tofu several times last year and it was a shit year anyway. So while I am very happy to have started 2021 with Grand Szechuan as our first pandemic takeout meal I’m not taking this as a portent of anything. Cheerful bastard, aren’t I? But a thing to be very happy for, regardless of your outlook, is that Grand Szechuan is still in business and that, if the number of people arriving for pickups while I was waiting outside this Sunday is any indication, they are not in danger of closing any time soon. Continue reading

Benromach 9, 2011 (for Costco, San Diego)


Here’s an unlikely whisky to kick off the year’s reviews. This 9 yo Benromach was bottled for Costco, San Diego. Hands up if you knew that Costco does store picks. Well, maybe you all live in more sophisticated places and each Costco in your city has its own pick but our local Costco has no store pick single malt whiskies that I’m aware of—and if any other local Costcos carry any I’m sure I would have heard. This was bottled and hit the shelves sometime in 2020 but seems to have been snapped up. Or so I’m told by Florin (second assistant rhinoceros wrangler at the San Diego Zoo) who went to a Costco there last week to see if any were still available and came away disappointed. He did mention that there was a Sassicaia cask finish Benromach on the shelf—as to whether that’s also a Costco, San Diego exclusive or just one of Benromach’s regular wineskies, I don’t know; but even if the latter that’s already a more exotic selection than is ever available at Costco, Burnsville. On the other hand, does Costco, San Diego carry whole goat? Continue reading

Coming Soon…


In my look back yesterday to 2020 on the blog I noted that there were no whisky reviews among the top 30 most viewed posts of the year. Yet more confirmation surely that at this point far more people are coming here for posts on food than for whisky reviews. Nonetheless, I still think of the blog as a whisky blog first and foremost. And so, as I noted yesterday, there will continue to be three whisky/booze reviews a week as I approach the end of the eighth year of the blog. And, as always, you can help me narrow down the list of likely reviews by nominating to the shortlist for January those on the long list below that catch your eye. There are a few that are almost certainly going to be posted—though I haven’t taken notes on them yet—but mostly it’s an open book at this point. Continue reading