Ballechin 10, 2010 (Signatory)


This week of reviews of peated whiskies began on Monday with an indie Port Charlotte that is said to have some sherry involvement. It continued on Wednesday with the 2018 release of the official Ledaig 10 that may or may not have sherry casks in the vatting. Here to close out the week is another indie that is unambiguously sherried. Indeed it’s from a single sherry butt and a first-fill butt at that. It’s a 10 yo Ballechin—or peated Edradour—from Signatory, who’ve bottled a number of sherried Ballechins of this general age in the last few years. I’ve liked the ones I’ve tried and so have high hopes for this one. Let’s see if they’re borne out.

It just struck me, by the way, that this week ended up having a secondary theme: not only were these all peated whiskies but they’re all the heavily peated variants from distilleries that are at least nominally known for unpeated/lightly peated malt. Continue reading

Mooli Parathas


As I said a couple of weeks ago, I spent a fair bit of time in the kitchen on my trip to Delhi in March. I learned some new things and also improved my skills with some others. These masoor dal pakodas fall in the former category and mooli parathas fall in the latter. I will be the first to admit that I am not the most adept maker of chapatis and parathas in the world. I don’t have the best skills with a rolling pin. But what I lack in natural ability I almost make up for in perseverance and so at this point I turn out pretty good chapatis and parathas—plain ones as well as anda/egg parathas and alu/potato parathas. I’ve always been wary of mooli/radish parathas though, even though they are a close second to alu parathas in my personal stuffed paratha rankings. (It’s hip to say that alu parathas are boring compared to mooli or gobi/cauliflower parathas but I didn’t get where I am today—nowhere—by being hip.) This because mooli parathas are a lot more fiddly. For one thing, unlike potatoes, the mooli/radish is shredded not mashed which makes for a more uneven filling. For another, the shredded mooli gives off a lot of water and moist paratha stuffing is not easy to deal with. This can make rolling the stuffed dough a challenge for those of us who are not naturals with a rolling pin. I did get some hands-on lessons from my parents’ cook on this trip though and I am glad to report that the results have been very good. Being a generous guy I will share my success with you. Continue reading

Ledaig 10, 2018 Release


It’s been a long time since I’ve reviewed a distillery release of Ledaig. Almost 7 years, in fact: I reviewed the Ledaig 15 in 2015, which was not exactly a current release at the time. In fact, I’ve only ever reviewed one other official Ledaig and that was the 2014 release of the Ledaig 10 which was then already the version in the new updated lineup from the distillery, bottled at 46.3% and not chill-filtered and so forth. I liked the palate on that one but found too much rubbery smoke on the nose. Since then I’ve reviewed a lot of independent releases of Ledaigs of that general age—there have been a lot of them about, especially from sherry casks and especially from Signatory. Some of those indie releases have been rather good indeed. I can’t say I had an active curiosity about the official releases—which now also include an 18 yo and an inevitable NAS bottle—but when the opportunity presented itself to try a relatively recent release (this is from 2018) I went for it anyway. Let’s see if I like it more than the previous. Continue reading

Las Islas (South St. Paul, MN)


I have lived in southern Minnesota for almost 15 years now but I’m only just beginning to really get a sense of the suburban geography of the Twin Cities metro. For example, for many years when I’d hear names like West St. Paul or South St. Paul I assumed people were referring to the western or southern bits of St. Paul. Now I know they’re actually referring to what are officially separate towns—both of these towns, by the way, have populations close to that of the town I live in, about 50 minutes south of the Twin Cities. And the demographics of these suburbs can vary quite a bit. South St. Paul, for example, has a large Hispanic population. Indeed, people of Hispanic descent are the second largest group in the city at nearly 15% of the population. I bring this up because it might explain why a Mexican seafood restaurant opened here, just about two years ago, during the pandemic and has managed to weather it so far. I’m not sure if there’s been much coverage of it elsewhere but I saw a reference to Las Islas on the excellent East Metro Foodies Facebook group a couple of weeks ago and my interest was piqued by their seafood-centered menu, heavy on ceviches and the like. And so this past weekend we descended on them with a couple of friends. Here is what we found. Continue reading

Port Charlotte 14, Batch 7 (That Boutiquey Whisky Co.)


Last week’s reviews were all of peated whiskies that had spent at least some time in port casks. The week began with a Bunnahabhain that spent three of its eight years in a tawny port cask and ended with a Longrow that spent all of its 11 in a refill port pipe. In between was an 8 yo Kilchoman that was finished in a ruby port cask. This week’s whiskies do not involve port—not that I know of anyway—but they are all also heavily peated. First up is a Port Charlotte 14 bottled by Master of Malt’s That Boutiquey Whisky Co. label. I’m not too sure about how these TBWC batch releases work. This one apparently comprised 662 bottles but they were all 375 ml, which makes it not the largest batch. Indeed, the total volume would approximate 331 regulation 750 ml bottles—which is between a hogshead and a butt. So if a batch was put together from more than one cask (as you would expect) it might be the marriage of a bourbon hogshead and part of a sherry butt. This is all speculation, of course—but in the absence of detail from the bottlers it’s all I’ve got. My sample came to me from the redoubtable Michael Kravitz of Diving for Pearls (see here for his review). Continue reading

Bukhara (Delhi, March 2022)


After a break last weekend it’s back to my restaurant reports from my two-week visit to Delhi in March. I’ve previously reported on meals eaten out at Comorin, Cafe Lota and Carnatic Cafe—and also on a takeout biryani blowout. I now have three reports to go and the first of them is of what was once the most celebrated high-end restaurant in Delhi: Bukhara at the ITC Maurya hotel. I last ate there more than 20 years ago. There was a time when eating there (or at its Awadhi sibling, Dum Pukht) was a highly aspirational thing for me but as the Delhi restaurant scene has exploded in the intervening period it hasn’t really felt like a return to Bukhara (and its very high tarifffs) was very urgent. However, when we were in Calcutta in January 2020 we ate at Peshawri at one of the ITC hotels there and it was truly a fabulous meal. (In case you’re wondering, to preserve the Bukhara branding, names like Peshawri are used for restaurants at ITC’s other properties that present that menu.) And so when I reminded my strapping young nephews that despite having become working professionals they were yet to buy me a fancy meal, it was at Bukhara we ended up. Here’s how it went. Continue reading

Longrow 11, 2007 (Cadenhead)


The first two entries in this week of peated whiskies that spent time in port casks were both from Islay, were both 8 years old, and were both distilled in 2013. Monday’s Bunnahabhain (bottled by Cadenhead) was double matured in a tawny port cask. Wednesday’s Kllchoman received a (presumably briefer) ruby port cask finish. Today’s Longrow (also bottled by Cadenhead) is both older than the other two by three years and spent far more time in a port cask: indeed, it was matured fully in a port cask. That may make it seem likely to be far more port-influenced than the others but it was also a refill port pipe. Depending on how many fills that port cask had gone through the port influence may in fact be quite muted. This is not my first review of a Longrow from a port cask—that would be the Longrow Red release from 2014 which was also a full-term port maturation, albeit in fresh port casks. I didn’t find that one—coincidentally also an 11 yo—to be overly wine-dominated but I also did not think it was anything so very special. Will this one be better? Let’s see. I did like both the Bunnahabhain and the Kilchoman a fair bit and it would be nice to end the week on a high note. Continue reading

Keema Curry with Broccoli


Growing up, keema was always minced mutton or goat meat. It was cooked in our house both as loose keema and as kofta (meatball) curry and it’s hard to say which I preferred. When I first came to the US goat keema was not easy to find. Indeed, it’s not easy even now without going to the few desi stores that sell meat or to stores catering to other goat eating cultures. But beef keema/ground beef is pretty good too in these preps. If you can find grass-fed beef keema then all the better—that gamy tang takes it pretty close to goat/mutton. And while I don’t have much use for turkey meat in Indian preps, I find ground turkey works well for keema—as long as it isn’t all white meat. And it works particularly well In a robustly spiced dish like this one where broccoli additionally adds an earthy quality. Still, in the absence of goat/mutton keema, beef would be my top choice. The point is that you can use whatever you have at hand. What you will end up with will be comfort food of the highest order and the broccoli will help you feel virtuous. Continue reading

Kilchoman 8, 2013, Impex Cask Evolution


Port and peat week started at Bunnahabhain on Monday. That was an 8 yo that spent 5 years or so in ex-bourbon casks and the rest of the time in ex-tawny port casks. I’d call that a proper double maturation. That cask was bottled by Cadenhead and I rather liked it. Today I have for you another 8 yo and another whisky from an Islay distillery. It’s from Kilchoman and is an official release (are there any indie Kilchomans?). This one is billed as a ruby port finish. As to whether that means it spent just a few months in the port cask or quite a bit longer than that, I don’t know. It was released in the US as part of the “Cask Evolution” series by Impex, who are Kilchoman’s importers in the country. (And no, I have no idea what the other releases in this “Cask Evolution” series are or what the concept of the series is supposed to be.) Will this be as good as Monday’s Bunnahabhain or will my general fears of port cask whiskies and finishes—to say nothing of port cask finishes—be realized? Only one way to find out. Continue reading

Mucci’s Italian (St. Paul, MN)


As those who read my restaurant reports regularly know, our kids eat out with us whenever we go out to lunch. It’s rare though that they accompany us to dinner (unless we’re traveling). A big part of this is that it’s nice to have adult time away from your children; a not insignificant part of it is also that at fancier restaurants it’s harder to find dishes that young children will eat wholeheartedly without performing surgery on plates to remove unwelcome components. Our boys are more adventurous eaters than the average upper midwestern kids of their age but vegetables—for example—remain a hard sell for them; and so the question of taking them to places where they would discard 50% of what’s on their plate just doesn’t arise. At the same time, however, they are more aware each year of how much their parents enjoy eating out and with every year their desire to participate more fully in this grows stronger. And so we’ve come to the slightly reluctant conclusion that the money we’ve been saving on babysitting since the older boy became a teenager will have to begin to be spent on initiating them more fully, if slowly, into the world of fine(r) dining. Which is how we ended up eating as a family at Mucci’s Italian in St. Paul this past weekend. Continue reading

Bunnahabhain 8, 2013 (Cadenhead)


After a week of wacky mezcals—which began with one distilled with Iberico ham and ended with one distilled with mole poblano—let’s do a week of wacky single malts. Well, not really that wacky. These are all whiskies that involved port cask maturation or finishes. They’re also, as it happens, all peated whiskies. I’m not generally a fan of port cask maturation but—as I believe I’ve noted before—I think it’s in a marriage with heavy peat that it shows to its best advantage. Bunnahabhain may not be what you think of when you read the words “heavy peat”…or maybe that isn’t true anymore given how much peated Bunnahabhain, indie and official, has hit the market in the last decade. At any rate this is peated Bunnahabhain. It is eight years old. It was distilled in 2013 and spent five years or so in a bourbon cask and then three years or so in a tawny port cask. That pretty much counts as double maturation in my book. And hopefully that means the usual problems of wine finishes will be held at bay. Let’s see. Continue reading

Cinco Sentidos, Pechuga de Mole Poblano


This has been a week not just of mezcal reviews but of reviews of unusual mezcals. Wednesday’s Weller cask-finished Chichicapa from Del Maguey followed on the heels of Monday’s Del Maguey release that saw the pechuga process tweaked with the use of Iberico ham. I liked that one a lot more than the bourbon finish. That might be good news for this one which is in the general style of the Iberico but ups the pechuga madness by featuring not ham or chicken or turkey breast in the final distillation but full on mole poblano. This is not a Del Maguey release but from an outfit named Cinco Sentidos. Their website indicates that they release mezcals made by small-scale producers. I have no idea if this mole poblano release is representative or a wild variation on their usual line-up. Well, I love a good mole poblano but I can’t say I’ve ever wished I could drink a mole poblano-flavoured spirit. But perhaps the mole won’t come through here as strongly as the Iberico did in the Del Maguey. Only one way to find out. But however it goes, for my next round of mezcal reviews—whenever those might end up being posted; I have no further mezcal samples on hand—I think I am going to go for more regulation releases. Recommendations for any such will be very welcome in the comments below. Continue reading

Masoor Dal Pakodas


Perhaps because I was visiting sans the family, I spent far more time in the kitchen on my recent trip to Delhi than I usually do. My mother doesn’t cook so very much anymore but her cook is an ace—and I spent quite a lot of time watching and bugging him in the kitchen. I refined some techniques; I finally jotted down rough estimates of ingredients and steps of some family favourites (for example, this lau); I learned some new variations on dishes I already make; and I also learned to make some new dishes. Today’s recipe is in that last class and it is for pakodas made not in the way most familiar to non-Indians—i.e sliced vegetables coated in a besan/chickpea flour batter and fried—but with masoor dal or red lentils. The recipe is simplicity itself. You soak the dal (with some rice if you’re so inclined), drain and grind it to a thick batter, mix a few spices in and then drop spoonfuls of the spiced batter into hot oil for a few minutes till crisped to a golden brown. (You can see my teacher making it here.) It comes together very easily for an evening’s snack with tea and also makes a good passed snack for gatherings. For your first try you might want to start out small as with the proportions of the recipe below. Once you get the technique down (and if you like the results) you can easily scale the recipe up. Continue reading

Del Maguey Chichicapa, Weller Cask Finish, Mezcal


Mezcal week rolls on with another Del Maguey release. Monday’s was an unusual take on pechuga maturation from Santa Catarina Minas and involved an Iberico ham. This one, which does not, as far as I know, involve any meat products in the distillation is from Chichicapa, the source of the first mezcal I reviewed and a very popular Del Maguey marque. Unlike the regular Chichicapa, however, this one is aged for a bit. As you might be able to tell from the tiny picture alongside, its colour is a pale urine yellow compared to the very well-hydrated clear of the other two mezcal samples behind it. This faint colour is due to a finish/brief maturation in bourbon casks. And not just any casks but casks that had previously held spirit that went into Old Rip Van Winkle 10. A cynical read of this situation is that it seems to have been designed precisely to separate bourbon drinkers with more money than sense—which these days appears to be a good description of almost all bourbon drinkers—from a good chunk of that money. Well, I don’t know how much this cost on release but it now goes for well above $200. But is it any good? Does anybody really want their mezcal to taste like bourbon? Let’s see. Continue reading

Restaurant Alma, Spring 2022 (Minneapolis, MN)

Continue reading

Del Maguey Iberico, Mezcal


Who better than someone who knows almost nothing about mezcals to do a week of reviews of mezcals? No one, that’s who. I’ve only reviewed one mezcal previously and have not tasted so very many more than that. The one I previously reviewed was bottled by Del Maguey, the brand that has probably more than any other raised the profile of mezcal in the US in the last decade, especially among whisky drinkers. They bottle single village mezcals made in traditional ways and have a sterling reputation. Well, this one—made  in the village of Santa Catarina Minas—is both traditional and not. Traditional in that it is generally in the pechuga style, which sees a final round of distillation with a chicken or turkey breast hanging over the clay still (plus various fruits etc.). Not traditional in that in this case the chicken/turkey breast was replaced by an Iberico ham. This was apparently suggested to the proprietors by a chef who also sent them the ham to use. Perhaps the fact that it was Iberico ham accounts for the nosebleed price of this mezcal. I’m not sure if it was a one-off or if it’s continued to be made in limited quantities but if you want to buy a bottle now you’ll have to be prepared to shell out $200 or more. I’m not going to be prepared to do this, no matter what, but I am curious to see what it’s like. Continue reading

Biryani and Kababs (Delhi, March 2022)


I ate out a fair bit in Delhi in March but I ate at home more. One of those meals eaten at home, however, also featured restaurant food. Or to be more precise it featured food from a number of different restaurants. You see, my sister’s birthday fell during my trip and it was the first time in more than 30 years that I was in the same city as her (and my parents) on the day. And as one of her absolute favourite foods is biryani, we decided to do an extended family gathering at my parents’ place centered on biryani. My nephews were tasked with ordering the biryani. Their first thought was the popular chain, Biryani By Kilo, but they readily admitted that they had not tried a whole lot of alternatives in Gurgaon. Accordingly, I put the question to Twitter and when a large number of other places received votes it seemed only right to order from as many of them as possible. And that is how we ended up with seven different biryanis from five different restaurants. And to be safe I also ordered a bunch of kababs from the closest location of the venerable Al Kauser. Here’s how it went. Continue reading

Ben Nevis 20, 1999 (The Daily Dram)


I must apologize for lying to you. On Monday I said that all three of this week’s reviews would be of 20 yo Ben Nevises distilled in 1997. This was true of Monday’s Berry Bros. & Rudd cask and also of Wednesday’s Exclusive Malts cask. But it turns out that this one—bottled by The Daily Dram—was actually distilled in 1999. It is a Ben Nevis though and 20 years old, which means I’m only 33% a liar. It’s also different from the other two in that while those were both sherry casks—well, the Berry Bros. cask does not specify but it seems pretty obviously a sherry cask—this one is not. Okay, so this one does not specify the cask type either but by the looks of it this seems very much like an ex-bourbon cask. Will it be more quintessentially Ben Nevis than the other two were? I did like both of those but felt the sherry covered up the Ben Nevis funk a bit too much. In theory, at least, the bourbon cask should let more of that out. Let’s see if that proves to be the case. Continue reading