Caroni 15, 1997 (A.D. Rattray)


And now a break from bourbon cask whisky and indeed from all whisky. This is a rum—though as I think about it, it’s quite likely it too was matured in a bourbon cask. The distillery in question is Caroni, a very big name in the rum renaissance of the last decade. Caroni has been referred to by whisky geeks as the “Port Ellen of rum”, not least because it too has closed (in 2002). Now you might think that calling something “the Port Ellen of x” would mean that it was being sold at a king’s ransom but that was not true of this cask when it was bottled by A.D. Rattray in 2012. I believe it went for about $50. I’m sure it would be a very different story these days.

Caroni was located in Trinidad. I know nothing about the usual profile of Trinidadian rums—I don’t even know if there is a usual profile in Trinidadian rum—and so I will not be able to tell you if this cask of Caroni is representative or not of Trinidad rum. And as it may well be the first Caroni I’ve had I can’t even tell you how representative it is of Caroni’s own rum. Now that you know just how uninformative this review will be, let’s get to it! Continue reading

A Reading Journal of the Plague Year (Mike)


Here is the fourth entry in the occasional series of book’ish posts that I’ve outsourced to a few old friends: A Reading Journal of the Plague Year. Well, considering this is the third entry in as many weeks it’s at risk of becoming a regular series. I hope you’ve all read the third entry—Aparna’s piece on reading Agatha Christie while on lockdown in Delhi; the second entry—Mahmud’s review of Clancy Sigal’s early 1960s road novel, Going Away; and the first—Peter’s recap of a few false starts and then a few things he’s enjoyed getting into since all of this began.

This week’s entry is from my deplorable friend, Mike. Like Peter, Mike also posted a piece earlier this year on some of his favourite reads of 2019. Mike is one of the most voracious and wide-ranging readers I know, someone who pays no heed to the usual fences of genre that hierarchically divide the literary landscape. He is also one of the most generous readers I know, attuned always to the pleasures of reading. I expect that if you haven’t already read all the books he talks about below, he’ll have you ordering at least one of them. Continue reading

Anda Curry, Again


Another month, another anda/egg curry recipe. This actually has very similar ingredients as last month’s anda curry but with a bit of crucial +/- turns out very differently in terms of both flavour and texture. This is less aggressively spiced both because there’s no mellowing coconut milk being added in this version and because it was made with my children in mind. I’m happy to report they loved it and asked that I make it again. For my kids at least this has to do not just with the less aggressive spicing but also with the fact that the sauce is pureed and so there’s no onion or other crunchy bits floating around in it. It feels like my life’s work right now is to convince them that onions are actually why they like almost everything they like to eat. (You may not need to be so convinced but you’ll like this pureed sauce  too.) They are also not yet able to resolve their relationship with dhaniya. They like the flavour of dishes that are garnished with it but perform intricate surgery to get every bit of green off their plates before they eat. Fascinating, I know. Continue reading

Laphroaig 16, Retro Label (The Whisky Exchange)


Let’s keep the run of bourbon cask reviews going but add one that’s heavily peated. This Laphroaig was bottled for the Whisky Exchange’s annual Whisky Show in 2015 and I purchased it soon after when bottles that survived the show went on sale. It has an attractive “retro” label. I think they put out two of these labels in different years; I think I’ve seen a reference to an 18 yo as well. Well, whether as a mark of its retro identity or not, the label does not specify year of distillation. But given the 2015 bottling I’d hazard that there’s a very good chance it was distilled in 1998. Well, the fact is I’ve enjoyed almost all the Laphroaigs I’ve had from the late 1990s distillations a great deal; particularly those that have expressed an excellent fruity quality along with the signature smoke and phenols. Will this be another such cask (assuming it was indeed a single cask)? Well, there’s only one way to find out. Continue reading

Glendronach 13, 1990 (Whisky Galore)


Speaking of independent bottlers allowing us to experience malts that are outside the profile a distillery is officially associated with, and following Monday’s bourbon cask Aberlour, here is a Glendronach from a bourbon cask. It was bottled in the Whisky Galore series that Duncan Taylor put out through the mid-2000s. Usually (always?) bottled at 46% and without added colour or chill-filtration, this label put out a lot of high quality malt at highly reasonable prices. The name was changed later to NC2. As the whisky loch of the 1980s dried up the volume of quality whisky available at reasonable prices dropped dramatically across the board and the current incarnation of Duncan Taylor’s affordable line, Battlehill (often sold at Total Wine in the US) seems to offer fewer hidden treasures. Glendronach itself is, of course, highly identified with sherry cask whisky, especially the alleged “single casks” they began to put out in large numbers in the late 2000s and on. What does their whisky taste like when not from a sherry cask? Well, the results from this virgin oak cask were not encouraging, but virgin oak is a very different beast from ex-bourbon wood. Let’s see what this one is like. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 7: Back to El Triunfo


El Triunfo, as I noted last week, is the place we’ve been ordering the most takeout from during the quarantine. Both because we like the food and because we want to support this immigrant family business that is such an important part of our town as far as we are concerned. I’m glad to say that, at least as far as I can tell, they are doing decent business during the pandemic. We get food from them about once a week and each week it’s seemed like there have been more people waiting outside to pick up orders. I do hope they will make it through. Here now is a brief report on what we’ve been getting from them over the last month. Continue reading

Aberlour 26, 1989 (Cooper’s Gold)


Independent bottlers perform many services to whisky aficionados. First and foremost they are usually the only or major sources of single malt releases from workhorse distilleries whose owners all or most of their stock for blends. And for distilleries that do have single malt ranges of their own they offer the opportunity to taste single cask releases and malts at ages other than those at which the official releases are bottled. Finally, they sometimes offer the opportunity to taste expressions of a distillery’s malt that are outside the distillery’s official profile. This is particularly true of distilleries that are associated with sherry cask whiskies. Be it Highland Park or in this case, Aberlour, the independents have long been either the only or the only regular sources of opportunities to see what these distillates are like when matured in ex-bourbon casks. I am a big fan in general of bourbon cask Aberlour (see, for example, this and this) and so when the opportunity arose to purchase this 26 yo at a reasonable price at auction in the UK, I took it. I know nothing about this particular bottler. In fact, the only reference to Cooper’s Gold on Whiskybase is to this cask. And it appears likely that this is a cask that was bottled for a private individual who then decided to sell some of the bottles on. If you know more about the provenance of this release, do write in below. Continue reading

A Reading Journal of the Plague Year (Aparna)

A month goes by between the first two entries in A Reading Journal of the Plague Year and then two come at once. If you haven’t read those first two entries you should do so right after you read this one: the first by Peter Stokes and the second by Mahmud Rahman. This third entry is by another old friend, Aparna Balachandran. I first met Aparna on an Indian culture forum I used to run a long time ago. She was then finishing up her PhD in Indian history in New York. I can’t remember if we ever met in person while she was in the US. But we’ve been meeting and hanging out on all our trips to India ever since she went back to start teaching at Delhi University. A number of my meal reports from Delhi over the years have been of meals in her company—and it’s very good company indeed. We are also in a small WhatsApp group together. For the last two months our primary topics of conversation, like everyone else’s, have been the pandemic and our coping strategies. Aparna kept talking about the books she was reading and so I began working on her to make a contribution to this occasional series. After giving a lot of what in Delhi University we call “pricey ones” she finally agreed—though she refused to make public the genre that is her true primary reading and threatened me with violence if I disclosed it. Instead she said she would write a piece on Agatha Christie. Continue reading

Caol Ila 8, 2010 (Old Particular)


Let’s keep the bourbon cask train rolling but with a bit of peat added to the mix. I acquired a sample of this Caol Ila 8 as part of a split of a few bottles of young Caol Ila last year. I’ve already reviewed a 7yo bottled for K&L. That one was a sherry finish and I thought it was just about decent. This one was bottled in 2019 for Douglas Laing’s Old Particular label. As it happens, there was another Caol Ila 8, 2010 bottled by Old Particular for K&L the previous year (I’ve not had that one). This one appears to have been part of a series called “The Elements”, representing “Earth”. Not sure what the other distilleries/releases in this series were–Air? Water? Fire? Or am I thinking of The Last Airbender? Will this actually have any earthy qualities? I tend to associate Caol Ila more with the ocean. Let’s see how it turns out. My opinion of the K&L 7 yo  and this elemental business notwithstanding, Caol Ila is usually a very reliable malt.  Continue reading

Boiled Moog Dal


Here is a recipe for a dal that is very easy to make and which, despite featuring very few ingredients, has a rich, complex flavour. Is made with moog dal (moong dal in Hindi) or split, peeled mung beans. I’ve previously posted another recipe for it made with carrots and peas and tomatoes. That one is very good too—and even healthier—but this is the one my children love and ask for, and so it’s the dal I make most often. I smile wryly, by the way, at their affection for this dal. When I was their age, moog dal was my least favourite dal: mushoor dal prepared in this style and chholar dal were my favourites. I realize this is deeply uninteresting information all around. Anyway, this moog dal is made in the Bengali style by first pan-roasting the dal and then washing it before cooking it. It’s a very unglamorous dal but it is very tasty indeed. Continue reading

Glen Spey 12, 1999 (Blackadder)


It has been almost three years since my last Glen Spey review and in fact this is only my fourth-ever Glen Spey review. Of three I’ve previously reviewed the only one I liked a lot was the 21 yo that was part of Diageo’s special release slate back when some of the whiskies in their special release slate were priced reasonably—in other words, ten years ago. The other two were solid but unremarkable. I’m hoping this one will even the balance. Let’s see if that proves to be the case.

Glen Spey 12, 1999 (59.8%; Blackadder; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: A big fruity wave off the top (apples mostly, some pear too) along with some mild, toasted oak. Very nice indeed. Maltier as it sits and some citrus emerges to join the orchard fruit. With more time it’s fruitier still—more citrus now and some muskier notes peeping through too (pineapple). A few drops of water seem to mute things a bit—let’s see if it wakes up again with some more air. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 6: Flickeramen from Bull’s Horn (Minneapolis)


Okay, so it’s not actually called Flickeramen. But maybe it should be.

If you’d told me in 2017, when Doug Flicker closed Piccolo, our favourite restaurant in the Twin Ciites, that it would take us 3 years to finally make it out to his next spot, Bull’s Horn, I would not have believed you—even though I was ambivalent then about seeing Doug Flicker putting out diner food (like watching Michael Jordan play HORSE). And if you’d told me that when we did finally get around to Bull’s Horn it would be during a pandemic when takeout would be all they would be offering AND that what we’d get from them would be home assembly ramen kits I’d have thought you were crazy. But that is what we did, that is what we got and that is what we ate. And it was good. More than good: it was the best ramen we’ve yet had in Minnesota. That may seem like damning with faint praise but it’s not. Continue reading

Balblair 2005, First Release


In the second half of April I went on a long run of reviews of whiskies from sherry casks. Let’s reset the balance a bit in May with a run of reviews of whiskies from bourbon casks. First up is a Balblair 2005. This is the first release. I don’t actually know what that means. I think you have to enroll in special seminars to understand how Balblair’s vintage releases work. Me, I am a simple man and do not dare aspire to such understanding. Now you may be thinking that even I cannot be so simple as to not understand that this must simply be the first release of Balblair’s 2005 vintage. But before you judge me keep in mind that different editions of the first and second releases of Balblair 1999 were released in the same years and that it is entirely possible—nay, likely—that different editions of the same releases were of different ages. Whose head’s hurting now? Let’s agree to not talk about this anymore. At least with changes with Balblair’s lineup this confusion is no longer an issue: they scrapped the vintage releases last year and moved to regular age-stated releases. On the other hand, most of Balblair’s lineup is now unaffordable. Isn’t the world of whisky so fun and not at all alienating? Continue reading

A Reading Journal of the Plague Year (Mahmud)


Here is the second entry in the occasional series I’m running on the blog called A Reading Journal of the Plague Year. (See here for the first, by my friend Pete whose title I appropriated for the series; and see here for my other occasional series on poems about food and drink.)

Today’s entry is by another old friend, the Bangladeshi writer, translator and all-around cool person, Mahmud Rahman. I’ve known Mahmud online since the mid-90s and have hung out with him a few times, in Colorado and in Minnesota, while he was on cross-country drives; and I’ve separately hosted him at my college where he gave a wonderful reading from his collection, Killing the Water (available from Penguin India). He has also translated Mahmudul Haque’s novel Black Ice from Bengali, and is currently putting the finishing touches on his own novel. I have been waiting a long time to read this novel and am hoping it won’t be too much longer before I’ll have it in my hands. Those who know Mahmud know of his long history of driving across the United States—he’s mostly lived here since the early 1970s—and it’s no surprise then that he’s chosen to write about a road book, Clancy Sigal’s Going Away (helpfully out of print but available from libraries and Alibris). Continue reading