Lagavulin Distiller’s Edition, 2013

Lagavulin Distiller's Edition, 1997-2013
I ended 2016 with a review of a Laphroaig; let’s start 2017 with a review of a Lagavulin. This is the 2013 release of their annual Distiller’s Edition. It comprises malt distilled in 1997, matured for 16 years and then finished for an unspecified period of time in Pedro Ximinez sherry casks. Until the release of the Lagavulin 8 I would have said that officially released Lagavulins were as close to a guarantee of excellence in the Scotch whisky world as you can hope to find; and the Distiller’s Edition has always helped keep that average up. It basically drinks like a more heavily sherried version of the regular 16 yo (dependably excellent in its own right) and is one of the best examples of the marriage of heavy peat and sherry that is widely available—perhaps even the best. I reviewed the 2009 edition three years ago and rather liked it. It’s taken as many years for me to get around to opening this bottle and I can tell you right away that I liked it just as much. It is a liter bottle, purchased in Duty Free (back when good deals on very good whisky were actually available in Duty Free), and I’ve much enjoyed the time it’s taken me to drink it down. And despite being bottled at 43% it has stayed remarkably consistent over the life of the bottle—this review is taken from the bottom quarter. Continue reading

Coming Soon…

Khakhar
Yesterday’s post
purported to look back to the year in whisky in 2016. I have to admit that not all of it was serious—I mean, I still don’t really know how to pronounce “Glenglassaugh”. Here now is a far more sincere look-ahead to January on the blog. As always, I welcome nominations from my long list of potential whisky reviews to a shortlist. I’ll probably also get back to reviewing brandies this month. I have a number of interesting samples in hand: some Calvados, some Armagnac, a Cognac or two, and even an Italian brandy. And I may also post my first-ever rum reviews this month. On the food front, I still have a few reports to come from our trip to Montreal in late October. Those will be mixed in with reports from the Twin Cities. And after a few months off, I’ll be posting recipes again this month.

Check out the whisky list below and, if you’re interested, scroll down to the end for a look at the most read posts on the blog in 2016. Thanks for reading along last year and I hope you’ll be back this year and maybe even post a comment from time to time.  Continue reading

Year In Review, 2016

Fireworks
Happy New Year everyone. It’s customary to post lists of awards and accomplishments at this time of year and, as always, I am entirely conventional. Here therefore are some lists of my whisky high points of 2016 and other notable events and milestones. As you know, being a whisky blogger of great repute and influence has its perks and I was supplied all year, as I am every year, by distilleries and collectors with many special bottles that you regular, non-blogging types could probably never hope to drink. As such my perspective is truly superior and I very much appreciate that all of you acknowledge and salute that on a daily basis. I couldn’t have done it without you. I may be the one who drank all these whiskies (and other fine spirits) but really, you are the ones who truly enjoyed them! You’re welcome.  Continue reading

Laphroaig 10 CS, Batch 007

Laphroaig 10 CS, Batch 007
Here to close out 2016 on the blog is Batch 007 of Laphroaig’s 10, CS. I’m not sure if Batch 008 made it to the US—I haven’t seen it in Minnesota, at any rate. This year we got a bit of a scare when word began to make the rounds that the 10 CS was going to be discontinued after Batch 008; the distillery put out statements shortly thereafter to reassure customers that this is not true (I covered all this in my review of Batch 006 earlier this year). Since then, however, I’ve been told by a reliable person that he’d heard first-hand at Feis Ile from a high-up at the distillery that the 10 CS was indeed on the chopping block—so who knows? If it is going out—and I hope it is not—I hope it will go out strong. The series took a big dip with Batch 005. Unlike some others, I thought Batch 006 was a big improvement, and I’m hoping Batch 007 will be further along in that direction. It certainly has been received a lot better than Batch 006 (see here for Grinch Kravitz’s take). Less vanilla and more phenols: that’s what we want.  Continue reading

Grand Szechuan, 2016

Grand Szechuan: Szechuan Cool Noodle
Grand Szechuan is the restaurant we eat at most in the Twin Cities area. I stopped posting regularly about our meals there a couple of years ago, as otherwise things would get pretty monotonous. As I did last year, I instead have for you an end of the year round-up drawn from a number of meals eaten this year. It highlights mostly dishes that have not been featured before, as well as a few old favourites. A few new things entered our rotation this year and we also got around to eating for the first time a few things that have always been on the menu. Whether it’s to eat old or new things, we’re always glad to walk in their door. Continue reading

Four Roses: OESK + OBSK

Four Roses 10, OESK, for Beach Liquors
Here is the last installment of my Four Roses recipe roundup—try to contain your excitement. On the advice of more knowledgeable people, I’m ending the series with low and high-rye variations on the K yeast strain, which is said to be their spiciest. Let’s get right to it—I’ll have more comments on the entire exercise at the end.

Four Roses 10, OESK (55.6%; single barrel for Beach Liquors; from a bottle split)

Nose: Toasted oak and cinnamon up top; pine and sour plum below. Gets quite spicy as it sits, with some nose-tingling black pepper and red chilli flakes in there too; some salt too. Softens up with more time and more fruit begins to poke through (apricot) and there’s some light toffee too. Fruitier with water but also more herbal.  Continue reading

Thai Curry House (Burnsville, MN)

Thai Curry House: Guay Tiew
Living an hour south of the Twin Cities is no fun if you enjoy eating out. We live in a town with two colleges that somehow does not have a single Thai or Vietnamese restaurant—though given the state of our Chinese restaurants and the lone Indian restaurant that’s probably not a bad thing. The only decent food in town, really, is very casual Mexican at El Triunfo and there’s only so many times we can eat there in a month. Things don’t improve very much as you go further north. Not, in fact, until you cross the river into Bloomington: there Grand Szechuan heaves into view. But if you were looking for Thai food it used to be that you’d have to go much further to get anything that even went past passable status.

Continue reading

Ben Nevis 18, 1996 (Whisky Import Nederland)

Ben Nevis 18, 1996, WIN
My first review in November was of a 19 yo Ben Nevis, bottled by Master of Malt in their That Boutiquey Whisky Company series. I did not care for it very much. It was a little too spirity and not generally very good evidence for my repeated claim that Ben Nevis may well become the next big thing among whisky geeks, as the prices of current top line distilleries, especially for sherry casks, continue to rise towards and past the roof. I noted of that one that it was frustrating because everything I like about Ben Nevis was obviously there in it but covered by chemical/artificial notes of one kind or the other. I am happy to say that this one does not suffer from any of those problems. It was bottled by Whisky Import Nederland and this is my second bottle. I went through the first at a pretty rapid rate—I also took it to one of my whisky group’s tastings a few months ago, and it was a hit with everyone there as well. It’s from a refill sherry cask but not a very shy one. Let’s get to it. Continue reading

Dishoom (London)

Dishoom: Okra Fries
While in Delhi in January, we ate at Sodabottleopenerwala, a restaurant that packages Bombay’s Irani cafe kitsch and Parsi food to (largely) non-Parsis. I was somewhat bemused by the experience and not particularly enthused by the food. What I failed to mention in my description of that restaurant’s maximalist aesthetic—what I called “Irani restaurant as theme park—is that it represents not merely a simulacrum of Bombay’s fading Irani cafes but also the return to India of a template that had already become a huge success abroad. There was a time in India when the diaspora was culturally and politically suspect. Now, of course, it is both culturally and politically a source of ideas (and money). The location of this particular set of new ideas, perhaps predictably, is London, and the restaurant that is the source material is Dishoom. Continue reading

Four Roses: OESF + OBSF

Four Roses 10, OESF (for Prestige Liquors)
My planned Four Roses recipe roundup went on an unplanned hiatus after the first three entries in November. I’ll be finishing up now before the year is out. To refresh your memory, I’m reviewing paired single casks of the OE (low-rye) and OB (high-rye) mashbills made with a different yeast strain each time. I started out with OESQ/OBSQ, went from there to the OESV/OBSV, and then to the OESO/OBSO. The original plan had been to do the K strain next and end with the F. However, people who know better recommended I flip the order of the last two, and so here I am now with the OESF/OBSF pair. As with the previous pairs, both of these bottles come from single cask selections made by liquor stores. This series got off to a very good start for me with the Q strain; I liked the V and O a little less. Here’s hoping the F will be closer to the Q casks in quality. The F strain is said to be the most herbal one, and I’m interested to see if that means that this will be the most rye’ish of the recipes. Let’s see how it goes.  Continue reading

Rampur Select Casks

Rampur Select
Rampur is the latest Indian malt whisky to hit the market, following Paul John and the more established Amrut. Unlike those, Rampur is based in North India. The distillery was established in 1943, before India gained its independence, but it wasn’t until the early 1990s that they started distilling malt whisky—until very recently most of this went into their own blends. The distillery is owned by Radico-Khaitan and produces a mind-boggling volume of neutral spirit from molasses and grain, and also produces and sells a large range of whisky, rum, brandy and vodka (feast your eyes on the company’s romantic website). Most of these are for the Indian market—unlike the Rampur Select, which is only for the international market. This market now includes the United States. This release showed up here earlier this year and is going for anywhere between $60 and $75. Presumably, a large part of this is going to recoup the cost of the ludicrous packaging (each bottle is inside a silk pouch inside a round tin) and whoever they paid to come up with the purple prose of the marketing materials. Among other things, we are told that Rampur is the Kohinoor of single malts—I guess that means that the company will shortly be illegally taken over by the British crown. On the tin we’re also told that the princely state of Rampur rated a 15 gun salute—they’re going to feel really silly when some distillery located in an ex-princely state that rated a 21 gun salute puts their whisky on the market.  Continue reading

Piccolo VIII

Piccolo: Black cod with kohlrabi dashi, nori, and charred cippolini onions
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone: the best restaurant in the Twin Cities, and one of the best in the country, is closing. Yes, Piccolo will serve its last meal on March 11. Read Chef Doug Flicker’s announcement here. Why they’re closing is not entirely clear. My best guess would be some combination of the (not-so) slow death of the market for serious food for adults, a desire to go out on his own terms, and a desire to do something else after seven years of Piccolo. The good news is we are not losing Doug Flicker: his stamp will be on the new Esker Grove at the Walker Art Center; Sandcastle will still be around at Lake Nokomis for people who want lakeside food that raises the bar for the genre; and he will doubtless surface soon elsewhere (though if it’s at the helm of a burger and ramen shop I will not be happy). The bad news, again, is that Piccolo is closing.  Continue reading

Kilkerran 12

Kilkerran 12
Kilkerran, as previously explained, is the name of the whisky produced by the Glengyle distillery in Campbeltown. They’re a part of the Springbank family and, as I’ve also noted before, the Kilkerran profile bears lots of genetic markers of the Springbank/Longrow line. This profile has until now been accessible only through a few years worth of “Work in Progress” releases—(not-so) small batches released every year after the distillate got past the legal minimum of three years, showing the progress of the aging barrels. Unlike Bruichladdich with their Port Charlotte line, the Kilkerran WIPs were not put together in complicated ways and were thus likely to be pretty good indicators of what the profile of the eventual regular release would be. I will say that I’ve liked every edition of the WIP that I’ve tried (though I’ve only reviewed a couple so far) and I’ve thus been looking forward to the regular release, which I’d thought would be ready at 10 years of age. Well, the distillery waited till it was 12 years old, which brought us to 2016. Towards the end of the Work in Progress series they started putting out parallel sherry and bourbon wood expressions; it turns out that this 12 yo is a vatting of 70% ex-bourbon and 30% ex-sherry casks.  Continue reading

The Rabbit Hole (Minneapolis)

exterior
The Rabbit Hole’s first incarnation, about four years ago, was as the Left-Handed Cook, a counter among many other counters at Minneapolis’ Midtown Global Market. Run by two young, ex-Angeleno Korean-Americans, Thomas and Kat Kim (and named for her nickname for him), the Left-Handed Cook was quite popular when it opened. We never got around to eating there, though we’d always talked about doing it (we just haven’t been eating much at the Midtown Market in recent years). Then in late 2013 they closed it down and re-opened a little later within the Midtown Market as a proper sit-down restaurant, the Rabbit Hole. We talked about eating there as well for a good while and now we’ve actually gotten around to doing it. I wish I could say we liked it as much as we were hoping we would.  Continue reading