Mortlach 25, 1994 (Gordon & MacPhail)

Yesterday, I posted only my third-ever review of a Aberfeldy. Today’s whisky is from a distillery whose whisky I have far more of a familiarity with: Mortlach. Like yesterday’s Aberfeldy, this is a 25 yo single cask, also a first-fill sherry cask, bottled by Gordon & MacPhail. Mortlach is very well-known in sherried incarnations—the interplay of sherry oak, especially when from an European oak cask, and Mortlach’s naturally meaty profile can yield truly pleasurable results. Though, while I liked the last sherried Mortlach I reviewed quite a bit,  it wasn’t really one that displayed that character that one would think of as quintessentially Mortlach (let me once again encourage you to read my post from several years ago probing the question of “distillery character“). I have liked most sherried Mortlachs I’ve tried, however—with a couple of exceptions from K&L’s series of casks that are not really the bargains they seem. But I’m still chasing the memory of a Mortlach 13 bottled by G&M in their old Reserve series (anyone remember those bottles? cask strength, green labels?). It wasn’t a world-beater but it was a truly idiosyncratic meatily sulphurous beast. I finished that bottle a couple of years before I started the blog and, alas, do not seem to have saved a large reference sample from it as was my usual practice at the time. Anyway, let’s see if this 25 yo is in that vein or something more refined. Continue reading


Aberfeldy 25, 1993 (Gordon & MacPhail)

After a week of weirdo Kilchomans that included two red wine cask-bothered releases (here and here) and one mezcal finish (here), let’s get back to more conventional ground: sherry cask-matured whisky. All three of this week’s whiskies—like the Linkwood that led off the month—were bottled by Gordon & Macphail in their Connoisseurs Choice line, which is a lot fancier these days than it used to be. We’ll begin the week in the highlands with an Aberfeldy. This is only my third-ever Aberfeldy review and is by some distance the oldest of the three. The other two included a Cadenhead’s small batch release from bourbon hogsheads and another G&M Connoisseurs Choice release from a refill sherry cask. This one is from a first-fill sherry puncheon. The refill sherry cask was fine but didn’t excite me very much. Will this first-fill sherry cask, which is nine years older be better? Let’s see. Continue reading

Eating at H Mart (Garden Grove, CA, December 2023)

Here now is my last meal report from our trip to Southern California in December. It covers two meals eaten in the food court of the H Mart in Garden Grove: the first, family dinner on Christmas Sunday, and the second, a quick midweek lunch eaten by me and the boys. Fittingly, this report will post on the blog on the Sunday that will be my last full day in Seoul.

Why did we eat Christmas dinner at the H Mart food court? Partly because “why not?” and partly because we didn’t want to deal with the waits at regular Garden Grove Korean restaurants—as we’d have had to do before eating at Mo Ran Gak on Christmas in 2021 if there hadn’t been an outdoor tented area. (Now, of course, the tented seating is seemingly gone from everywhere.) The fact that there was a second meal a few days later should tell you we quite liked the food. Continue reading

Jamun, Again (Delhi, January 2023)

We ate at Jamun in Lodhi Colony with good friends on our last family trip in January 2020. We enjoyed most of that meal fine but didn’t think it was anywhere we needed to get back to in a hurry. But we did go there again on this family trip as another set of good friends picked it as ideally situated between them and us, both of us being located at different ends of the vast Delhi NCR (National Capital Region). This time we were there for lunch, and on a Sunday. This meant that the traffic was not nightmarish getting there, and that the restaurant was not very full when we arrived (we were eating on American time). How was the meal? Read on. Continue reading

Izakaya Hachi (Costa Mesa, Ca, December 2022)

Here is my penultimate restaurant report from our trip to Southern California in December. It was not our penultimate meal—that, unfortunately, was our less-than-great sushi meal at Koi—but it was one of our better meals, even if it took us deeper into Orange County, to Costa Mesa. (I’m still in denial that on our trips to L.A we are now based in Orange County.) Izakaya Hachi does have a Torrance location as well but the Costa Mesa branch is an easier drive from Seal Beach on a week night. It was a rainy week night, as it happens and so we were in the mood for some good izakaya food when we arrived. Luckily, Hachi did not disappoint. Continue reading

Kilchoman 7, 2013 (ImpEx Cask Evolution, Mezcal Finish)

Okay, after two red wine-bothered Kilchomans (here and here), it’s time for something completely different. This Kilchoman received an 8 month mezcal finish after 7 years of maturation in a Buffalo Trace Barrel. No word on what the mezcal was. I assume that’s the next step in cask hyper-detail: what brand of mezcal, what type of agave and so on. Or maybe not. At any rate, I am pretty sure this is the first mezcal-bothered whisky I’ve yet had. Now, I have had and reviewed a mezcal that received a bourbon cask finish, but this, I’m pretty sure is a first for me. As to how many other mezcal-finished whiskies there are floating about in the world, I have no idea. If you know or have had others, please write in below. Of course, I do often find mezcal’ish notes in young whiskies—and, indeed, have found them in young peated Islay whiskies in particular. These notes are associated in my palate with youth. Does that mean this mezcal finished whisky will register as younger than 7 years (itself not a very ripe old age) on my palate? Let’s see. Continue reading

Kilchoman 9, 2011, STR Finish, for Drammers

STR = Shaved, Toasted, Re-charred, if you’re wondering (as I was before I looked it up). I’m sure there’s a good reason why a cask would be toasted and re-charred but I don’t know what that is. In this case, it’s a shaved, toasted and re-charred ex-red wine cask and the whisky was finished in it for 19 months after 7+ years of maturation in a bourbon barrel. It was then bottled for the New York whisky club, Drammers. All of this information is from the excellent Kilchomania, by the way. I liked Monday’s red wine-bothered Kilchoman a lot more than I was expecting to. Of course, that was a full-term red wine maturation and this one is just a finish, but I am hopeful nonetheless. I assume the shaving, toasting and re-charring removes a lot of the red wine influence? If so, hopefully there won’t be much, if any wine separation—just as there wasn’t in the full-term matured whisky. And perhaps the longer maturation time—this is almost twice the age of Monday’s whisky—will give it more depth and development as well. Well, let’s see. Continue reading

Itton Ramen (Bloomington, MN)

I recently got a tip from a reader about a new’ish ramen place in Bloomington. Ramen is big in our family and so we were glad of the news. While there is good ramen to be had in Minneapolis and St. Paul, it’s would be very nice to have some a bit closer to us. And so on Saturday we showed up at Itton Ramen with a couple of the friends we often eat out with. As I also like to support small restaurants, I would love to tell you that we found it to be an unsung gem. But, alas, that was not our experience. While the meal, on the whole, was not bad per se, it was more than a little underwhelming on most counts. Herewith, the details. Continue reading

Kilchoman 5, 2012, Red Wine Casks

Let’s do a week of weirdo Kilchomans. By “weirdo” I mean any kind of maturation other than ex-bourbon or ex-sherry. I know, it’s very old-fashioned of me. First up, is a a five year old matured in red wine casks, specifically red wine casks from the Douro Valley in Portugal. (Note: this is not a single cask release and nor is it a cask strength release: it was a worldwide release put together from 20 red wine casks at 50% abv.) Now, I don’t have a good history with red wine cask whisky. But I’m not actually sure I’ve ever had anything other than a red wine finish. This one was actually full-term matured in red wine casks (or at least so I think). I am hopeful that this will at least prevent one of the things I have not enjoyed about red wine cask whisky: the red wine notes separating from and floating above the whisky. I can only hope it will also guard against the other major thing I have not enjoyed about red wine cask whisky: eau de cologne on the nose. Another potential good sign is that this is, of course, heavily peated whisky (I believe at 50 ppm). I’m not a huge fan of port cask whisky either but have generally found it to work best with peated whiskies. With all my hopes and reservations on the table, let’s get to it. Continue reading

Koi (Seal Beach, CA, December 2022)

Only a few more reports to go from our Southern California trip in December. We ate sushi at Nozomi in Torrance the day after we arrived and we ate sushi at Koi in Seal Beach two days before we left. One meal was a little more expensive than the other and one meal was not as good as the other, by some distance. Alas, the more expensive meal was the less good meal and that meal was this dinner at Koi. It was not bad per se—and, again, it was far better than anything available in Minnesota—but we were left wishing we’d just gone back to Nozomi for one more meal. Continue reading

Bhawan (Delhi, January 2023)

We’ve been following Chef Rahul Dua around for a while. We first encountered his food as relatively early adopters of Cafe Lota at the Crafts Museum. This was back in early 2014. We loved the approach there of bringing dishes from different regions of India together, sometimes in traditional, sometimes in less traditional guises and preparations. We’ve stuck with Cafe Lota ever since. I think it may be the only restaurant we’ve eaten at in Delhi on every single visit since. Chef Dua, however, had left Cafe Lota by the time of our next visit to Delhi in 2016. Along with his partner, Kainaz Contractor, he was now operating Rustom’s Parsi Bhonu in Qutab Enclave. From there we lost sight of him for a bit as Rustom’s moved to the Parsi dharamshala near Daryaganj. We were hoping to finally eat there on this trip but it shut down last summer. But during the pandemic they opened Bhawan, a delivery operation centered on sweets and snacks. And then in the summer of 2022 it opened as a sit-down restaurant in Gurgaon, just about a 15 minute drive from my parents’ place. It was a cinch that we were going to visit. And so it came to pass. Herewith, the details. Continue reading

Linkwood 23, 1998 (Gordon & MacPhail)

One of the possible themed weeks I might do this month is “Unfancied Speysiders”. Though this review is obviously not part of that week, Linkwood too is an unfancied Speysider. It is one of many Diageo distilleries that, outside of the Flora & Fauna line, don’t get any but the rare official release. And when Diageo does put any older Linkwood out, it’s at a nosebleed price. As such, as with so many such distilleries, if we want to taste more of their output, and if we want to taste reasonably affordable iterations of their older malt, it is to the indie bottlers we must go.

In this case, to the giants of Elgin, Gordon & MacPhail. (Linkwood too is located in Elgin, by the by.) This 23 yo Linkwood was released in Gordon & MacPhail’s refurbished Connoisseurs Choice line. Older whisky drinkers will remember that a decade-plus ago this was G&M’s entry-level label, usually bottled at 40% or 43%, and no one got very excited about it. Of course, even before that many well-regarded older whiskies from the 1960s and 1970s had also been released under this label—usually also at 40%; the obsession with cask strength whisky is a relatively new thing, after all. Anyway, the Connoisseurs Choice label is fancy again, and now at cask strength—which is another way of saying “expensive”. Will this Linkwood, bottled from a refill sherry hogshead, prove to be a good value anyway? Let’s see. Continue reading

Jiang Nan Spring (Los Angeles, December 2022)

We have pretty good Sichuan food in the Twin Cities metro these days. It’s certainly not as good as that available in the best places in the San Gabriel Valley outside Los Angleles; but it’s good enough that eating Sichuan food has not been at the top of our Chinese food agenda for a while now when visiting Southern California. Not when there are genres available there that are far superior to versions found in Minnesota (dim sum, for example); not to speak of genres and cuisines that are not available here at all (or for that matter in most other parts of the United States). On this list is the cuisine of Shanghai and environs. Over the years I’ve reported on a few such meals: eaten at Mei Long Village, Chang’s Garden, and Shanghai #1 Seafood Village. To that list now add Jiang Nan Spring, where we ate one of our best meals out on this trip. Continue reading

Coming Soon…

This blog will turn 10 years old at the end of this month. I have nothing special planned for this anniversary but you can expect some tedious navel gazing at more than one point in the month as I look back at the last 10 years as both a whisky reviewer and a whisky drinker; and also as I look forward to the future of the blog. No, I won’t be pulling a Sku and suddenly hanging up my virtual hat (sorry to disappoint!) but there probably will be some changes to the blog going forward. I did already make one change in February: I did not post any recipes on Thursdays as I usually do. Those of you who come here primarily with an interest in my recipes will be disappointed to know that I will probably not be posting recipes on the blog in March either, as I continue to work to clear my backlog of restaurant reports. This task is all the more urgent as I am going to be leaving for Seoul on work in a few days and will be there a week—which means Seoul dining reports could join the stack soon as well. You can, however, at least for March, expect the whisky reviews to continue on the same schedule: three days a week in most weeks, usually on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I have a list of potential review themes below and you can tell me in the comments if any of these particularly catch your eye or if you’re fine with whatever pops up. Continue reading

Legendary Spice (Minneapolis)

I said at the start of last week’s Twin Cities Metro review that it was and was not my first review of Pho Tempo. Similarly, this is and is not my first review of Legendary Spice. In the case of Pho Tempo it was because the restaurant (attached to Saigon Market) had undergone a renovation, menu makeover and name change since my first review. The story with Legendary Spice is a bit more complicated. They opened in 2017 as a Minneapolis franchise of the Chicago-based Lao Sze Chuan group. It was in that avatar that I reviewed them in 2018. The next year they split from the Lao Sze Chuan group, changing the name to Legendary Spice, now with a link to a Chengdu-based restaurant. They remained in the same space and have many of the same dishes. Back in 2018, we liked our meal fine but, as I said at the end of that review, we didn’t think it was anything that warranted driving a further 20 minutes north past the exit for Grand Szechuan or, for that matter, picking them over Tea House, which is just a minute or so away. This meal, however, was a different story. We liked it a lot more. Continue reading

Springbank 10, July 2022 Release

Springbank, as you know, has become one of the most highly allocated distilleries in the US. It has become all but impossible to find the 12 yo Cask Strength or the 15 and 18 year olds in the wild; and even if you do find them, the prices asked might make the blood drain from your head. And let’s not even talk about the Local Barley or single cask releases. From the regular lineup the 10 yo is the only one that can still be found from time to time without extra effort—at least in Minnesota—and, at roughly $80 before tax, it is almost a reasonably priced whisky in this current extremely stupid market. Relative to age, that is, Relative to quality, I have to say that $80 seems like a very good price compared to many other whiskies that cost more—and, for that matter, many other whiskies that cost less. I loved the March 2021 release that I reviewed a little less than a year ago. And so when I walked into my local Total Wine and saw the July 2022 release sitting on a shelf, I immediately reached for a bottle. Whiskybase tells me that this release was a vatting of 60% ex-bourbon and 40% ex-sherry casks (do the vattings vary across release dates in the same year? I wouldn’t think so). I opened the bottle right away and have been enjoying it over the last week and a half. Here now are some notes. Continue reading

India’s Gandhi Tandoori Bollywood Mahal (Minneapolis; One Night Only)

Earlier in the month I’d announced that I’d be doing a pop-up dinner with Restaurant Alma in Minneapolis, centered on Indian cooking of the type I mostly do at home. The pop-up took place this past Friday evening. 70 diners, spread across two seatings, ate a range of dishes served over four courses. I was very nervous going into this project—though much less so the closer we got to the night of—but I thought it went very well. Not all the diners may agree, of course, but I was very happy with the food as cooked by the restaurant under my direction and thought the menu hung together well.

If you follow me on Twitter or on Instagram, you may have already seen/scrolled past my recap of the experience, but I thought I’d put it together on the blog as well in one, more readable package. Here it is. Continue reading

Amrut “Aatma” 7, 2013, Ex-Port

And here is the last of this week’s Amrut “Aatma” releases. Here are the first, second and third ones I reviewed. There have been more than four “Aatma” releases, by the way—it’s just that I only got my hands on four samples. Like the others, this was a US exclusive and bottled at 56.5%. Like the two sherry casks, this one was made from unpeated barley. It was, however, matured in a port pipe (full-term maturation? I’m not sure). I’m usually wary of port cask whiskies when peat has not been involved. I’m hoping Amrut will raise my average with the genre.

Amrut “Aatma” 7, 2013, Ex-Port (56.5%; cask 4670; from a bottle split)

Nose: Slightly cough syrupy at first sniff and then there’s plum sauce and a bit of hoisin. A little bit of leather as well in there as it sits and some cherry jam. With more time the sweet notes get darker: caramel, brandied raisins. A few drops of water brighten it up: apricot and orange peel now. Continue reading