Springbank 10, 2010, Local Barley


For the last review of May I have the 2020 edition of the Springbank Local Barley. Seemingly an annual fixture in Springbank’s portfolio of releases, the Local Barley releases that I have had have all been very good. The ones that I have had and reviewed are the 16 yo released in 2016 that re-launched this series; the 11 yo released in 2017; the 9 yo released in 2018; and the 10 yo released in 2019. There may be others released in this period that I’ve missed; if so, please let me know. The 2020 release sticks close to the age range of the post-2016 releases—it’s another 10 yo—but it departs from all its predecessors in cask type. While those were all either from ex-bourbon casks or ex-bourbon cask dominated (the 2019 release had 20% sherry casks in the vatting to 77% bourbon) this one was matured entirely in oloroso sherry casks. Between the sherry cask involvement—and resulting dark colour—and the general mania that has built up about this series, this release apparently went for pretty silly money in both the US and Europe—for quite a lot more than the retail price of $160 or so asked for the 16 yo in 2016. Such is life. I did not get a bottle but I did go in on a split from which I got all of one oz. For the little they’re worth, here are my notes. Continue reading

Chan Oriental Market (Bloomington, MN)


I continue my slow-motion survey of the immigrant markets of the Twin Cities metro. My most recent stops in this survey were at Asian Mart in Burnsville and Rong Market in Richfield. Asian Mart, despite its generic name, is really a Filipino store, whereas Rong Market is centrally a Chinese store—though it also carries things used/eaten in various other East Asian cultures as well. The also generically named Chan Oriental Market in Bloomington is in fact at core a Cambodian market, though they carry a lot of Vietnamese and more broadly Southeast Asian products and ingredients as well. It was recommended to me by “R” in the comments on my Rong Market report a month ago and I’ve only just gotten around to checking them out. The boys and I stopped in just last evening. Herewith my report. Continue reading

Glen Grant 24, 1995 (Signatory for the Nectar)


I began this week of reviews of Speyside whiskies on Monday with a Glenburgie distilled in 1997 and bottled in 2012. On Wednesday I jumped back in time to review a Mannochmore distilled in 1978 and bottled in 1998. Let’s close the week with a Glen Grant distilled just a few years before the Glenburgie and only bottled in 2019.

This was bottled by Signatory for the Nectar in Belgium and, like the other two whiskies this week, it’s from a bourbon cask, in this case a bourbon barrel (Signatory have always been more forthcoming with cask information than Scott’s Selection, the bottlers of Wednesday’s Mannochmore, ever were). I’ve liked a lot of the bourbon cask Glen Grants I’ve had, including the official Glen Grant 18, which I reviewed earlier this year. Well, I don’t know if that’s listed specifically as being from bourbon casks but that seemed very obviously to be the case. And I did very much like the last one I reviewed that was unambiguously from a bourbon barrel—this 22 yo, 1992 from Single Malts of Scotland. So the odds are good. But the proof is in the glass. Let’s get to it. Continue reading

Chicken Curry Noodle


One of the missus and my absolute favourite dishes is the Malay/Singaporean classic, Nyonya laksa. Truth be told, we love the entire genre of curry noodle soups that arc up from southeast Asia through Hong Kong and China to Japan; but it’s Nyonya/curry laksa, with the richness of coconut milk that is our favourite. This recipe here is my homage to curry laksa, which is not to say that it seeks to replicate it or in any way improve upon it. It merely adapts the form to use a vaguely Kerala-style chicken curry as the base for a bowl of nourishing noodle soup. That is to say, at one (not insignificant) level this is merely a rich chicken curry served as a soup with noodles rather than over rice or with appams. Okay, that’s really the only level but it really comes out very well. I first made it for a dinner party in the Before Times—it was improvised then but was so popular among the guests that I kept tinkering with it till I had a version I didn’t feel like tinkering with any more. I do encourage you, however, to tinker with it further. You can change the spices, add less tomato if you like etc. etc. But maybe try it this way first to set a baseline to iterate on. If you enjoy noodle soups I can all but guarantee you will like it. Continue reading

Mannochmore 1978-1998 (Scott’s Selection)


Speyside week continues but today we’ll jump back almost two decades from Monday’s Glenburgie, all the way back to 1978 when this Mannochmore was distilled. It was bottled 20 years later by the enigmatic Scott’s Selection who never specified ages or cask types. This is either 19 or 20 years old but what’s not in any doubt is that it’s a bourbon cask. This is one of many Scott’s Selection bottles from non-name distilleries that hung around in the US for, well, decades after they were released—you can probably still find this Mannochmore on shelves somewhere. Of course, there’s non-name distilleries and then there is Mannochmore, which might be said to have a negative name considering it was the distillery behind the notorious Loch Dhu—if you’ve never tried it consider yourself lucky. Well, in 1978 Mannochmore was a young distillery, only having been founded seven years previously, and still a long way away from distilling the spirit that was dyed black to make Loch Dhu. It was built to produce spirit for blends for Diageo’s previous incarnation, DCL and have continued to produce spirit for blends for Diageo—though I believe they were mothballed for much of the 1980s. I’ve not had much experience with their malt from any decade—and this is only my first review of a Mannochmore on the blog. It’s a bottle I stared at on the shelves of a local’ish store for many years before deciding to chance my arm and now I’ve finally opened it. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 59: Black Market StP (St. Paul, MN)


The first pandemic takeout meal for May saw me driving up to St. Paul to pick up barbecue and bring it home to eat with friends on our deck. The last pandemic takeout meal for May saw me driving up tp St. Paul to pick up barbecue and bring it home to eat with friends on our deck. Three weeks ago it was Firebox’s St. Paul location on Marshall at Snelling that was my port of call. This past weekend it was Black Market StP just off the High Bridge. I wish I could tell you the name of the neighbourhood but I am terrible with my Twin Cities geography. I can tell you that it’s right where Smith meets Cherokee as you get off the High Bridge going south and that you’d have to really not be paying attention to miss it. We were paying attention and turned and parked on Cherokee and in a matter of minutes had picked up our order and were headed back home. Here’s what we thought of the food once we actually ate it. Continue reading

Glenburgie 14, 1997, Cask Strength Edition


So far this month I’ve done two weeks of reviews of highland whiskies and one of peated whiskies from Islay. For the last full week of the month let’s move north east to the Speyside and do a week of unpeated whiskies. First up, this Glenburgie. This was bottled all the way back in 2012 in Chivas Bros.’ late, lamented Cask Strength Edition series. The 500 ml bottles in this series were officially available only in the distillery shops but in reality came to be available from regular retailers as well. Indeed. I purchased this one from the Whisky Exchange in London. And it wasn’t the first such Glenburgie I purchased from them. In fact, I only purchased it because the first one had been so excellent that it compelled me to see if all such Glenburgies were excellent. (I reviewed that one in the early days of the blog, by the way.) Of course, as was my way with so many of the some many bottles I purchased in that era, I didn’t get around to opening it till almost a decade later. But better late than never and here I am now. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading

Caol Ila 11, 2009 (Old Particular for K&L)


Peated Islay Whisky Week comes to an end with another 11 yo (following Wednesday’s Kilchoman). This time it’s a Caol Ila. Like that Kilchoman—and also Monday’s Laphroaig 10 CS—this is a bourbon cask whisky. Well, I suppose there may be non-bourbon casks in the Laphroaig 10 CS too, but if so they’ve never registered. This was another in the big parcel of 2020 single cask releases from K&L that I went in on a split of at the end of last year. I’m just past the halfway mark of reviewing them all (I think) and it’s probably accurate to say that the set as a whole has not got me very excited so far; though I have liked some of the individual casks a lot (for example, this Blair Athol and also this Craigellachie). Caol Ila—especially bourbon cask Caol Ila—is always a good bet so I am hopeful that this will be the one of the better ones. Well, whatever the score I end up giving it, I remind my sensitive friends at K&L to look only at my patented Everybody Wins! (or EW!) score, which is what I have devised to spare their feelings. This way all their releases score above 100 points and I”m not accused of having a vendetta aganist them. Everybody wins! Or ew! Continue reading

Alu Sabzi


This is the kind of dish you will never find served at a fancy Indian restaurant or for that matter at a dinner party in an Indian home. It also gives the lie to the kind of overheated food writing you sometimes see in the US in which an Indian/Indian-origin chef or writer tells you that every single component of every Indian dish, every spice is intentionally selected to create a very particular set of layered flavours. That kind of thing has its time and place but this here is a recipe whose most crucial component may be a blender. It is quick and easy and it is very tasty. I’m sorry if that disappoints but this is—more often than not—the kind of quick and easy cooking that happens in a lot of Indian homes on a daily basis. It comes together in a hurry and all but cooks itself. Which is not to say that it’s not tasty because it is. And you can adapt it in all kinds of ways to make it your own. Think of it as an approach not a strict recipe. Who knows, you might even like it enough to serve it at a dinner party. Continue reading

Kilchoman 11, 2007 (for Friends of Kilchoman)


I was going to say it’s been a long time since my last Kilchoman review but I actually reviewed one just this past January. That was from a sherry cask. Maybe I should say it’s been a long time since I’ve reviewed a bourbon cask Kilchoman. That would take me back to 2018 and this 3 yo. Today’s bourbon cask Kilchoman is quite a bit older at 11 years old. It was apparently bottled for a private group. As to whether that group is named “Friends of Kilchoman” or that’s just the name for the private cask program, I don’t know. I do know I’ve always generally been impressed by the quality of bourbon cask Kilchoman at very young ages and so I am curious to find out what it is like at 11 years of age. Are they still planning to only release young’ish whisky? As I recall that was the plan at the beginning—though, of course, at the time they did not have any aged whisky to sell. I guess I could have asked if I’d done a less perfunctory visit when we were on Islay a few years ago. Well, if I ever get back there again I will do a proper tour. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 58: The Deli at Asian Mart (Burnsville, MN)


Some 10 days ago I had a report on Asian Mart, a Filipino grocery in Burnsville, MN. I noted in that report that they have a deli in the rear that is currently offering takeout-only on the weekends (though I suppose this may soon change with the mask mandates changing). Today I have a review for you of some food picked up from that deli this past weekend and eaten on our deck with some of the usual crew we’ve been eating with through the pandemic. They have a limited selection of dishes on offer, and it’s not the place to go to if you’re looking for vegetarian fare, but everything we got was very tasty indeed. Herewith the details. Continue reading

Laphroaig 10 CS, Batch 012


Okay, let’s move down south and a bit west from the northern highlands, all the way to Islay for a week of peated whiskies. First up, the 2020 release of the Laphroaig Cask Strength: Batch 012. Considering this was bottled in February, 2020—ah the pre-pandemic times!—I suppose it is possible that Batch 013 has already been released this year. If so, I did not see it when I purchased this bottle locally in April. If you’ve seen it in Minnesota, or when you see it, please let me know. (Also let me know if you see/have seen the new sherry-finished 10 yo.)

There’s been a lot of nonsense going on at Laphroaig in recent years. The number of releases from the distillery has proliferated, with a lot happening both at the relatively affordable and the definitely not affordable ends of the roster. This has not been accompanied, however, by widespread acclaim from reviewers for all these whiskies. Indeed, some have come in for a fair bit of stick. Nor have the recent annual Cairdeas releases all been getting everyone excited. Even I—an avowed fan of the distillery—found little to like in last year’s Port & Wine release. Through all of this hubbub, however, the quality of the Laphroaig 10 Cask Strength has stayed on course. (The regular 10 yo I can speak less confidently of, not having tried recent releases.) Let’s see if Batch 012 keeps that streak going. Continue reading

Glenmorangie, A Tale of Cake


A week of reviews of Glenmorangie’s recent Private Edition releases comes to an end with the most recent (?), the 2020 release: A Tale of Cake. No, I’m not making that up: that’s the actual name they gave it. I’d said in the introduction to Wednesday’s review of the Allta that its concept—the use of local wild yeast—might have indicated that Glenmorangie’s vaunted high concept team was running out of ideas. Well, the idea behind this one seems to confirm that. Leave alone the fact that it’s a whisky finished in Tokaji wine casks—a reference that strikes fear into the hearts of old-school whisky geeks—this was apparently created to evoke the memory of the joy of cakes eaten in childhood or made with children. Yes, there’s nothing that quite reminds us all of the sweet memories of childhood like whisky! But is this supposed to taste like cake or am I supposed to drink so much of it that I run around giggling dementedly while soiling myself? Well, I suppose if it doesn’t end up tasting like cake I’ll have no other choice. I hope one of you will back me up on this if she initiates divorce proceedings. Then again, who knows? Maybe I’ll like this as much as I liked the Spios, the most conventionally made of the trio. Continue reading

Green Masala Fish


The story of this dish is as good an allegory as any of how recipes travel and mutate over time and space. It was one of my sister and my absolute favourite dishes made by our mother when we were children. It was not made very often but was always looked forward to as a treat. This was only partly because she made it with white pomfret which we loved—both for its sweet taste and for the fact that it wasn’t as fiddly as the usual riverine Bengali fish. I think we knew it was not a Bengali dish—our mother was the only one in the extended family who made it—but we weren’t really very interested in food provenance in those days. Many years later when I was in grad school in Los Angeles and finally a confident cook I asked my mother to send me the recipe. I too began to make it on special occasions. By now I had learned of the Parsi dish patra ni machhi and assumed this was basically the same dish except instead of steamed in banana leaves it was braised on the stove-top. But a few months ago I randomly described the dish to the Parsi food writer Meher Mirza and she—after consultation with her mother—declared it too different from the iconic patra ni macchi for her to use the same name for it. And so finally after more than 50 years on this planet—more than 40 of those eating this dish—I got around to asking my mother what was up with it. Continue reading

Glenmorangie Allta


Glenmorangie Week continues with the 2019 release in the Private Edition series: Allta. You may recall that the Spios (reviewed on Monday) comprises spirit matured in rye casks. What is the twist in the Allta’s tale? Apparently, it is made using Glenmorangie’s own yeast. No, not harvested from the august personage of Bill Lumsden—I’m told he is very fastidious about hygiene—but wild yeast from somewhere around the distillery. This is either a very interesting thing or they’re running out of ideas. Anyway, let’s get to it.

Glenmorangie Allta (51.2%; from a bottle split)

Nose: The Spios featured big rye notes off the top and the Allta feature big yeasty notes; or at least big sour notes—it’s not particularly bready as the nose on many malts that feature yeasty notes often is. Instead here it melds nicely with lemon and a bit of grass; sort of like the base Glenmorangie spirit with some extra tangy sharpness: it works well enough. Not much change really with water—maybe a bit more acid? Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 57: Peninsula (Minneapolis)


After several weeks (months?) of saying we would soon be going back to Peninsula in Minneapolis to pick up some Malaysian food we finally did it this past weekend. Peninsula remains the major Malaysian restaurant in the Twin Cities metro. Indeed, I’m not aware of any other contender—which is not to say one might not exist. There is, of course Satay 2 Go in Apple Valley but it’s much smaller, in terms of both size and scope; and in any case we’ve always enjoyed Peninsula more. As I’ve noted before of Peninsula, they have an expansive menu but not everything on it is entirely to our taste. Over the years we have come to focus our meals there on a small subset of their Malay specialties. And on this occasion as well we stuck largely to our favourites. Some of them survived the 50 minute drive from the restaurant to our house a little worse than others but we had an enjoyable dinner anyway. Continue reading

Glenmorangie, Spios


Last week featured three malts from highland distilleries, all of which were extremely fruity (from Tomatin, Ardmore and Ben Nevis). I’ll stay in the highlands again this week but take up a brief residency at another distillery: Glenmorangie. And I’ll be reviewing the three most recent annual releases in Glenmorangie’s Private Edition series, all with Gaelic names of one kind or the other—I guess the owners go goofy with Ardbeg’s annual releases and play up Gaelic roots with Glenmorangie. Well, there’s not been much that’s been very Gaelic about these releases which have included a number of wine cask finishes. Such, for example, was the very first release, the Sonnalta (PX finish), the Artein (Sassicaia finish) and the Companta (mix of wine cask finishes). On the other hand, the Ealanta—yes, as I joked many years ago on Twitter, it’s hard to tell the names of Glenmorangie’s special releases apart from those of South Korean sedans—had no wine involvement at all, having been matured in virgin oak casks. The Spios—the 2018 release—also has no wine cask involvement. Instead it’s been matured full-term in rye whiskey casks. This is an experiment that some whisky geeks have been calling for for many years. I remember discussion of it on the WhiskyWhiskyWhisky forums more than a decade ago—a good thing someone finally paid attention. Of course, if Glenmorangie wanted to really impress us they’d also tell us what kind of rye casks these were—MGP? A higher barely rye mashbill from someone else? Well, we can’t expect so much information when the distillery won’t even tell us how old the whisky is. Yes, this is a NAS release. Anyway, let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading

Asian Mart (Burnsville, MN)


A couple of weeks ago I posted a detailed pictorial report on Rong Market in Richfield, whose focus is on Chinese items (and secondarily on Japanese and Korean as well). Today I have for you a report on a much smaller market in Burnsville which focuses on Filipino groceries, belying its generic name: Asian Mart. It occupies the exact location of the Thai market it replaced, Rearn Thai (which I never got around to reporting on). I believe the changeover happened two years or so ago. It may not seem very different at first when you go in but it is an entirely different market now. Unlike Rearn Thai they do not carry any produce; they make up for this by carrying a much larger selection of frozen meats and fish of interest to more than just the Filipino kitchen. They also carry a number of refrigerated Filipino prepared snacks etc.; and on weekends their deli offers a broader selection of hot dishes (currently takeout-only). I hope to stop in next weekend to pick up some of this food but for now here is a look at the market itself. Continue reading