Williamson 8, 2012 (Berry Bros. & Rudd)


It has been a few months since my last Laphroaig review—that was of a 21 yo bottled by the SMWS in 2016 or 2017. Today’s Laphroaig is also an indie release but it’s quite a bit younger at 8 years old. Oh yes, I should have started out by noting that it is a Laphroaig. Williamson—presumably named for the legendary Bessie Williamson of Laphroaig—seems to be the name under which independent Laphroaigs are now being released. When this started, I’m not quite sure. And as long as good indie Laphroaig continues to be available I won’t really care very much under what name it’s sold. As the label says “single malt” I’m going to assume this is not a teaspooned malt. Though I did read recently—perhaps on the Malt Maniacs F&F Facebook group—that casks that leave distilleries having been teaspooned for the indie market may not always be noted as such at release. As to whether that’s legal, I don’t know. I’d assume Berry Bros. & Rudd would play by the rules. Anyway, let’s see what this is like. Continue reading

Lagavulin 12 CS, 2020 Release


And here to close out Lagavulin 12 CS week here is the most recent release, from 2020 (see here for the 2019 and here for the 2018 release). I thought the 2018 was excellent and the 2019 just a little behind that. Where will the 2020 fall? Let’s see.

Lagavulin 12 CS, 2020 Release (56.4%; from a bottle split)

Nose: Closer to the 2018 than the 2019: lemon, carbolic peat, salt smouldering leaves; the sweeter notes on the 2019 are not present—at least not at first. The salt expands as it sits—more brine now than salt and some cracked white pepper to go with it. The nose really gets quite lovely with air as some cracked spices (coriander) join the party along with some Springbank’ish burlap and earth and a touch of some muskier fruit (charred pineapple). With more time still there are some meaty notes as well (ham). Okay, time to add water. A few drops brighten it up, pulling out citronella and more of the pineapple—plus is that a bit of peach? Continue reading

Lamb Curry with Tomato


Two weeks ago I posted the recipe for the first of two lamb curries made at the same time with 4 lbs of lamb shanks. That first one used tamarind as the souring agent; this one uses tomatoes. Those are not the only differences, of course. The blend of spices is different and, on the whole, while the first is in a generic “South Indian” style this one is in a more North Indian style. These are, of course, generalities but the truth is neither is from a specific South Indian or North Indian regional tradition. Rather, the first is made using ingredients/flavours more common in various South Indian preps and the second using ingredients/flavours more common in various North Indian preps—both broadly speaking. Like a good Bengali I add potatoes to this one and I have to say that if you have good potatoes and time their cooking just right, they will be the star of the dish every time. Continue reading

Lagavulin 12 CS, 2019 Release


Next up in Lagavulin 12 CS week is the 2019 release. As I think I noted in the intro to Monday’s review of the 2018 release, it was in 2019 that Diageo changed the label design for the Lagavulin 12 from the old functional label to something altogether prettier; and I think they raised the price too. Let’s see if they did anything to what’s inside the bottle.

Lagavulin 12 CS, 2019 Release (56.5%; from a bottle split)

Nose: Very close to the 2018 with a big hit of lemon, carbolic peat, salt and a mild farmy note. The smoke gets drier as it sits but then with more time and air there are some sweeter, coastal notes (shells, kelp). Okay, let’s add water. A few drops of water push the lemon back a bit and pull out more mineral notes (wet stones, chalk) along with more salt. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 49: Back to Thai Cafe (St. Paul, MN)


After Mediterranean, Indian and Mexican meals in the past three weeks (at Gyros Grill, Godavari and El Triunfo) we were jonesing for something Southeast Asian and Thai in particular. Having eaten takeout from Bangkok Thai Deli relatively recently we were looking to go somewhere else. On’s Kitchen was the natural second choice but it turned out they were closed for one of their regular breaks (till today, I think). Then I thought that we might give Ruam Mit Thai another go—we weren’t overly impressed when we ate there a couple of times a few years ago but I recently received reports of improvement there under new ownership. I called and it turned out they too were closed on Saturday for maintenance. Then I though I would give Phi Chay, the successor to Supatra Thai (another place we didn’t think too highly off when we ate there some years ago), a go. But it turns out they’re only open on weekends. I thought about Thai Garden and Krungthep Thai but then decided to just go back to another tried and true place: Thai Cafe. And a good decision it was too as the meal turned out to be rather good indeed. Continue reading

Lagavulin 12 CS, 2018 Release

Last week was Caol Ila week. It attracted so little interest that I am now motivated to do a Lagavulin week. And not just a general Lagavulin week but a Lagavulin 12 week. First up is the 2018 release. This was the first release since 2011 that I did not purchase at least one bottle of. And I did not go on to purchase the 2019 or 2020 releases either. That is because this was the point at which the price for this release went past the $100 threshold in the US. Having paid a fair bit less for every release prior—and quite remarkably less for some of them—I was unable to follow it into its new price band, where it has remained ever since. The odds of it coming down from there seem negligible. Starting in 2019 Diageo gave what used to be a fairly functional though austerely attractive bottle more premium livery and that’s never a good sign for the prospects of a popular whisky’s affordability. With younger official Lagavulins now out there—from the 8 yo to the 10 yo to the Offerman Edition—this is seemingly no longer intended to be a good value for the Lagavulin faithful; instead it’s more fully become a member of Diageo’s annual special release roster: no longer the member of the lineup aimed at the masses but a full-fledged premium release in its own right. That’s too bad. Well, while I’m not likely to buy another bottle of it—or chase this one on the secondary market—I am glad to get the opportunity to at least taste it via a bottle split. Continue reading

The Real and Fictional History of Loch Lomond Whisky


I recently purchased four bottles of whisky made at the Loch Lomond distillery. No one was more excited when they arrived than my children. This not because they are already drinking whisky but because Loch Lomond is the distillery whose name they know best. No, it’s not because it’s one that we’ve visited together in Scotland—I’ve still not been there. The reason is that they are big fans of Tintin comics and, as anyone who knows the series well knows, Loch Lomond is the favourite whisky of not only Captain Haddock but also Tintin’s dog Snowy. I’ve mentioned before the more-complicated-than-it-seems history of Loch Lomond and Tintin. Loch Lomond first appears in one of my favourite Tintin adventures, The Black Island, which was first serialized in 1937. Continue reading

Caol Ila 25, 2018 Release


Caol Ila week concludes with an official release, the top of the line malt from the distillery’s regular lineup: the 25 yo. (See here for Wednesday’s 15 yo and here for Monday’s 11 yo.) I’d listed this one in the February and March “Coming Soon…” lineups as a 2019 release. That was because that was how the retailer I’d purchased it from had listed it. But the bottle code revealed that it is actually the 2018 release. Or more accurately, a 2018 release. Diageo put out two separate bottlings of Caol Ila 25 in 2018: one in February and then another in September. This is the kind of thrilling insight you can be privy to if you too squint at bottling codes on bottles of whisky. This bottle is from the original February release. It should be noted that unlike the initial Caol Ila 25 releases from 2004 and 2005, the later Caol Ila 25s have neither been vintage releases nor at cask strength. This is, of course, also true of Diageo’s Talisker 25—though that stayed at cask strength all the way till 2009. The Caol Ila 25, however, only saw those two special vintage releases in 2004 and 2005 (I’ve reviewed the 1978-2004 release—I was a little harder to please back then) and then silence till it returned sans vintage statement at 43% in 2010; it has been a staple of the lineup ever since (though Whiskybase does not list a 2011 or 2015 release). Perhaps it’s these factors—43% abv, regular availability—that keep whisky geek frenzy away from this release, allowing it to be sold at a reasonable price in Europe even in these insane days (alas, the price in the US is far less reasonable). Okay, let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading

White Bean Curry


I have previously posted a few other recipes for white beans made in a broad Indian stye. See, for example, this, this, this and this. Looking at these recipes—or, for that matter, at my other Indian bean recipes as well—you might think that they’re all iterations of each other. And you’d be right—that is pretty much what cooking is. You find a general palette of flavours you like and play with proportions and with a few additions and subtractions and expand the range of preparations you make. Today’s recipe for white beans is most obviously an iteration on the recipe I posted in December for “White Bean Stew with Cumin and Ginger”. This one adds more spices and alters the proportions of acid and sugar and ends up a clear relative but with an identity of its own. I make it with Rancho Gordo’s Alubia Blanca beans but if they’re not available when you read this it would be just as good with their Cassoulet, Gay Caballero, Ayocote Blanco or Marcella beans. And if you don’t have any white beans, any other mild bean such as the Mayacoba would work well too. What you want is a bean that will hold its shape and whose pot liquor will let the flavour of the spices come through. I have a block against using the much larger white beans like Royal Corona or Large White Limas in a dish like this but I couldn’t explain why. Just go with it. Continue reading

Caol Ila 15, 2004 (G&M)


As I said on Monday, this is Caol Ila week. I’m tempted to say it’s my first-ever Caol Ila week but on Monday I also admitted that I’d listed a whisky on the list of potential reviews for February and March that I had already reviewed in January. For all, I know I did an all Caol Ila week in December as well.

Monday’s review was of an 11 yo that was finished for three months in an amontillado sherry cask. I quite liked it. Today’s is a 15 yo and is also sherried but this one was a full-term maturation in a refill sherry cask. What kind of sherry, I don’t know. I opened this bottle a month and a half ago. I split half of it with friends and have been drinking my half down steadily since. Indeed, I’m finishing the last pour tonight while writing this introduction. The notes themselves were taken some weeks ago when the bottle was just past the halfway mark. It’s been very consistent from start to finish. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 48: Gyros Grill (Bloomington, MN)


We have been aware of the existence of Gyros Grill (on Old Shakopee Road in Bloomington) ever since we started shopping for Korean staples at Hana Market a couple of storefronts over. But for some reason we had never gotten around to checking them out. We finally fixed that this past weekend. We took a family walk around Lake Nokomis and then stopped at the little strip that houses them. While the missus went into Hana Market to pick up a few items I picked up the order I’d placed at Gyros Grill the evening before. I found a space much larger and brighter than the exterior might indicate and some very nice people behind the counter. The large order was ready and waiting and after the agony of smelling it in the car while waiting for the missus to get done at Hana Market and then on the 30 minute drive home I was starving by the time our pod-mates arrived for lunch. I am very glad to say that the food did not disappoint at all. Continue reading

Caol Ila 11, 2008 (James Eadie)


Have I ever done a Caol Ila week before? Well, I’m going to do one now. The plan had been to start with a 15 yo G&M cask, then the 16 yo Feis Ile 2020 and finally the 25 yo from 2018/2019. Then I discovered last week that while I’d listed it among potential reviews for both February and March, I had in fact already reviewed the Feis Ile 2020 in January! I’m totally on top of things. To keep the age progression intact I’ve moved the G&M 15 yo to Wednesday and am instead beginning the week with an 11 yo bottled by a new ‘ish outfit named James Eadie. As per Whiskybase, they’ve been bottling their releases since 2016 but there seems to have been an uptick in the last few years. If you know more about them, please write in below. They seem to have released at least a few finished whiskies. This Caol Ila is one of them. It spent 3 months in a first-fill amontillado sherry cask—a detail that is refreshingly noted on the label of the bottle. Sherried Caol Ila can be very good indeed but a Caol Ila with a short sherry finish? Let’s see. Continue reading

Glenfiddich “Fire & Cane”


Early in the beginning of the previous decade Glenfiddich seemingly decided to become a more interesting single malt producer. Not content with being the most recognizable bottle and most recognizable name in all of single malt whisky-dom in the world they decided they too needed the attention of the obsessive idiots cool kids who make up a tiny fraction of the world whisky market—and indeed also of the world single malt market. The Snow Phoenix and its ludicrous tin may have been their entry into this phase, confirming as it did that obsessive idiots discerning malt drinkers will hoover up anything with a good story attached. Releases like the Age of Discovery and Cask of Dreams and Ark of the Covenant followed (okay, I made one of those up). Then things went quiet for a while (by which I mean I stopped paying attention: for all I know they kept putting out special releases). Then a few years ago they launched their so-called Experimental series. The IPA cask was the first in 2016 (I was intrigued but never got around to trying it). Then came the XX which was sexy but not did not involve penetration (or so I assume). Then something called the Winter Storm which was banned in Minnesota for being too close to life. Then came the Fire & Cane (in 2018?). This is made from a mix of peated and unpeated spirit that is finished in rum casks. How old is it? How dare you ask such personal questions! I was intrigued by this one as well and when a chance recently came to taste it via a bottle split I jumped at it. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading

Lamb Curry with Tamarind


Back in December I purchased a large number of lamb shanks from a small farm in southern Minnesota—the same place from which I’d got the excellent oxtail that went into this New Year’s Day curry. A few weeks ago I finally got around to cooking some of them. Not paying close attention, I thawed almost exactly 4 lbs worth of shanks. I then decided to divide them into two lots and make two different preparations of them—this so that we wouldn’t be eating one curry forever. Of course, what I hadn’t thought through is that because so much of the weight is in the bones, 4 lbs of lamb shanks is pretty close to 2 lbs of meat from the point of view of portions. Still, I’m glad I made the two curries as both came out rather well and it was nice to alternate them till both were gone. You could make either recipe just as easily with beer or with mutton/goat. Indeed, if you look closely you’ll see that this recipe is a close relative of an earlier one I’d posted for mutton curry with star anise and vinegar—there are some differences in spices and ratios but those differences do make, well, a real difference, as does the fact that the souring agent here is tamarind. If you do make it with lamb shanks I’d advise not bothering with hacking the shanks up yourself inexpertly with a cleaver as I did. You can always just pull the meat off the bones before serving if the shanks are too large. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 47: Back to Godavari (Eden Prairie, MN)


Godavari opened in Eden Prairie last fall—the first and so far only Minnesota franchise of the broadly South Indian, more specifically Andhra chain that has locations outside major metros mostly on the east coast and increasingly in the midwest. I first reviewed a takeout meal from them last September. We really liked the food at that meal and when I posted my rankings of Indian restaurants in the Twin Cities metro later in the year I had them in the top tier (along with Indian Masala in Maplewood). We’ve been wanting to go back and try more of their capacious menu; and this past weekend we did just that. Herewith the details. Continue reading

Glengoyne 11, 2008 (Old Particular for K&L)

I usually have restaurant meal reports on Tuesdays but as this is officially still primarily a whisky blog let’s start the month with a whisky review instead. I’ll have a report tomorrow on our most recent takeout meal, which saw us return to Godavari in Eden Prairie.

Meanwhile, back to K&L’s exclusive casks from late 2020. I’ve had a pretty decent outing with them so far—only the Glenfiddich/Hector Macbeth 23 disappointed a bit and even that was far from bad; the Bunnahabhain 12, the Craigellachie 16, the Blair Athol 24 and the Glen Garioch 10 all came in above 85 points. That’s on my regular ratings scale. On my patented EW! or Everybody Wins! rating system they scored quite a bit higher but you should not bother with that unless you work at K&L. Okay, time to see what this Glengoyne is like. It’s not the best sign that it’s been finished in PX—often an indicator of a rescue attempt on something over-oaked. Let’s see if that’s the case. Continue reading

Coming Soon…


Goddammit, it’s been almost a year since our first quasi-lockdown began. Looking back at the March 1, 2020 edition of this post I can scarcely believe that it shows no awareness of what was coming. It had been more than two months since the actual beginning of the pandemic and we still didn’t have any clear sense in the US of what was about to come down the pike. I celebrated my 50th birthday belatedly at the end of the first week of March last year. It was a big all-day potluck at our house and for most of the attendees it was the last party we were at in the last year. How many more months of this do we have to endure? I hope not very many. My first pandemic takeout report was posted on March 31, 2020 and my review of my last meal eaten in a restaurant was posted on March 10. Well, I’m not going to have any in-person dining reports this March or anytime soon thereafter. I will have what has become the usual complement of takeout reports. And also the usual complement of booze reviews and the weekly recipe post (see here for the likely schedule). Oh yes, the blog turns 8 towards the end of the month as well. Send expensive gifts. Continue reading

Covering the Coverage of South Asian Food: Winter 2020/2021 Edition, Pt. 2


I’d said I post the second part of my Winter 2020-21 round-up of writing on South Asian food two Sundays ago but when have I ever kept my word? (See here for the first part; by the way, “Winter 2020/2021” refers to when this roundup is being posted not to when the articles were published. While most were indeed published in the last few months the entire period covered in both lists is that since the “Late Summer 2020 Edition“.)

As I noted in the previous entry, this series is now no longer even pretending to be focused centrally on writing on South Asian food produced in the US and UK. There’s really no reason why I shouldn’t draw your attention to interesting pieces published in the subcontinent as well. This change of focus may have accounted for the uncharacteristic rush of positivity in the previous entry—the first I think since I began this series that didn’t include any criticisms. This entry too has a number of pieces published in Indian venues; but, as it happens, I do have strong reservations about one of the pieces in this list and it was published in Goya Journal. We’ll start with the positives and then get to the critique.  Continue reading