Hazelburn Hand-Filled, August 2022


Okay, after a week of bourbon reviews let’s do a week of Campbeltown reviews. This is going to be a very low-utility series as all the reviews are going to be of bottles that were hand-filled at Springbank (presumably) in August. I did not fill them myself; I went in on a bottle split with the person who did. My understanding is that these hand-fills are not single casks but more like infinity vattings that get topped up when they get too low. And given the likely foot traffic at Springbank in the summer it’s quite likely that the composition turns over every day or two. I’ll start with the Hazelburn—the triple-distilled, unpeated variant of Springbank—then go on to the Springbank hand-fill and finally end the week with the Longrow, which is nominally more heavily peated than Springbank. I say “nominally” because in practice it’s not always possible to tell the peat levels of Springbank and Longrow apart; and, in fact, I’ve even had a Hazelburn that had more than a bit of peat in it. Let’s see where this one falls. Continue reading

Shopping at Hmong Village, November 2022 (St. Paul, MN)


This weekend’s eating plans were up in the air. I’d thought we’d probably go out for either Mexican or Filipino food but it didn’t work out that way. The missus and the boys had other engagements on Saturday and so I went out by myself with a few friends for Hmong food. We’d originally considered Hmongtown Marketplace (which I last reported on in 2018). But we ended up at Hmong Village, the larger and shinier of the two major Hmong market/food court complexes in St. Paul. I hadn’t been there in a while and was looking forward to seeing how/if it had changed in the interim. It ended up being a very fun and tasty outing. Continue reading

1792 Single Barrel (for Total Wine)


Bourbon week draws to a close. I began with the 2021 George Dickel Bottled in Bond and then checked in with a 2019 store pick Elijah Craig Small Batch; and now I end with a single barrel of 1792 Bourbon that was bottled for Total Wine in 2020. I have very little experience with 1792 (made by the Barton 1792 distillery in Bardstown in Kentucky). I don’t what the cask number was. The mash bill for 1792 is 74% corn, 18% rye and 8% barley, which I believe means this has higher rye content than either the Dickel or the Elijah Craig. Will that give it more character? Let’s see.

1792 Single Barrel for Total Wine (49.3%; from a bottle split)

Nose: The most restrained nose of the three: some light caramel, some herbal notes and some nail polish remover. The nail polish remover thankfully burns off quickly but there’s not a whole lot of development after that. Nothing interesting happens with a few drops of water at first either but then there’s some apricot and honey to go with the caramel. Continue reading

Shrimp Curry with Tomatoes


Here’s another recipe from August when I was trying my best to use up the flood of tomatoes coming in from my plot at the community garden. In this case, I also had on hand a few pounds of excellent Gulf shrimp purchased from a seafood truck that drives up from Texas to the midwest every summer. Normally, I would have made malai curry with shrimp this good but, as I said, I had a metric tonne of tomatoes to use up. And so I pulled together a relatively basic shrimp curry. Relatively, because two ingredients give the curry extra depth and bite, respectively: dessicated coconut and Sichuan peppercorn. The heat comes mostly from the black peppercorn in the spice mix, with a Kashmiri chilli [affiliate link] used more for colour. It’s a simple recipe that comes together quickly and delivers great flavour for a weeknight or weekend meal. Continue reading

Elijah Craig Small Batch (for Spec’s)


Bourbon week continues. On Monday I had a review of the 2021 release of the George Dickel Bottled in Bond; today I have for you a review of an Elijah Craig Small Batch that was bottled for Spec’s in Houston a couple of years ago. I’ve only reviewed two Elijah Craigs before this: the old 12 yo Small Batch (which used to be very reasonably priced and is now gone bye-bye); and the Elijah Craig 18 (which has never been reasonably priced and is still around). You will not be shocked to hear that the current Elijah Craig Small Batch has no age statement. Well, I suppose in this time of bourbon market insanity we should consider it a minor miracle that the NAS version doesn’t cost twice as much as the old 12 yo did; in fact, it seems to cost about the same (at least in Minnesota where it is available for $25). Now as to whether this store pick is very different from the regulation release, I have no idea. If I like this maybe I’ll pick up a regular Small Batch and see what that’s like. Continue reading

Hyacinth III (St. Paul, MN)


I ate at Hyacinth twice in 2019. The first time with the missus and some friends; the second time with colleagues. I enjoyed both meals even as I felt that its charms were really those of a neighbourhood restaurant. Nonetheless, if the pandemic had not intervened we would probably have gone back at least once in the last couple of years. And this past weekend we finally did, taking our boys out with us once again to an adult dinner experience. Italian food is the easiest option with them (see oiur previous outings to Terzo, Luci Ancora, Bar La Grassa, 112 Eatery and Mucci’s) and Hyacinth’s current menu seemed like it would suit them just fine. I’m glad to report that this did indeed prove to be the case: they enjoyed their dinner a lot. Their parents liked it too but thought it was a little uneven and we were really not convinced by the meal’s value proposition. Continue reading

George Dickel 13, 2008, Bottled in Bond, 2021 Release


Okay, for our first full themed week in November, let’s do a trio of bourbon reviews. First up, the 2021 release of the George Dickel Bottled in Bond. Since I am such an informed bourbon drinker, I was not aware that George Dickel has a Bottled in Bond release. This has apparently been an annual release since 2019, or three years after my previous George Dickel review–of the 17 yo, which no longer seems to be part of their range. In fact, the No. 12 seems to be history as well—as you may recall this was not actually a 12 yo whiskey. The Bottled in Bond releases do have age statements, however. This 2021 release was distilled in 2008 and is 13 years old. This was their second release in this series that was distilled in 2008. The 2020 release (I think) was an 11 yo also distilled in 2008. Suffice to say, I have not had that or any other of their Bottled in Bond releases. This particular bottle was purchased by a friend of mine from a store whose manager fronted it as a very rare selection—which I don’t think it quite is (though with the bourbon world having gone insane, who knows?). He brought it over one evening a month ago and we put a decent dent in it. I also stole a sample for review at leisure. Here now are my notes from it. Continue reading

Glendronach 17, 1995 (for The Whisky Exchange)


This week’s theme has been official distillery releases of sherry-bothered whiskies. Monday’s review (of the 2021 release of the Springbank 18) and Wednesday’s review (of the 2021 release of the Glenallachie 12) were both of whiskies that had sherry cask-matured whisky in them but were not full-on sherry maturations. They were also not single casks. The last whisky of the week is a single cask and it is single PX cask. Or so the label says. Of course, this is a Glendronach single cask from the Billy Walker era. I took a side swipe at this in the intro to the Glenallachie 12 on Wednesday, but in case you don’t know, and didn’t follow the link then, the Glendronach “single casks” of that era were neither always single casks—as most people understand the term—nor always matured only in the cask type marked on the label. As to whether that’s true of this PX puncheon that was bottled for the Whisky Exchange in 2013, I’m not sure. My early pours from the bottle didn’t blow me away but they also didn’t come across as indicating an attempt to dress up tired whisky with a PX cask finish. The bottle has now been open for a week or so. Let’s see what some air in it has done for the whisky. Continue reading

Hot and Sour Baingan Masala


This recipe was on the poll for September and October and it’s time has now come. I improvized it in early August when the flood of eggplant from my community garden plot was in full flow and variety in preparation was needed to keep exhaustion at bay. It turned out so well that I made it a few more times before the growing season ended in October. My eggplant of choice for this was a variety I grew for the first time this year: Little Finger. These plants produce a profusion of very dark purple eggplants that are 3-6 inches in length and tubular in shape. As they’re not commercially available—unless there’s a specialty grower at a farmers’ market near you—you can happily substitute whatever long eggplant you do have access to. Alas, globe eggplant, either cut into rings or cubed, is not optimal for this dish as you want the eggplant pieces to hold their shape and not begin to melt into the sauce. You begin by stir-frying the sliced eggplants, setting them aside, making the wet masala and adding the fried eggplant back in for the last step. While the first step requires constant stir-frying for 10 minutes or so, it is, on the whole, a simple and quick recipe—and I think you’ll find it’s very delicious. Great with pulao or with chapatis or parathas; and excellent as both a side dish or the star of the show. Continue reading

Glenallachie 12, 2021 Release


Glenallachie, or The GlenAllachie, as they style themselves, is another of the Scottish distilleries I have very little experience of. I’ve only reviewed one other—this 22 yo bottled by/for Whiskybase. It is a young distillery—only built in 1967—and is also one of the few independent distilleries left in Scotland. Mothballed in 1985, it was purchased in 1989 by Campbell Distillers, who in turn later became part of Pernod Ricard’s holding. In 2017 it was purchased by a group including Billy Walker, ex of Glendronach. The following year the distillery released a new core range, featuring 10, 12, 18 and 25 yo whiskies. They’ve since added 8, 15, 21 and 30 yo expressions to that lineup. Good on them for not going the NAS route as so many have done. They’ve not as yet released any single cask whiskies—as far as I know—which means we might have to wait a while to find out if in the move from Glendronach to Glenallachie, Billy Walker’s understanding of what the term “single cask” means has undergone any development. At any rate, I am interested to see what this 12 yo is like. My understanding is it is put together as a vatting of ex-oloroso, PX and virgin oak-matured spirit. An unusual combo, to be sure. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading

Coming Soon…


And so it’s November. Before looking ahead to the month to come, let’s take a look back at the month just past. October was once again a busy month on the blog, traffic-wise. Which were the top 10 most viewed posts? From #1 to #10 they were: On’s Kitchen VIII; Favourite Dishes Eaten in the Twin Cities Metro: July 1-September 30, 2022; Bolé; Demi II; Mushoor Dal (No Tadka); Eating at Mercado Central; Baingan “Bharta”; A Highly Subjective Ranking of Indian Restaurants in the Twin Cities Metro Area; A Guide to Ordering at Grand Szechuan; The Red Death. That’s 10/10 food posts, with four restaurant reviews, three more posts about restaurants, and three recipes. The first spirits review came in just outside the top 10 with the Kilkerran 8, Batch 6 sitting at #11. All told there were only 14 spirits-related posts (13 reviews and one post on some shenanigans at Loch Lomond) in the top 50. But I didn’t get where I am today [nowhere] by following trends and so I will continue to post three booze reviews a week. You can, as always, help me select them by nominating what you’re most interested in to the shortlist via the comments below. Continue reading

Springbank 18, 2021 Release


Having spent a week in October reviewing whiskies from Kilkerran/Glengyle, let’s close the month out with a whisky from the big boy on the Campbeltown block: Springbank. But as a month finishes, a week begins, and so let’s make this the first whisky of the week with sherry involvement. Now, the Springbank 18’s cask composition has varied a fair bit over the last decade or so. In most years there’s been a decent amount of sherry casks in the mix. In 2016 it was 80% sherry, 20% bourbon; in 2017 the ratio shifted to 60-40; in 2020 it was 55-45 and in 2021, 50-50 sherry and bourbon. Contrariwise, in 2015 and 2018 it was all ex-bourbon and in 2019 it was apparently 88% bourbon and 12% port. Meanwhile it appears the 2022 release (not yet in the US, I don’t think) is 65% bourbon and 35% sherry. (All this info, by the way, is pulled from the Whiskybase listings for Springbank 18.) Well, the most recent Springbank 18 I’ve reviewed was from the sherry-heavy 2016 release. I’ve not kept up with it since as in the intervening period—the whisky world having gone crazy—Springbank’s whiskies have become heavily allocated in the US. It was a major achievement finding a few bottles of the 2021 Springbank 10 this spring and when I saw that one of the stores I got those from had the 18 yo as well, I couldn’t resist it despite the high price tag. My first impressions were not super positive but the bottle’s come on nicely since then. Here now are my notes. Continue reading

November’s Recipes: A Poll


The first Thursday of November is almost upon us and so here is the poll to select the four recipes I’ll post next month. Four of these recipes are the also-rans from October’s poll: Hot and Sour Baingan Masala; Lamb Shank Curry with Tomato and Potato; Shrimp Curry with Tomato; and Red Braised Pork with Wine and Spices (this one has been on the poll since the summer). Joining them are two new recipes. One of these is for a mutton curry with sweet potato that’s best made in a pressure cooker but could easily be adapted to stove-top cooking by the less hasty (and you can, of course, substitute lamb or beef for mutton/goat). The other is the second vegetarian/vegan recipe on the poll and it too features eggplant. It’s a recipe whose spice mix I improvised as I was making it—I added a fair bit of mustard seed and we quite liked the result. And so here it is for you to consider as well. As always you can vote for up to four candidates. The poll will be left open through Tuesday. Continue reading

Craigellachie 15, 2006 (Old Particular for K&L)


This week of sherry cask reviews began with a 6 yo old Amrut on Monday and continued with an 11 yo Aberlour on Wednesday. Let’s end now with a 15 yo Craigellachie. This was bottled by Old Particular for K&L in California—I think I might only have one or maybe two samples left to still review from the big split I went in on of their 2021/22 casks. Anyway, sherry cask Craigellachie can be a very good thing indeed—the savoury character of the distillate holds up well to and, indeed, complements sherry cask maturation. So I thought, for example, of the last single sherry cask of Craigellachie I reviewed (an official distillery release for the US market). That said, I was not quite as impressed by the one before that: a 14 yo bottled by, Hepburn’s Choice—like Old Particular, another Laing label—for, yes, K&L. Then, again, I very much liked the one I reviewed before that one: a 16 yo also bottled by Old Particular for K&L. Let’s hope this one is in that vein. Continue reading

Chicken Curry with Fennel

The last recipe of the month is for a chicken curry that I was inspired to make by and for a long-time reader of the blog, Dan Davies (who goes by yak_lord on Instagram and whisky_yak on Twitter). He has made and posted pictures of a number of my recipes over the years and I have always appreciated it: it gives me great pleasure when my recipes enter other people’s repertoires. Last month a post he made on Instagram citing one of my recipes caught my eye. He noted that he’d not used garlic and had substituted fennel for onion. At first I was foxed by this. But, of course, there was a good reason for it: a dietary restriction in his household that makes cooking with onions, garlic and other alliums untenable. This got me thinking and I resolved to come up with a chicken curry recipe that centered fennel and omitted onions and garlic from the get-go. The recipe also eschews red chilli powder and tomatoes and the spice mix includes quite a lot of poppy seed. This makes for a “white” gravy that is mild yet flavourful: the fennel brings a bright sweetness, the pepper and ginger a bit of bite and the whole garam masalas and green chillies add fragrance. For best results use chicken on the bone as without onion or garlic you need more depth of flavour in the gravy than boneless chicken will give you. Continue reading

Aberlour 11, Oloroso, Distillery Exclusive


The week in sherry cask reviews began on Monday with a 6 yo Amrut. here now is an Aberlour that is almost twice as old and was matured in an oloroso cask. This was a cask available exclusively at the distillery earlier this year. There was also a bourbon cask. That was also 11 years old and bottled at the same strength—which seeming coincidence suggests these may not actually be bottled at cask strength. Aberlour distillery exclusives are not something you can count on purchasing if you visit the distillery. My old-time whisky readers—if more than one or two still remain—will remember my bemoaning the lack of any exclusives when I visited the distillery in 2018 (though I did enjoy the tour itself). This one, alas, was not purchased in person by me—I’ve not managed to get back to Scotland since 2018 (though I do have dreams of doing so in 2023). I was. however, pleased to have an opportunity to try it via a bottle split. It’s been a while since I’ve tried a heavily sherried Aberlour and so I am looking forward to it. Continue reading

Bolé (St. Paul, MN)


At the end of last week’s review (of things eaten in Minneapolis’ excellent Mercado Central) I’d said that our eating out this weekend would probably involve Southeast Asian food in St. Paul. Well, it didn’t involve Southeast Asian food but we did eat in St. Paul. Instead it involved Ethiopian food. It had been a while since our last Ethiopian outing—a takeout meal picked up from Fasika in early 2021—and when I put the choice of cuisine to the missus and the friends we were going to be eating with, an Ethiopian outing was an easy pick. And as we’d been meaning to eat at Bolé for a while that was an easy pick as well. Here’s how it went. Continue reading

Amrut 6, Oloroso (for K&L)


After a week of reviews of whiskies from one distillery (Kilkerran: here, here and here) and before that a week of rums (here, here and here), let’s do a week of reviews of whiskies from three different distilleries. The connecting thread this week will be sherry cask maturation and we’ll take them in order of increasing age. First up, a 6 yo Amrut that was bottled for K&L in California. I liked the last Amrut I tried that was bottled for an American store very much indeed. That seven years old was triple-distilled and matured in bourbon casks (bottled for Spec’s in Texas) and so this is not likely to have very much in common with it. I have had other sherry cask Amruts before, though, that I have liked very much—not least the regular release Intermediate Sherry (is it still a regular release?)—and so I am hopeful that this will be good too. Truth be told, I’m not sure I’ve ever had an Amrut that wasn’t at least quite good (and I’m too lazy to look up my scores). Okay, let’s get to it. Continue reading