On Wednesday I posted a brief description of the Ardbeg distillery grounds and visitor centre, replete with far too many photographs. Today I have a brief write-up of two lunches at their Old Kiln Cafe, which were the focal points of our visits to the distillery. Don’t worry, there aren’t quite as many photographs today though I do have—in what represents either a high or low for me (depending on your point of view)—four separate pictures of the same dish. The food on Islay, with one exception, was far better than I’d expected it would be, and our lunches at the Old Kiln Cafe were, in sum, the best of our meals on the island. Continue reading
We only spent one full day on Skye—a fact that I sorely regret. But it was a very good day. We spent the morning at the so-called Fairy Glens up near Uig. Their location is a bit hard to get a fix on but and the last bit of the drive, on a very hilly one-track road with quite a bit of traffic, is not fun, but this was one of our favourite outings in Scotland. And we lucked into a bright sunny morning to boot. We decided to eat lunch in Portree before heading to Dunvegan Castle in the afternoon and it began to rain as we made our way there. We parked in the central square in Portree. None of the parking machines seemed to be working but everyone seemed to be parking anyway and we took a chance (and happily didn’t get a ticket). As the rain was picking up we went into the first restaurant that caught our eye, Cuchullin. And we didn’t regret it. Here is a quick report on our lunch followed by a quick plug for the b&b we stayed at in Broadford, Hillview, and especially their breakfasts. Continue reading
We visited Ardbeg on our first and second full days on Islay but on neither occasion was it for whisky-centered action. I did not do any of the tours or tastings the distillery offers. Instead, we were there to eat. Old Islay-hands already know this but Ardbeg’s Old Kiln Cafe may very well be the best place to eat on Islay—it certainly was where we had our best meals. I’d originally thought I’d only have the one post on our visits to Ardbeg, centered on food. But when the time came to resize and crop pics this weekend I discovered that, predictably, I’d taken an amount known to mathematicians as a shit-tonne—and I felt that it would be cruel to deny you the opportunity to look at all of them: many of which are of the same subject from multiple angles, taken with different white balance and aperture settings on different cameras. (There is no need to thank me.) Accordingly, my post on the Old Kiln Cafe will come on Friday. Today I have pictures of the distillery grounds and the visitor centre/shop, which we wandered while waiting for tables to open up. Continue reading
I have already posted a write-up of the number of meals we ate at C&R, a Malaysian restaurant in London’s Chinatown. Because we came to C&R so early during our stay, and liked it so much, we sort of got stuck into it for our Malaysian cravings. As a result we didn’t make it to Rasa Sayang—the other Malaysian place likely to be recommended to you by Londoners if you ask—until much later. This was a shame as we really liked our meal there; in fact, we preferred their versions of a number of things that we ate at both places.
Here now is an account of a meal we ate there in mid-May with old friends who live in the Los Angeles area but who we hadn’t seen in more than a decade. I stopped in separately on another occasion with a group but did not have my camera with me and my phone’s battery was dead. Alas, when we tried to go back in early June, right before we left for Scotland, we found that they were closed till the middle of the month for renovations. Continue reading
I’ve not reviewed much Glenrothes on the blog, even though I keep saying I should review more. This is mostly because my interest in Glenrothes peaked and then faded before I started the blog. There isn’t much independently bottled Glenrothes around, and official Glenrothes, despite their unique bottles and their idiosyncratic approach to vintages and age statements, began to taste a little too generic to me: they were rarely poor but they never got me too excited. I quite liked the 1985-2005 and a 1991-2006 (neither of which I have reviewed) but nothing since has really made me want to seek out more—and the few tastes I’ve had of their more recent non-vintage/NAS offerings have been less encouraging still. (Though I do have one much older official release that I found in a now-closed supermarket in Los Angeles’ Koreatown a couple of years ago at more or less the original price. I’m saving that one for a special occasion.) Continue reading
On Wednesday I posted a look at the grounds and visitor centre of the venerable Bowmore distillery. Here now is a look at the interiors of many of the distillery’s most important buildings. As I’d mentioned, my initial hope had been to do the comprehensive Craftsman’s Tour but it was booked up before I got around to emailing the distillery. The basic tour was a consolation prize. This turned out to be a good thing though. For one thing, it meant I did the Warehouse Experience at Lagavulin (which was the highlight of the whisky parts of our Scotland trip); for another, it meant we had time on this day to visit Kilchoman and go on to Machir Bay—and our time at Machir Bay turned out to be one of the highlights of our entire trip. And as it happened, the basic tour at Bowmore is pretty damned good in its own right. Continue reading
We noticed Creelers out of the corner of our eyes while trying to find our b&b in Broadford. It didn’t look like much but when time came for dinner on our first night on Skye, it was conveniently close at hand. Lunch had been at the Oyster Shed in Carbost, and after touring Talisker we’d driven aimlessly for a good while and didn’t want to drive again after dinner. (I can recommend the drive from Broadford to Armdale highly; though I suggest that if, like us, you stop your car in random places to walk down to the shore, you take care, unlike us, to not step into what turns out to be very soggy terrain.) Having learned our lesson in Drumnadrochit, we’d made reservations for dinner. Continue reading
After Laphroaig, Bowmore was the Islay distillery I most wanted to visit. The distillery evokes a love-hate response from most whisky geeks and I’m one of those who is in the love camp, most of the time. (What can I say? I’m all about love and positivity.) And more than any distillery tour I’d wanted to do the Craftsman Tour at Bowmore, a 4 hour extravaganza that leads you through the entire process of whisky making and ends with a tasting session inside their legendary No. 1 vaults. Alas, I left making a reservation too late and they were full up the entire time that we were on Islay. On the plus side, it’s because of this that I ended up doing the Warehouse Experience at Lagavulin, and if you’ve read my report you know how happy I am to have done that. At Bowmore I contented myself with just the basic 1 hour distillery tour. I can tell you that this is a pretty good tour—probably better than the tour portion of the Laphroaig Distillers’ Wares experience and about 500 times better than the perfunctory tour at Talisker. This post, however, does not describe that tour—that’s coming on Friday. This post merely presents a look at the distillery grounds and the shop and visitor centre. I have too many pictures, you see, and can’t be arsed to crop and resize them all at once. Continue reading
Our first meal in London, shortly after arrival, was lunch at a Sichuan restaurant just a few steps from our flat in Westminster. We ate there twice. This is not that restaurant (and nor was Chilli Cool). I plan on making my review of that restaurant the last of my London food reviews (because after all we ate there first). This is a review of a Sichuan meal eaten almost at the very end of our trip, at Baiwei in Chinatown. It’s one of a few outposts of the Barshu group (the eponymous Barshu, Ba Shan and Baozi Inn are the others); it opened in 2013 and apparently Fuchsia Dunlop was a consultant on the menu. We were very disappointed to have this be one of our final meals in London, but not because we didn’t enjoy it. On the contrary, we liked it very much—it was the best of the Sichuan meals we ate—and wished we’d gone there much earlier so we could have gone back and sampled more of the menu. Ah well. Continue reading
Last week, I had a review of a Glen Grant 20, 1992 from a German bottler (Maltbarn). This week I have another. This one is from a bourbon hogshead and the bottler is Whisky-Fässle, whose releases I’ve generally had good luck with (though I’ve not reviewed many on the blog). I opened this bottle earlier this year along with the Maltbarn, a 23 yo from Whisky Import Nederland and another from 1992 bottled by the Whisky Exchange (review coming soon), all as part of a Glen Grant vertical for a subset of my local tasting group. We all liked this one more than the Maltbarn then, though the family resemblance was/is very strong. I drank the bottle down rather quickly after my return from London about a month ago—like the Maltbarn, it’s a particularly good summer malt—and I think I may have enjoyed the second half of the bottle more than the first. Here, before it’s all gone, are my notes. Continue reading
On Wednesday I posted brief impressions of Bunnahabhain, one of the two Port Askaig distilleries on Islay. Here now is a report on an equally brief visit to the other: Caol Ila.
Both Bunnahabhain and Caol Ila are located right on the Sound of Islay, across the water from Jura and both are massive factories: Caol Ila, however, is not as rundown as Bunnahabhain. Of course, assessments of “character” differ—see the dissenting comments on my endorsement of the upcoming renovations at Bunnahabhain—and actually even I wouldn’t say that Caol Ila—or the little I saw of it on my visit, which was mostly to the gift shop—has character. However, it doesn’t look like Oliver Twist is inside, asking for a little more gruel. That’s a type of lack of character that I can get behind. Continue reading
In my review of my tour at Talisker I said that the best reason to go to Carbost on Skye was not to visit Talisker but to eat at the Oyster Shed on the hill above the distillery. This is the rare statement that is both hyperbolic and true. Hyperbolic because I know that for any whisky geek who has not already been to Talisker, going to Talisker is the main reason to go to Skye period, no matter what anyone says; true because, well, it’s true. It’s just a large shed a mile past and above the distillery; the seafood it serves up is simple and straightforward, but it’s pristine and eating it outdoors with a view of the hills and the loch is heaven. Continue reading
Of all the distilleries I visited in Scotland, whether in depth or on a hit and run basis, none were more of a pain to get to than Bunnahabhain, few had as idyllic a location when I got there, and none presented as depressing a prospect in such a lovely setting. This does not immediately appear to be the case as you approach the distillery—see the photograph alongside for the promise of charm. It’s a lovely glimpse after a not-very fun four mile drive on a single track road on which you meet far more oncoming traffic than you would like (more than 0 vehicles was far too many for me at some of the spots where we encountered trucks etc.) but the promise is not kept. At least not right now. It’s been reported recently that the owners are going to spend a lot of money to refurbish the distillery and I think you’ll understand why below. Continue reading
While in London last August, I ate a few very good South Asian meals. My lunch at Trishna was excellent and while I thought Dishoom was a bit overrated for what it is, it was quite good too. But the only place I ate at that I knew I was going to come back to for sure with the missus this spring was Hoppers (see here for my review of that first meal). This despite the fact that they don’t take reservations and have an ultra-kitschy interior. Indeed, the only thing I hadn’t liked about my first meal was that as I was dining alone I wasn’t able to try very much. Well, on this occasion we overate; but we were very happy indeed. Continue reading