Hana Market (Bloomington, MN)


Korean food does not have a very high profile in Minnesota. This is not because there are very few Koreans in Minnesota. As of the 2010 census, the numbers were not so far below the Vietnamese and the Twin Cities are dotted with Vietnamese restaurants. On the other hand, in the metro area there are very few Korean restaurants worth comment. This is probably down to the fact that despite decades of immigration, Korean food remains on the fringes of mainstream American consciousness—well behind Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Indian and even Vietnamese. Unless you’re in Los Angeles or New York or the Bay Area, you’re not going to come across a concentrated Korean population with an ecosystem of restaurants catering to in-culture diners; and for whatever reason, awareness of Korean food remains low elsewhere in the US among those who don’t habitually eat outside their own cultural comfort zone. So it is in Minnesota, even though the number of families here with Korean connections via adoption is quite high relative to most of the USContinue reading

Coming Soon…


So I managed to post all my Speyside distillery reports in July. The goal for August is to get all the Highlands and Orkney distillery reports done as well. This includes a lot more actual distillery tours than I went on in the Speyside: Pulteney, Highland Park, Tomatin, and a micro-tour of the micro Dornoch distillery. I also hope to make some headway on my reports on eating in Scotland and London on this year’s trip, and on other whisky stores in Edinburgh beyond Cadenhead’s. Let’s face it, I’m going to be writing about this trip till December probably. There’ll be Minnnesota food reports too—markets and restaurants—and I might even have a report on a very local craft brewery. The constant, as always, will be whisky reviews. And, as always, I invite your nominations for things to promote from the long list to the shortlist.  Continue reading

Glenfarclas on the Go


Having just written up a Speyside distillery that I did tour (Aberlour), let me hit you with one last distillery visit that did not involve a tour. This was my second stop at Glenfarclas in as many days. You may recall that my friend Daniel and I went to Glenfarclas on the Sunday afternoon of our Speyside jaunt only to discover that they are closed on Sundays (and also on Saturdays—at least in June). We then went to Cragganmore instead. The next day, after we’d toured Aberlour and lunched at the Mash Tun, Daniel and his family drove back to Edinburgh. We drove to Dornoch but decided to go a bit south rather than north to meet the A9. This resulted in the only sustained bit of very narrow road driving on this trip, as our sat nav took us through a slightly more picturesque route than we were looking for to get to the A9. It also meant that we were going to be driving past Glenfarclas rather than Benromach on the way, and so we paused for about 15 minutes for me to walk around the distillery grounds and in the visitor centre.  Continue reading

Littlemill 24, 1988 (Exclusive Malts)


This is the fourth Littlemill I’ve reviewed this year. The first was the old Littlemill 12, which was, as I said then, as unloved an OB whisky as you could hope to find. The other two were much older, part of the revival of Littlemill’s reputation that got underway in the early years of this decade as a number of casks bottled in the late 1980s came to market that had been matured to a far greater age than was probably intended for them at time of distillation. One of of those I really liked—the Archives 22 yo distilled in 1989. The other—a Berry Bros & Rudd 21 yo bottled distilled in 1992—was quite good but nothing so very special. This one from the Creative Whisky Company, under their Exclusive Malts label, is older than both of those and distilled the earliest. That might lead you to think that it’s got a good chance of being the best of the lot but things don’t always work out that way with whisky: the idiosyncrasies of individual casks are hard to predict and not all bottlers can be relied on for consistency. Anyway, let’s see what this is like.  Continue reading

Aberlour 10


Yesterday I had a report on my recent visit to Aberlour. Today I have a review of their 10 yo whisky. I believe this is their current entry-level malt. It’s been a long time since I last tasted this whisky*, which comprises spirit married in bourbon and sherry casks and is generally fairly priced. Well the 10 yo was part of the tasting at the end of the tour as well, but I didn’t taste it then, as I was driving after. The sample I took away didn’t make much of an impression but it was a very small pour—much too small for a review. But as luck would have it the friend we stayed with in London for a few days after our Scotland trip had a bottle open and so I tried it a couple of times and wrote my notes up. Here they are.

*Potential correction: this may actually have been my first time trying this whisky. I think it’s the Aberlour 12 that’s more widely available in the US and that I’d last tried some years ago.  Continue reading

Touring Aberlour


Here is my sixth report on a visit to a distillery in the Speyside and it’s finally one that I toured. (Previous stops were at Cragganmore, Glenfiddich, Strathisla, Glen Moray and Glen Grant.) I was very much looking forward to this visit as I’d heard a lot about their distillery exclusive bottles and was hoping to taste and purchase one of each, and certainly at least the ex-bourbon cask they’re said to always have on offer. And the tour itself has a very good reputation—it’s one of those that is always recommended by whisky geeks to people making their first visit to the Speyside. Well, I was disappointed on one score and pleased on the other.  Continue reading

Pho Valley (Apple Valley, MN)


Following my reviews of Pho Everest in Lakeville, Cam Ranh Bay in Burnsville and Simplee Pho in Apple Valley, here is another report on a no-frills but solid Vietnamese place in the Twin Cities South Metro: Pho Valley in Apple Valley. They mostly sling pho and they’re in Apple Valley and hence the name, I assume. They’ve been open somewhere between one and two years and are located in the mega strip mall at the intersection of Cedar Avenue and 150th/County Road 42. It’s a larger restaurant than Simplee Pho but has a more limited menu. On the plus side, most of what I’ve had of what they put out has been mostly pretty solid.  Continue reading

Cragganmore at Closing Time


Cragganmore was the third distillery I visited on our Sunday in the Speyside in June. I’d not actually had any plans to visit it. The plan was Strathisla in the morning, followed by Glenfiddich, and then the afternoon at Ballindalloch Castle. After Glamis Castle on the way to the Speyside, however, we weren’t feeling like another castle tour and so decided to just hang out in their gardens—which include extensive play areas and activities for kids. When we got there, one of the gents at one of the activity tables asked my friend Daniel and me if we’d been to Glenfarclas yet (it had somehow come up that we were interested in whisky). No, we said. You should really go, he said, it’s just a few miles away. And so off the two of us went. And found that Glenfarclas is closed on Sundays. Rather than go right back we decided to drive a few miles the other way to Cragganmore, which we’d established was open on Sundays. We arrived just about 20 minutes before closing but got a warm welcome.  Continue reading

Tomatin Legacy


Here’s another widely available official release. And it’s not expensive either. The Legacy is Tomatin’s current entry-level malt made from ex-bourbon and virgin oak matured spirit. It comes without an age statement because numbers are meaningless except on a price tag. There’s a rumour that this is not very much older than the legal minimum 3 years, which seems like an odd thing to tie the word “legacy” to; or more accurately, it’s more evidence for the proposition that when you see a whisky with a word like “legacy” on its label it’s likely to be very young. To be fair, Tomatin does have five age-stated whiskies in their range (most very fairly priced); there is also another NAS release, the Cask Strength, which I have not tried; and they’re not trying to charge the earth for this one either.

I did not purchase these minis. These were handed out to us at the end of our excellent tour of Tomatin in mid-June in lieu of the tasting portion of the tour—which we skipped on account of having to drive back to Edinburgh, and also because we don’t drink at 11 am (a philosophy not subscribed to by some of the others who were on the tour who’d clearly been drinking since well before 11). I’ll have a detailed account of that tour next month; here now are my notes on this whisky.  Continue reading

At Glenfiddich


There was no way I was going to go to the Speyside and not stop in at either of the region’s two most historically significant names. The most significant distillery, of course, is Glenlivet. But Glenlivet was just a bit too far out of the way for our mostly non-whisky-obsessed group. Glenfiddich has the added attraction of being situated right by the ruins of Balvenie Castle. And so it was an easy choice to go to the distillery that pioneered the marketing of distillery-released single malt whisky in the early 1960s. Accordingly, we drove right there from Strathisla. The two make for quite a contrast, especially in quick juxtaposition. Continue reading

Redbreast 15


Here’s another review of a widely available official release. This time it’s an Irish whiskey. My track record with Irish whiskey has not been very good. I’ve not had very many and very few of the ones I have had have made me want to have more. I’m sure this is just an accident of random, limited selection. In recent years, a number of older Irish whiskies from independent bottlers have received high ratings from a number of sources. And what is more, they’ve been lauded for their fruity quality—a quality I like very much in Scotch whisky. Unfortunately, I’ve not had any of those whiskies—they don’t come cheap and I don’t really spend large amounts of money on individual bottles any more. Not to mention, these are all European releases and it’s harder and harder to get those sent to the US these days.

Anyway, the Redbreast 15 is certainly easily available here. Though it’s been a while since I’ve last tried it—and I haven’t reviewed it—I quite liked the Redbreast 12; I was less impressed by the cask strength version, which I’ve reviewed twice (here and here). Let’s see what this one is like.  Continue reading

Glengoyne 12


Glengoyne is yet another distillery that I have reviewed very few malts from: only the OB 25 and 17 and a 14 yo from Malts of Scotland. Of these only the 25 yo really did it for me. Prior to starting the blog I had enjoyed the old Glengoyne 12 CS and the 21 yo. I’ve not had the 21 yo in a long time now but I do have a bottle of the 12 CS squared away. I’ll probably open it in a decade or two. Here in the meantime is the current, regular Glengoyne 12. I have no idea if it ever co-existed alongside the 12 CS. There is still a cask strength Glengoyne available but it is predictably now sold sans an age statement. And at some point the 17 yo seems to have turned into an 18 yo. I have to confess I haven’t really paid much attention to Glengoyne over the years, and in any case I am never very up on the ins and outs of distillery releases. Information you can get at other places. All I’m good for is dubious tasting notes of low utility.  Continue reading

Strathisla on a Sunday


Strathisla was supposed to be the first distillery we stopped at on this trip to Scotland. We left Edinburgh in the morning on a Friday and drove north and slightly east to Glamis Castle, thanking my many-armed gods along the way for the big highway we were on. We ate lunch at and toured Glamis Castle with our friends and then headed towards the Speyside. (By the way, if you’re into the Scottish castles thing, I heartily recommend Glamis Castle; they have very nice grounds—including play areas for kids—and while it’s pricey, the ticket includes a very good guided tour.) We chose to go via Aberdeen, in order to stay on large highways the whole way. This seemed like it had been an excellent decision until we got out of Aberdeen. Then a horrific accident on the A96 bottled up traffic for a good long while, and there was no way we were going to get to the distillery before they closed. Sitting on the highway we texted between cars and decided to head straight to dinner in Craigellachie instead (an enjoyable meal at the Highlander Inn, on which more later). As such, Glen Grant ended up being the first distillery we stopped at the next morning; Glen Moray followed that. We finally got to Strathisla bright and early on our second day in the Speyside, a Sunday morning.  Continue reading

Croftengea 9, 2008 (for the Whisky Exchange)


Loch Lomond, as you probably know, is a rather unusual Scottish distillery. For one thing, they’re one of the few distilleries that produce both grain and malt whisky. For another, they are set up to produce a wide range of distillates. This is not merely because they make peated whisky alongside unpeated but because they have a range of still setups. They have pot stills and continuous stills; and most of their pot stills—including the originals—have rectifying plates in their necks as opposed to the traditional swan neck. If that weren’t enough they also have a continuous still used to distill grain whisky from a 100% malted barley mash. And from all these different setups they produce a wide range of brands (not all are currently available): Loch Lomond, Old Rhosdhu, Inchmurrin, Inchfad, Inchmoan, Craiglodge, and yes, Croftengea. Croftengea is their peated malt whisky. It’s not made in large quantities, I don’t think. In fact, this is only the first Croftengea I’ve ever had.  Continue reading