Baraillon 33, 1985


It’s been almost two and a half years since my last Armagnac review. I think that’s a pretty good allegory of how my almost-love affair with brandy has gone in the last few years. I’d say that it’s a pretty good allegory of how the average whisky geek’s relationship with brandy has gone in that period as well, but that would be too presumptuous. Maybe it’s because Sku retired his blog but it hasn’t felt for a while that whisky geeks are still excited about brandy in general and Armagnac in particular. Am I wrong? (And if not, is that true of rum as well?) Well, to tell the truth, it’s not that I haven’t been buying any Armagnac in the last two and a half years—it’s more that I don’t seem to get around to opening any of what I have bought. Maybe I should do that before buying any more. Speaking of which, I was going to buy a bottle of this K&L exclusive Baraillon, but when I was in L.A recently, Sku suggested I taste a sample first and passed one on to me (along with a few others). Let’s see if I should have ignored him.  Continue reading

Dim Sum at Tim Ho Wan (Hong Kong, December 2018)


Here finally is my last food report from my Hong Kong trip in December. As on our previous visit in 2016, I inaugurated my eating at Crystal Jade at the airport not too long after landing; but on this occasion I did not eat my last meal there as well. Instead, I took the opportunity offered by traveling alone to eat at Tim Ho Wan’s Hong Kong station outlet. We’d tried to do this on the last trip too but the line was very long on every occasion that we passed it and our kids were in no mood to stand in it. The line was quite long this time too but I stood in it and it moved fast enough to not be a trial. Was the food worth it? Yes, it was.  Continue reading

Ben Nevis 20, 1997 (Berry Bros. & Rudd)


The last indie Ben Nevis I reviewed was excellent—this Archives 27 yo. It featured everything that has made Ben Nevis an unlikely hero in recent years: loads of fruit, malt and nut, and those other savoury, slightly funky notes that make Ben Nevis so unique. Of course, you don’t have to go to older Ben Nevis for these pleasures. The recent official 10 yo is also excellent (though I am not sure what its current status is). This cask from Berry Bros. & Rudd more or less splits the age difference between those two; will it be in line with those two? Or will it be closer to the 19 yo from Montgomerie’s that I reviewed in between those two and which was distilled in the same year? Let’s see.

Ben Nevis 20, 1997 (54.6%; Berry Bros. & Rudd; cask 85; from a bottle split)

Nose: Malty and juicy (orange juice) with a bitter edge that’s partly oak and partly plastic. As it sits the citrus expands and the bitter note moves more in the direction of bitter orange and zest. Water pushes the bitter notes back and pulls out brighter citrus.  Continue reading

Pho Everest, Again (Lakeville, MN)


We have a long history of making poor decisions when it comes to bad weather and driving long distances for food; and so the morning snow on Saturday did not keep us from sticking to our plan to drive to St. Paul for lunch at iPho followed by a trip to the Science Museum. There wasn’t much snow falling from the sky and the friends we were planning to caravan with said roads were clear in town and we figured the highway would be fine too. It didn’t take too long to discover, however, that the highway was not fine. Slick conditions meant a bunch of cars spun out and in the ditch and a mile or so from the exit for Lakeville traffic was slowed to a crawl. We called our friends in their car and we all decided it was a good idea to not drive to St. Paul even if traffic opened up by the time we got to the exit. Well, it didn’t and so we got off and decided to go to Pho Everest in Lakeville instead.  Continue reading

Glenmorangie, The Taghta


Let’s do another Glenmorangie. Alas, it’s another NAS whisky—Glenmorangie have released so many of them. Unlike the Tayne, the Taghta is not part of their current lineup. It was a limited edition released a few years ago and was said to be a crowd-sourced whisky with all aspects of the selection of the whisky apparently having been voted on (“Taghta” is apparently Gaelic for “chosen”). From various sherry/wine finishes a Manzanilla finish was selected by whoever did the voting. I’ve read some reports that indicate that this is the regular 10 yo plus a finish but there’s no official word to that effect. I guess the crowd that selected it didn’t get a say in the age. Unlike the Tayne, it’s at 46%, so it’s at least got that going for it. Anyway, let’s see what it’s like.

Continue reading

Dumplings etc. (Hong Kong, December 2018)


A quick roundup of small meals/bites that even I don’t have the energy to blow up into individual posts of their own. First, breakfast on arrival at Crystal Jade’s branch in the Hong Kong airport. This is where we had our first and last meals of our trip in 2016 and there was no way in hell I wasn’t going to eat there again right after landing. A bit of disappointment here as I was looking forward to a bowl of their excellent congee—what could be more restorative after a 15 hours flight?—but discovered they’d recently taken congee off their menu at the airport. It’s just a small selection of noodle dishes and dumplings now. Well, the dumplings themselves were not disappointing at all. I got an order of the pan-friend dumplings and an order of their XLB. A pretty good first meal in Hong Kong.  Continue reading

TeaWood (Hong Kong, December 2018)


I’d said I had only two food reports left to come from my Hong Kong trip but I lied. I’d planned to post a single compendium of my smaller meals and quick bites but there were just too many pictures to resize. And so I’ve split them into two posts. This one will give you a brief look at TeaWood, a Taiwanese restaurant; the next will cover my random dumpling eating etc.

Like pretty much every successful restaurant in Hong Kong, TeaWood is a chain. The majority of their branches are in Kowloon. As it happens, I had spent the entire morning in Kowloon that day but the branch I ate at is in Central, very close to my hotel. I’d had a very large breakfast—or rather three of them, beginning at Law Fu Kee, going on to the dumpling restaurant next to them and then finishing with an egg tart across the street. This is why I did not eat lunch in Kowloon. But after walking for almost 8 miles I was ready for a bite when I got back to Central; and as that branch of TeaWood is right next to where I got off the Mid-Levels escalator at Wellington St. I felt it was futile to resist.  Continue reading

Glenmorangie, The Tayne


Yesterday I posted a review of a whisky available only in India, a sample of which I acquired while in Delhi last month but which I did not drink there: Amrut Amaze. Today I have for you a review of a whisky available worldwide—though mostly (only?) in duty-free shops in airports—that I did in fact drink and review in Delhi: Glenmorangie’s The Tayne. A bottle of this was in my father’s bar and I tasted it on a couple of occasions. I failed to photograph it, however, and after returning asked my parents to take a picture and WhatsApp it to me. What you see alongside is the best of many pictures they sent me. It appears to be of a full bottle which means my father had more than one hanging around. Okay, now that I’m done with the fascinating family anecdote, what can I tell you about the antecedents of the whisky itself? Not very much, I’m afraid. I have no idea why it is called “The Tayne” and I am reluctant to find out as it may make me feel bad about laughing to myself sophomorically every time I think of it as Glenmorangie, The Taint. I can tell you that it is a NAS whisky that has been “finished” in Amontillado casks. How long the original maturation lasted and how long the finish, I do not know. But I can tell you what I thought of it.  Continue reading

Amrut Amaze


Though I did not drink much whisky in India last month, here’s a whisky from the trip.

If you’re wondering what the Amrut Amaze is, you’re probably not alone. It is not a regular release from the distillery, though it is an official bottling. It was bottled for the Single Malt Amateurs Club in India in November and only made available to their members. I am not one of these members. I read about the whisky when Serge reviewed it last year. As I was going to be in India in December, I reached out to Hemanth Rao, the founder of the club and asked if it would be possible to taste a sample and possibly buy a bottle. I suspect the bottles were long sold out by the time I got in touch with him (via O.W.I member, Billy Abbott) but he was kind enough to arrange for a sample to get to me in Delhi. I’m not sure what the cask details are but I assume it is a single cask. This release is said to be the first of three through the club. It was priced very fairly at Rs. 3300 (or about $44)—which makes me think I should probably try to become a member of the club before the next two releases hit. Anyway, I was looking forward to tasting it, and here are my notes.  Continue reading

Just Kerala (Bombay, December 2018)


Dinner plans on my second day in Bombay were for a seafood blowout at Jai Hind. The proper thing to do would have been to eat a light breakfast and early lunch to prepare. Accordingly, I had a big bowl of uppma for breakfast at the hotel and went out for a late and massive Malayali lunch. I was meeting a friend—whose love of good food matches mine but whose capacity I may have pushed to the limit over the three days we spent hanging out, discussing work and so on. Anyway, I wanted to eat Malayali food in Bombay—on the principle that it must be better than in Delhi given the greater proximity of Bombay to Kerala. Just Kerala on the second floor of Hotel Samraj in Andheri East was her pick as a casual, no-frills old-school Kerala eatery and so it proved to be. This is a good thing.  Continue reading

Chilli Club (Hong Kong, December 2018)


Back to Hong Kong but not to Cantonese food. After four Cantonese meals in a row after arrival, I had Thai food for dinner on my second day. Lunch had been a dim sum blowout at Maxim’s Palace and my friend wanted to take me to one of her favourite Thai places for dinner. Though I put up knee-jerk resistance (“I want to eat Cantonese”, I whined), I was secretly curious to see what Thai food in Hong Kong would be like. On our previous trip we’d eaten at a well-regarded Sichuan restaurant and had not been terribly impressed. Would Hong Kong do better by a non-Chinese cuisine renowned for its heat? Read on. Continue reading

Laphroaig 18, 1998 (Cadenhead)


Another Islay whisky. This Laphroaig 18 was bottled in 2017 by Cadenhead. Like the 12 yo OMC release I recently reviewed it is from a bourbon cask. I was expecting to like that younger cask a lot but was a little underwhelmed by its unidimensional, heavy smoke. Will this 18 yo bear out my usual confidence in teenaged ex-bourbon Laphroaig? Let’s see.

Laphroaig 18, 1998 (55.9%; Cadenhead; bourbon hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: Ah yes, this is the Laphroaig I love—big phenolic smoke but interlaced with acidic fruit (lime) and a bit of cereal. The smoke is pungent but the fruit is unmistakable too (with time there’s pear and melon as well). With more time some vanilla pops up too but it’s not obtrusive. Water brings the acid out to the front, pulls out a bit more of the vanilla; and there’s a briny, hammy quality to it too now.  Continue reading

Bowmore 22, 1996, Cask 17078 (OMC 20th Anniv. Release)


On Monday I posted a review of one of two Bowmore 22, 1996s released by Hunter Laing to mark the 20th anniversary of the Old Malt Cask line. I really liked that one. Here now is my review of the second which I hope I will like at least as much. It is also from an ex-bourbon cask.

This is the last of my OMC 20th anniversary reviews—if anyone has any first-hand reports on any of the others released in the series, please write in below. I’m particularly interested in those that are still available: as you know I don’t approve of talk of whiskies that are not currently available. Thanks in advance.

Bowmore 22, 1996 (50%; OMC 20th Anniversary; cask 17078; from a bottle split)

Nose: Milder than the sibling cask with the floral notes, a bit of cream and a bit of smoke. With a few drops of water it’s a bit maltier and muskier but not very much more expressive.  Continue reading

Lung King Heen, Executive Set Lunch (Hong Kong, December 2018)


Other than Crystal Jade at the airport, Lung King Heen was the only restaurant I ate at on this trip to Hong Kong that I’d eaten at before. That was during our short family sojourn in the city in early 2016. We’d gone there with every intention of eating their Executive Set Lunch but on arrival got seduced by their a la carte menu. That was a very expensive lunch but also a very delicious one. I did nonetheless harbour a bit of a sense of unfinished business re their Executive Lunch; and so when I had a meeting on this trip at the IFC, I couldn’t resist walking over to the Four Seasons and inquiring about the possibility of a lunch seating later in the week. Once again, I managed to get a table with only a few days notice; once again it was in a corner of their dining room, far away from their fabled view of Victoria Harbour. But I was not complaining.  Continue reading