The Clynelish 14 does not come by as easily as some of the other Highland whiskies in this part of the world. One of the major whiskies to be used in the Johnnie Walker Gold Reserve blend, Clynelish 14 has a long history of ups and downs. The site of the original distillery built in 1819, was next to the current Clynelish distillery. According to Michal Jackson’s, The Malt Whisky Companion the original distillery was shut down in 1968 as the new Clynelish distillery was completed in 1967. For a short while they ran simultaneously as Clynelish A and Clynelish B but it wasn’t financially viable to keep both operational at the same time. The original distillery was once again reopened  in 1969 and renamed Brora Distillery. A peated whisky was distilled on this site to cash in on a shortage of Islay whisky which was caused by a drought on the island.

Brora Distillery was mothballed in 1983 but the whisky is now one of the most rare and highly sought after whiskies in the world, costing approximately one thousand US dollars a bottle. This however, is my take not on the elusive Brora but the rather underrated Clynelish 14. 

The Clynelish 14.

Colour: A bright golden yellow hue.

Body: The whisky appears to have a light to medium body.

Nose: Notes of herbaceous flowery aromas followed by a sweet citrus fragrance.

Palate: Slightly sweet and malty with a hint of smoke.

Finish: The sweetness maltiness fades on the palate to make way for saltiness. Slightly oaky spiciness with a dry finish.

The Clynelish 14.

Although I haven’t had the chance of give it a go myself but due to some of the maritime notes of the whisky I feel the Clynelish 14 will pair very well with a smoked salmon dish. One may also consider pairing it with any other firm fleshed sea fish. In the meantime here are some of my other whisky reviews, please do give them a read.

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My second foray into discovering Vietnamese cuisine hands-on was in Ho Chi Minh City or as the locals like to call it, Saigon. The cooking class was again booked through Cookly and I picked The Vietnamese Cooking School as it was not only highly rated but also offering a sizeable discount.

Unfortunately my Uber Moto driver was a bit technologically challenged and misread his Google maps and I reached the venue approximately 10 minutes late. However, Chef My was waiting seemingly patiently right in front of her school. She was gracious enough to brush off my apologies and took me up to her cooking studio and introduced me to my fellow cooks. I was extremely glad to note that the group would comprise no more than four people including Chef My herself. That would predictably lead to a more intimate and interactive cooking experience.

The ever smiling Chef My.

Soon after I had freshened up I was poured a tall glassful of ice cold jasmine tea. Meanwhile Chef My begun with her introduction to the class by talking about the most important Vietnamese cooking ingredients and how each of those could be used in different dishes. She also spoke about how she likes to change her menu for the classes around according to the season and freshness of ingredients available in the neighbourhood markets. The menu was conveniently chalked down on a blackboard displayed in a corner of the room.

The menu for the afternoon.

She begun with the dipping sauce for the Net Rice Paper Fried Spring Rolls with Pork and Mushroom. She directed us to follow her step by step so that it would be easy to follow the recipe and technique. Of course most of us could not match her speed and precision but she patiently took time out for each  of us and helped us wherever and whenever she deemed fit. The dipping sauce was easy enough but rolling the rice paper to hold its shape seemed a bit more challenging. 

Few of the primary ingredients of the classic Vietnamese dipping sauce.
The delicate work was made to look easy by Chef My.

While talking about the different kinds of rice papers she demonstrated how a a net rice paper should ideally be rolled. Although my rolls weren’t as firm as hers, I did manage to save myself the embarrassment of soggy and loose rice paper rolls. Soon after the rice paper rolls were deep fried in vegetable oil and then Chef My showed us a culinary trick of adding more texture and freshness to the dish by wrapping the rice paper rolls in crisp lettuce leaves.

Apparently, my roll weren’t too bad for a beginner.

Next she moved on to the Lotus Stem Salad with Prawns and Pork. She showed us how to cut the lotus stems to achieve uniform shape and size such that the flavours remained consistent through out he salad. Chef My also explained the significance of rice vinegar during the washing process to retain the colour and crispness of the lotus stems. This was possibly the easiest of the dishes that afternoon.

The ingredients for the Lotus Stem Salad.

As it turned Chef My’s assistant was gracious, kind and warm as the instructor herself. She continued to clean the cooking stations as and when necessary, bring new ingredients as the dish demanded and pour endless refills of the refreshing iced tea. While Chef My stepped out on to her neat balcony and started four coal barbecues she invited us to devour the Net Spring Rolls and Lotus Stem Salad that we created.

The lettuce leaf wrapped Net Spring Rolls.
The fresh Lotus Steam Salad with Prawns and Pork.

Back in the kitchen it was time to start marinading and minced beef with lemongrass, garlic, soya sauce and sugar. Then came the challenging bit of stuffing the lolot leaves with the marinaded beef, rolling them and getting them to hold their shape without tearing. Lolot leaves, Chef My told us was a unique Vietnamese ingredient and resembled the betel leaves in flavour and texture. On my part, after decimating a couple of leaves I managed to get them right. Well, right enough to serve the purpose.

Step 1 – Decently rolled lolot leaves, skewered.
Step 2 – Barbecue in progress.

Finally it time was time for the part I was keenly looking forward to. Grilling the leaves on the charcoal barbecue. The leaves needed to be turned frequently because they cooked really quickly and could easily be burnt which would lead to a charred mess with undercooked meat inside. Once again, I managed to avert any disasters and retained the edible form of my lolot leaves. 

Step 3- Ready to eat grilled lolot leaves stuffed with beef.

It was soon time to eat my own handiwork, which as it turned out wasn’t half bad. However, Chef My had a pleasant surprise in store for all of us in the form of chilled flan with Vietnamese coffee. That was not all, she presented each one of us with a personally signed recipe booklet where the recipes of that afternoon were enclosed. It was this warm and touching side of Chef My that has left a lasting impression on me.

Chef My’s parting gift, chilled flan with Vietnamese coffee.

So if you’re in Saigon and a cooking class is on your agenda do log on to Cookly and look for Chef My’s The Vietnamese Cooking Class. I can give you my word that you won’t return disappointed.

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Laphroaig distillery is a single malt Scotch whisky distillery from Islay. It owes its origin of name after its location and proximity to Loch Laphroaig on the south coast of the Isle of Islay. The meaning of the toponym is widely believed to be ‘broad hollow by the bay’. Founded in 1815 by the Johnston it was closely held by the family for almost 140 years after which the distillery and brand changed hands a few times until final ownership rested in the hands of Beam Suntory a subsidiary of Suntory Holdings in 2014. The Royal Warrant of the Prince of Wales was awarded to Laphroaig by His Royal Highness The Price of Wales himself during his visit to the distillery in 1994.

The distillery on the coast. Source:

Like most other whiskies from the area Laphroaig owes its flavours and aromas to the rich peat which is used to halt the germination process of the malted barley. The water comes from their damned reservoir which drew water from the Kilbride stream. The climate and the vicinity of its warehouse to the coast goes a long way in imparting unique flavours to the whisky. It has been one of my favourite whiskies for quite a few years now. Here’s my take on it. 

Colour: Bright gold.

Body: Full bodied.

Nose: Strong smoke and the salty sea air.

Palate: Sweet, salty and smoky.

Finish: The sweetness makes way for the saltiness while the almost medicinal smokiness lingers even after the whisky has been swallowed. 

The bright golden dram of the delicious Laphroiag 10.

Pairing: I have on occasions paired the Laphroaig 10 with smoked salmon carpaccio and smoked salmon mousse for the first course of a meal. Also one of my all time favourite pairings is the Laphroaig 10 with blue cheese. You can also read some of my other whisky reviews here.

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