The availability of bourbon whiskey continues to be elusive in my part of the world. Therefore, every chance I come across of getting my hands on an iconic brand of bourbon I try and get myself a bottle. Recently while returning from one of my travels abroad I spotted a shelf in a duty free store occupied by bottles of Wild Turkey 101. I was aware of the iconic status of Wild Turkey 101 among bourbon drinkers as a daily sipper and hence without giving it too much of a thought I paid for it and got it packed.
In the year 1869 the Ripy brothers built a distillery near Lawrenceburg, Kentucky on the site of another old distillery where they began to produce bourbom. Then with the advent of Prohibition came a few hiccups for the Ripy family. After Prohibition the Ripys started selling the bourbon produced at their distillery to wholesalers who bottled them under their own brands Austin Nichols being one of the many at that time.
Austin Nichols began to bottle Wild Turkey in 1942. For almost 30 years after introducing the brand Wild Turkey, Austin Nichols continued to only bottle bourbon purchased on the open market under their flagship Wild Turkey brandname. The majority of this whiskey was purchased from the Ripys’ distillery near Lawrenceburg. In the early 1970’s, Austin Nichols acquired the distillery and re-christened it to the Wild Turkey Distillery.
The brand name “Wild Turkey” is believed to have been born after an Austin Nichols executive named Thomas McCarthy, took some bourbon samples on a hunting trip. It’s needless to mention of course, that they were out to hunt wild turkey. The bourbon became so popular with his companions that they continued to ask him for “that wild turkey bourbon.”
Today Wild Turkey has achieved an iconic status among bourbon drinkers from around the world and has a wide array of expressions. Apart from the Wild Turkey 101 they offer Wild Turkey 81, Wild Turkey 81 Rye, Wild Turkey 101 Rye, Wild Turkey Rare Breed which is a barrel proof blend of 6, 8 and 12-year-old whiskies, Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit which is a single barrel 101 proof bourbon, Wild Turkey Longbranch, a 86 proof bourbon aged in oak refined with Texas mesquite charcoal, Wild Turkey Master’s Keep 17 Year and Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Decades.
At 50.5% ABV the Wild Turkey 101 packs quite a punch and brings that expected heat with it. I have tried it neat and on the rocks and I’ll have to admit to be more inclined towards the latter in terms of preference. Having said that, if I have a rich meal then I’ll reach for the bottle and more myself a neat one. Here’s my take on it.
Colour: A deep and rich auburn.
Body: Medium to full bodied.
Nose: Spicy, pepper-y with a bit of anise followed by toffee.
Palate: Vanilla, baking spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, sweet nutty caramel toffee.
Finish: The sweet spiciness and heat lingers on for quite some time.
Pairing: In my opinion it would pair rather well with some good quality 80% dark chocolate or a rich dark chocolate dessert.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“Food had power. It could inspire, astonish, shock, excite, delight and impress. It had the power to please me.” – Anthony Bourdain.
Having watched many a show by the great man I have come to understand that the best way to discover more about a place’s history, culture and people, is through food. Food of a place is shaped by it’s history, is a part of it’s culture and these finally go on to impact the life of the people. Therefore, I always make it a point to eat only local food when I am travelling to certain place. However, when I was in Hanoi, Vietnam a few months ago I decided to take that one step further. I wanted to venture into a kitchen to know more about the food that I was eating and visit local markets where locals purchased their fresh produce from. And that’s when I found out about Cookly.
I reserved a cooking class clubbed in with a market visit on Cookly’s clean and crisp website. One can assess the quality of a class based on conveniently provided ratings and reviews. Pay using a credit card or even Paypal, easily and hassle free. I picked a class at Hanoi Cooking Centre, which not only was rated highly but was also located relatively close to my accommodation. Since the class started at 09:00 hours I took an Uber Moto and reached the location by 08:40 hours. I was glad to note that the cooking centre was situated in quiet residential neighbourhood which meant that there was unlikely to be too many sellers trying to cater to tourists.
Hanoi Cooking Centre seemed to be a professionally organised place with a reception, comfortable waiting area, clean toilets and a spacious restaurant situated on the first floor. While I made the acquaintance of my fellow cooks I was offered and served hot Vietnamese tea.
Sharp at 09:00 we were met by Chef Le Dinh Hung. An articulate and well informed man, he gave us an overview of Hanoi’s food scene. He also told us about how food served in homes could be different from the widely available street food and the food served in restaurants.
After the brief introduction he took us for a stroll to a typical Vietnamese fresh produce market. The market for me was a revelation. All sorts of meat, fish, fresh fruits and vegetables were being sold openly without any refrigeration whatsoever yet not a single fly seemed to be buzzing around and no putrified odours overwhelmed my nostrils. Chef Hung told us how a typical Vietnamese prefers to buy only fresh ingredients and is averse to storing meat, fish and vegetables in refrigerator. He told us about various qualities of rice and what role they play in everyday home cooking. He proudly told us about the variety of fruits, vegetables and seafood. Finally he wound up the market visit by buying freshly slaughtered but cleaned chicken and headed back to the class.
By now I was excited and looking forward to the main activity that was getting my hands dirty and cooking with all those beautiful ingredients. The menu of the day comprised of banana flower salad with boiled pork and shrimp, spring rolls with shrimps and omelette, classic dipping sauce, traditional ginger chicken and sweet corn and coconut soup. Once again the meticulously organised approach of the classroom impressed me. Each participant was provided with one’s own apron, cleaver and a bowl of water. We were offered a complimentary drink of water, lime juice or beer. Once everyone settled down we got down to business.
The first item that Chef Hung started with was the dipping sauce. According to him that would give the sugar, an important ingredient of the sauce, the maximum time to completely dissolve in the fish sauce and lime juice. Next up was the chopping and washing of an uniquely Asian ingredient, the banana flower. I took my time to julienne the banana flower as demonstrated by the patient Chef Hung and then soaked them in the bowl of water with a bit of lime juice in it.
I then moved on to chopping the omelette into bite sized pieces, slicing the other ingredients and then lastly butterflying the boiled shrimps. Then came the chicken which I had as per the instructor’s direction seasoned and marinaded with ginger earlier. The marinaded pieces of all the participants were then handed over to him and he then he began to show us how the chicken was to be cooked.
While the chicken cooked in its own juices Chef Hung demonstrated how to fold the rice paper for the spring rolls. This according to me was the most delicate step of the entire cooking class. If rolled too tightly the rice paper would tear and if it was too loose the roll would not only appear clumsy but could even open up. After giving it a couple of goes I managed to start rolling the rice paper such that it would look like a spring roll. In the roll went the shrimp, sliced omelette and pineapple, some rice noodles and fresh lettuce. At this stage Hung really took a lot of interest and patiently saw to the fact that each one us could roll the rice paper as neatly as possible.
Once everyone was done with the spring rolls Chef Hung moved on to the sweet corn and coconut soup. The surprise came when I learned that it wasn’t quite soup as we know it but a dessert instead. Sweet corn kernels boiled in coconut milk with sugar and pandan leaves, the ‘vanilla bean’ of Asia, until it was transformed into a thick custard.
As the ‘soup’ cooked Chef Hung transferred the almost cooked chicken into a traditional claypot to demonstrate the final touches to be applied to the dish.
Finally under Chef Hung’s instructions each of us proceeded to plate our banana flower with boiled pork and shrimps which was dressed with some of the classic dipping sauce, fresh coriander and mint leaves and peanuts to add some crunch to the dish.
We were all congratulated and given an apron and recipe booklet each as souvenirs and very warmly ushered upstairs into the restaurant where we were to be served our own handiwork. Although cooked by amateurs the food turned out to be deliciously authentic, possibly because of the able and patient guidance of the accomplished Chef Hung.
So that was how I dove into the world of food in Hanoi and had an experience to cherish for a long while to come. And I have Cookly and Hanoi Cooking Cemtre to thank for it. If you’re travelling somewhere and are interested in learning more about the place’s food and cooking do check out Cookly.
Located on the outskirts of the town of the same name in central Scotland, Aberfeldy was founded in the 1890’s by the Dewar family as an extension of the namesake whisky brand. Thus it is categorised as a Highland whisky. Although Aberfeldy lies within close proximity of two lakes Loch Tay and Loch Tummel it relies on the Pitilie Burn, a freshwater stream running alongside the distillery. It remains the sole distillery in Scotland to use the waters of the Pitilie Burn.
Though Aberfeldy’s claim to fame lies in it being the largest component in all of Dewar’s blended whiskies some of its expressions have gone on to win awards and accolades in recent times. Apart from the 12 year old Aberfeldy also has a 16 and 21 year old expression each. Of late Aberfeldy 12 year old has been a highly sought after single malt scotch among the below $50 category. Again due to the limited options available in India I picked up this bottle from a duty free outlet. Below is my take on it. You can also read some of my other whisky reviews here.
Colour: Golden yellow.
Body: The whisky appears to have a medium body.
Nose: Fresh fruits like apples and pears are forthcoming making way for a bit of honey.
Palate: Hint of vanilla, citrus fruits and sweet honey. Goes down smoothly.
Finish: The sweetness lingers on the palate for a while and is replaced by a hint of spiciness and finishes dry.
I am yet to pair the Aberfeldy 12 with anything but it seems like a good whisky to go with some smoked salmon or hilsa, a local delicacy. I am more inclined to experiment with the latter but that’s a story for another time.
The world’s most popular and largest selling Irish whiskeys come from the distillery of Jameson. Originally, one of the main distilleries of Dublin Jameson is now distilled in Midleton, Cork County in south-west Ireland. Established way back in the year 1780’s when a Scotsman, John Jameson married into a Scottish family from in Dublin and became the manager of one of the family owned distilleries. Since then traditionally Jameson whiskey continues to be a blend of rich pot still whiskeys and grain whiskeys. Also till this day Jameson follows a triple distillation process which they claim makes it twice as smooth as other whiskeys.
In the year 2015 Jameson launched their Caskmates collections, a Stout edition and an IPA edition. The distillery partnered with local craft breweries to facilitate an exchange of ageing barrels. Apart from their regular and Caskmates bottling-s Jameson also offers Black Barrel, 18 Year Old Reserve and Signature Reserve. The Caskmates editions were launched in the year 2017 in India but are not easy to come by even in premium stores thus making them a challenging acquisition. I picked up mine from an airport duty free store. Here’s what I think about it.
Colour: Bright golden amber.
Nose: Fresh fruits reminded me of pear. Hints of spice.
Body: A medium bodied whiskey.
Palate: Initially feel sweet on the mouth followed by the chocolate-y and coffee notes of the stout. Hint of hops.
Finish: Long and sweet. Really enjoyable.
The the distillery of Dalwhinnie is located in the heart of Cairngorms National Park in the Scottish Highlands. At an altitude of almost 1,100 feet above sea level it is one of the highest distilleries in all of Scotland. It’s proximity and access to the wonderfully clear and fresh waters of the Allt an T’Sluic Spring contributes a great deal towards the flavours of the whisky. Being located in an overlapping region of Spey and the Highlands there has been considerable debate over the years about whether Dalwhinnie should be classified as a Speyside whisky or a Highland one. Interestingly, the distillery is one of the few in Scotland that continues to use wooden worm tubs to this day.
The Dalwhinnie 15 is most often seen along with the Lagavulin 16 from the island of Islay, Glenkinchie 12 from the Lowlands, Talkiser 10 from the Isle of Skye, Oban 14 from the Western Highlands and the Cragganore 12 from the Speyside region as a part of it’s owner, Diageo’s Classic Malts Selection.
The distillery has a range of official bottlings, with it’s signature single malt being the 15-year. Additionally, the distillery also offered a 20-year old, a 36-year old expression which have now been discontinued and succeeded by the no age statements Winter’s Gold and Distiller’s Edition. A large percentage of the single malt distilled at Dalwhinnie is also used in the Diageo owned Buchanan and Black & White blended whiskies. Here’s my review of the Dalwhinnie 15:
Colour: Bright gold.
Nose: Dry, aromatic herbs followed by a bit of peat.
Body: Light to medium body
Palate: Vanilla, sweet honey and fruity.
Finish: The lingering fruity sweetness gradually makes way for hints of spice and peat ending with a malty note.
Pairing: I have enjoyed my Dalwhinne 15 with a creme caramel on a couple of occasions. I also quite like it by itself.
The distillery of Cragganmore is located in a village called Ballindalloch in Banffshire in north-eastern Scotland. Founded in the 1860’s the distillery was built by Mr. John Smith a very experienced and renowned manager in his days on a leased land near Strathspey Railway Station. Along with their flagship 12 year old expression the Cragganmore distillery also offers a double matured Distiller’s Edition finished in port-wine casks without any age statement.
The Cragganore 12 is most often seen along with the Lagavulin 16 from the island of Islay, Glenkinchie 12 from the Lowlands, Talkiser 10 from the Isle of Skye, Oban 14 from the Western HIghlands and Dalwhinnie 15 from the Highland as a part of it’s owner, Diageo’s Classic Malts Selection. You can read more about my other whiskies reviews here: http://eatsiprepeat.com/category/httpeatsiprepeat-comexperiences-2/whisky-reviews/.
The distillery was built in the Strathspey region, close to the river salmon which remains its main source of water to this day. However, its unique, relatively short flat top stills is what sets the whisky apart by imparting distinct properties to its nose and taste. Here’s my take on in:
Colour: Bright gold.
Nose: Floral and grassy followed by a bit of vanilla.
Body: Medium bodied but well rounded.
Palate: Generously malty, sweet honey and a bit woody.
Finish: The maltiness and sweetness linger on for quite a while finally ending with a hint of smokiness.
If you haven’t read my first post on Ramzan in and around central Kolkata’s Zakaria Street you can do so here http://eatsiprepeat.com/ramzaninkolkata1/. Once you have had your fill of kebabs, fried fish and fried chicken I would suggest that you get down to the very important business of devouring haleem at the soonest.
Haleem is basically a meat stew where the meat of cow or goat is slow cooked with spices, lentils and grains like wheat or barley or rice or a combination of grains. The texture of the haleem available in Kolkata is like that of thick lentil broth with chunks of meat found here and there. As far as haleem in Zakaria Street is concerned you have plenty of options to choose from. Once you head back towards Zakaria Street from Adam’s in Phears Lane you are likely to first come across Islamia Hotel. In my humble opinion the best haleem in this area is undoubtedly found here with the right balance fragrance and spice. Another place that serves excellent haleem is the Zakaria Street branch of Aminia. Here you can also find haleem cooked with offal like cow’s tongue and brain along with meat.
If that is not your ‘bowl of haleem’ head to Sufia, another crowd puller situated bang opposite the Nakhoda Masjid, where you can find another delectable bowl of haleem. There are also relatively smaller players situated opposite each other one called Bombay Hotel and the other Zeeshan. I have found their output to be quite inconsistent, really delicious on one day and over or under seasoned the next day. However, the phirni (rice pudding) at Bombay Hotel is a well kept secret. All of these places also have their own biryanis but since that is something which is available all round the year I prefer to skip that during Ramzan.
As I mentioned in my previous post all over Zakaria Street you can find vendors selling different kinds of breads, sewai (vermicelli), dates, fresh fruits and dried fruits. My favourite vendor is the one who sets up a stall each year opposite Taskeen. His breads are always soft to the touch and fresh. Pick up the layered bread known as bakarkhani or the sheermal with cherries, nuts and seeds sprinkles atop that has a texture akin to regular white bread. Neither of the eateries will stop you if you walk in with your own bread to dip into your bowl of haleem.
Once you’re done with haleem and bakarkhani you will be spoiled for choice as far desserts are concerned. There are many Shahi Tukda sellers all over Zakaria Street and having tried many of them I wouldn’t recommend any of them. Head over to Haji Alauddin in Phears Lane for a wide variety of halwas, jalebis and gulab jamuns.
You can also opt to pop in to Taskeen again for a glassful of lassi falooda which is essentially a cool mixture of thickened milk flavoured with saffron, yogurt, nuts, vermicelli and sugar.
Before you head home don’t forget to take back some deep roasted or light roasted lacha also known as sewai which are nothing but thin strands of semolina noodles which are usually cooked with sugar and milk and enjoyed as a dessert.
Despite the heat and the maddening crowd you will go back home a satisfied soul with a bittersweet experience because the feasting for the day has come to and end but in probabilities you’ll be back to indulge another day, if not then definitely the next Ramzan.