The Laddie Ten – Bruichladdich, smooth

The other day, Joey, Dad and I tried The Laddie Ten. Joey said it has a sweet smell with some peat and hint of vanilla. Dad thought it was not his cup of tea. I said it was like an oban, smooth and not boring.

The very first 10 year old whisky to be wholly distilled, aged and bottled following Bruichladdich’s resurrection in 2001. In many ways this marks the beginning of the new era and this will be snapped up by connoisseurs and collectors. A true milestone bottling.

At Bruichladdich, we believe the whisky industry has been stifled by industrialization and self-interest – huge organisations have developed that require a stable status quo to ensure that their industrial processes can run to maximum efficiency, producing the maximum “product” with the minimum input and variation, all to the lowest unit price. We reject this. We believe that whisky should have character; an authenticity derived from where it is distilled and the philosophies of those who distil it – a sense of place, of terroir that speaks of the land, of the raw ingredients from which it was made. (Source:

The Laddie Ten, this whisky, this spirit, malted from only Scottish barley for authenticity, slow-fermented for purity, trickle-distilled for creamy texture and cask-filled at 70% for extra flavour, has been quietly slumbering in our loch-side warehouses for the last 10 years, and we are immensely proud to offer this landmark dram to you now.The true beginning of a new era. (Source:

This 10 years old ‘Laddie Ten’ has been praised by a lot of people as a high-quality, low-cost whisky. It’s unchill-filtered and not coloured, as all bottlings should be these days.

99 Cent Store Wine vs. Trader Joe’s (also La Finca & Contado Mankas)

We had a battle of the cheap wines wine tasting a couple weekends ago, where I wrapped 4 inexpensive and 1 regular wines in brown paper bags and asked guests to rate them blindly.  The result was that our guests really could tell the difference in price.

The contenders?  Here they are along with comments….

Trader Joe’s Chilean Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon  (3.99)

Arwin liked it and gave it a 6.  Mike gave it a 5.  Kelly thought it was bland and her mom would use it for cooking.  Annie gave it a 5.  I gave it a 6 and thought it drinkable.  Jen S.  thought it was smooth, thin, with medium tanning an likely a pinot noir.  It was her #2 wine.  Jane thought it was plain, blag, bitter and rated it 4th overall.  Lucy couldn’t describe it but thought it was “just good” and gave it a 6.5.  Joey gave it a 5.

Overall average: 5.58/10


La Finca Malbec (2.99 at Trader Joe’s)


I thought it didn’t have much taste and gave it a 3. Jen thought it tasted like nothing.  Jane thought it had some fruit with acid on the end and had it tied for 2nd place.  Mike gave it a 3.  Arwin thought it lacked flavor, was acidic up front and peppery at the back.  She gave it a 3.  Annie gave it a 2 and called it a bad wine.  Lucy thought it was smooth with not much smell.  Oaky and different.  She said she could drink more.  Joey gave it a 3.  Kelly thought it “smells like wine”, but her mom tried it and turned away in disgust.  Kelly thought it was a sharper taste and might be ok with the right meal.

Overall Average:  2.8/10


Trader Joes’ Charles Shaw Cabernet

Mike gave it a 3 and called it “like water with wine”.  I gave it a 2.5 and said it was bitter and ok to drink, but didn’t like it.  Jane found it acid, peperry, and fruity and had it tied for her 2nd choice.  Jen thought it was thin and with pepper.  Arwin thought it was too acidic with too little taste and gave it a 3.  Annie gave it a 3.  Joey gave it a 4.

Overall Average: 3.1


99 Cent Store Red Wine

(Picture to be added)

Joey gave it a 1.  I thought it was very bad and smelled like paint and gave it a 1.  Jen said it was awful and maybe corked.  Jane said “peppery, acid, NO”.  Annie gave it a 2 and said it smelled like manischevitz.  Mike found it light and tart and gave it a 4.  Arwin thought it was bad and gave it a 1.

Overall Average: 1.8


Contado Mankas Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007 (2006 pictured, but real bottle was a 2007)

I thought it was drinkable, but less complex than #1 and gave it a 5.  Jane rated it her favorite and said it was not bad and fruitier.  Jen thought it was med/full rich, spicy, and smooth.  She also thought it was the most expensive and her favorite.  Mike called it “refined” and gave it a 6.5.  Arwin thought it was a little acidic and gave it a 5.  Annie gave it a 6.  Lucy thought it had more aroma, some vanilla, was stronger, had more aftertaste and complexity and gave it a 7.5  Joey gave it a 6.  Kelly said it was much smoother and her mom liked it too.

Overall Average: 6/10


The verdict?  People could generally tell the prices, even in a blind test and the overall average ratings were:

Contado Mankas ($11.99) 6/10
Trader Joe’s Chilean Reserve ($3.99) 5.58/10
Charles Shaw Cabernet ($1.99) 3.1/10
La Finca Malbec ($2.99) 2.8/10
99 Cent Store Wine($0.99) 1.8/10

Overall, I would say that I learned that people can tell price more than I might have thought.  Also, I learned that 99 cent store wine is barely drinkable and smells awful.  The Trader Joe’s reserva is definitely better than the normal Charles Shaw wines and a few people actually thought it was better than the $11.99 wine, so it’s probably the best budget wine here.  The La Finca wine was largely tasteless.

…and to reiterate: I don’t think I’ll buy wine from the 99 cent store again.

Comments welcome.

- Ravi

Wild Turkey Straight Rye – Sweet & Tasty Kentuckiness

I have had great luck with rye whiskeys of late.  They just seem to have more taste than equivalent non-rye versions. Beverage warehouse has a couple of rye whiskeys for under $20 (Wild Turkey, Jim Bean, and Old Overholt). I’ve had Jim Bean and Old Overholt before, and so I decided to try Wild Turkey Kentucky Straight Rye.

Fresh in my mind was Grant’s, which I’d tried the day before and the Wild Turkey Rye had the same long tasty finish, but it also had a really fun sweetness to it at the beginning.  It still doesn’t have the smokiness that I love in a Whiskey, but it’s a great blend of flavors and definitely better than the Grant’s, which wasn’t bad and which I gave 50 points to, so I’m going to give this one 65 points on my 100 point scale.  I look forward to a battle of the rye whiskeys soon!

- Ravi

Jameson’s vs. Grant’s Scotch Whisky

I love whiskey and therefore most everything I drink will likely be considered ‘good’, but there are levels of good, and there are certainly times when I like some things more than others.  As I learn to discern these differences at a more conscious level, I thought it would be useful to have something to compare against.  I’d recently bought a 1 liter bottle of Grant’s Whiskey from Trader Joe’s ($10!) and had a regular bottle of Jameson’s that I’d picked up at the airport a few months ago ($21, I believe).  Perhaps tasting them side by side would help me figure out a) what level of good to ascribe to these fine beverages and b) what actual differences in taste there might be.


My layman’s thought:

Jameson’s, the best selling Irish whiskey in the world, is a smooth, easy to drink whiskey, that is pleasant and doesn’t linger long on my palate.  It probably mixes well in a cocktail and is a fine flexible drink to have around.  If I’m making up a rating scale, I’d probably have to give it a 30/100, simply because I know that while it’s a great drink, there are many many better whiskeys out there.

Grant’s is a far more complex drink, even at $10/liter at Trader Joe’s.  It has a lot more taste to it that will likely turn off the non-whiskey drinker, but if you welcome the taste and go with it, it’s really quite good (especially for the price).  Grant’s makes Glenfiddich and Balvenie as well and has a far more sophisticated website than it’s $10 price might lead you to believe.  Grant’s definitely wins this round.  It doesn’t have quite the smokiness that I prefer in a whiskey, so I might give it a 50/100, reserving the upper reaches of my personal scale for the Ardbeg’s of the world….but it’s a great deal for the price.

- Ravi Iyer