Lance

Otherwise known as Ruminsky van Drunkenberg in my wasted and misspent youth, I am an unapologetic champion of the great ambrosias from the West Indies (long may their cricket team endure) as opposed to the Old World peats. Equally unapologetic elitist wretch who sees the organization as a chance to discuss books and improve our minds, while drinking and doing our best to reverse the process. Books under discussion are fiercely researched and points drawn up for discussion, debate or merciless dissection. I love books the way a starving kid loves Angelina Jolie's tit. I look for strife and chaos and controversy in the choice of literature, and will unhesitatingly challenge prevailing wisdom and sloppy thinking, or equally wussy excuses for books. The choice of reading materials must be defended by all (including me). It's not enough to just "like" a book -- I "like" my mother in law after a pub crawl: it doesn't mean I want to discuss her all night. I like teetering on the edge of sobriety while not lurching over the abyss into drunkenness: I prefer to pass my time somewhere in between either of these two precipitous extremes. I love photography, art, travel (for which I think I should be paid), good writing, and an elegantly crafted argument. Depending on my state of sobriety I speak between three and six languages, but can say vulgarities in at least seventeen. Rum preferences are fairly ecumenical. Since I bastardize most of them with (horrors!) coke, it's gotta be pretty good to have me drink it neat. Thus far, only the Trinidadian "Zaya" and the 15-yr old "London Harbour" from Antigua have made the cut. My baseline used to be Bacardi Black, but these days it's the Appleton 12-year old from Jamaica. Everything I drink is either better or worse than this one. Fluor 12 year old from Nicaragua comes in for honourable mention, but be warned...it's a bit on the sweet side. Good body though. Goes well with coke :-). Calgary being what it is, it's a bit of an issue to find new rums here, but Jah will provide, I'm sure.

Dec 312012
 

2012 is drawing to a close, and many sites are beginning their top-however-many lists. The Hippie has drawn up a list of his favourite drams of the year on ATW, the Rum Howler has got his lists of top rums and whiskies he’s tried, film critics will put out their top ten lists as usual, and here I’ll join in and review how the year went from Liquorature’s perspective, including – of course! – my own discoveries of the year and my own take as a reviewer of rums.

The Club

 

Liquorature, sadly, lost two of its original members, the erstwhile and aged “Mr. A-is-A” and the incisive and polemic Clint, who both took stock of their lives and made the tough call that they simply weren’t able to contribute or involve themselves as much as they would have liked, and withdrew. Coming at a time when the Benevolent-Dictator-for-Life-cum-Hippie was beginning to get antsy about the relaxed attitude of the crew becoming too prevalent, we made some organizational changes and issued Golden Tickets to two new members – Lorenzo “Il Magnifico” Lecce who had so impressed us with his solo contribution to the “1Q84” discussion (as well as his never-to-be-forgotten late-evening intoxicated kip on the washing machine), and Stuart Hunter, the curmudgeonly, avuncular elder statesman of music who has the aged-rock-god-turned-to-seed demeanour (I mean that in a a good way) which we felt would add an interesting perspective to our literary perambulations.

The Club continues to evolve. Guests remained a regular, if not consistent, fixture, with my friend Tolik, Maltmonster and Il Magnifico being pleasant additions to the mix. This year we settled down and issued formal ukases on the timing, food and drinks each person was, at a minimum, obligated to provide for the cash donated: for drinks, no cheap crap, one unopened rum and one unopened whisky (plus whatever heels the host deems appropriate), and no big splash on the food over and beyond making sure everyone has something to nibble on that doesn’t run out. To some extent, I was given a pass because in my case there’s always a full dinner spread and always more rums than whiskies (take that, maltsters)…though I’ll be the first to concede the sheer originality of others like the Ginger Buddha and Clint, who always have a theme to the evening that is unique and fun to deal with, like the Zombie Shootout for “Cell” and the Godfather restaurant recreation scene we had had before.

Curt continues to do the write ups on the Liquorature get togethers – perhaps because, as of this writing, he’s the only one to actually have attended all of them – as well as pursuing his misguided love of whiskies both here and on ATW, our more focussed sister site. With some exceptions, and quite a bit of backlog, I’ve taken on the not-so-onerous task of writing all the book reviews and, of course, spoken to the rums at some length. To my surprise, the three most hit upon pages on Liquorature are the old Glenfiddich 12 review, the Tanduay 12, and … Tintin in Tibet, a loving and nostalgic review I put up in a passing moment.

Books

The selection of our literature picks this year was impressive and illustrates some of the breadth of what we have managed to dissect. Granted, not all of them are world beaters – we do, however, believe that pulp fiction and fruity best-sellers can absolutely mix it up with the Booker prize contenders.  I haven’t written all the book summaries and reviews yet (more shame to me), but eventually they’ll all be on the site.

 

For what it’s worth (and fellow members, feel free to weigh in) my own overwhelming favourite this year was Pat’s October selection of “Mercy Among the Children”, a deep, dark, rich, atmospheric tale of family, hypocrisy, revenge, misunderstanding, love and loss that moved me as few books ever have. A close second was, without a doubt, “1Q84”, surely one of the most peculiar books I’ve ever read, one that I should have put down in a heartbeat…and yet could not.

“Ways of Sunlight” was our first collection of short stories and one of the sparser-than-usual attendances, but a good night for all that….I seem to recall we tried some fourteen rums that night. “Cell” marked a return of Stephen King to the lineup, and I was really happy to see “Pillars” make an appearance, since (all false modesty aside), I introduced Curt to this years ago, he to all his friends, and it has become a favourite ever since.

Classics look ready to make a strong showing in the new year, with “Moby Dick” and “Huckleberry Finn” already in the pipeline, so 2013 seems set to be a fascinating year from the perspective of literature. It’s hard to comprehend that we’ve been at this for nearly fifty cycles already, and we remain committed and interested and seek to outdo each previous evening with a better one (how we will ever top the Godfather Easter egg is beyond me).

Rums

The primus inter pares of all my varied interests. During 2012 I gamely struggled to hold my own in the face of the irredeemably stubborn obstinacy of my fellow Liquorites who insist on giving pride of place to the obscure Scottish drink. Added to that was my day job, my family, photography and other priorities, which led to 2012 seeing less than fifty new rum reviews. Aside from the division of my available time, part of the problem is undoubtedly my writing style, which tends to the lengthy and relates to my desire to tell as complete a story about each rum as I can, adding to that whatever ruminations (no pun intended) cross my mind as I write, and making each more an essay than a review…hopefully a unique one. This is a style that takes real effort and thought and time, and works for me both as a writer and a reviewer; but is, alas, too long for some (most, I would gather), with all the attendant disinterest it creates in people who prefer a McNugget-level synopsis as they stand, i-phone in hand, at a liquor store somewhere wondering what to buy. The important thing is that I enjoy it and it holds my interest – a more abbreviated style would be easier, I could churn out more reviews…but not nearly as much fun.

My tastes have gradually changed (I hesitate to say “improved”) to appreciate higher proof rums — I’m coming to the stated opinion that 40% is a really pronounced limiting factor for top quality rums of any kind. The Panamonte XXV, the Plantation XO 20th Anniversary and many others, would have benefited greatly from having the extra oomph of a few additional proof points.  Of course, the two rums that took this to ridiculous extremes were the beefcake SMWS Longpond 81.2% and the Stroh 80 both of which I sneakily kinda enjoyed in spite of their rage.

Another point of development for me is that I have quietly dispensed with three almost unconsciously held assumptions I realized I was harbouring: (a) that older rums are always better than younger ones (they often are, but not every time); (b) younger rums or cheap blends are only for mixing (often true, but certainly not every time) and (c) expensive is equivalent to quality (it often is, but, nope, not always). As I taste more and more rums and go back and forth between the earlier rums and the later ones and cross taste them in my spare time, I appreciate the subtleties that in many cases I missed the first time around, and learn to admire the artistry some makers bring to even their youngest creation. In order to chart my development, I leave my scores the way they were when I wrote them, but  I’m thinking of doing a”revisit reviews” of the older ones from 2009/10 which were shorter and not as intense as later work. As a point of interest, I review every rum neat – whether it makes a good cocktail or not is not part of my review process, though I usually mix myself one to test stuff I don’t like, on the assumption that it might fail as a sipping spirit, but not necessarily as a cocktail.

I’m also learning to appreciate the lighter bodies and complex profiles of agricoles and French-island rums more than when I started, and my discovery this year was undoubtedly the Courcelles 1972 58% which the co-manager of the Rum Depot in Berlin trotted out from his private stash and allowed me to share. I still hate the scoring mechanism, which for me results in rums scoring mostly between fifty and seventy, and I dread coming up with something new and having to go back over a hundred rums and recalibrating. However, at least it’s consistent. But readers should always be warned that it’s the words that tell the tale, not the score.  Oh yeah, I dropped the chart of the rum profiles…it was useful for a while, but didn’t see it adding any real value so I just shrugged and did away with it.

Kensington Wine Market in Calgary continues to hold two Rum tastings a year, which I faithfully attend and write about in a probably futile effort to raise the profile of the spirit in my obstinately whisky-loving area. A high point for me this year was undoubtedly the cracking of the 58 Year Old Longpond, which snarkily showed the Appleton 50 the door (the latter will be on show for the February 8th 2013 Tasting at KWM). Andrew, the co-owner, maintains his generous habit of alerting me to new and interesting rums coming through the door, even if I can’t afford them all. And though I am aware that in his eyes rum simply doesn’t class with whisky (hence his online moniker which I continually gripe about), he treats me with the courtesy due any autistic, rum-loving mutt who may growl at any moment.

The rums tasted that stood out this year (equivalent to ATW’s “Drams of the Year” post)

What is evident from this brief listing is that I’m deliberately moving away from the “one size fits all” commercial rums that we can find almost anywhere, towards costlier, rarer, more unique rums that are edging me to an average price of close to a hundred bucks per bottle (yes, with very rare exceptions and to the horror of my wife, I buy everything I review – the exceptions are my friends’ samples which *they* buy). My choices are becoming more finicky, and I seek out older and obscure offerings for the same reason I write the way I do…because it’s more interesting that way, and because there are enough reviews of the commonly available rums out there (does anyone really need me to put up a tenth review of the Mount Gay XO except as a site-hits driver?). This is not to say I don’t look at, say, a Myer’s Planter’s Punch…I just don’t do it as often (though I always will), or as assiduously – it would undoubtedly be cheaper, though, wouldn’t it? To my mind, a person who likes Old Sam’s won’t care in the slightest what I write about it (if he even looks for a review), but anyone seeking to check out the Rum Nation Jamaica 25 Year old probably will, before he drops close to two hundred bucks on it.

***

Summing up, it’s been a slower than expected year for reviews, but both the Hippie with his 2013 Islay tour and myself with the trip to Germany, made discoveries beyond price. The Liquorature meetings are fixtures and high points of our gentlemanly social lives, and look to continue far into the future. And as we bring 2012 to a close, I must say that 2013 promises to be a year full of new books, new spirits, new friends and more rambunctious get-togethers than ever before.

All the very best to all of you who have had the patience to read this far, and have a great New Year.

 

 Posted by at 10:22 am
Nov 092010
 

We are surrounded at all times, in the western world, by TV, consumer culture, phones, ipods, the internet (the irony does not escape me), and people. We eat in crowded “food courts” in malls that all look the same, and we lose contact with our families due to pressure of work.  We labour for The Man in cubicles, not offices, and upward mobility is a joke. On the smaller end of the spectrum, we are sold on pizza, buffalo wings, boneless chicken, Valentine’s day, summer holidays, Christmas, Halloween, this year’s car models and toys our kids scream for us to buy. We think wines, single malt scotches and premium liquors of all kinds are the ultimate expression of subtlelty in the tasting arts.

Many of us think that much of this is a lot of hoopla, but I daresay we don’t really delve too deeply into the matter, except occasionally, in our cups.  So I’m throwing this out there: what are the ten most overrated and over-hyped (but underperforming don’t-live-up-to-their-promise) things in our world, in your opinion?

 Posted by at 8:51 am
Oct 252010
 

Hmmm.  I’ve been so into the rums and the movies over the last weeks, that it has slipped me to see what others are reading these days.  This of course came about at work when The Hippie and I were discussing possibly upcoming choices with which to plague the illiterati.

Books for me have always been a lifeline.  My childhood was marked by frequent (and interesting) changes.  Before I was twelve I was already on my third continent.  Friends changed, languages were different, cultures varied wildly: but the great constants through it all were my brother, my father…and books – for which my mother can truly be said to be the facilitator (she was a librarian). Some of my earliest memories from Africa remain those of my curled up in a corner next to her office, reading a pile of Willard Price or Enid Blyton stories.  Want to know why I speak and write with such polysyllabry?  Blame all that earlier reading.

This love has never left me.  I may not have embraced e-books or the Kindle, but I read with as much interest and variety as always.

So what am I reading now?  Here’s what’s on the shelf at home, and I’d like to know what you have on your bedside table as well:

1. Blame The Hippie for this one – A People’s History of the United States

2. Ways of Sunlight – Short Stories of Samuel Selvon

3. A Corpse in the Koryo by James Church (an Inspector O novel, set in – get this! North Korea)

4. The Complete Sherlock Holmes (I’m prepping for the Baskervilles session in November, but am rereading eveything to prepare)

5. A Drink Before The War – Denis Lehane.  My take is that Lehane is one of the best noir writers currently publishing, with unexpected threads of humour coiling around all his very dark work. I don’t care what you start with, but any one of his novels is worth a read.

And there you are.  What have you got to share or recommend?

 Posted by at 5:15 pm
Oct 142010
 

Maltmonster posed an interesting List: not content to discuss the five best trilogies, he posited a selection of the best three movies made by a single director.

With that in mind: please list five directors who each have three movies that are superlative beyond the norm.  Just to make life interesting, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Sidney Lumet or Billy Wilder are not to be a part of your final list.  You are also to exclude any self-contained trilogy (or any of its individual constituent films) like LOTR, Bourne, Jurassic Park, Mad Max and so on.

Gentlemen, have at it.

 Posted by at 3:39 pm
Aug 052010
 


You are a sad sack of zero erudition or achievement: the cat hisses on your return home, and toilets don’t flush for you; if you were a fire hydrant, even the mutts would ignore you. Your pay scale is constantly reworked downwards, and the village idiot gets promoted faster. The family constantly finds ways to have dinner, go out or head off on vacation without you. Years of being browbeaten by your boss, your wife and your kids has left you a neurotic mass of twitching nerves heading nowhere quickly.

You start feeling strange pains that are unrelated to the sums of money everyone keeps asking you for, or the indigestion their cooking inevitably engenders. When – after six months of making appointments – you finally get to see the specialist, he mentions rather offhandedly – while perusing his morning mail – that you have one year to live (and then takes a call from his golf pro).

You return home, ignore the cat, kick the mutt, shout at the family, then lock yourself up in the Harry Potter style broom closet that is now your personal study, and contemplate the negative space your totally insignificant and useless life has become.  After considering that maybe the Great Hereafter might be a trade-up, you get that mulish obstinate look in your eye very remniscient of the aforementioned promotable idiot as he is passing gas (usually in your cubicle), and something happens.

A light grows in your eye, music (and your bony chest) swells, nostrils flare, you stand up straight for the first time in decades (immediately wincing and grabbing your spleen), and make a vow that life will not beat you.  You make a solemn oath to the effect that there are ten things you intend to do, no matter how crazy or unlike your normal character’s modus operandi, before you croak and get planted (cremated actually, and your ashes fertilize the apple tree – it costs a few grand less).

You sit down, clutch pad and paper, rest it on the bony and arthritic knees which are drawn up to your chest, and start to write the Ultimate Bucket List…..

Start your engines, gentlemen, and let’s have your submissions of the ten things you really want to do before you die.  Quickly, now….it could be tomorrow, and I want to know if any of your list items concern me.


May 212010
 

Well, it’s been a long time since we had a list going, so here’s my quest for the next week.  Name your favourite (or best) movie triologies. Feel free to limit yourself to merely five, if you can make it.  Movie Geeks shoud be able to go all the way to ten without busting a sweat

Jan 252010
 

Ok guys, I’ve done just about all the rum reviews except the Bundie. I highly recommend the XM 5-year review and the one on the 1991 Renegade…others were kinda casual, but those two were fun to write.

I’m also noting that my admonition to Curt to have you guys use a sense of humour in your bios was taken very seriously indeed. Clint obviously dug into his inner child and Scott, well, what can I say? A masterwork.

 Posted by at 9:14 pm
Jan 252010
 

Just thought I’d mention this: I’m bringing my camera gear along next time for a group picture…I think we should have something on the front page, since the last I recall, Pat doesn’t look much like Slash, and I’ve grown up a bit since I took my own.

 Posted by at 10:23 am