Feb 102016
 

Liquorature Gathering #063 – “The Dark Tower” (Stephen King)The_Dark_Tower

Date:  August 8th, 2014

Host:  Curt / Barry

Whisky:  BenRiach 1999 Cask #40043, SMWS 1.72 “Sophisticated, Delicate & Feminine” 19 y.o. (Glenfarclas), SMWS 77.28 “Tropical Nights” 25 y.o. (Glen Ord), Convalmore 28 y.o., Tullibardine 1964 42 y.o., Kavalan Peated Cask #02949 Distillery Exclusive

 

Some stories are just too big for Liquorature.  ‘The Dark Tower’ was one.  No book in the series, excepting possibly the first, was what could be (or should be) considered a standalone volume.  And, of course, asking the gang to read seven (plus) volumes, in addition to apocrypha and other works was simply not feasible or realistic.  A few years back I floated the idea of doing ‘The dark Tower’ as an offline opt-in Liquorature event for any who were willing to invest some extracurricular time to the multi-thousand page word count.  It never really gelled as an idea, though there were rumblings of interest.  We let it lie.

As you may well be aware by now, Liquorature fell into a period of slumber for a brief while; a cocoon-stage which we call The Dark Ages.  It was during this time that Maltmonster approached me, having started following the beams to the tower himself.  “This is a big story,” he said.  “We need to discuss”.  I’d read through the series a couple of times, and a few of the books several more times.  I was more than willing to crash read through all again to catch up.  MM suggested offering the former Liquorature members an opportunity to tag along on this epic journey, and make something of the night.  A meeting at the Bridlewood nexus, if you will (ahem…my house).  Sure enough, many were interested.  And so it came to happen.

At this time, understand, the club didn’t exist.  It had been nearly half a year since I Old-Yeller’d it in the back 40.  This monumental ‘Dark Tower’ event was a one-off.  A singular gathering with a central focal point.  I guess it had as a template prior Liqurature events to use as a Springboard, but event the simple fact that this was primarily Maltmonster’s event should be indicative enough of the extracurricular nature of this one.  Maltmonster was never a true Liquorature member.  As it came to be, he and I joint hosted this one.  My place, my food choices, etc…his malt selections, etc.

This was an undertaking, event and sprawling story of epic proportions.  Infinite proportions, even.  While most conceded 10/10 for scope, imagination and characters there were some criticisms for an occasionally meandering plot, some anachronistic placements of pop culture and an authorial interjection of the most intrusive sort imaginable (if you’ve read it you’ll understand).  But the greatest indignation was reserved for the ending.  Some were outright incensed; a couple reluctantly conceded its logic; and yours truly said it was perfect, beautiful and absolutely gutting.  I remember reading it for the first time and feeling like I’d been kicked in the stomach.  Remember, I’d been following these characters for probably 15 years by this point.  And even the most macho among us admitted shedding a tear and/or getting emotionally wracked at a couple of points throughout this journey.

The discussion was long.  It had to be.  We did this one justice, I’m proud to say.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that we were lubricating our tongues and minds with a stunning array of single malts.  Every bottle on the table had a reason behind its selection.  I won’t spill here (some things stay with Liquorature), but let’s just say they were as intrinsically linked to the story as the mythical numbers in ‘Lost’.  An SMWS Glen Ord and a stunning 28 y.o. Convalmore were unquestionably the highlights for me.  Both sit high in my all-time rankings now.

Taking further cues from the Ka-tet’s journey, I made my own version of ‘gunslinger burritos’.  Grilled, salted meat, wrapped in greens (with more goodies wrapped inside of course).  Quite amazing, if I do say so myself.  We’ve since made these a few times ’round my homestead.  Not bad for a concocted recipe.  Note: no bumblers were harmed in the making of this meal.

Finally…it was announced that Liquorature would be born again on the heels of this event, with this night leading the charge as the first occasion of our second run.  The faces may be different in some cases, but most of the workings would remain as they were.  We made something beautiful years back (before the world had moved on), now it was simply time to strengthen the beams.

I can’t lie…it felt good to be back in the saddle.  And hopefully this time we can keep it on the straight and narrow.

Until next…long days and pleasant nights.

 

– Curt

Feb 042016
 

Liquorature #062 – “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle” (Haruki Murakami)Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

Date:  March, 2014

Host:  Lorenzo

Whisky:  NA

 

And then the wheels fell off.

It was almost enough to bring a tear to my eye.  While I can look back fondly now through rose-colored glasses, taking something positive out of each of our past events, there was a cancer that had grown in the club.  A dark presence of malaise.  I wouldn’t say interest had flagged, but there seemed to be less love shown toward what we had painstakingly built up over the years.

It became harder and harder to keep conversations on track.  One or two individuals would engage in side conversations directly over (and louder than) others discussing the book.  Constant late arrivals and early exits.  An increased frequency of no-shows with little or no notice.  And a voice among us that brought a constant negativity to the table, bordering on belligerent at times.  Frustrating and derailing at all times.

I can’t now recall what the catalyst was, but halfway through reading Lorenzo’s pick for March, Murakami’s ‘The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle’, I’d had enough.  I pulled the plug.  And Liquorature died.

I was pretty forthright about what was going wrong.  I had some pleas to carry on, but the bitter taste in my mouth could only be washed away by the malts we drank for so long.  I told the guys that I had no idea what the future might bring, but as if now…it was over.

Needless to say we never did gather to discuss this book.  Most never finished, as far as I am aware.  Those that did expressed sentiments straddling the line between confusion and hostility.  Perhaps it’s best we didn’t gather on this one.  Someone (ahem…Lorenzo) probably would have died.  Murakami’s ‘1Q84’ threw us for a loop two years prior, but if that was a mindfuck this was a mindfuck while on acid.  In hindsight…some of this one was ok.  Mostly it was literary masturbation.  Hentai-style.

R.I.P., Liquorature.  You were loved.

 

– Curt

Feb 042016
 

Liquorature #061 – “The Count Of Monte Cristo” (Alexandre Dumas)count-of-monte-cristo

Date:  February, 2014

Host:  Jay

Whisky:  Whyte & MacKay 30 y.o., Adelphi Bunnahabhain 1979 31 y.o.

 

Again I have Jay to thank for picking what has become one of my all time favorite novels.  I had made it 35 years without ever tackling this monumental masterpiece.  Though I rue lost time, I think maybe I was in a better place to read it when I did.  let’s face it…this is a dense read.  It’s a story that demands undivided attention.  And deserves it.

When Jay picked this one he offered the guys the option of reading the abridged or unabridged edition, figuring that talking points about the discrepancies would make for interesting discussion in and of itself.  It did alright, but not in the way he’d hoped.  Those that read the abridged edition were utterly gutted when they realized how much of the story had been excised in the interest of brevity.  Devastating to have read so many pages, yet still to have missed out on so many more that seemed to hold some of the most poignant and interested (from our point of view anyway) bits.

One member struggled early on with this one, and gave up in a huff.  He sat there in stormy silence as we began unfolding this story, and as he realized what he’d missed out on by not persevering he tried to cut us short, asking we postpone this meeting so he could finish.  Ummm…no.  The thought was dismissed with prejudice.  Ludicrous.  This club was built on a will to betterment, not on pessimism and negativity.  anyway…

Dumas’s ‘Count’ was met with universal acclaim.  Those that read the unabridged, in particular, raved about it.  Layers of complexity, characters rich and engaging, shades of ambiguity to discuss, morality to be interpreted and debated.  So much more.  And the story…gads!  Amazing.  Simply writing this makes me want to revisit this story of justice, vengeance and redemption.  In fact, I will soon.

I have notes that we beat up on a 1979 Bunnahabhain, and I do know it was an independent release from Adelphi, but I don’t have further details.  Either way…it was universally adored.  As was a 30 year old blended whisky from Whyte & McKay.  There is a degree of malt snobbery in the club, but I like to think it is at least a well earned (and often justified) snobbery.  This W&M30, though, was a beautiful drink.  Were there others sipped this night?  Most likely, but you’ll have to forgive my foggy memory.

Yet again Jay keeps the bar held high.  Well done, mate.

 

– Curt

Feb 042016
 

Liquorature #060 – “Shalimar The Clown” (Salman Rushdie)Shalimar

Date:  January, 2014

Host:  Chris

Whisky:  Glenfarclas Family Cask 2002 (Willow Park Exclusive), Murray McDavid Macallan 1998 10 y.o., Amrut Fusion

 

I remember Lance once expressing his outright detestation of Rushdie.  I think he went so far as to threaten boycott in the event any of us picked one of Rushdie’s novels.  But how could we not?  The man is arguably one of literature’s most fascinating personages.

As you likely know if you’re reading this bit – here on a site dedicated to fiction – Rushdie was the subject of an Iranian fatwa (death sentence) declaimed by the Ayatollah Khomeini after the publication of his novel ‘The Satanic Verses’ in the late ’80s.  Perceived sleights against Islam, it seems, didn’t go over too well at that time either.  Hmmm…what to say about that?  Nothing here, to be certain.  In our closed room this chilly January night?  Well…that was another story.  Volatile, as you can imagine.  Very volatile.  And interestingly enough, somewhat polarizing in ways.  Enough said.

Suffice it to say, year six of Liquorature’s existence started off with a bang.  (That was a bad pun, wasn’t it?)

‘Shalimar’ was, I think, merely an ok story in the eyes of the gang.  The writing was highly praised, the characters lauded, but the overall experience was perceived to be somewhat lacking, if I recall correctly.  Our heated debates rages around external subject matter that was dredged up over the course of understanding culture, time and place, but wasn’t specific to opinions about the tale itself.  On that we presented a fairly united front.  Good solid…seven and a half (not really…just quoting ‘Beautiful Girls’ and driving home the mediocre, lukewarm reception).

The whiskies also left us headscratching a bit.  The Glenfarclas was an oddball, boasting notes of seventy mezcal, while the indie Macallan was top heavy with a not altogether pleasant wine-iness.  Oh well.  The Amrut was a life preserver thrown out into these turbulent waters.  In the end…we were saved.  And slightly drunk.  😉

Random notes:  Wish we’d had Lance here for this one.

 

– Curt

Mar 232015
 

Liquorature #067 – “A Christmas Carol” (Charles Dickens)a-christmas-carol

Date:  December 19th, 2014

Host:  Collective (at Curt’s place)

Whiskies:  Lots

 

There’s a reason the adjective ‘Dickensian’ has entered the English lexicon.  The man had a style and resonance all his own.  He was an unparalleled master in both atmospheric composition and cheeky turn of phrase.  His characters were unforgettable.  His stories: rich beyond measure.  Taking six years of Liquorature meetings to finally read Dickens seems almost unforgivable in hindsight.

We mixed things up a little bit with this meeting.  In the early years of Liquorature – in the days when many of our members’ spouses were running a parallel ladies’ book club – we used the December gathering as an opportunity to bring our better halves together and have a shared night of animated book chat.  Each sex bringing their best book from the year and trying to outdo the other side.  A couple years (and a spoonful of drama) later we let that concept fall by the wayside.  We went a calendar or two with no special December events, but when it was time to reinvigorate this monster I decided to being a little tradition and holiday spirit to a beautiful time of year.  Each December we will table a holiday-themed book for discussion.  This won’t be a typical club night in some ways, but in others it will fall perfectly in line.

The suggestion was made by a couple of members early on to not have a host, per se, but instead to allow everyone to let their personalities shine a little by contributing something to the event.  I opened the doors to my place on a snowy evening less than a week before Christmas day and each member of the Collective arrived with food and drink in hand.  Something like a potluck / heels party.  We ate…we drank (probably a little too much)…and we made another truly memorable night for the book crew.  It definitely felt like a Christmas party, which was exactly the intent.

And as to the reception to the book?  What really need be said here?  This is one of the most iconic stories of all time.  Even those that had never read it knew it inside and out from past stage adaptations, the Muppet version, Mickey’s Christmas Carol, Scrooged, etc.  The story is beautiful and timeless.  The message still resonates today, and though we’re well past this Victorian age, Dickens’s visuals loom large and haunting.  And the guys let it be known that they all felt the same.  An overwhelming appreciation for this one.

Next year’s Christmas tale may again take us into the macabre.  I’ve got a l’il something in mind already.  A tale that is somewhat at the root of the formation of Liquorature.  More to come.

Random Thoughts:  ‘you may leave if you roll an 18’ … serving up some Johnnie Red … Pat bailing

Until next…

 

– Curt

Jan 262015
 

Liquorature #066 – “The Old Man And The Sea” (Ernest Hemingway)the-old-man-and-the-sea

Date:  November 21st, 2014

Host:  Steve

Whisky:  Glenmorangie Companta, Glenmorangie 18, Black Bull 12, Balvenie 14 Caribbean Cask

 

Steve’s turn to take us on a bit of a journey.  This time way out beyond where the land still exerts pull.  We found ourselves rocked on the waves with old Santiago as he puts his will up against that of the majestic marlin.  The isolation and calm test of man against nature (and himself) set a tone here that hints at the sort of deep Americana we’re bound to encounter in an upcoming tale or two for the Liquorature few.

This was Steve’s first run at hosting, meaning his first go at all the stress that goes into good book, drink and food selection.  That’s not to belittle the importance of being prepared to steer a solid conversation on topical subject matter related to the book at play.  As it turns out, this one was a knockout evening.  Steve had had a long, long while to prepare for this one.  He initially announced this selection before the Liquorature Dark Ages.  When all collapsed, it seemed as though the club would go to its grave without tackling one of the literary greats of our age.  Steve was more disappointed than you can imagine.  When we pulled the Lazarus act, it was a no brainer that this would be his selection.  Et voila!  Marlin was back on the menu.

I’ve made mention before of not knowing how we’d made it so far into our journey without tackling Hemingway.  I know a few of us are Hemingway junkies, while several others have mentioned mulling over selecting one of his works.  Until now, however, this was nothing more than lip service.

You always wonder with a name as iconic as Hemingway’s whether or not people will be overly critical going into it and come out the other side going “hmmmm…really?  Is that it?”  I’m happy to say that Hemingway did not disappoint in the least.  I’m pretty certain there was universal acclaim for this one.  The simple tale and Hemingway’s signature spartan prose made this one a tale of pure and austere classic beauty for all.  Symbolic and parabolic at once.  The criticisms – which I no longer recall – were so slight as to be negligible.  A couple of the fellas even mentioned recommending it on to their significant others.  Impressive, for a very phallocentric author, often accused of misogyny.  Sometimes a story is simply transcendent.

“The Old Man And The Sea” is a must read.  Honestly.  There is more packed into these 100 or so pages than in most epics you’re liable to plow through.  Hemingway really was a master.

And playing to thematics – as we’re wont to do with this quirky crew – Steve kicked things off with a Black Bull blended whisky (remember: Hemingway was a bullfighting junkie).  From there we hit a Balvenie Caribbean Cask (to bring a little tropical influence to a topical tale), then on into the new Glenmorangie Companta.  This latter I can no longer recall the rationale for selection, but it was a fun, tasty one to sweeten things up.  Big fruits and infinite gooey dessert-ness.  We snacked the night away and Hemingway’d the bottles as best we could.  Discussion was lively…service was paid.

Great night all in all.

Random notes:  “Ahh…you poor bastard.  Just cut the rope.” … “not so Santiago” … “Orphanage: an Indian word for ‘sweatshop'” … “Before you say anything…”

 

– Curt

Jan 022015
 

Liquorature #065 – “The Stars My Destination”the stars my destination

 

Date:  October 24th, 2014

Host: Scott

Whisky: Mortlach Rare Old, Balblair 1989, Nikka Taketsuru 21 y.o.

 

Back to back forays into the realms of deep space. Sci-fi is starting to hold a little more clout with a few of us old codgers in the club who ignorantly initially mistook it for prepubescent nerd porn and summarily dismissed most of the genre out of hand. Thankfully a few of the literati in Liquorature have seen fit to force their agenda down our throats with their selections and catapult us into the stars (and the future).

Scott announced his selection just as I did, neither of aware that the other was going deep space on the crew.  So be it.  Two months in a row of escaping the third stone from the sun.  God knows with the life most of us lead we can use the ultimate escapism.  You may recall last month’s ‘Star Maker’ was about as much fun as an anesthetic-free vasectomy.  It delivered in terms of message but left us lurching to the finish line due to its incredibly dry pacing and method of delivery.  I think a few of us were somewhat reticent to pick up another book with ‘star’ in the title so soon after.

Happy to say ‘The Stars My Destination’ started off fast and immediately picked up speed.  This pseudo anarchistic dystopian romp pretty much had all of us at ‘hello’.  I think the breakneck pace and instantly imaginable characters had something to do with that, but let’s not sell short the fact that the story itself was immensely engaging and, like much good science fiction, the speculative nature and forward thinking led us all to pause for a moment and try to take ourselves back to 1957, the time of writing.

As is often the case with these sorts of tales, imaginative discussion is often lubed with a few drams of something strong and neat.  Scott picked out a few new ones for us (new to club members, that is).  Highlight for this guy had to be the Nikka Taketsuru 21, with a nose to die for.  The Balblair wasn’t far behind.  We were on relatively good behaviour, but have happily happened Ginger work through these bottles in the days since this gathering.

Great choices for this month, Buddha; drinks and book. Look forward to seeing where you take us next time.

…Having said all of that, I can’t but help feel relieved to place my feet back on terra firma (or at least adrift upon a fishing boat) with next month’s selection of “The Old Man And The Sea”.

The randoms: Blind tasting … “jaunt savant” … “need a nipple for that?” … “jaunt with Jiz” …

Until next…

 

– Curt

Oct 062014
 

Liquorature #064 – “Star Maker” (Olaf Stapledon)Star Maker

Date:  September 26th, 2014

Host:  Curt

Whisky:  Glenlivet Nadurra (Batch 0712U), Aberlour a’bunadh (Batch 47), Bowmore Laimrig 15 y.o. (Batch 3), Laphroaig Cairdeas 2014, Ardbeg Uigeadail

 

Damn, it feels good to be back in the saddle again. Laying Liquorature to rest was like putting down a much loved dog. Unfortunately, it had to be done. The details of what transpired leading up to both the demise and subsequent Lazarus act of the club are sort of an ‘internal-to-club-members-only’ type of discussion, but suffice it to say that we are better off for it.  From the ashes, the phoenix, and all that.  This new incarnation of the club is a little different in make-up and, already, approach.  I can only say I’m happy and relieved to have things back to what we’d initially aimed for.

Part of the mandate of the new Liquorature is to be open to the idea of guest sit-ins.  These occasional (but hopefully frequent) visitors are still subject to all of the Liquorature protocols, of course (i.e. reading the book, paying in dues, coming prepared to talk, drinking from the skull, etc).  For “Star Maker” I had asked a mate of mine, Dan, from one of my other ventures (The Dram Initiative Whisky Club) to join us.  He was kind enough to oblige.  Thanks, Dan!

While some things have changed, others have been held to tradition.  These nights generally start with a wee monologue by the host, who is responsible for sharing some insight as to the drams on hand, the rationale for book selection and a few thoughts to lead in the conversation.  Without spilling club secrets, that’s exactly what happened on this eve.

And the overall reception to the book? Hmmm…lukewarm, I guess. The ideas within its pages were beyond scale and light years ahead of their time, but the literary merits were something contentious, to say the least. Put simply, this was an utterly exhausting read. The irony is that C.S. Lewis, a contemporary of Stapledon, at one point referred to him as a ‘corking good writer’. Having said that, if you’ve ever read Lewis’s “Mere Christianity” (and recognized it for the absolute load of monkey shit that it is), you’ll realize that that isn’t much of a compliment after all. There were a few early comparisons made by members to Edward Bellamy’s “Looking Backward” too, but those parallels were more in relation to the dry nature of the writing style and not to the content itself. I should also take a moment to note that “Looking Backward” was at least as much monkey shit as “Mere Christianity”.

“Star Maker” is a book lacking in any sort of true character voice or development.  It is paper-thin in terms of actual ‘plot’.  And it is utterly utilitarian, I’d argue, when it comes to analysis of prose and poetics. Somehow though, for all of these apparent ‘failings’, it still ‘works’. There was a slow build leading to a decent climax wherein the narrator does indeed encounter the titular ‘star maker’.  This scene, and many others, were quite well-received, but it seemded to be the creativity of alien worlds and hitoric parralels that incited the most discussion.  In the end, several of us came away with a fairly positive spin we could associate with this one.

A book as metaphysically massive and all encompassing as ‘Star Maker’ deserves a range of whiskies just as big, no? A series of cask strength monoliths towered over the event and served as social lubricant. We revisited some old favorites, albeit in more contemporary iterations, and test drove a rather sexy Laphroaig Cairdeas. ‘Cairdeas’ is Gaelic for ‘friendship’, so what better audience and occasion to open such a bottle than with the Liquorature brethren? And finally, in a loose tie to the thematic elements of the novel, it just made sense to finish the ‘tasting’ side of things with a dram of the teeth shatteringly explosive Ardbeg Supernova. We walked through these malts in the order listed in the header above, but after that, as with all Liquorature gatherings, it was just sort of free-for-all run on the open bottles (and whatever else was around).

In other chat…sigh…there were far too many Roddenbury references and mentions of Star Trek blech.  Those that know me, know that I detest Star Trek like nothing else.  I’ve given the guys a two month pass however, seeing as how we’re firmy entrenched in sci-fi Trekkie country with our first two selections since returning from hiatus. After this grace period ends, however, punishment by way of forced consumption of Johnnie Walker Red will be levied on any members who make reference to Star Trek, professional wrestling or Mandingo’s…ummm…gift. Said bottle of JW Red will travel with me from meeting to meeting starting in November.

Sincere thanks to all members in attendance for making this another one to remember, and again to Dan for coming out.  I look forward to many more years of making memories with all.

Until next…

 

– Curt