Mar 022016
 

Liquorature #081 – “Fallen Angels” (Walter Dean Myers)Fallen Angels

Date:  February 26th, 2016

Host:  Jay

Whisky:  Johnnie Walker Green Label, Douglas Laing Premier Barrel Lochnagar 11 y.o., Douglas Laing Premier Barrel Laphroaig 8 y.o.

 

Quick!  While it’s still fresh!

Unbelievable.  These event write-ups are finally up to date.  This last one you’re reading is a recap of a gathering just five days back.  Can’t lie.  Feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.  I know it is a small contingent that actually reads these meanderings, but they’re captured for posterity nevertheless.  The collective can always look back in fondness on some of these old memories.  That’s the hope anyway.

‘Fallen Angels’.  Interesting pick, this.  We were sitting around at one of the past gatherings months back and Jay had yet to make his selection.  “Hold on,” he said.  He spent a couple minutes on his phone searching the net for ‘most controversial books’ or ‘most challenged books’ or something, and voila!  This was announced then and there.

I think we all came into this one blindly.  None of us knew the title, nor the author, let alone the subject matter.  War.  The Vietnam War, to be exact.  We’ve covered war before, of course, most recently with Boyden’s ‘Three Day Road’ and Conrad’s ‘Heart Of Darkness’, but this would be a very different take.  What went down in Vietnam a few decades back was a watershed moment for many things: media, patriotism, understanding of warfare, culture, politics, on and on and on.  Vietnam was huge.  And for those reasons, it makes absolutely fascinating subject matter.  It has, of course, also led to some incredible films, music and art.

Our discussion was interesting this time around.  No real dissent.  In fact everyone really quite liked the book (conceding a few small flaws or omissions), but where it got really engaging was in our collective understanding and response to what went down in Vietnam and the state of the world that both led to it and resulted from it.  Some truly insightful opinions and, much like the conflict itself, a lot of seeming uncertainty.  This was especially evident in discussions about whether the US should have been involved and how each of us would have handled ourselves as draft-eligible (or volunteers) young men if we had been around at this time in history.  The class and race aspect was given a lot of consideration.  As was an empathetic approach to understanding the Veitnamese side of the story.  Actually, quite an unforgettable night.

Johnnie Walker Green made its third appearance as a club selection, and was even better than most remembered.  It was two Douglas Laing ceramic decanter releases under the ‘Premier Barrel’ line that had us all sitting upright and taking notice.  The first was an 11 year old Lochnagar.  Beautiful nose.  THe second was a young and kicking Laphroaig 8 year old.  I think I preferred the former, but the masses leaned to the latter.  Both awesome though.  And a real treat from bygone years.

Great night, all in.  Jay’s choices of book, malts and great Vietnamese nibbles were inspired and probably earned him just the sort of rewards he’d hoped for.

Random notes:  No Jesse, Chris or Ginger … “The sharpest thing on the table…” … “Beat you with a dildo” … Do you guys surf?” … “You can always have more kids” … a couple other great Laphroaig bottles … some membership discussion

 

– Curt

Mar 022016
 

heart-of-darkness-by-joseph-conradLiquorature #080 – “Heart Of Darkness” (Joseph Conrad)

Date:  January 22nd, 2016

Host:  Steve

Whisky:  BB&R Bunnahabhain 1987 Cask #2447 26 y.o., Arran Single Cask 1997: Sherry Cask #712, Cooper’s Choice Port Charlotte 2001Cask #1015 11 y.o.

 

Well…we kicked off 2016 – year seven for the club – in fine fashion.  While our two newest acolytes were conspicuously MIA, we old vanguard kept ranks, did this one some justice and knocked the piss out of some sexy bottles of single malt.

Our host for the evening, Steve, was kind enough to offer up a ‘warm-up’ dram as we trickled in for the eve and waiting for the others to arrive.  This early palate workout was a sexy little number from the Roughstock distillery in Montana; the very same Black Label Jay had poured us on ‘Deliverance’ night (hear them banjos, boys?).  I said it then and say it now: a two year old malt whisky out of the northern US has no business being this good.  64+% of easy drinking goodness.

Though initially I thought this book would be met with some consternation from those in our ranks who tend to shy away from the early centuries’ offerings, there seemed to be a unanimity in terms of general appreciation and further, in regards to the criticisms levied.  Not often we all stand on the same side of the line.

Let’s talk about the malts for a minute or two.  Steve poured in a complete reverse order from the way I would have done it, but he nailed it.  While we started with richer, heavier flavours and worked our way into lighter, more complex elements, at the same time we kept climbing rungs in terms of quality, ultimately finishing with an outstanding 26 year old independent Bunnahabhain.  Great bottle find, Steve-o.  Hoping time and opportunity presents itself for me to impose myself for another dram of this one.  Additionally, the indie Port Charlotte we tried was the oldest I’ve yet met, at 11 years.  Neat.  I think I prefer it younger and with a little more sass.  Maybe that’s just me.  The others liked this one a lot.  And me?…yeah, of course I dug it too.

Great ambiance and atmosphere for this one.  Cozy little circle…lamplit…a brilliant background of old blues tunes…and exactly the sort of camaraderie we strive for.  Brilliant night, all told.

Random notes:  No Jesse or Eric … Roughstock warm-up … “salty dusty ****** nuts”

 

– Curt

Mar 022016
 

Liquorature #079 – “The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale Of Christmas Stupidest AngelTerror” (Christopher Moore)

Date:  December 21st, 2015

Host:  Curt (but not really)

Whisky:  Lots and lots of ’em

 

You had me at ‘zombies’.

In what we’ve dubbed a new Liquorature tradition, this was our second annual Christmas wrap-up.  We do things a bit different for this once-a-year shindig.  No hosts…no whisky purchases…none of the usual stuff.  Instead, we hold a heels party and a bit of a potluck noshing.  Everyone is responsible for bringing a bottle (or three or four) and some sort of food to contribute to the feast.  The book is shortlisted and agreed upon by majority.

In hunting through Christmas titles to follow last year’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ selection, I chances upon this little sliver of a novel by Christopher Moore.  You may recall we read ‘Lamb’ by Moore a couple years back.  His irreverent sense of…well…everything actually was quite a refreshing little break from the more serious nature of so many of our picks.  It was like plunging into a cold pool or having cask strength come out yer nostrils.  A bit of a wake-up.  And a hell of a way to engage again with the fun side of reading.

Moore is fucked up dude.  No two ways about it.  In the vein of Vonnegut, Robbins and other intellectual, yet humour-driven, authors extraordinaire.  But it’s this fucked-up-edness that makes him instantly appealing.  His stories are absurd to the point of almost becoming believable again.  Come on…we all know some pretty colorful characters in this life If we think about it.  Now just imagine a world entirely populated by those sorts.  Then add zombies and shit.  Awesome.

The b’ys loved this one.  Not an intellectual puzzler by any means; simply a great escape and an easy read for the holidays, a time in which we all struggle to make time for the little things in life (such as books).  These sorts of discussions are more along the lines of shared laughs and recollections of favorite parts than any sort of true literary dissection.  The consensus was, though, that while this was great, ‘Biff’ was better.

So…no malts to discuss.  Though we had about 25 on the table for sipping.  And the food?  A brilliant mishmash of delish.  In a way it’s like everyone is the host, as we all get to put our personal stamp on the night.  In fact, I’m already looking forward to Christmas 2016.

And with that we close out another great year.

 

– Curt

Mar 022016
 

Liquorature #078 – “Gulliver’s Travels” (Jonathan Swift)Gulliver

Date:  November 27th, 2015

Host:  Scott (aka Ginger Buddha)

Whisky:  A.D. Rattray Strathmill 22 y.o. Cask #10310, Edradour SFTC Chateauneuf du Pape 13 y.o., Signatory Bowmore 1985 25 y.o. Cask #32211, Compass Box Peat Monster Cask Strength

 

Every one of us wanted to kick Ginger in the balls for this pick when he sprung it on us so many months back.  Most of the guys out of sheer uninformed (but speculative) dread.  Me, at least, out of a grounded and informed dread, as it was one I’d read in lit classes years back.  Alas, selections like this are the very reason this club exists.  Not a lot of ‘average joes’ out there will ever casually pick up a copy of ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ and thumb their way from page one through to the last written word.  It would be interesting to check suicide rates among those that have read it.  With the club, though, we are here to push one another.  Perhaps down a flight of stairs, in this case.

We started the evening’s discussion, sipping a 22 year old Strathmill, I might add, with a consensus to tar and feather our host before we called it a night.  Without exception, everyone in the collective found this book a tiresome, tedious, over-fucked and ridiculously dated piece of satirical meandering.  What happened as we discussed, however, was one of the most interesting Liquorature developments to date.  I had done a load of research before coming into this evening’s gathering, figuring that a bit of historical context might help the gang see this for what it was.  Or what it was meant to be anyway.

From 2016’s far-removed vantage, much of what made ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ a contentious and dangerous piece of work at the time is lost on us.  Let’s not forget, ‘Gulliver’ was originally published anonymously.  Trying to suspend our preconceptions and placing ourselves in the political, religious, educational and socio-economic clime, however, takes this novel into entirely new realms.  I think by the time we were done our discussion on topical subject matter everyone’s appreciation for Swift’s cynical and rapier-sharp societal gutting was multiplied twofold.  Granted, they all still hated the experience of having to masochistically plow through it.  In short…”Ahhh…I get it now.  Still hate you for making me read it.”

By way of peace offering, Scotty, our ginger-headed host, offered up the afore-mentioned single cask Strathmill, a unique wine-finished Edradour that was a throwback to Liquorature’s younger years, a stunning 1985 Bowmore at the quarter century mark and finally a magnum of Compass Box’s Peat Monster Cask Strength.  All right, Ginger…you’re off the hook.  For now.

All in all, it turned out to be a great night of chatter and beverages.  I think we all learned a little bit about preconceptions and as clichéd as it may sound ‘judging a book by it’s cover’.

Thanks for a great night, Buddha.  Fun one.

Random notes:  A new addition (Eric joining us) … “literary waterboarding” … “Holy fuck!” (Bauer) … Brobdignagian dildo … “Didn’t even get a chance to catch her at the back door” (Steve)

 

– Curt

Mar 022016
 

Liquorature #077 – “Under Heaven” (Guy Gavriel Kay)guy-gavriel-kay-la-rinascita-di-shen-tai-L-85P79x[1]

Date:  October 30, 2015

Host:  Curt

Whisky:  Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt, Nikka From The Barrel, Kavalan Solist Bourbon, Chichibu Port Pipe

 

A few years back Lance gifted me a copy of ‘The Fionavar Tapestry’.  The whys of this gift are a little elusive, even in reflection, as fantasy is/was far from my preferred genre of fiction.  Previous escapades being limited to mostly a dozen or so ‘Dragonlance’ books in my teens, earlier Liquorature selection ‘Wizard’s First Rule’ and one or two others (and no…not even ‘Lord Of The Rings’ at that time).  I’m not sure if he thought he could win me over or if there was an even grander design.  Either way, I came away from it after turning the last weighty pages with a great appreciation of the work, but an even more profound appreciation for the man himself.  Kay that is, not Lance.  I already loved that old chap.

I’ll not share details here, but several factors went into my choosing ‘Under Heaven’ for the Liquorature crew.  First off…a few scenes in ‘Fionavar’ simply blew me away.  Battle scenes in particular.  I wanted to revisit that magic.  A while later, and after many a word shared with GGK himself, another one of his works, ‘Ysabel’, knocked my socks off.  Kay’s mix of fantasy (very lightly and deftly applied in the case of ‘Under Heaven’ and ‘Ysabel’) and history is extremely appealing.  And in the case of the latter, Kay’s tossing in some brilliant weavings of Celtic mythology had me turning pages through the wee hours.  Finally…Mr. Kay is himself a malt lover.  The more he and I conversed on the subject, the more I came to see how sprawling his knowledge and interests really are.  Sports, literature, art, travel, politics, people, Canadiana, and much, much more.  In many instances, the points of intersection were key enough to make me aware how blessed we are to have someone like this share of their thoughts via the written – and timeless – word.

That becomes paramount when diving into a book like ‘Under Heaven’, where most of us readers will be largely unfamiliar with the time and place captured in its pages.  More importantly, the customs and beliefs of an empire (or dynasty?) as depicted herein, become a challenge for us in terms of relatability from our distant vantage.  It’s how Kay handles this and empathetically leads us into this unfamiliar terrain that is a gift from his pen to our minds.  His insights and talent for evoking vivid imagery make Tang Dynasty era China (‘Kitai’, in this fictionalized telling) not only relatable, but uniquely appealing.  And did I mention it is set against a backdrop of actual Chinese history?  I’ll say no more, lest I spoil the tale for anyone.

The lads in the club had a favorable, if mixed, reaction to it.  When I say ‘mixed’ I refer mostly to preferences for certain pieces and characters in the story.  The writing was unanimously lauded and appreciated.  The unfolding of the tale itself left some with conflicting opinions.  No one, however, contested the magnitude of the work, and a couple are, in fact, going to move on to Kay’s follow-up work ‘River Of Stars’.  Says something, aye?

In terms of playing into the theme and all that we do here in Liquorature, well…suffice it to say there really is no such thing as a Chinese whisky (locally anyway), and what I could source as a distilled Chinese beverage tasted like sweatsocks and ramen noodles.  Yep.  We had to try it, of course, and I simply have to say…not awesome.  Having said that, I branched out a bit for this one and went with a general ‘Asian’ theme.  Some Japanese and Taiwanese malts from a couple of consistently great distilleries.  The Kavalan was a favorite, but the Nikkas we sipped surprised a couple of the lads.  Seems the collective has a sweet spot for Asian malts.

Dinner was sweet Thai chili chicken over jasmine rice, bringing a mix of heat and sweet, followed by rich vanilla ice cream and lychee fruit.  All paired surprisingly well with big single malts.

There is more I could share here, but some has not fully played out yet (sorry, can’t tell), and some is simply reserved for those that were there at the time.  All in all, a special night made moreso by some help I received from the author.  Thanks for that, Guy.  Appreciate it.

Until next…

Random notes:  Lychee cocktails … Chu Yeh Ching Chiew … Danny sat in … tried the DI cask … a wee gift … sweet Thai chili chicken … ice cream with lychee …”The French of Asia” … “He yin’d her yang” … “I’m just gonna roll a a twenty-sider”

 

– Curt