Jun 032015
 

Liquorature #069 – “Of Mice And Men” (John Steinbeck)Of Mice

Date:  March 6th, 2015

Host:  Chris

Whisky:  Aberlour a’bunadh (Batch 49), Glenfarclas 1993 (WP Exclusive), Glen Garioch 1999 (WP Exclusive), Compass Box Oak Cross

 

Vikings and bottles and knives, oh my!  (Don’t ask)

Steinbeck.  Finally.  You had to know this was coming.  It was only a matter of when.  I’ve said before, I’m blown away it took us years to reach this touchstone of modern lit.  Not only Steinbeck, but this particular tale.  I debated it a few times as my own selection, but kept assuming someone else would eventually do it.  More than six years on someone finally did.

Not much you can say about a book like this.  Its timeless morality play is simply heartwrenching, even for those who already know the outcome of the tale.  It’s one of the few novels that can still bring me to the edge of tears (ok…maybe just over the edge).  The characters are just downhome, relatable types even if our shared life experiences don’t necessarily give us much of a common ground with these nomadic bindlestiffs.  Steinbeck’s rather sparse approach to writing is somehow still unbelievably evocative.  He paints a scene with delicious richness and immediacy.  The simple fact of the matter is that everyone in the club (and a couple extras in attendance for this meet) found this to be almost beyond criticism, much like the way we butted up against the cold beauty of Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’.  Well picked, Chris.

Some discussion came back ’round to the Gary Sinise cinematic interpretation as well.  One of the all time great book to film adaptations I’ve ever seen, and certainly the best casting I could possibly imagine.  If you’ve not seen this one, do so.  Malkovitch will give you shivers, Siemaszko will make you wish it was you that put him down for the count and Sinise will show you how a real actor can walk in with understated adeptness and simply ‘become’ that character.  Amazing.  The guys were blown away by a couple scenes we checked out in brief.

This gathering turned out to be an unforgettable occasion, and one of the best club nights in recent memory.  One for the ages and sure to go down in Liquorature lore.  A couple of guests sat in that brought new angles to the discussion and many a laugh.  Chris’s kid brother, Jesse – now a full fledged member – is a student of the literary arts (literally), so has a great grasp of the analytical side in approaching books.  Danny – a mate of many of us – brought laughs by the score (and just a bit of naughtiness to boot).  Didn’t hurt matters that our kind and generous host poured out three big and bold cask strength monsters as well as a solid 46%er.  Sobriety was in short supply by the end of the whole affair.

The end ended in a rather…ummmm…dubious manner, but that is for the ins to know and the outs to speculate over.  Sorry.  What happens in book club…well…

Randoms:  Danny and Jesse sitting in … “what kind of ranch is this” … “I already know the back of your neck ain’t ticklish” … “everybody in the barn would be up for a little necrophilia” … “the purple heart” …things going waaaaay off the rails

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

Aug 232013
 

Liquorature Gathering #021 – “Honor Among Thieves” (Jeffrey Archer)

Date:  October, 2010

Host:  Bob

Whisky:  Ardbeg Corryvreckan, Aberlour a’bunadh (Batch 21), Highwood Rye (Canadian), Springbank 10 y.o. 100 Proof

Rum:  Bacardi 8 y.o., El Dorado 15 y.o.

 

We have yet to have a night out at the acreage that is not a resounding success.  Until now.

Kidding.  This was an amazing outing.  Full of laughs, memories and mockery.  Most are, but this one will shine on long after the event itself fades a little.  There just seemed to be something magical about it.  I think the others would all say the same.  Thankfully the weather cooperated (this is late October, after all), though it wasn’t looking too promising earlier in the day.  At one point in the morning (nearing noon) I had ventured out for a Red Bull, and the frosted lawns intandem with my visible exhalations made me groan.  ‘Dear gawd…he doesn’t expect us to sit outside in this, does he?’  The temperature soared through the day though, and the evening turned out to be quite pleasant around the firepit.

Robert elected to do things a little differently with the bevvies this eve.  We arrived to 6 decanters on display, each labeled with a ‘W’ or an ‘R’ to denote whisky or rum, and a number to differentiate them.  Yep…Liquorature’s first blind tasting.  Robert’s concern about embarrassing anyone or making anyone uncomfortable was completely unfounded, as the whole gang thought it was a brilliant turn and had a blast with it.  The only challenge he made was to share which we liked the most.  Cockiness got the best of a couple of us though, and it soon became a contest to determine the drams themselves.

Here was the rundown:

  • W1:  Highwood Rye (from right here in Alberta)
  • W2:  Ardbeg Corryvreckan
  • W3:  Springbank 10 y.o. 100 Proof
  • W4:  Aberlour a’bunadh
  • R1:  Bacardi 8 y.o.
  • R2:  El Dorado 15 y.o.

I’ll leave the results a secret here, something only for those that attended.  Needless to say, it was a great time, and something I think we should do more often.  As the boys become more serious about their liquor and the palates evolve a little, this is a nifty little exercise.  Everyone is already seeing how much their appreciations and personal tastes have changed over the years.  Well done, Watson.

Though I initially gave our host credit for the wonderful chili (and the whole spread really), he finally conceded it was his better half who had put together our feast.  Hope you thanked her for us, though I’m sure some of the over-full groans and belches may have reached her ears over that 33km distance.

This was our last gathering of the old guard, as next month we welcome Chris and Jay to the newly conceived G8 (as christened by Surujbally).  So, though we were down Bauer tonight (and Lance couldn’t make it), Robert’s priviledge to invite a guest rewarded us all with an evening of socializing with Mike.  We all knew Mike from other circles, so it was a relaxed and easy fit.

We dove into the book after the rumblin’ tums were fed.  Everyone geared up and we headed outdoors to sit around the fire.  Robert shared why he picked this book, and Mike was able to relate.  Having spent time working in the Middle East, many of the travel experiences and stuff were easily-relatable.  Of course…he’s also a sucker for the political intrigue/action type story (as we know from his adoration of The Lion’s Game).  Robert…three books…three British authors.  Hmmmmm.

Consensus from all pretty much aligned with Surujbally’s review (http://www.liquorature.com/?page_id=648).  We enjoyed it for the story, but there wasn’t a lot of depth or chearacter development.  We all conceded however to enjoying and needing these books in our life.  We spoke about the Middle East, the portrayal of Hussein, the possibility of the implausible events (as Robert said…hey, why not…who would have believed 9/11 could have happened if told in advance?).

From there it became just a great guy’s night.  Funny as hell.  Extremely enjoyable.  One of my personal favorites to date.  A lot of bevvies consumed too.  Mike trotted out a bottle of Bacardi 1873, and I saw that by the end of the eve, Robert’s EH5 had made an appearance as well.  Damn rummies.

To close out the night we ventured in and settled around the basement to laugh our asses off to Napoleon Dynamite.  Good times.

Thanks, Robert.

The randoms:  Mike’s inclusion…the platypus is god playing lego…Clint Kool-aiding the glass door (unbelievable)…they rapin’ everybody…great Cuban cigars…the mediocre jock…Mike’s turn to grab firewood…Robert wretling with the deer…when the boss takes a sh*t next to you…’backin’ up, backin’ up, backin’ up, backin’ up…hacking up a lung to lose weight…condoms as PPE…the blind tasting and the bet not taken…Mike’s attempt at kindling a taste for Scotch…the aftermath of Mike’s attempt at kindling a taste for Scotch…great chili…so much more.

Aug 232013
 

Liquorature Gathering #017 – “On The Road” (Jack Kerouac)

Date:  June, 2010

Host:  Curt

Whisky:  Lagavulin 16 y.o., Aberlour a’bunadh (batch 27), Bushmills Single Cask (Rum Cask) release (Cask strength)

Rum:  The Kraken

 

Well…we were down a couple members (Pat and Scott), but the rest of us took one for the team and had an extra bevvie or two (Clint and I…an extra three).  Casual night of sipping and chatting.  I think we spoke more to the writing style itself than to the lasting cultural resonance, but…such is.  Lance has written up a fine review under ‘Books’.  Consider it a companion piece to this, in that I will not speak too much to the book here.

I conceded to the lads that I sort of regretted this choice after having made it.  Thinking I maybe should have taken the club in a different direction instead of opting for this.  Ahh well…we’ll have to see how I feel about it as the dust settles.  Good thing this setup we have is not finite.  In theory, I’ll be able to torment the fellows with many more inane choices before we call it quits at the ripe ol’ age of ‘who knows’.

There were quite a few laughs, some good-hearted mockery (mostly at my expense), and a touch of insight too.  I opened up on why I chose this book, and the fellas opened up on why it did/did not resonate.  Clint and I confessed to having an artistic bent and soft spot for books such as this.  Most telling, I think, was asking Robert (who did not enjoy this ‘godforesook book’) if he would have reacted to it differently if he had read it in his teens/20s (as I did initially).  Another great conversational tidbit centered around whether or not we saw in ourselves more of Dean or of Sal.  Interesting to see these moments of introspection.  These conversations are part of what makes this club so central to our lives now.

Drinks were varied and well received.

I brought out the Lagavulin 16 year old for the peat contingent.  Funnily enough, I think we’re starting to bring Robert around to the smoky side of Scotch whisky.  He has long been our anti-peat’er, but has recently shown appreciation for this Lagavulin, the Octomore (world’s heaviest peated whisky, I might add!), and PC6.   Another convert?  Lance…you’re next.  Lagavulin, incidentally is one of the distilleries I will be visiting when on Islay in September.

Next up was a single cask (selected for Canada) bottle of Bushmills.  Being a fan of Bushmills already (hey…it’s what I cut my teeth on), I was blown away to find this snazzy cask-strengther in a beatiful wooden box.  I though maybe we’d tempt Lance with a dram, as it was aged in rum casks.  Nifty.

Last up…Aberlour a’bunadh.  We in Liquorature have quite an affinity for Aberlour.  The 10 y.o. is a staple in many of our homes, and there have been a few bottles of a’bunadh now as well.  This particular bottle was from batch 27 and boasts a whopping 60.1% abv.  Big bold sherry goodness.  Mmmmmm.

The evening’s big surprise however, was The Kraken.  A black spiced rum from Trinidad & Tobago.  Brilliant packaging, and an absolutely unique flavor profile had me finally blown away with a rum.  Dear Lawd, was this stuff good.  Massive vanilla and molasses rounded out with some bold but smooth spice.  I – definitely not a rum drinker – kept a glass of this going all night alongside my whisky.  From now on, I will always have a bottle of this kicking around the house.  Highly recommended.  I anxiously await Lance’s review of this snarling beastie of a rum.

So, while tame in comparison to some of our other soirees, this was a good night.

Highlights:

Jalapeno fire crotch…Torchy Pedon (sp?)…Lance digging at Robert for the Eng/Ger game (which Germany won handily)…’pumped his own tires’…jon bovi…Bauer’s lid being normal for a change (were you feeling alright?)…the Kraken!…daffodils blowing in an Arctic mist (Thank you, John Glaser)…jolly rogering…Moriarty the primitive.

Until we gather to commiserate over how rough it was to make it through Dostoevsky’s “The Idiot”…Slainte!

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– Curt