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

Feb 042016
 

Liquorature Gathering #058 – “The Fountainhead” (Ayn Rand)the-fountainhead

Date:  November, 2013

Host:  Curt

Whisky:  Macallan Travel Series “Forties”, MacKinlay’s Rare Old Highlands Malt (Shackleton Recreation), GlenDronach 1994 17 y.o. Cask #261, Amrut Intermediate Sherry, Ardbeg Corryvreckan

 

In the first year of Liquorature (book number nine in our queue, actually) we had a go at Ayn Rand.  ‘Atlas Shrugged’.  Her magnum opus.  A book – and worldview – that is as divisive as the border between the Koreas.

Things didn’t quite work out the way we’d hoped that night we gathered to discuss.  One or two of the Collective were MIA; one arrived late after a very long day of work; and I think another had to leave early.  There was a pervasive sense of ‘ugh, wish this event was on another night’.  Don’t get me wrong.  We had lots to say and everyone wanted to share, but it just wasn’t the best night for it due to circumstance.  We did end up in some rather heated discussion at the end of the night regarding unions and such, but as to the philosophical side of Rand’s work (known as ‘Objectivism’) we never really fully engaged.

Fast forward four years and it seemed about time to slip back into her sepia-soaked, early 20th century idealism.

Rand often gets lambasted for use of oversimplified idealistic supermen characters, hammer to the head philosophical diatribes and boxy, formal and unpoetic writing.  I can, in a way, understand the criticisms even if I don’t necessarily agree.  That’s a big debate and not one for the ‘here and now’.  Suffice it to say that some of the Liquorature boys felt exactly this way, while others were right behind her stylistic and intellectual leanings.  As I said above…divisive.  And as you can imagine, perfect fodder for book club discussion.

‘The Fountainhead’ was first published in 1943, so the opportunity to crack open a bottle of Macallan Forties was a no-brainer.  We like our theme play, aye?  The other malts, as listed above, were a smattering of neat drams and old favorites.  Quite frankly, I simply wanted to pour good drinks to compliment a novel I cherish and one that has a very special place in my heart.  And suit, they did.  Perfect social lubricant for this night.  And happy to report that we did more justice to this meeting than we did to the previous.  It was rousing, stimulating, intelligent and insightful.  The book earned much respect, if not all hearts.  If that makes sense.

On a selfish note, it pleases me to no end to share this one with others.  I first read it in high school, when it was passed on to me by a woman who changed my life.  We shared much, not the least of which was an intellectual bent and a need to push boundaries of accepted doctrine.  These are the things we’re meant to share, I think.

I should also note that as I write this, in January of 2016, we are debating tackling ‘Atlas’ again.  Only two of our current Collective was around in that first year.  Perhaps a do-over is in order.  More to come.

Random notes:  El Cid chili … salsa fresca and cinnamon buns … “blue eagle”

 

– Curt

Jan 282016
 

Liquorature Gathering #049 – “Lamb: The Gospel According To Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal” (Christopher Moore)Lamb

Date:  February, 2013

Host:  Bauer

Whisky:  Glenfiddich 21 y.o. Gran Reserva, Port Charlotte Peat Project, Amrut Fusion, Strathisla 12 y.o.

 

Ah…we love irreverent and good-spirited blasphemy here in the collective.  Nothing truly offensive (though that has its time and place on occasion), but intelligent interpretation and utilization of the subject matter in order to make us rethink our assumptions in this modern day, removed form the trappings of ignorance and orthodoxy.  Ok…now I’m bordering on offending, myself.  Let’s trend lightly.  -Ish.

I, like many others, had often walked past the pseudo-cartoony spines of Christopher Moore’s books in Chapters, without so much as stooping to pick one up.  Not sure why, except he simply never crossed my radar and the aesthetics were not really appealing to my tastes.  Alas, one of the most widely disseminated idioms we’ll ever here – ‘never judge a book by its cover’ – is more apt here than you can imagine.  ‘Lamb’ is a brilliant book.  One that punches well above its weight.  I thought a little of Robbins, maybe a little of Vonnegut.  More the former, but perhaps with a little less psychedelia and a little more natural narrative flow.  But let’s forget any literary debate and instead concentrate on the content.  I kinda think this book has enough food for thought (and tactful delivery, I might add) to make both atheists and orthodox bust a gut and make friends over a dram or two.  Enlightening, entertaining and critical (in all the right ways).  Good choice, Bauer, and one that led to great conversation.

But Liquorature is more than books, aye?  Bauer popped the cork on a couple old favorites, as well as being kind enough to open the proverbial cabinet doors to allow the unwashed to decimate his distilled stores at will.  Thanks, buddy.  Enjoyed the Ardbeg and Octomore immensely.

Drinks led to laughs, laughs led back to the book.  I think we were all high on this one.  But let’s face it…a book like this is meant to unite.  And tonight it did just that.

Randoms:  “Lex Lutheranism”…”Research the bejesus out of it”…Scientology…”He was born in a suit”…”You can’t kill a muppet”…”Guy On A Buffalo”…”Sabre toothed hamster”…”I’m sure that bear didn’t want to be shaved”.

 

– Curt

Aug 252013
 

Liquorature #040 – “Lord Of The Rings” (J.R.R. Tolkien)LOTR

Date:  May, 2012

Host:  Jay

Whisky:  Amrut Fusion, Amrut Intermediate Sherry, Amrut Two Continents, Amrut Portonova

Rum:  Old Port Deluxe

 

Thank f*ck I’ve finally knocked this big b*tch off my list.  After years of getting riled from a few of my more literate amigos for not having delved into Tolkien’s masterwork I finally did the deed.  Let’s be clear…I did not come to this one willingly.  It was foisted on us by Jay.  Just the motivation required to finally do it up.  I should note here that this one stretched all rules of acceptability for Liquorature selections.  Books are to be single volume novels that stand alone.  So how does this three-parter qualify?  Well…it was argued that the intent was to have this published as a single volume and that it was actually the publishers who split it into pieces.

Cynicism and skepticism abounded, but in the end we took a majority rules vote and it was allowed to stand as Jay’s choice.

So, the concern I had always had about this one (yes…I knew the story ahead of time from having seen the films) was that it was just another fantasy tale (irrespective as to whether or not is was the granddaddy of ‘em all) and simply did not warrant being chosen due to lack of discussable subject matter.  When this happens, we tend to end up with some natter about the writing style, some favorite scenes discussions and a debate on the merits of the genre.

Indeed, we did discuss the genre, compared it to other fantasy we’ve covered to date, compared to the films, etc.  Much as foreseen though, there weren’t many ‘true’ discussion points.  Maybe this one suffered the same fate as did ‘Atlas Shrugged’.  We came in expecting a mind-meltingly deep philosophical discourse and ended up with anything but.  Oh well.  A lesson to be learned about expectations, I suppose.

For the devourables this eve…Jay threw out a blast from the past for this guy.  Pizzas ordered from Gondola.  I didn’t even know this chain still existed.  I remember going to Gondola when I was a wee lad in Manitoba.  Gotta say…bloody delish!  Thin crust…crispy as hell…tastier than tasty.

Malts on offer this eve?  Also from the far off lands (not quite Mordor, but not far off either).  India, this time.  A revisit to a couple of favorites, and a couple that were new to some members of the club.  All from the Amrut distillery in Bangalore.  Fusion, Portonova, Intermediate Sherry and Two Continents.  Even the rum, Old Port Deluxe, was an Amrut product.  Nice little flight of bevies from one of the most exciting and dynamic distilleries in the world.  And yes…these drams were appreciated by all.

So…the libations certainly helped grease the wheels of verbosity.  Lance’s juggling of the dwarfs’ names form the Hobbit and the nearly canonical reference to the lesser Jackson, Tito, were cause for great laughter.  A line-up of bottles boasting ABV’s of ~50-62% does not fall without a fight, but this little brotherhood of over-the-hill warriors, chubby dwarfs, effeminate elves and other lesser heroes did our best.  In the end…we went down swinging.

The Randoms:  “It’s gonna happen if you drink that” … Tito Tolkien … Counting dwarfs … “The Tony Robbins of Middle Earth” … “Gargamel” … “You lived in Fionavar?!” … The Mordor gay sign … debate over value of the appendices … sadly, no Robert or Bauer.

 

 

 

 

– Curt

Aug 252013
 

Liquorature Gathering #039 – “1Q84” (Haruki Murakami)1Q84

Date:  April, 2012

Host:  Chris

Whisky:  Amrut Portonova, Tomintoul 12 Oloroso, Bowmore Tempest Batch 3

Rum:  Mekong

 

Oh, man, am I behind in these things.  Worse still…I’m about to start knocking them off out of order.  As inspiration strikes…not as desperation demands.  Apologies to those faithful readers (all two of you) who have been anxiously awaiting word on what the Literate Gang has been up to.

This evening, under the guiding hand of our host, Chris, turned into quite a ‘do’.  For starters, Chris’s mate Lorenzo joined us this eve as one of our Occasional Travelers.  Always fun to have the injection of a new perspective and the associated pressure to perform.  Come on…of course we wanna show off our little enterprise as something rather more than the pedestrian tripe that most of the populace find themselves surrounded by.  Check the egos?  Bah!

Days earlier Chris got hold of me looking for a bit of help picking a few malts to offer up.  Our little man-date took us to Willow Park Wines & Spirits, where we spent the better part of half an hour shuffling up and down the looooooong wall of whisky and weighing this against that.  Credit all to Chris, I was only there providing some background on some of the malts he was less familiar with.  In the end he went with a Tomintoul 12 Oloroso, a Bowmore Tempest (for those dirty peaters in our midst) and the absolutely stunning Amrut Portonova.  This last was a showstopper.  Everyone in attendance was bowled over by this one.  An absolutely mind-melting bucket of rich and luscious fruit notes and exotic spices.  Needless to say, even at ~60% abv, this was the first to go.  The others…well…not long behind.

And for those who needed still a little more sweetness than that offered up by the Portonova and Tom12?  A rum by the handle of Mekong.  I’ll let Lance speak to this one, as to be fair…I steered clear.  (Why reach for rum with an Amrut this great at the ready?)

Though I don’t remember being too uncomfortable, the heat in Chris’s place must have been stifling.  The rate of evaporation on the whiskies was simply astounding.  In fact, I think we were desert dry by the evening’s end.  Always the magnanimous host, Chris pulled out a couple from his personal stores.  A 21 year old Glenfarclas ended up being a brilliant nightcap.

And as to the book?

A whole helluva pile of fun really.  Though maybe not in the conventional sense.  Damn!  What a cheeky little tale this was.  I simply refuse to try to dumb it down for you here in a few words or less.  Personally, I’ll go on a limb here and highly recommend this one.  I can promise that even if you don’t like it, per se, you’ll certainly not have read anything even remotely similar to this one.  1Q84 was our first go at a Japanese author, though hopefully not our last.  It certainly took us into an immersive new world that seemed completely at odds with our own, and the surreal aspect kept a few of us tottering between adoration and utter what-the-f*ck?

Interestingly enough, Lorenzo is a huge Murakami fan.  If Chris was at all fence-sitting as to whether or not to invite his mate to join us, this must have been the icing on the cake.  Lorenzo’s insight and input this eve were invaluable and absolutely welcome.  And what does one do when the night wears on into the small hours?  Why, get a little shut eye, of course.  Lorenzo’s Houdini act and subsequent catnap-atop-the-washing machine will go down in the annals as one of Liquorature’s all time funniest happenings.

All in all…one of my favorite gatherings to date.

The randoms:

“I clearly thought she wanted me” … “I’d like to shake your head” … intel-lush-uals … “I want to sleep with her actually” … napping on the washer and dryer … “and suddenly…a dog explodes!” … “yep!  I’m here”…Lorenzo sitting in.

 

 

 

– Curt

Aug 232013
 

Liquorature Gathering #031 – “The Gods Themselves” (Isaac Asimov)

Date:  August, 2011

Host:  Jay

Whisky:  Bruichladdich 16s – Pomerol, Amrut Intermediate Sherry, Balblair 2000

Rum:  n/a …absent rummie, so…just a few random partial bottles of cane juice

 

Jay’s first go-round as host saw the core of the club sadly reduced in numbers, as three of eight had to take a miss for various reasons.  Fortunately Bauer was through town and, in typical Bauer fashion, managed to plow through the book in a day and a bit and join us for an eve of laughter and bad wordplay.  Without spilling too many details, there is a glimmer of hope that the mad-hatter may be wending his way back to Cowtown in a more permanent form in the coming days.  We’ll cross fingers and wait for word.

Jay’s initial idea for beverage layout fell though, though I won’t spill the beans here in case it comes to fruition later, so instead he ventured down to Willow Park for a tete-a-tete with Resident whisky guy, David Michiels.  In the end he came away with a good selection to please the varying palate.  Though the Balblair didn’t sit well with yours truly, a couple others enjoyed it.  Having said that…the ‘Laddie was tasty and the Amrut an overwhelming knockout.  Damn…I love this distillery.

Sadly, Lance was one of the gang unable to attend this eve, so…with no true need for a new rum, Jay hauled out a couple misc rums for anyone needing a dose of sugar, but elected to blow the budget on malts instead.  Aw shucks, right?

On to the tale, cause let’s face it (no matter what the doubters believe), that is the reason we gather each month…

Jay went old school sci-fi on us this time ’round:  Isaac Asimov’s ‘The Gods Themselves’, a book subdivided into three distinct sections that sort of tie together an overarcing tale of triumph (how we get there was lauded by some and scoffed at by others).

This was a hard one for a couple of us to really get behind.  There was an appreciation, but also a tough time actually embracing it.  Sort of a similar situation to that we had with Bellamy’s ‘Looking Backward’ (rotten piece of dogsh*t that it was…grrrrrrrr), where it elicited some good conversation, but the reading for the month was much less than enjoyable.  Interesting to note that different members of the collective found different sections of the book appealing while often holding a hefty disdain for other parts.  One person’s favorite was another’s least favorite.  These kind of discussions are what really make it worth while, as you really see the character of each other.

Many of our (much) better halves have their own book club.  Each December we gather as a mixed crew and each sex gets to assign one of their past selections to the other group.  Tonight we decided that our pick for the ladies this year would be Tom Robbins’ ‘Another Roadside Attraction”.  Not sure if the proponents of this selection (primarily Jay and Clint) simply can’t get enough Tom Robbins, or they just want to knock the socks off the gals with one waaaaaay outside the realm of what they normally tackle.  We’ll see, I suppose.

As the night rolled on and the heat in the room finally won out over the A/C, we ventured out to Jay’s deck to enjoy an amazing evening, all the while proceeding to bang the hell out of the whisky.

Another night of good friends and good chat.  Cheers, all.

 

The randoms:  “The YMCA…not everyone wants to stay there”…moon poon…sacrilicious!…Splooge-proof the caves… “these were some cold aliens”…”How are you gonna one-up the guy saved reality?” “I’ma get my own band”…Moondingo…The Incredibles: ‘an Objectivist handbook for kids’…It’s not gay if it’s in a three way…Bauer being back for another one…

 

– Curt

Aug 232013
 

Liquorature Gathering #009 – “Atlas Shrugged” (Ayn Rand)

Date:  October, 2009

Host:  Curt

Whisky:  Ardbeg Airigh Nam Beist, Amrut, Laphroaig Quarter Cask

Rum:  Flor de Cana 5 y.o.

Tequila:  El Jimador

 

Sigh.  This should have been our magnum opus discussion.  Instead it was a slightly disappointing night.  Not bad…just…disappointing.  With a book like ‘Atlas’, we went into it with so much hype and elevated expectations.  Perhaps expectations were set too high though, as we did all see the potential, just never quite reached the heights of conversational brilliance to which we’d all aspired.  Icarus and all, right?  Topics of conversation never really got deep enough into philosophy or aesthetics for my liking.  And to be honest, I expected a little more polarity, but it seemed to be fairly well-received and appreciated by most of the gang and all for the same qualities.  Oh well.

I had ordered a few Atlas pieces before this night, and awarded Bauer a “Who is John Galt” shirt for the ultimate achievement, and simply being the uber keener (in the three months between announcement of Atlas and our meeting, he read Atlas twice and The Fountainhead as well).  Can’t recall if I wore my Danneskjold Repossessions shirt or Reardon Steel one.  😉

Pat, Clint, Bauer and I had cigars and laid into a couple of true heavyweights in terms of peated whisky.  I should also note that this was the night we met and fell in love with the Beast.  Ardbeg Airigh Nam Beist, that is.  Dear gawd, what a whisky.  Most of the gang, at this early stage in their tasting journeys were a little…err…unimpressed with the smoky peat monsters.  Oh well…the Ardbeg was beautiful, and the Quarter Cask a brilliant dram too.  I had managed to track down a single malt from India, following on the footsteps of Buddha, who had found a nifty Japanese whisky earlier on.  There was some rum and tequila open too.  The former took a beating.  The latter…not so much.  Food wise…just some snacks:  a table full of a wide array of munchies and sweets.

I’d guess our topic conversation topped out at about two and a half hours.  …And didn’t even scratch the surface.

Perhaps we’ll have to try ‘The Fountainhead’ at some point.

 

– Curt