Feb 102016
 

Liquorature #076 – “Where The Red Fern Grows” (Wilson Rawls)where-the-red-fern-grows-cover[1]

Date:  October 2nd, 2015

Host:  Bauer

Whisky:  Oban Little Bay, Arran Single Cask 1999: Bourbon Cask #72, Ardbeg Auriverdes, Ardbeg Ardbog

 

Ok, Bauer.  ‘Fess up.  You only picked this sorry-ass piece of sub-literate kiddie fare to see if you could make grown men cry, didn’tcha?  Bah!

Happy to say there were no tears shed by this guy (except maybe in frustration at the corn pone, inbred, yokelspeak and absolute unrelatability of both the story and paper-thin characters).  Did that sound full of disdain and animosity?  Hope so.  I was laying it on pretty thick.

I think some of the other lads were a little more generous with their assessments of this one than I was, but this is no masterpiece to say the least.  I think all conceded that without much debate.  Two things:  1) Rawls was a writer by accident.  And he was a hack.  And 2) Time has not been kind to this story.  Let’s leave it there.  After all, this is an event recap, not a book review.

Suitably enough, two crazy ass bouncing hounds were our companions for the eve.  Alvin and Captain Awesome, Bauer’s faithful furry companions were snuggled up with us for most of the evening.  Fortunately for Chris, Awesome’s paws were kept out of ‘junking’ distance from his groin this time ’round.  At a previous Bauer-led shindig, his giggleberries had been on the receiving end of a hole pile of Doberman punching power.  Thankfully he is done having kids.

Back to back events wherein we beat up on bottles of Ardbeg couldn’t possibly be a bad thing either.  Last month was the Perpetuum, while for this gathering Bauer poured both the Auriverdes and Ardbog, two limited expressions from days gone by.  I’m an unfettered Ardbeg fanboy, of course, so I’ll refrain from gushing here, but all the lads were more than enamored with these two drams.  Additionally we sipped the newest NAS Oban release, Little Bay (meh…s’ok), and a pretty damn good Arran single cask.  Arran are exciting.  Their whiskies continue to surprise and excite.

And finally…it was a treat to check out Bauer’s new digs.  First club night at his new place.  Very nice, buddy.  Look forward to many more gatherings here.

Random notes:  The new house … the dogs … “When my dog died…I cried.  When my grandparents died…I didn’t.”

 

– Curt

Feb 102016
 

Liquorature #075 – “Three Day Road” (Joseph Boyden)three-day-road

Date:  August 21st, 2016

Host:  Chris

Whisky:  Ardbeg Perpetuum, Inchmurrin 18 y.o., Glenfarclas 2002 Family Casks Willow Park Exclusive

 

Is Canadiana (or Canadian fiction, for that matter) always so depressing?  From the dystopian leanings of Atwood, through the maritime poverty of Douglas Adams Richards…from the ravages of Edugyan’s World War II era Europe to Mistry’s teeming slums of India, our truly talented Canadian authorial elite have emotionally kicked our asses throughout these early years of Liquorature.

Add another sadistic scribe to the mix, in one Joseph Boyden, hailing from the center of the universe (aka Toronto).  Boyden’s narrative skill and deep understanding of complex character dynamics are matched only by his subject matter expertise and impressive research skills.  There are simply no two ways about it, this story was about as immersive a literary experience as one could imagine.  For those of us (the entire global population now) that were not around to experience the horrors of World War I’s trench warfare, it’s almost unthinkable to question Boyden’s portrayal, so utterly believable is it.  Watching Elijah and Xavier change and cope (or not?) throughout this story was one of the most brilliant examples of character development I have ever experienced in literature.  The descent of these two men, as the story unravels, is not only believable, but harrowing.  There’s a psychological game at play here that hearkens back to other war stories we’ve all seen and read.  It sorta makes us realize that we’ll simply never understand the mindset required to survive these hand-to-hand forays into the fray.

Having said all that…everyone loved the book.  The only real division was between those who preferred the parts that pulled us into the bleakness of the European frontlines of Vimy et al, and those who preferred the less claustrophobic narrative of Xavier’s three day canoe ride through the wilds.  This is a book that is more than the sum of its parts though.  It leaves behind an indelible mark that can only be assessed as a whole.

We revisited a malt better left unrevisited, if I’m to be dead honest: a 2002 Willow Park Exclusive Glenfarclas Family Cask.  I think Chris may have forgotten we’d tried this one, but man…not good.  Solventy and with hints of Mezcal.  Shudder.  To this day I have no idea why this was ever bottled as a single cask.  An Inchmurrin 18 was a merely ‘ok’ middle act, but the Ardbeg Perpetuum we closed with was a knockout.  Pretty sure that one was little more than fumes by the end of the eve.

Random notes:  The appearance of a big, surly Scot … a rather sordid Glenfarclas encounter … an extra bottle … “drop the mic” … “you need England watching over you” … “fuck you and the unicorn you rode in on” … “that’s what Jaeger bombs will do”

 

– 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 #050 – “Moby Dick” (Herman Melville)Moby-Dick

Date:  March, 2013

Host:  Curt

Whisky:  Ardbeg Galileo, Bowmore Laimrig 15 y.o., Glenfarclas 21 y.o., Aberlour a’bunadh (Batch 37), Connemara

Rum:  Plantation 5 y.o.

 

Tonight I made enemies.  On a grand scale.  Few books have caused as much animosity and bellyaching amongst the Liquorature collective as Melville’s masterpiece ‘Moby Dick’.  ‘Catcher In The Rye’ had us ready to tar and feather Salinger (coincidentally on the day of his death), while ‘Looking Backward’s’ condescending puerile drivel had a couple of us ready to turn all those thousands of words into so much toilet paper.  But this massive and daunting recounting of the hunt for the white whale, in all its Victorian charm, had the united members of the group on the verge of mutiny.

So who was the sadistic bastard who subjected the boys to such a literary flogging?  Yep.  Yours truly.

Here’s the deal…’Moby Dick’ is one of the greatest novels ever written.  I can’t even look at that as a subjective statement.  In all my bias I simply can’t wrap my head around this being any less than fact.  I adore this tale.  And I unequivocally love the execution.  The chapters on cetology and all extraneous bolt-ons to the story proper only serve to sink us deeper and deeper beneath the crushing weight of the oceans Melville paints for us.  Isn’t that what we want in good literature?  The immersive experience?  I’ve read through this book a couple of times now, and as I type this I am honestly contemplating another go-round.  In fact…with weeks to go until the next gathering, I think I may pick this up tonight.

So…reception wasn’t great this time around.  So be it.  The criticisms were many, but there was some appreciation as well.  Granted most of that was simply that the whole experience was behind us, but so be it.

We had our occasional member, Maltmonster, sit in for this one, and spent the evening in heated conversation, drowning our livers in Ardbeg, Bowmore, Glenfarclas and Aberlour.  We even deigned to put out a little Irish juice for our genetically-challenged friend.  It was the briny Ardbeg and Bowmore, however, that really suited the experience, reeking of oceanic influence as they do. And the sounds of Ahab’s ‘Call Of The Wretched Sea’ album provided a doomy backdrop to the whole affair.  Memorable and atmospheric.  Loved it.

Randoms:  “Fuck thee”…”Poor Pip”…”He brought the A-Team”…”…And that was a whole chapter”…”Hung with harpoons” …an Irish guest.

NB: Exiled rum-junkie Lance did a really good write up of the novel while in sandland.

– 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

Jul 032015
 

Liquorature #070 – “‘Salem’s Lot” (Stephen King)Salem's Lot

Date:  April 3rd, 2015

Host:  Bauer

Whisky:  Ardbeg Supernova 2014, Bowmore 15 y.o. Cask #800040 (Wilson & Morgan), Glen Moray 24 y.o. Cask #1350 (Duncan Taylor)

 

Atta boy, Bauer.  Bringing a little bit of grit back into the club with some ’70s styled horror.  Nasty verminous, dirty vampires.  The way vampires were intended to be.  I make no bones about the fact that this is one of my favorite books of all time.  That comes back to much more than just the story itself.  There are some beautiful examples of small town imagery here that resonate like harmonics played on an old dinged up Guild.  Images of creeping sunsets, autumnal eves in porch swings and sleepy, unsettling townie life.  I’ve experienced this.  Takes me back many, many years, but once you’ve lived this way it simply never leaves you.  Now tack on the dark and despairing sense of dread that hovers suffocatingly over this book and you have an absolute recipe for one of the all time great timeless chillers.  I came into this one absolutely certain that everyone would have similar feelings.  And if they didn’t…well…by the end of the night they would.

Errr…maybe not so much.  Seems this one was generally enjoyed by all, but only one or two felt even close to as taken in by this one as I did.  Not sure whether that speaks more to their tastes or mine.  Hmmm.  Irrespective, there was an appreciation for setting, dialogue and King’s mastery of the craft.  The impact of dread may not have hit everyone, but the writing itself was not the focus of critique.  Interestingly enough, there were a few in our crew who admitting to being more drawn to Anne Rice’s preternatural homoerotic gothic stylings than the vampire-as-vermin approach.  I don’t mind Anne Rice (in fact, I rather enjoy her writing), but my undead don’t wear velvet.  Just sayin’.

With some serious life changes on the way, Bauer shared some incredible news with the gang this eve.  Let’s just say it means more sleepless nights, someone new in the house to share his love of toys and rhymes with ‘maybe’.  Congrats, buddy.  You’ll be an amazing dad.  Can’t wait to be a part of this.  Additionally, this will have been our last Liquorature gathering at this pad, as a new home was just over the horizon.  Married in January…baby on the way…new home.  Big year.  Love to see my mates doing well.

All in all, a great night full of good whisky (especially that Supernova!) and even better company.  Now…back to the grave.

Random Notes:  “we needed a couple more ‘oy vey’s’ … ‘a sneeze in this proximity wins all the food’ … ‘atta boy, blue!’ … the announcement … Chris’s impromptu neutering courtesy of Captain Awesome.

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 242013
 

Liquorature Gathering #037 – “Cleyshot Cliffs” (David John Watson)

Date:  February, 2012

Host:  Robert

Whisky:  Ardbeg Corryvreckan, Bruichladdich Manzanilla 12 y.o. WP Exclusive & ?

Rum:  ?

 

For the second time in two years we were afforded the opportunity to tackle a work by David John Watson, none other than the brother of Liquorature member, Robert.  You may recall our previous ‘go’ at David’s ‘Geonesis’, a book rich in originality and Crichton-esque scientific plausibility, but a little thin on technical writing chops.  While noted as not perfect, the Liquorature crew was so suitably impressed as to recommend the novel on further (indeed all our spouses read it) and to anxiously embrace the opportunity to read David’s follow-up novel.  No doubt about it, the guy has a voice and some damn cool ideas.

So….here’s the deal.  David is a gent in the UK who has wide-ranging interests (music, writing, golf, etc).  From what I understand, when he puts his mind to something…he follows through.  Tackling a second book shows not only a passion, but a love of the craft.  This time ’round David offered us a ‘sneak peek’ on the condition we provided constructive criticism back to him for use in the editing stages of the process.  We agreed and were presently sent on PDFs of David’s new novel, ‘Cleyshot Cliffs’.

While I went in with pen to hand, I quickly got lost in the tale and had to go back through to properly together my thoughts regarding edits and such.  Here we have a novel that unfolds in a manner quite similar to Scott Smith’s The Ruins.  The emotional unraveling taking place in an isolated locale may be the only similarity, however, as Watson injects some interesting science and, well…let’s just say you should read this one.  Keep checking Spinney Books for an official release.  To date, I still only have a printoff in duotangs, but anxiously look forward to the end product and a good re-read with a dram in hand.

If you’re curious as to style, think along the lines of a dash of Crichton, a splash of King, a pinch of Scott Smith and maybe even some of the isolation captured by Dafoe, Golding and others in their beach/shipwreck/island tales.

Not everything in the book works flawlessly, but it does more often than not.  I could certainly see this as a decent seller at any airport bookshop.

Anyway…this is not a book review.  That has already been done on the downlow (with all criticisms sent on to the author himself).  This is merely a sharing of impressions.  Put simply…I was suitably impressed enough to re-read.  I like the way this tale unfolds.  While maybe not as original as ‘Geonesis’ was, in terms of pure innovative ideas, this one is much more smoothly executed.  A quick and enjoyable read with a solid ending that pleased immensely.

Most of the evening’s conversation revolved around the actual technical writing aspects of the book, but we definitely found enough subject matter to have some poignant and topical conversations too.  Sex, youth, scares, family, etc.

Well done, David.  Look forward to a proper print copy of this one.  And more importantly…sincerely look forward to the next one you write.

Alright.  The event itself…

As always when Robert hosts, we found ourselves at the acreage in Millarville, bout 20 minutes outside the city of Calgary.  This is a great little piece of land, nicely hemmed in by trees, with a climbing driveway and a great sprawling back area complete with firepit and all.  These club gatherings always turn out to be over-nighters for at least some of us.  This is partially because it is the responsible thing to do (zero tolerance for drinking and driving), but also because it is a chance to forget about all responsibilities for the night.  A chance to pour that extra drink, eat that extra burger, stay up that extra hour, whatever.  As is usual out here in ‘neverland’, this was another great evening, under the watchful eye of the moon, doing our best top fight off sobriety.  I like to think we won.

Finally…apologies (and no offense intended to any), but  I can find neither my original notes nor photos from this night.  No idea what the others bevies were that were on offer.  Or even the food, for that matter.

Oh well.  Let it remain a pleasantly faded memory, meant only for those that were there.

 

– Curt

Aug 232013
 

Liquorature Gathering #024 – “Another Roadside Attraction” (Tom Robbins)

Date:  January, 2011

Host – Curt

Whisky:  Ardbeg Blasda, Ardbeg Ten, Corryvreckan, Ardbeg Uigeadail, Ardbeg SN2010, Kilchoman Spring 2010, Kilchoman Summer 2010, Port Charlotte PC6, Port Charlotte PC7, Port Charlotte PC8

Rum:  Robert Watson’s Demerara Rum, The Kraken, English Harbour 5 y.o.

 

This had to be a big night.  It was the eve of our second anniversary.  Hard to believe this little collective has existed for two years already.  Though there have been a few changes since the inception, for most part things are cruising along as we put in place so many months back.

This gathering was at my place.  The pressure was double.  First…I’ve kinda felt like each time I’ve hosted, it hasn’t quite lived up to my expectations, and second…it had to be big and memorable to mark the milestone.  Months in the planning led to a hell of a soiree, I think.  Many facets came together to deliver a night that ranks up with my favorites, and I can finally rest a little easier knowing that it came off much as I had hoped.

First things first…I wanted a book that would wreak havoc on everyone’s preconceptions of what was possible in a novel.  A few authors came to mind (Vonnegut, Rushdie, Robbins, etc).  In the end, I elected to go with one I had actually considered as my first Liquorature selection last year:  Tom Robbins’ “Another Roadside Attraction”.  This one was bound to push some buttons.  Firstly, it would offend the purists (ahem…less artistically bent) in any ‘black and white’ take on narrative and structure or ‘A is A’ writing.  Secondly, it would finally target that hot button topic we’d barely scratched to date…religion.  And finally, it would divide the counter-culturalists among us from the more conservative.

Next consideration was beverages.  This had been something I had been working on since my trip to Islay at the end of September.  I found a rum there that simply shattered any ideas I had for presenting anything different.  More on this little gem momentarily.  With the whiskies I would choose to present, I wanted to do a more formal tasting.  I wavered between a couple of selections as I was buying bottles over the course of months.  This kind of bit me as I simply couldn’t decide between ideas so instead just went all in.  I made it an ‘Islay night’…enormous smoke and peat.  We worked our way through 5 expressions of Ardbeg, 3 Port Charlottes and 2 Kilchomans.  Yep…ten drams on offer.  Most at hefty 46% or higher.  Several in the 60% range.

Of course, all of this enormous peaty posturing was somewhat lost on the rummie, so for rums…a reappearance of the Kraken (which Surujbally mentioned needing to revisit) and one of the collective’s favorites…English Harbor 5 year old.

Finally…back to that first rum.  While wandering a shop on Islay last year I passed a bottle marked Watson’s Demerara Rum (cool, I thought…being as that is Robert’s last name).  Something made me stop however, and I simply couldn’t believe it when I took a closer look.  In smaller letters above the ‘Watson’s’ it actually said ‘Robert’.  This was a real ‘Robert Watson’s Demerara Rum’.  What are the odds of finding a rum with the name of one of our members on it?!  So blown away was I that I used valuable suitcase space and weight (which could have been another bottle of scotch) to mule this home from Islay.  It sat hidden for months until this event.

Needless to say, the gang was as utterly gobsmacked as I had been.  Tons of fun and lots of laughs.  And how was it?  Well…see Lance’s review.  The guys loved it.  Everyone tried it, but at the end of the night I sent it home with Robert.

With 13 bottles open, legs were a bit wobbly by the end of the night, but…it was damn good social lubricant.

In a throwback to everyone’s favorite Liquorature meal to date, I nabbed Pat’s recipe for ‘El Cid Chili’ and worked up a batch of this delicious man-meal.  Meat, jalapenos, spices and more meat.  That’s real eats.  Who needs vegetables?  Bah…filler.

On to the book…

There was some rather heated (in a good way) discussion on religion.  C’mon…about time we hit this one.  We’ve touched it briefly a couple of times (“Chrysalids”, “Atlas Shrugged”, etc), but never in a yay/nay type situation.  Rather predictably, I thought, lines were drawn in the group between the more/less conservative.  I think there was more appreciation than actual adoration from a few, but a couple loved it nevertheless.  Some…well…not so favorably opinioned.  Hey…Robbins is not for all.  We need these books that cause division among us.  Makes for a more enjoyable and lengthy discussion.  The few times all have been on board for a certain tale, we have been guilty of fellating the book for half an hour and then running out of things to say.

A final bit of fun…

I sent out a couple of pieces for the guys to give their input.  The first was a list of our books to date and a request that they rate them numerically (one to ten…in half mark increments).  Results were nifty.  It is quite eye-opening to see what resonates with some and what doesn’t.  I’ll put together a little post on the results in the coming days.  The second bit was a series of questions (‘what was your favorite character to date?’, ‘what was the best gathering to date?’, ‘biggest disappointment to date?’, etc).  Again, quite enlightening.  These results I believe I’ll keep to ourselves.  Hey…what happens at book club stays at book club.  The one detail I will share is that the biggest disappointment to date was overwhelmingly said to be the loss of Bauer.  No surprise.  (We miss you, buddy).

All in all…a good night.  I think we made some memories.

 

Randoms:

The reception to Robert Watson rum (and the fight over whether the rummie or Watson would take it home)…’hippy dippy’ book…Pat’s dad living this book…the Stoned Masons…Weasel Jesus…the thumb of Christ…Scottish karate…’with modern technology we finally got ‘er done’…spiritual Darwinism…”safe bet he pees his pants”…revealing all of the survey results…peyote-totin’ honey…the Schneider’s hot dog of rums…the department of redundancy department…the universal sadness over missing Bauer.

201_7566-1That's a lotta likker201_7591-1201_7593-1

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DSC_0064-1DSC_0065-1DSC_0073-1The three stooges
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– 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 #020 – “Shogun” (James Clavell)

Date:  September, 2010

Host:  Pat

Whisky:  Forty Creek Barrel Select (Canadian), Johnnie Walker Green Label, Dalmore 12 y.o., Aberlour 12 y.o.

Rum:  Angostura 1919, Bacardi 8 y.o.

 

This…was a helluva read.  Which, only logically, led to a helluva night.  Pat pulled no punches with beverage selection.  Four whiskies and two rums.  We had a little Canadian content here, as he broke out the Forty Creek for us.  Not quite as mellow as the Alberta Premium, but delish nevertheless.  It was nifty to finally sample the JW Green.  It is certainly the sum of its parts, with a couple of its component whiskies being blatantly obvious on the palate.  The rums, as has been typical of late, were quite well-received as well, with the Angostura 1919 leading the charge.

Pat’s amigo from work, Lorne, sat in for this session.  I’ve said it before…I have nothing but admiration for anyone who can walk into a room full of strangers and, not only fit in, but seem comfortable.  Lorne was involved in much of the evening’s conversation, raising points of his own and contributing to threads started by others.  He was keen to sample all the bevvies (we all are, of course, but that’s not what I mean…he was all about trying new things).  It was good meeting him and I hope he does join us again at some point.

For those unaware…Pat, Clint and I all built the same model of house on the same street.  As we all have vastly different tastes though, we modified the hell out of them, and I’m sure most people wouldn’t even realize it was in fact the same plan.  That being said…there is just something about Clint and Pat’s set-up that usually elicits great conversation.  Uh…Excepting last month’s abortion with HHGttG, that is.

This was our second true epic novel to date (the first being ‘Atlas Shrugged’), so I was quite curious to see how it would turn out this time ’round.  Quite well in fact.  We chatted about the aesthetics of the novel; historical accuracy; character development; sex issues; religion; concept of death; bodily functions and hygiene, etc.  From there we discussed  some other examples of historical fiction.

As the night progressed, I snuck out a couple samples of my own to share with the gang.  First…I poured from both the Alberta Premium Rye 5 year and the Alberta Preumium Rye 25 year to let the gang see the difference.  A little later I broke out Ardbeg Supernova.  Lorne in particular had been hankering for some peat, and I think this monster absolutely sufficed.

One more bottle surfaced before the end of the night.  It was a sad occasion in all honesty, as this was Bauer’s last meeting with us.  He is moving on in life to a new home and career in Saskatchewan (don’t mock him too mercilessly).  While on Islay (Scotland) a few days previous, I had picked up a little something special for him.  All the gang chipped inand we presented our Bruichladdich boy with a hand bottled (by me) and hand numbered (one of only ~420) valinch of a single cask from the Bruichladdich shop.  The cask is called ‘Music Man’.  If you know Bauer…it truly could not have been any more fitting.

Though there were a few scheduling issues for this little powwow (mostly caused by me trying to ensure I could be there for Bauer’s last sit-in), it turned out to be a great evening.  Cheers to all involved, the following in particular:

  • Bauer – best in all that comes, mate.  You’ll be missed ’round here.  Thanks for everything.
  • Pat – For hosting and putting together a fine night
  • Lorne – for braving us eccentrics for the night.

Slainte!

The brilliant randoms for the night…a duck for pillowing…selection of ‘Geonesis’ for ladies to read in our December mixed meet with the ladies’ club…’Twilight’ stopping the conversation dead…Lorne’s presence…roadrunner with blood…sampling the ABP25 and Supernova…Bauer’s sendoff.

201_6323201_6329The Last Hippie Communes with the Universal All201_6336
 
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– Curt

 
Aug 232013
 

Liquorature Gathering #013 – “Survivor” (Chuck Palahniuk)

Date:  February, 2010

Host:  Pat

Whisky:  Ardbeg 10 y.o., Aberlour 10 y.o., Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban

Rum:  Diplomatico Exclusiva Reserva

 

Senor Ostby has some competition.  Man…the chili Pat broke out for this evening was a work of art.  I would venture it was discussed more than either the book or bevvies.  Everything you’ve ever thought about chili…throw it out the window.  Spectacular.

Pat pulled no punches for this get-together.  Nice layout, great food, nice drink selection.  We invaded sometime around 8:30 (give or take) on Saturday.  Generally meetings fall on Fridays, but some scheduling conflicts led to us shaking it up a bit.  Even so, we were missing Scott, and Bauer flew in from cactus wrasslin’ in Cali halfway through… donning a new chapeau and tequila in tow.  In his words…”Clint can’t be the only crazy hat guy”.

The rest of us neatherthals circled the chili like predators over a kill, and did our best to dent the whisky and rum before Bauer’s fashionably late arrival.  We had managed to kill off most book conversation within an hour or so, but came back to it a few times.  When the Californian contingent arrived we re-visited the tale for one more quick recap.

So…’Survivor’.  Something I’ve been waiting to see brought in to Liquorature.  Well…not specifically a Chuck Palahniuk novel, but something in the way of contemporary literature.  Though we’ve made our forays into contemporary writing (‘Atlantis’, ‘The Lion’s Game’), I wouldn’t exactly refer to those novels as literature.  No disrespect intended to either author or person who picked it.  Both were highly enjoyable in their own right.  I refer to something that stylistically stands on its own, not simply due to story or plotline originality .

‘Survivor’ had an immediate impact, polarizing a couple of us in terms of writing quality and appreciation for the story itself.  85.7% of us enjoyed it (for various reasons).  One or two loved it…one despised it (yes…this would be the other 14.3%, for whom I believe it was considered on par with Bob’s opinion of Blood Meridian)…and a couple were a little more moderate, but found something in it that was appealing.  There was a general agreement however, that it was definitely something new on our meandering trail towards literary enlightenment.

There wasn’t a lot to discuss with this one, and though we exhausted most topics quickly, it was a relatively enjoyable conversation.  The dark satire and anti-establishment/commercialism were lost on noone, so the need for deep examination was for the most part unnecessary.  I know I, at least, will take a run at a couple more of Palahniuk’s books (‘Haunted’ and ‘Choke’).

Pat’s rum and whisky selections for the evening were brilliant.  A big beautiful Ardbeg 10 for those of us who like the smoke.  The Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban for a bit sweeter port-finished dram.  Aberlour 10 was arguably the most pleasant surprise of the night, and kudos to Pat for another rum selection that was warmly embraced by all.  Lance, it would appear, is winning a few over to the dark side.  Should note here, being the gentleman and scholar that he is, Lance was kind enough to bring along one of his own syrupy 21 year old rums to allow us peons a taste.

Key moments tonight?  Bauer’s helicopter and amusing spending habits…the most ridiculously divergent debate (and even using the word ‘debate’ is lending it a credence of respectability it doesn’t deserve) two relatively bright individuals could have about the orthodoxy of Shakespeare…Pat’s venture into expansive tasting notes…a ton of (hopefully great) photos taken…and a selection of great drinks.

Gents…look forward to seeing you all in a few weeks.

Slainte!

Pat pleads with Clint and Robert not to ditch the whiskey

That chili was too awesome for words. Nothing but the sound of silent mastication for a full ten minutes

Dissing the new hat.  Bauer’s almost in tears: “You plebians have no fashion sense, dammit!”

The Last Hippie goes Zen and tunes out as Clint makes a forceful (if obscure) point

Aug 232013
 

Liquorature Gathering #011 – “The Time Traveler’s Wife” (Audrey Niffenegger)

Date:  December, 2009

Host:  Clint/Jamie (Mixed Night)

Whisky:  n/a

Rum:  n/a

 

Some of our significant others (and friends thereof) have a ladies book club.  Robert tossed out the suggestion a while back of doing a book swap with them.  Our favorite for their favorite.  When all rankings were submitted and weighted accordingly, “Perfume” won out as the guys’ highest ranked book.  Should note that the book had to be from our first cycle (ie. everyone’s first time picking a book).  The ladies selected “The Time Traveler’s Wife” for us.  Though many of us approached with trepidition, it was actually not a bad read.  Our meeting was a mix of the guys’ and gals’ clubs, and totalled eleven of us, I believe.  Discussion was divided into two sessions, tackling each book at a turn.  Each session ranged from an hour to an hour and a half.  Good conversation…fun night.  Clint and Jamie were great hosts.  As this was just before Christmas, there was a humorous gift exchange (spoon, Robert?), quizzes, and good food.  We opted for a “bring your own” approach for this one in terms of bevvies.  I broke open a great bottle of Ardbeg Uigeadail for the occasion.  Fantastic whisky.  To be honest, there was some concern about how we would manage this whole set-up, but it went over very well.  Maybe an annual Christmas tradition now?

 

– 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

Jul 202010
 

Though we all love those 18 year old malts…cask strength monsters…and bold pricey Ardbegs…it is fairly reasonable to assume that it is a little byond most of us to kick the hell out of one of those bottles on a daily basis.  Ahem…not that we’d be daily sippers or anything though, right? 

So, while we await a bottle of the mysterious McCutcheon’s to become a reality on our bar (come on, folks…what’s the reference here?), we must settle for something a little less refined.  My aristocracy has bounds. 

That bottle, that daily dram, for me is Highland Park 12. 

Not very original, I know, but originality for the sake of originality is something I have foregone since high school (maybe university).  This is simply the most palate-pleasing whisky for all moods and cravings. 

The important things to consider are 1) price and 2) drinkability.

So what are your ‘go-to’ bottles?

Feb 102010
 

Sigh.  Like so many things in life, the good stuff isn’t free.

The gents in the club know I have a soft spot for Ardbeg.  In fact, the “Uigeadail” is probably my personal favorite whisky right now (See review under “Beverages”).  I am slowly nearing the end of a great bottle of the “Airigh Nam Beist”, and the ten year old is brilliant as well.

Ardbeg have blitzed the market over the past couple of years (not to the extent that Bruichladdich has, but…) with a slew of bottlings including (but not limited to) “Blasda”, “Corryvrecken”, “Supernova”,  “Renaissance” and now…coming Feb 15th to select markets…”Rollercoaster”.  So, being a fan of Ardbeg’s (mostly) heavily-peated offerings, what exactly is the “Ardbeg Problem”?

Call me naive, but I always imagined the whisky industry to be one of refinement, sophistication and adhering to something of a moral compass.  Let’s face it, the SWA heavy-handedly enforces many of these whisky morals.  Where my naivete shows is in my hoping that somehow whisky prices would be governed by something a little more rigid than the law of supply and demand.

Does this go against my philosophical views on laissez-faire capitalism and uncontested freedom of production and distribution of one’s work?  Well, yeah.  Do I actually believe that pricing should be controlled?  Reluctantly…no.  Would I happily buy more if the costs were to drop?  Absolutely.

The thing is, there is a prestige that comes along with buying that $100 bottle of whisky.  When a dram is offered, we immediately get a sense of our personal value.  Would you share your great expensive whiskies with someone who wasn’t a good friend?  Of course not.  Unfortunately many times the high price tag becomes an advertisement for quality.  We all know however, that just because something has a great marketing campaign and snazzy adverts does not mean the product is all it’s cracked up to be.

Which brings us back to Ardbeg.  Is it that good?  Does the whisky live up to the hype?  Well…yes…it is and it does.  Is it worth the price tag?  Up to you, I suppose.  Cost becomes subjective as we assign value to something.  How badly we want something determines how much we would be willing to spend on it.  My advice…let your tastebuds decide…not the marketing.  Taste as much as you can before buying, and use independent reviews to make informed decisions.  Arbdeg, for example, can not keep up with production demands.  A tip I received…snatch up the ten year old and “Uigeadail” by the case.  Canada may soon find itself unable to procure one of Islay’s finest whiskies.

I remember reading a whisky forum a while back, where one of the bloggers, in complimenting a certain distillery, made a snide remark about how if the distillery were to see these positive reviews they would most certainly jack the price.  A valid concern?  Not sure.  Something for another day though.

I suppose in the meantime, boys, we should resign ourselves to ackowledging that we have an expensive vice.

Clint’s insightful little comment to me:  “Always remember, whisky is made by Scottish people for Scottish people, so there’s bound to be a way we can save a buck or two.”