Feb 102016
 

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

Date:  August 8th, 2014

Host:  Curt / Barry

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next…long days and pleasant nights.

 

– Curt

Jan 272016
 

Liquorature #073 – “Daemon” (Daniel Suarez)daemon

Date:  July 3rd, 2015

Host:  Steve

Whisky:  BB&R Glen Garioch 1994 Cask #19 Willow Park Exclusive, BenRiach 16 y.o. Sauternes Finish, Liddesdale 21 Batch #8, Bunnahabhain Ceobanach

 

Hmmmm…let me start by saying that Steve-o needs a kick in the nuts for this pick.  Not because it was a bad read, but because it fucking stopped halfway through the story.  There couldn’t have been a bigger cliffhanger ending unless Suarez had accidentally walked off a rocky ledge while writing the final pages and dropped the book behind mid-sentence.

I don’t think any of us realized going into this one that ‘Daemon’ was more the first half of a story (concluded in “Freedom™”) than a true standalone novel.  Well, shit.  Fortunately Scott was ahead of the gang and gave us an early heads up.  I managed to finish both books in time for our meet, as did Scott and maybe one other.

On a positive note, however, ‘Daemon’ is the stronger of the two works.  Airtight plotting and pacing, with enough of a malevolence and edge-of-the-seat ‘what comes next?’ to keep the pages flying by.  That in itself is great, but this book is so much more.  The incredible depth of understanding in relation to subject matter and the sheer volume of research behind this one is staggering.  I simply don’t want to reveal anything here, but the express with that more people check it out.  I expected – in my infinite snobbery – to be thoroughly underwhelmed by this one, and was anything but.

Only makes sense that a book that blew our hair back deserved some great malts, aye?  Steve laid out a range of surprising drams.  A few I’d not yet made acquaintances with.  Personal highlights were likely the two Bunnahabhains; one young, peated and feisty…the other mature, soft and sweet.  Together a nice yin and yang.

I believe we were missing at least on of the guys for this one.  Le sigh.  Unfortunately this seems to be more the norm than an anomaly.  C’est la vie.  Maybe our numbers need to creep a little ’til there is always a full contingent.  We’ll see.

Random notes:  The sunset on Steve’s back porch … some ‘extracurricular’ activity for one or two hippies … the “Freedom™” indignation.

 

– Curt

Jan 272016
 

Dune_cover_artLiquorature #071 – “Dune” (Frank Herbert)

Date:  May 1st, 2015

Host:  Curt

Whisky:  Compass Box Spice Tree, Arran 10 y.o., Bruichladdich 12 y.o. Second Edition, BenRomach Cask Strength 2002, BenRiach 1997 Madeira, anCnoc Flaughter, Octomore 4.2 Comus

 

Way out of date with these write-ups.  Been lacking motivation, to be honest.  Not sure if any members are reading ’em.  I guess we should get caught up for posterity, though.

Herbert’s ‘Dune’ is a book that has sat on my shelf for years.  Oft recommended; even started once or twice, though I never made it past the first couple pages.  Dunno.  This one just didn’t get its hooks into me in my earlier attempts.  The one thing Liquorature has been good for (well…let’s face it: there are countless things Liquorature has been good for) is motivation.  Once I finally said ‘yeah…lets’ do this one’, it was game on.  I don’t not finish our books, so I knew I’d finally get a chance to see this one through.  Interestingly enough, the announcement of this pick was met with a cacophony of cheers and mutinous snarls.  Hmmm….good pick for a book club, in other words.

Well…after cursing my name and teetering on the edge of issuing violent threats if he had to read this book again, even Chris found himself on board this time, his second go-round at tackling Frank Herbert’s lauded sci-fi epic, Dune.  His detestation melted away into appreciation this time ’round.  And just days ago – more than a year later, as I jot these notes – he even conceded to really liking this marriage of ‘Tremors’ and ‘Star Wars’ / ‘Star Trek’.  ‘Dune’ is a deep, epic tale that spans large themes as it traverses even larger galaxies.

The conversation was an interesting one, especially in light of a couple of friends sitting in as guests for the eve.  One was a mate of mine and long-lived ‘Dune’ fan.  The other was Chris’s brother.  Both helped to bring this night to an amplified state of non-sober enlightenment and provided the new perspectives we’re always looking for.  Love it.

We tucked into at least seven new malts for this one, but I believe there may have been a beer or two as well.  And at the end of it all…two golden tickets were issued to our guests to join the ranks of malt-swillin’, pseudo-intellectual elitists.  Both accepted.  More to come on these developments next time.

I thnk, in the end, I earned forgiveness from Chris for this one, but the boys are less likely to let me off the hook for bringing ’em along as we sounded the deep in search of the white whale a while back.  And to that I say…’suck it up, princesses.’

Random Notes:  Dan Clermont and Jesse Graham sitting in … Pretzels in sand … Chris liking it more this time around … Bauer’s purchase … the LGBT-friendly alternate ending…

 

– Curt

Aug 232013
 

Liquorature Gathering #036 – “The Pillars Of The Earth” (Ken Follett)

Date:  January, 2012

Host:  Pat

Whisky:  BenRiach Horizons 12 y.o., BenRiach Madeira 15 y.o., BenRiach Birnie Moss

Rum: Flor de Cana 5 y.o.

 

This is what it’s all about.  No fuss, no muss.  Just a night of the guys being guys.  Draining bottles, kicking ass and taking names.  Ummmm…right.

This was a simple back-to-basics club night.  The gang all crowded around a coffee table in the middle of the room with a few snacks and some great drinks.  The book was awesome (one of my all time favorites), the drinks great and the mood was one of relaxed candor.  Sometimes it all just aligns and you can see that everyone present is right into it and just glad to be together.

‘Pillars’ is one I had debated picking for some time.  Lance initially recommended this one to me a few years back, and while I was skeptical at first, by page 15 or so I’m not certain the jaws of life could have pulled this one from my grip.  I’ve since passed on copied to others, and seen the same reaction over and over again.  Much like a few other well-known tales, this one was destined to be a club choice at some point.  The only question was who would be the one to pick it.  Enter Pat.

This is the sort of story that has roots leading to countless potential topics of conversation.  I think we jumped all over with this one.  Not in a bad way, but in a sort of ‘holy sh*t…what an achievement’ kinda way.  The epic scope of the story, played out against a historical backdrop, is just the sort of fodder that sets a few of us historical fiction junkies to drooling.  Chris and I in particular, are suckers for this style or genre.  To date, ‘Pillars’, ‘Shogun’ and ‘Atlas’ have been three of the most revered Liquorature selections.  I can’t see this changing anytime soon either.  Hard to depose these grand tales.

Pat tracked down a couple of nifty young malts from one of my favorite distilleries, BenRiach.  The Horizons release is the sister expression to the Solstice Scott brought to the club at one point.  The Birnie Moss…a fiery young peat monster.  The Madeira just smooth and sassy.  As to the rum…while I didn’t partake, I do know there are several fans of this one in our midst.

Like I said…a simple night, built on a great yarn.  No need for theatrics or thematics.  Good call, Pat.

Randoms:  “Low cunning to put a horn up your *ss” … a cross-face chicken wing … “I’m a 70’s guy…1170’s” … forest poon … “I pick Johnny Eightpence” reply: “you can’t go full r*tard” … right in the cunny … “she’s got nice boobs” … “…as a financial planner”

 

– Curt

Aug 232013
 

Liquorature Gathering #032 – “The Wicker Man” (Robin Hardy & Anthony Shaffer)

Date:  September, 2011

Host:  Curt

Whisky:  Bruichladdich Organic, Bruichladdich Rocks, Bruichladdich Waves, Bruichladdich Resurrection 2001, Bruichladdich 1998 Manzanilla, Bruichladdich 1998 Oloroso, Bruichladdich Black Arts 2

Rum:  Bruichladdich Renegade

 

The return of the beast.  I managed to lure the elusive Maltmonster from his secluded lair with the promise of an evening filled with Pagan idolatry and fire play.  Knowing the MM…how could he resist?

Never one to arrive empty-handed, no matter how much I insist he try it from time to time, Mr. Monster arrived with a box of Cohibas and a couple delectable bottles from the 70s.  Of particular note…a 1973 Tullibardine…the same year of the film’s release.  The other was a 1976 BenRiach.  Both astounding, of course, as I don’t the man (nor beast) drinks anything but brilliant drams.

As to the other whiskies…where the hell was Bauer (aka Mr. Laddie) on this one?  I guess one of the early titles to this tale’s sequel was ‘Mayday Riding the Laddie’.  With a title like that (and The Wicker Man being set in the Hebrides) a suite of Bruichladdich was the only logical choice.  The list is above, but of course there was a reason for each of the selections and yes…all were tied to the novel/film.

Notice I say novel and film.  One of the reasons I chose this one (aside from my penchant for looking for somewhat out there and controversial subject matter for my selections) was because it was a novel penned after the film.  I actually suggested to the gang that they watch the movie (the 1973 original) before reading the book.  Even I had never cracked the spine on this tale before so this one could have gone over like a lead zeppelin (to cop a phrase).

Thankfully, to my relief, the novel was quite rich in its own right and did serve to add a little more depth and a few interesting scenes.  In my wee l’il mind, these two have now become companion pieces.  The guys did this one justice too.  A great chat…some spirited (pun intended) discussion…many laughs…and an overall enjoyment.  Big relief for me, as I was uncertain as to how this would go over.

A third reason for picking The Wicker Man was simply that I absolutely adore this film.  Top three for me.  It was a neat opportunity to host a night filled with interesting subject matter and fascinating chitchat.

Interestingly enough, to emphasize the Pagan themes, this gathering just so happened (wink wink) to fall on the Autumnal Equinox.

These nights should be the things of memories to come, so…a few other bits and pieces I managed to work into the agenda.  With the score to the film, and some acoustic Agalloch based on the movie playing in the background, it was time to break out the haggis.  Yep…the haggis.  A book set in Scotland needed the full treatment.  I think all of the gang had a bite or two, but I gotta be honest…this was…not good.  I’ll be happy to try it again, and just hope this was a bad one, but my first go at a haggis was less than successful.

Chris was kind enough to lend us his little keg from the whisky he and his dad purchased, so the Liquorature crew were tasked with bringing a malt to contribute.  We set to work vatting our own blended malt, aptly named after the whisky mentioned in The Wicker Man, ‘Summerisle Inheritance’.  This vatting consists of no less than 17 malts (I’ll never tell!), running the gambit from young and spritely through mature and sexy…sweet and sherried to peaty and smoky.  Will be fun to see what comes of this one.  Months down the line, when we finally try it, I’ll post our reviews.

To cleanse the haggis from our palates, we dug into a pot of man-chili, before finishing the night with a freshly baked apple pie…another tie-in to the tale, of course.  I gotta add…my wife was brilliant in support of this whole Wicker Man gathering.  Not only was she my sounding board for ideas (and infinitely patient with all of my idiocy), but she also baked the aforementioned apple pie (Summerisle apples?).  To go this all one better though, she delivered a pretty frickin’ amazing gift to me.  A full size empty cask from ADL that had housed the new Alberta Premium 30 year old…from 1978 (my birth year).  Epic.  Truly epic.

And then came the time of night for our dreadful sacrifice.  It was time to bid farewell to Seamus.  For those not in the know…I built a wee wicker man from grapevine.  This little fellow, a couple feet tall, was dubbed Seamus, and had his fate sealed before the night even began.  As it was now full dark, we took our Wicker Man outside…doused him in cask strength…and set him to burn.  Any reservations I had about whether or not grapevine would burn well were quickly put to bed.  Maltmonster generously offerred up some gorgeous Cohibas, and we all stood back to watch the flames of Seamus lick the stars (well…not quite).  Lots of fun.

Gents, this was one I was nervous about and looking forward to.  Thanks for making it memorable.

Randoms:  “Britt Eklund brought it up a bit”…”Well done…Howie”…The 13 Minute Movie…”Did God create the universe?  No…Chuck Norris did”…Haggis…Whisky Making…Maltmonster sitting in…Cask gift…Burning man…on and on…

wicker manlineupHDRorganicYummmmm...not really
preppingtheblendmasterblender?!?!?!?!startitup
 
Rebel Yell always gets things going!Chris showing off the pipesowwwFire marshall and Maltmonster
 
curtwickermanChris enjoying a stoggiegreatnight
 
 
– Curt
 
Aug 232013
 

Liquorature Gathering #029 – “The Stand” (Stephen King)

Date:  June, 2011

Host:  Scott

Whisky:  BenRiach Solstice,  Isle of Jura Prophecy,  Duthies’ Hazelburn 8 y.o.

Rum:  Iceberg, Gosling’s Black Seal

 

The rum-guzzlah had to take a pass on this one due to other obligations, and is kicking himself once again for missing out on arguably one of our best conversations to date.  We spent about three hours on this book, before circling references back to it several times throughout the course of a long and enjoyable evening.  Poor guy.  Missed another one of our best in the ‘Blood Meridian’ night, then left early on ‘Atlas Shrugged’ night just before things ramped up for some heat and polarity.  Perhaps it’s the black humorist in me that finds a funny irony in the fact that the guy who would likely most enjoy good sporting conversation missed some of our shining moments.  Sorry, buddy.  If it is any cold comfort to you, we held down the fort admirably.

This little soiree, hosted by Scotty, aka The Ginger Buddha, initially promised a low key event, but delivered in spades.  Brilliant drinks, a great read and hours of engaging conversation.  Love it when I have no expectations and end up floored.  Walking away from this one with many pleasant memories.

The Buddha knocked one outta the park with his Scotch selections this month.  First up, an indie bottling of an 8 year old Hazelburn from Duthies.  Charming and unique.  More peat than I’d expect.  Next, the first Isle of Jura I’ve ever really been able to sink my teeth into, the Prophecy.  Large, smoky and as it says on the bottle, ‘profoundly peated’.  Finally, my personal highlight for the night, BenRiach Solstice.  A port finished peat monster.  VERY different and utterly winning.

The rums, uncertain though he was as to Ruminsky’s attendance, were Iceberg and Gosling’s.  I can’t speak to either here, as I neither tried them, nor had any inclination, but I have a mate who swears by the Gosling’s.  These bottles were hardly dented.  Mild fender-bender perhaps.  Gotta say it…the stunning whiskies stole the show.

But wait!  There was one more whiskey this eve.  I managed to track down a bottle of The Kid’s ‘happy crappy’ (You believe that?  Don’t tell me, I’ll tell you.), Rebel Yell.  C’mon…I had to.  Soon as I found it I know it would be good for a laugh.  Though expectations were justifiably low as we popped the top, it actually turned out to be a fairly palatable bourbon.  No stunner, to be sure, but not bad at all.

With the G7 gathered and quenching thirsts over their redneck juice, we kicked into ‘serious mode’ (as serious as it ever gets anyway).

First things first, the gang wanted to know whether or not $80 worth of motivation was enough to coax Bob (he of the compromised schedule and busier-than-hell lifestyle) to the end of the tale in time for our gathering.  He and Lance had laid down a $40 wager last month on whether or not he’d finish.  Though unable to attend this one, looks like Lance has a payday waiting for him come next meeting.  Good times.  Lots of laughs about this.

The book, Stephen King’s opus, “The Stand”, was either loved or appreciated by all, I believe.  A couple members of the collective are King junkies and have worked their way through this one multiple times.  It simply doesn’t get old.

The greatest criticism was reserved for slow development and meandering passages.  The point was countered by saying this was a somewhat sociological tale that was meant to depict the rebuilding of civilization, and not simply blow sh*t up.  This ended up as a polite ‘agree-to-disagree’ type scenario.  Fair ‘nough.

The characters were liked (some loved), the dialogue and setting praised and many, many favorite scenes pointed out.  The attention to detail and speculative nature were also lauded.

Thematically, we delved into religion (the primary contention centering on where the other demographics were?  Did god wipe out all the Muslims?  Hindus?), politics, crime and punishment, sociology, inherent nature, metaphysics, economy and survivalism.  Though I could share details, I prefer to let the imaginations run and keep these conversations private as the ‘intellectual property’ of Liquorature.  Let’s face it…we’re frickin’ brilliant lads!

We spoke to the reasons for King’s success and post-apocalyptic fiction as genre.  We touched on all of the ‘what would you do’s?’ and what each of our personal roles would be in a similar ‘rebuilding of society’ situation.  Of course, we also briefly touched on the Dark Tower.  Finally, I should note…for sh*ts and giggles…it was ME who gave the guys their obligatory mentions of the ‘Taboo 3’.  Yep…all three were courtesy of yours truly.

As this book is about to see its second screen adaptation realized, some fun was had playing the casting call game.  A few of us who have seen the old made-for-TV version agreed a few of the actors from the original series should reprise their roles, but several new suggestions were bandied about.  Fun exercise for a book like this, and relatively easy as the characters are so well-defined.

All in all…a bloody great night.  One of my top 5 now for sure.

Well done, Buddha.  Drinks, book and all.  Good picks.

The randoms:  Rebel Yell…”Sold!” Auction Bob…the throbbin’ 8…Clint’s ten minute two minute summary…Rob Lowe: “You actually know he’s a handsome man”…”What’s the point of Flagg, other than to be a d*ck?”…saddle up a cow…”saved by the grace of god, a dog and a ******”…”if you’ve had one pistol in the butt, you’ve had ‘em all”…The Hoff ‘Ooga Chaka’ing…”Wake up!  Wake up!”…”Rebel Yell ranks right up there with the abolition of slavery”…”you didn’t write down ******, didja?”