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

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.

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DSC_0064-1DSC_0065-1DSC_0073-1The three stooges
DSC_0091-1DSC_0092-1 copy41GiuM90NtL__SS500_Roadside
 
 
– 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.