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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– 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 #016 – “Looking Backward: 2000-1887” (Edward Bellamy)

Date:  May, 2010

Host:  Bauer

Whisky:  Bruichladdich Rocks, Bruichladdich Peat, Bruichladdich Waves, Bruichladdich Links 16

Rum:  Newfoundland Screech, English Harbour 5, English Harbor 25 (courtesy of Sir Ruminsky)

 

Helluva night, lads.  This was a perfect example of how I had initially seen this club working out.  A fine mix of food, friends, drinks and books.  Dynamic and sprawling conversations that drew out both fact and opinion from us.

On arrival, we were met with a spread of bevvies like we had yet to see.  Bauer, in his attempts at wooing the bigwigs at Bruichladdich I believe, has been slowly running through these Islay malts each eve he hosts our motley collective.  This particular night he tabled four different ‘Laddichs, two rums and a to-kill-ya.  Senor Surujbally blew the dust off one of his unopened gems to allow the boys a sip of the infamous EH25.  I had to take a pass, myself, as I had tried it on a previous occasion.  In good conscious I could not rob the misguided West Indi boy of his grail.  I did however, finally sample the EH5.  Verdict…meh.  Hey…that’s just me.  Pass the malt, please.

So…Bauer knocked us all for a loop here with this book selection.  I am still unclear as to the exact path he took to find it, but I know he was looking into other books, and one thing led to another.  Regardless of the journey though, the destination delivered.

Let me veer off a little here.  We in Liquorature have a tough time defining our exact goal with this club.  Obviously the central tenet is enjoyment, but how do we define what constitutes that?  It could be that a) we have a book that we enjoy reading while we read it and therefore earn our just rewards;  b) we have a book that pays off in spades when it comes to gathering night, through great conversation and stimulated discussion;  or ideally c) we have a book that does both.

We have now had a few books (Blood Meridian, Atlantis, Looking Backward) that have left a couple of us…underwhelmed in terms of literary enjoyment, yet have led to brilliant nights of hanging out.  On the flipside, the one book which should have had us talking the sun up (Atlas Shrugged), didn’t create half the ripples I’d hoped for intellectually, but was met with overwhelming acclaim.   Being biased as to Ayn Rand’s school of thought, I like to think that the Liquorature guys are just so logical and bright that there was nothing to bother questioning about her uber-manifesto.  ;)

At the end of the day, each of these books pays off dividends to some of us more than others, but ultimately reward the club as a whole.

It was fairly unanimous that Looking Backward was a hellish read.  To quote Robert, this was my ‘godforsook book’.  A mix of dry literary stylings and Victorian language left us all slack-jawed and glazing.  More than a couple of us were 11th hour finishers here.  It was evident early however, that this book would net a fair amount of criticism, which of course, is good discussion.  I leave the rest to Lance (or whoever writes up the book’s review) to flesh out for you.  Trust me…I said my piece this evening.  The last thing I want to do is rehash THAT.

So…the rest of the evening…

Lots of laughs.  Great to see everyone speaking out.  As mentioned last time ’round, everyone seems to be opening up more and more each time.  Pat, suffering from back troubles, was a trooper just for coming out.  Hope you’re feeling a bit better, amigo.  The mood was light, even when into politics and world religions for a bit.  This was a great night.  Stayed on topic for about two hours all told.  Not bad for a novel no bigger than an Archie Double Digest

Thanks, Liquorature guys, for making this what it has become.

Bauer…well done.

Highlights…

Bruichladdich Links…Eh25…Bob “I just snorted Coke”…reconciling revolutionary communism and objectivism…mmmm…shrimp…devolution into a bit of Atlas chat…Pat’s painkiller cocktail (share next time, wouldja?)…John Wayne in leotards…laughs at my expense as the boys inevitably touched the two taboo subjects (I’ll never tell)…and Bauer’s attempts at unnerving me with a playlist chock full of his bad music.

Until Kerouac, boys…

Slainte!

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– Curt

 

 
Aug 232013
 

Liquorature #012 – “The Catcher In The Rye” (J.D. Salinger)

Date:  January, 2010

Host:  Clint

Whisky:  Caol Ila 12 y.o., Highland Park 12 y.o.

Rum:  English Harbour 5 y.o.

 

There is something deeply and darkly humorous about both of the evenings Clint hosted being among the best, while his book selections generally considered among the worst.  I say ‘generally’.  We all know the hazing he received after ‘Blood Meridian’ (though some of us loved it).  I would venture to say that he has not redeemed himself in the eyes of a few with ‘The Catcher In The Rye’.  Clint…you’re still aces in my book, buddy.

A brilliant night really.  Cozy setting around the living room…fireplace on…nice and dim (lighting, not the participants).  Clint’s culinary skills are still unparalleled.  Bacon wrapped bacon, anyone?  Phenomenal selection of beverages.  Interesting to note, the rum was the first bottle finished.  I wish I could attest to its quality, however before I could sample…poof!  Gone.  Alas…no tears, as I was cuddled up with the Caol Ila 12.  Stunning dram.

And the book?  Well…a general animosity.  Think the highest opinion was perhaps a 7 out of 10, and even that was generous.  We struggled to justify the profound impact this book has had on so many people, but truly only came up with theories.  A moment of insight regarding the negative impact (think Chapman – Lennon) that ‘The Catcher In The Rye’ has had was rather nifty though.  Topic conversation about two hours, and a few follow-up bits.

Few other notes…cameras in full force this eve…discussed the site (as this was our first meet since it came online)…Robert’s next selection revealed (hang tight for details)…raised a glass to the late Howard Zinn and J.D. Salinger who both passed this week.

Another very enjoyable evening in the books (pun fully intended).

A photo below from Lance: he was testing out his new wide angle lens.  From left to right: Ruminsky, Pat, Clint, Bob, Bauer, the Last Hippie and Scott

– Curt