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 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

Feb 042016
 

Liquorature #060 – “Shalimar The Clown” (Salman Rushdie)Shalimar

Date:  January, 2014

Host:  Chris

Whisky:  Glenfarclas Family Cask 2002 (Willow Park Exclusive), Murray McDavid Macallan 1998 10 y.o., Amrut Fusion

 

I remember Lance once expressing his outright detestation of Rushdie.  I think he went so far as to threaten boycott in the event any of us picked one of Rushdie’s novels.  But how could we not?  The man is arguably one of literature’s most fascinating personages.

As you likely know if you’re reading this bit – here on a site dedicated to fiction – Rushdie was the subject of an Iranian fatwa (death sentence) declaimed by the Ayatollah Khomeini after the publication of his novel ‘The Satanic Verses’ in the late ’80s.  Perceived sleights against Islam, it seems, didn’t go over too well at that time either.  Hmmm…what to say about that?  Nothing here, to be certain.  In our closed room this chilly January night?  Well…that was another story.  Volatile, as you can imagine.  Very volatile.  And interestingly enough, somewhat polarizing in ways.  Enough said.

Suffice it to say, year six of Liquorature’s existence started off with a bang.  (That was a bad pun, wasn’t it?)

‘Shalimar’ was, I think, merely an ok story in the eyes of the gang.  The writing was highly praised, the characters lauded, but the overall experience was perceived to be somewhat lacking, if I recall correctly.  Our heated debates rages around external subject matter that was dredged up over the course of understanding culture, time and place, but wasn’t specific to opinions about the tale itself.  On that we presented a fairly united front.  Good solid…seven and a half (not really…just quoting ‘Beautiful Girls’ and driving home the mediocre, lukewarm reception).

The whiskies also left us headscratching a bit.  The Glenfarclas was an oddball, boasting notes of seventy mezcal, while the indie Macallan was top heavy with a not altogether pleasant wine-iness.  Oh well.  The Amrut was a life preserver thrown out into these turbulent waters.  In the end…we were saved.  And slightly drunk.  😉

Random notes:  Wish we’d had Lance here for this one.

 

– Curt

Jan 292016
 

Liquorature #053 – “The Year Of The Flood” (Margaret Atwood)yearoftheflood

Date:  June, 2013

Host:  Chris

Whisky:  Glenfarclas 105, Glen Scotia 16, Highland Park 15

Rum:  El Dorado 12 y.o.

 

An odd choice, this.  Book two in the ‘Oryx And Crake’ trilogy by Canadian treasure Margaret Atwood.  Not that it’s odd to choose Atwood – or a book on this subject matter, for that matter – but to pick this volume instead of first.  It didn’t matter to me, however, as I’d read O&C, but I wonder if the others missed out a little for not having the same informed starting point.

What it boils down to, in any event, is that all Liquorature picks have to be standalone volumes.  We set that rule in place early on, in order to ensure no one made a selection that would then require members to go back and do a bunch of pre-reading (or dive into subsequent volumes) in order to get the big picture.  Incidental here, as ‘The Year Of The Flood’ does have a solid enough base to stand on its own.  Barely.

While a few members may have been scratching their hands a bit trying to wrap their thoughts around this one, the overall reception was good.  Essentially this is a dystopian science fiction novel.  You should know by now if you’ve been reading these brief dispatches that the majority of the gang ’round here digs these genres.  There isn’t typically a lot of headbutting over these sorts of picks.  Not like when we discuss anything related to, say, the middle east, colonialism, economics or the current political climate.

We gathered in Chris’s back yard on a brilliant June eve for this meeting.  A bottle of Glenfarclas 105 was well beaten up on…a Glen Scotia 16 was actively reviled…and the now obsolete Highland Park 15 was fun to revisit.  One or two did the gentlemanly thing and sampled the rum before switching back to drinks that wee actually palatable.  (I kid, I kid!)

Just writing this makes me reflect back.  Thinking I should reread these two tales and pick up ‘Maddaddam’, book three in the trilogy.  Hmmm.

 

– 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

Jun 032015
 

Liquorature #069 – “Of Mice And Men” (John Steinbeck)Of Mice

Date:  March 6th, 2015

Host:  Chris

Whisky:  Aberlour a’bunadh (Batch 49), Glenfarclas 1993 (WP Exclusive), Glen Garioch 1999 (WP Exclusive), Compass Box Oak Cross

 

Vikings and bottles and knives, oh my!  (Don’t ask)

Steinbeck.  Finally.  You had to know this was coming.  It was only a matter of when.  I’ve said before, I’m blown away it took us years to reach this touchstone of modern lit.  Not only Steinbeck, but this particular tale.  I debated it a few times as my own selection, but kept assuming someone else would eventually do it.  More than six years on someone finally did.

Not much you can say about a book like this.  Its timeless morality play is simply heartwrenching, even for those who already know the outcome of the tale.  It’s one of the few novels that can still bring me to the edge of tears (ok…maybe just over the edge).  The characters are just downhome, relatable types even if our shared life experiences don’t necessarily give us much of a common ground with these nomadic bindlestiffs.  Steinbeck’s rather sparse approach to writing is somehow still unbelievably evocative.  He paints a scene with delicious richness and immediacy.  The simple fact of the matter is that everyone in the club (and a couple extras in attendance for this meet) found this to be almost beyond criticism, much like the way we butted up against the cold beauty of Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’.  Well picked, Chris.

Some discussion came back ’round to the Gary Sinise cinematic interpretation as well.  One of the all time great book to film adaptations I’ve ever seen, and certainly the best casting I could possibly imagine.  If you’ve not seen this one, do so.  Malkovitch will give you shivers, Siemaszko will make you wish it was you that put him down for the count and Sinise will show you how a real actor can walk in with understated adeptness and simply ‘become’ that character.  Amazing.  The guys were blown away by a couple scenes we checked out in brief.

This gathering turned out to be an unforgettable occasion, and one of the best club nights in recent memory.  One for the ages and sure to go down in Liquorature lore.  A couple of guests sat in that brought new angles to the discussion and many a laugh.  Chris’s kid brother, Jesse – now a full fledged member – is a student of the literary arts (literally), so has a great grasp of the analytical side in approaching books.  Danny – a mate of many of us – brought laughs by the score (and just a bit of naughtiness to boot).  Didn’t hurt matters that our kind and generous host poured out three big and bold cask strength monsters as well as a solid 46%er.  Sobriety was in short supply by the end of the whole affair.

The end ended in a rather…ummmm…dubious manner, but that is for the ins to know and the outs to speculate over.  Sorry.  What happens in book club…well…

Randoms:  Danny and Jesse sitting in … “what kind of ranch is this” … “I already know the back of your neck ain’t ticklish” … “everybody in the barn would be up for a little necrophilia” … “the purple heart” …things going waaaaay off the rails

Until next…

– Curt