Jan 272016
 

Liquorature #074 – “Hunger” (Knut Hamsun)Hunger

Date:  July 24th, 2015

Host:  Jay

Whisky:  Cadenhead Glen Keith-Glenlivet 21 y.o., Black Adder Raw Cask Auchentoshan 1991 23 y.o. Cask #3061, Signatory Glenlivet 1981 33 y.o. Cask #9452

 

Jesus suffering fuck.  No need for politically correct niceties here.  This is my site after all.  Where the hell do you come up with these picks, Jay?

This was a deep, dark, existential, Dostoevsky-meets-Camus, slit-your-wrists tale of ludicrous and unrestrained despair.  Mostly of the masochistic and illogical sort.  Starving artist motif be damned, this was an exercise in suspension of disbelief like no other, in which the reader is expected to empathize with decision-making of the most illogical leaps.  If that doesn’t sound like enough of a mindfuck, then wrap your head around this: ‘Hunger’ is a helluva good read, actually.  WTF?!  Exactly.

So what’s it boil down to?  An unhinged, frenetic narrator (albeit likeable for whatever reasons), some Huxley-esque devolutions into acid trip-like surreality (‘Door of Perception’), Strange leaps of logic, an incredible ability to capture the human ‘thought to thought’ mind-wandering transitions, and a truly singular literary experience.  I summed it up before going into this meeting as Huxley meets Salinger meets Kafka meets Dostoyevsky meets Camus meets Cervantes.  Yep.

Let’s not get hung up on the book here, as there really isn’t a way to prepare for this one, so let me just reassure you that while we like to play to themes at Liquorature gatherings, we had no intentions of engaging in any form of self-denial or restraint.  Jay filled our bellies with tasty order-in from Tom’s Pizza, then proceeded to pop the cork on three lovely old single cask independent bottlings.  A Lowlander and a couple of Speysiders.  Real gems, all.  In peering back through the months I cannae rightly recall if there was much left in any of the bottles, but I can only imagine we inflicted some heavy damage, as often happens when the drams are of this calibre.  The book created some division in the ranks; the whiskies certainly did not.

Jay’s streak of truly singular book and malt selection is arguably second to none in the club.  Keep it up, mate.  You’re killing it.

Until next…

Random notes:  Tom’s Pizza rocks … “two degrees of Kevin Bacon” … Seinfeld.

 

– 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 232013
 

Liquorature Gathering #030 – “The Power Of One” (Bryce Courtenay)

Date:  July, 2011

Host:  Chris

Whisky:  Glenlivet 12, Strathisla 12, Glacier Distilling – North Fork Flood Stage Whisky, Mystery rye

Rum:  Goslings Black Seal, Redrum, Iceberg

 

First things first…

A huge Liquorature congrats to Ostby.  He is a dad again.  Number two is a beautiful little heartbreaker named Maeli.  Don’t worry, buddy.  All of us Karmically challenged dads with stables full of daughters will help show the ropes (where to get weapons, intimidation techniques, etc).

So…it was finally time to break in the noobs.  This month, Chris.  Next…Jay.  Not their first sessions as part of Liquorature, of course, but first time hosting the collective in their own homes.  Such pressure.

Chris hit upon a couple of unique sippers this time.  One from a distillery down in Montana.  Great little tale as to how he came upon it, but that will be up to him to share if he likes.  And their hooch?  Well…not so good.  To be fair though, we were sipping it out of the little table keg.  Not sure how long the whisky has been in there, but the oak and waxiness are a little too aggressive.  Perhaps the spirit in bottle is a little less woody.  I’ll go on record with a shudder of revulsion at the moment however.

Another bevy choice was an inherited decanter full of an unknown spirit.  Fun!  Turns out it was a Canadian whisky of some sort (based on what m’nose tells me anyway).  Slightly more biting than the Alberta’s or Forty Creek’s.  Perhaps a Black Velvet or something.  Either way…meh.  Anything sipped blindly is always fun.  Sadly, in this case, we’ll never know what it was.

From there…a couple Speysiders at the dozen years mark.  Strathisla 12 and Glenlivet 12.  Big, young and full of spritely red fruit.

And finally…for the dentists’ best friends…three bottles of cane juice on offer aussi.  First up…Goslings Black Seal.  Came highly recommended ages ago by a mate, and one which Sage Surujbally has written up here on Liquorature.  The lads show a heavy tendency towards these dark ‘uns.  Is this a flavor thing or the influence of mind over matter?  Hmmmm…  The others were Redrum and Iceberg.  I’ll let the globetrottin’ cane-swiller share the details, as my rum knowledge (and appreciation) is next to nil.

With glass in hand (and following a formal cheers to Papa Ostby), we settled in to chit-chattin’ up this month’s tale.

Interestingly enough, a book I thought would elicit a ton of conversation actually had us struggling to stay on point.  We’ve had this happen before where a book was enjoyed by all, but simply had nothing really worthy of discussion.  This novel however, had plenty to discuss.  Think we were just perhaps all slightly off and distracted.  A wee bit of drama had prefaced the eve, but the lads still managed to turn in an eve of spirited camaraderie and laughter (usually at someone’s expense).

The book, “The Power of One” (Bryce Courtenay) was well-received by all.  As always, some of the more demanding of us (myself included this time), found a few niggly little things to be irksome, but overall the gang voiced a fairly cohesive opinion on this one.  Conversation sorta dried up rather quickly however, as there simply didn’t seem to be a lot of topics that warranted discussion.  “Ummm…apartheid is bad.”  Where do you go from there?

Anyway…as Chris’s first choice, he managed to pick a book all enjoyed and did have topics to chatter about, even if we let ourselves down a bit (in my not-so-humble opinion anyway).

Great to see this little collective growing tighter and forming deeper bonds.  The two newest members have been integrated and it seems to be a relatively seamless fit.  Chris, in particular, was in fine form this eve, having several of us busting a gut at some hilarious stories of youthful…errr…exuberance.  As the drinks flow towards the latter half of these nights, the conversation always livens right up.  In vino veritas, lads.  I would highly recommend that all consider this their big night out once a month.  Look forward to it and live it up when it finally comes.  Our best nights always seem to be those that allow us to have a few drinks…open up…and not worry about leaving early or driving.

Randoms:  Lance finally collecting on his bet with Robert…no mention of wrestling (or even Mandingo, I think!)…Chris having Jay in tears laughing…(more to come when I find my notebook)

 

– Curt

Aug 232013
 

Liquorature Gathering #018 – “The Idiot” (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)

Date:  July, 2010

The Idiot – Fyodor Dostoevsky

Host:  Lance

Whisky:  Yamazaki 12 yr old (Japan)

Rum: Old Port DeLuxe (India), Mount Gay Extra Old (Barbados), El Dorado 5 yr old (Guyana).  (Also sampled: Appleton 30 yr old, Kraken Black and Clemente agricole)

 

Cane night at Chez Surujbally.  Our host extraordinaire not only trotted out a fine selection of new bottles, but also broke open a swath from own stash.  I think there were 10 rums altogether that got battered, as well as 3 whiskies.  Lance was kind enough to allow me nips at both the Johnnie Walker Blue and the Glenlivet 21 Archive, both of which will have reviews up in the coming days.

A gorgeous summer eve led us all out to Lance’s back deck to sit in the sun and watch the day end.  For only the second time we allowed a visitor to sit on for a session.  The famous, or infamous, Sir Bear (Keenan) joined us for this evening of carousing.  True to Lance’s word Keenan was not only a tangible being, but a gentleman and a scholar.  In a bold move, Lance’s enticement of the Bear involved an invitation to select the book for our gathering.  Hence…’The Idiot’.

Keenan is a brave man.  Not sure I would have wanted the responsibility of picking a book for a group of people I had never met.  Though I won’t say everyone enjoyed it…I will say that it was a good selection.  We had a whirlwind of conversation on this one.  I think we probably spent a solid couple hours on the book all told.  The consensus?  Uh…not so good.  Most took exception to the title character’s seeming lack of spine or sack.  The meandering Victorian language and frustrating lack of action…ANY action…were deal-breakers for most.  A few things stood out in positive relief however.  A few passages were existentialist Dostoyevsky at his best (mostly the end)…a couple of great humorous scenes…some ridiculous (though very broad stroke) characters…and the best thing of all for some of the gang?  To be able to say they have now read Dostoyevsky.

The everyman’s meal (chili) was a success as well.  The gents lauded Surujbally’s culinary prowess (notice I said ‘Surujbally’…and not ‘Lance’….this way if it was Kym who did the deed…I’m still covered).  I don’t believe there is such thing as a red n’ white blooded Canadian who doesn’t love chili.

The night’s sipping (and dear gawd…there was a lot of it)…started for this guy with two higher end whiskies that Lance has been nudging me to review for a while now.  The always disappointing Johnnie Walker Blue (Sorry, guys) and the rather delectable Glenlivet 21.  Aside from appreciation for the drams, I’ll say no more here.  Look under reviews in the near future.  After that it was on to the Yamazaki for me, and a whole schwackload of rum for the rest.  I sampled a couple, but find the stuff is just too…well…not for me.

The Bear and the gang seemed tickled pink with choice though.  As there were simply too many on offer to keep track of, I’ll let the boys’ comments below attest to quality of what was out.  There was more than a little stumbling after all was said and done.  Again…anyone who cares to confess their sins can do below.  Under the whole ‘what happens in Liquorature…stays in Liquorature’ clause it is verboten to rat out another…HOWEVER…if said individuals care to consider their (mis)deeds as a badge of honor…hey…confession is good for the soul (and a few laughs!).

A great night full of laughter and mockery.  Keenan was a welcome addition for the eve.  Nice guy,  open and involved…contributed more than just a book selection.  Glad we finally met, sir.  Hope to see more of you in the future.

The rewards of tackling Dostoyevsky are many, but for a few of the gang it is simply to round out the bell curve.  This was will be low ranked for most.  As always though…all conceded that it allows that frame of reference that you carry forward.  I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a sense of relief at moving into the next couple of selections.

Highlights:

…making mad rubles…the literary equivalent of Buckley’s…Archie became the new wrestling/Star Trek (but fear not…the boys still brought up this tripe as well)…the hedgehog and Milo Minderbinder…’the best scotch I ever had was rum’…mount gay marriage…an afterparty at the Bull…the Iron Sheik…

Until next we meet…Slainte!

201_3686201_3689201_3692What was I drinkin' again?
 
201_3694The Inimitable Keenan, aka "The Bear"201_3705201_3708

201_3710201_3712201_3717
– Curt

 
Aug 232013
 

Liquorature Gathering #005 – “Catch 22” (Joseph Heller)

Date:  June, 2009

Host:  Pat

Whisky:  Glenlivet Nadurra, Glengoyne 21

Rum:  n/a

 

Enter the Buddha.  Ginger Buddha, that is.  Liquorature opened its doors to a new member this month.  This was the first gathering to include Scott.

We nearly lit Pat’s home on fire, but that’s to be expected with this group of individuals.  Uh…the wives don’t read any of this, do they?

Pat pulled this one from his “need to read” list, and surprised many in the group.  Though this is one of Lance’s all time least favorite books (he had also read it before), the rest seemed to enjoy it.  The humor won over most, I think.  The story itself…meh…not too shabby.  I gotta give credit for a great ending though.   Topic conversation was about two hours, with much quoting and referring to specific parts that had everyone laughing.

Nice choice of whiskies.  The Glenlivet Nadurra was our first run at a cask strengther.  It is quite a beautiful dram that I had to try again months later (when Pat restocked) to fully appreciate.  Just which Glengoyne we had…not certain.  Maybe Pat can help out with that one.

This was a memorable night with much laughter, and good ambience.  Given the subject matter, that was to be expected.  Clint, to this day, proudly carries the heavyweight zinger award for the verbal bitchslap he gave Robert in one of the all-time greatest insults.

 

– Curt

Aug 232013
 

Liquorature Gathering #003 – “Red Mars” (Kim Stanley Robinson)

Date:  April, 2009

Host:  Lance

Whisky:  Johnnie Walker Blue Label, Glenlivet 21 y.o.

Rum:  Zaya, Flor de Cana 18 y.o., Appleton’s Master Blender’s 30 y.o.

 

This was the first of our “rum nights”.  Monsignor Surujbally, being a connoisseur of the cane, provided a couple of fine rums to sample.  One in particular, a spicy sipper called Zaya, struck a chord with all.  The first truly great rum I have tried.  Being the gracious host he is, Lance also broke out a couple of high end whiskies for those of us not so into the pirate juice.  One of these just happened to be the famous Johnnie Walker Blue Label.  A nice blended scotch whisky, but not what I would have expected for ~$200 a bottle.  Slightly…well…underwhelming.  Not that I would pass on a dram though.  Being as this was my first go at this one, I will have to sample it again with a clean palate.  The second was a Glenlivit 21 Archive.  Bold and beautiful.

Conversation was flowing and interesting.  This was quite a slog of a book.  Not necessarily a bad thing though, as it was a tome delightfully burdened with detail and well thought out pacing.  The science and engineering were where most of the conversation was centered.  Technical merits and genre comparisons were favored topics.  We were detail-oriented and heavily opinionated…though not in a polarity sense.

As I do every time I am at Lance’s place, I must note…love that big sectional sofa for reclining and conversing in.  Topic conversation was about two hours.  Tack on an additional hour worth of Zaya praise.

Another great night.

 

– Curt