Mar 022016
 

Liquorature #081 – “Fallen Angels” (Walter Dean Myers)Fallen Angels

Date:  February 26th, 2016

Host:  Jay

Whisky:  Johnnie Walker Green Label, Douglas Laing Premier Barrel Lochnagar 11 y.o., Douglas Laing Premier Barrel Laphroaig 8 y.o.

 

Quick!  While it’s still fresh!

Unbelievable.  These event write-ups are finally up to date.  This last one you’re reading is a recap of a gathering just five days back.  Can’t lie.  Feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.  I know it is a small contingent that actually reads these meanderings, but they’re captured for posterity nevertheless.  The collective can always look back in fondness on some of these old memories.  That’s the hope anyway.

‘Fallen Angels’.  Interesting pick, this.  We were sitting around at one of the past gatherings months back and Jay had yet to make his selection.  “Hold on,” he said.  He spent a couple minutes on his phone searching the net for ‘most controversial books’ or ‘most challenged books’ or something, and voila!  This was announced then and there.

I think we all came into this one blindly.  None of us knew the title, nor the author, let alone the subject matter.  War.  The Vietnam War, to be exact.  We’ve covered war before, of course, most recently with Boyden’s ‘Three Day Road’ and Conrad’s ‘Heart Of Darkness’, but this would be a very different take.  What went down in Vietnam a few decades back was a watershed moment for many things: media, patriotism, understanding of warfare, culture, politics, on and on and on.  Vietnam was huge.  And for those reasons, it makes absolutely fascinating subject matter.  It has, of course, also led to some incredible films, music and art.

Our discussion was interesting this time around.  No real dissent.  In fact everyone really quite liked the book (conceding a few small flaws or omissions), but where it got really engaging was in our collective understanding and response to what went down in Vietnam and the state of the world that both led to it and resulted from it.  Some truly insightful opinions and, much like the conflict itself, a lot of seeming uncertainty.  This was especially evident in discussions about whether the US should have been involved and how each of us would have handled ourselves as draft-eligible (or volunteers) young men if we had been around at this time in history.  The class and race aspect was given a lot of consideration.  As was an empathetic approach to understanding the Veitnamese side of the story.  Actually, quite an unforgettable night.

Johnnie Walker Green made its third appearance as a club selection, and was even better than most remembered.  It was two Douglas Laing ceramic decanter releases under the ‘Premier Barrel’ line that had us all sitting upright and taking notice.  The first was an 11 year old Lochnagar.  Beautiful nose.  THe second was a young and kicking Laphroaig 8 year old.  I think I preferred the former, but the masses leaned to the latter.  Both awesome though.  And a real treat from bygone years.

Great night, all in.  Jay’s choices of book, malts and great Vietnamese nibbles were inspired and probably earned him just the sort of rewards he’d hoped for.

Random notes:  No Jesse, Chris or Ginger … “The sharpest thing on the table…” … “Beat you with a dildo” … Do you guys surf?” … “You can always have more kids” … a couple other great Laphroaig bottles … some membership discussion

 

– Curt

Jan 272016
 

Liquorature #072 – “The Mask Of Dimitrios” (Eric Ambler)Dimitrios

Date:  May 29th, 2015

Host:  Scott (aka Buddha)

Whisky:  Black Bull 12 y.o., Johnnie Walker Green Label, Glen Scotia 1991 22 y.o. (First Editions), Smokehead

 

A bit of an old school potboiler, this ‘un.  Scott elected to play to the mystery angle a bit too, by having us try all the evening’s drams blind.  Fun.  Gotta keep mixing it up, right?  While even just the central premise of Liquorature – to gather a few decent guys over drinks and interesting discussion – is enough to keep us coming back, it’s the l’il extras that elevate this into the beautiful clandestine entity it has become.

I should note too that this was to be Scott’s last gathering at the old digs.  He and his missus have now moved on to a sprawling high end pad not far from my place.  We’ll miss this tight little apartment for its intimacy and closed-circle conversations.  It’s amazing just how much the setting can influence the tone of an evening’s development.  Either way, when I look back on ‘Dimitrios’ night it seems to have a noir and shadowy countenance.  I like that.  Very apropos for a book like this.

My two cents aside, I think the boys quite liked this one, if memory serves.  The pacing was a little tentative, but let’s time travel a bit and put ourselves in the age that this was written.  It was a forebear of a genre in many ways.  Like all first steps, they’re really without stumbles, but it’s the forward momentum that earns the distinction.  In short…mad respect from this crew and a general satisfaction to have tackled this touchstone.  In fact…I may now go back for a re-read after having reflected a bit.

Scott pulled out a rather lovely Glen Scotia 22 year old from one of the only working distilleries on Campbeltown.  That was the clear cut winner for the eve, in terms of libations.  Shame we missed a couple of the boys for this gathering, but alas, fellas…fear not.  We drank your share.

Memorable night in all.  Maybe some Chandler next?

Random Thoughts:  ‘the taming of the jew’ … English-y … No Jesse or Bauer this time … the blind tasting … some Agalloch as backdrop … great movie recaps … ‘Bea Arthur is pretty dead’

 

– Curt

Aug 262013
 

american godsLiquorature Gathering #044 – “American Gods” (Neil Gaiman)

Date:  September, 2012

Host:  Clint

Whisky:  Great King Street, Glenfiddich 15, GlenDronach 15

Rum:  Mount Gay XO Eclipse

 

Sadly, a night when I was fighting a wicked cold.  A couple of us (Pat, Scott and I) had just returned from a jaunt over to the promised land (Scotland) touring distilleries and drowning our livers in that greatest of libations, Scotch single malt whisky.  On my second-to-last day there I managed to contract a case of what was either the Plague or gonoherpasyphylaids.  Man…this f*cking cold knocked me on my *ss!  Contrary to initial thoughts (that all of that alcohol still running rampant in my veins would kill off any possible infection), this heavy drinking binge must have beaten the hell out of my immune system.  ‘Laid low’ doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Clint likely could have thrown out Johnny Walker Red and any of the McClellands line-up and I wouldn’t have known the difference.  Ok, ok…let’s not get silly.  Compromised tastebuds?  Yes.  But let’s be clear…it would take a full-on lobotomy to make me think either of the afore-mentioned constituted real whisky.  Settle down, I jest.  Ish.

As it was, Clint was playing to his themes.  He’d been writing a wee series for my other site, All Things Whisky, and his latest subject matter had been Speysiders at or around 15 years, if memory serves.  Ergo…we at Liquorature got to revisit a couple of old friends (the ‘Fiddich…s’ok, but the ‘Dronach…now that’s a special one).  On top of these two, Ostby broke out a bottle of Compass Box Great King Street, John Glaser’s latest concoction.  Great blend, this.  I know some of you more snobby buggers are reading that last sentence and thinking ‘oxymoron’.  Well…shaddap.  😉  And for the Rum Sage…a bottle of Mount Gay XO Eclipse.

Good sipping, this, and well paired with an interesting pressed steak sandwich (hard to describe…easy to eat).  And with that, we were rolling.

‘American Gods’, by Neil Gaiman, is a book that had me hooked from the get-go.  It was dark, it was eerie, it was twisted and it bordered on brilliant.  I was picking up a bit of Clive Barker here…a bit of Salman Rushdie there…maybe a little Stephen King and a bit of…hmmmm…not sure…maybe some comic book flare throughout?  Not quite right, but neither is this an easy one to pinpoint.

The sad fact of the matter is, though, that we as a crew were simply not all that ‘on’ this night.  While the companionship was, as always, top-notch, the discussion itself was lacklustre.  Not our best.  We sorta seemed to be struggling for topics and lacked the enthusiasm a work like this deserves.  And trust me…it does deserve your attention.  There are some hella cool rollercoaster twists of absolute excellence as this book unfolds.  Summed up in two words:  Read it.

One note though, for those about to undertake this journey…if I had a do-over…I’da paired this bad muthaf*kka with some Highland Park.  Now THAT would have been epic.

Wish I’d felt better personally (and that the three of us weren’t still recovering from a liver-beating in Scotland), but still a memorable night.

Randoms:  Jesus says “f*cking dough head” … “gee…that guy got it rough, huh?” … “Irfit j*zz”

 

– Curt

Aug 232013
 

Liquorature Gathering #022 – “The Hound Of The Baskervilles” (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

Date:  November, 2010

Host:  Scott

Whisky:  Johnnie Walker Gold Label, Edradour Straight From The Cask Chateauneuf Du Pape, Isle of Arran Bourbon Cask Single Cask

Rum:  Cadenheads Green Label Laphroaig Cask Matured

 

This month was a sort of renaissance for the club.  We initiated two new members, tackled a classic (complete with iconic literary character), visited a few exceptional drams and had a great conversation that sort of put us back on the rails in terms of insight, intellect and enjoyment.  We’ve had a run of books recently that to some were homework and to others lacked enough meat to provide topics of discussion.  Such is the nature of this endeavor though.

Pat, Jay and I put in a somewhat tardy arrival (apologies again Scott).  We had been to a guitar clinic at Long & McQuade, watching the inimitable Gordie Johnson dragging the blues kicking and screaming from a Gibson acoustic.  Damn…I love this guy.  If you haven’t checked out Big Sugar, friends…you’re missing out.  Helluva way to kick off a great night.  We boogied back down South in time to kick things off a tad later than usual.

Introductions were in order between Jay and Chris.  These two chaps had yet to meet, but here’s hoping they become as tight as the rest of us.  Lance spoke a few words in honor…we raised our glasses…and commenced things as a new entity.  The initiation itself?  Can’t tell you that here.  The masons would be proud though.  ;)

Scott’s pick for November took a few of us by surprise.  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Hound of the Baskervilles”.  Somewhat surprising to see how few of us had ever actually read the exploits of the iconic Sherlock Holmes and his esteemed colleague, Watson.  A few of us took a little initiative and read more of the Holmes canon in order to flesh out the big picture.

Among the topics covered, we spoke of style, narrative structure, the gothic horror element, our preconceptions, the depth of character, deduction and much more.  This was much more like the conversations of old.  When it came time to weigh in it seems most impressions were favorable.  Some took exception to the flow and arc of the tale (ie. early climax with drawn out denouement), but in the end still enjoyed the tale.  A favorite element for all was atmosphere and setting.

Well picked, Scott.  There are some truly legendary authors out there yet to be tackled by the Liquorature gang (Asimov, Howard, King, Dickens, Melville, Nabokov, Vonnegut, Bradbury, Orwell, on and on), and Doyle was certainly one that needed to be read.  I think we’re all glad to have read this one.

Should note that the Ginger Buddha had done the place up in style too.  Maps of the moor, facsimile letters and documents and great visuals were posted and strewn around the room to add a little ambience.  Nifty.

When it came to the bevvies…

Scott paid a visit to Andrew Ferguson at the Kensington Wine Market for a little guidance in his selection.  Not that guidance is necessarily needed, but hey…Andrew knows his stuff…has some unique malts…and often has open bottles to sample before making your selection.  Together they came up with a solid Isle of Arran Bourbon Cask (single cask) and a gorgeous rich Edradour SFTC Chateauneuf du Pape (also single cask).  Before hitting these beefier cask strength numbers, we sampled the Johnnie Walker Gold Label.  Nice.  Quite nice indeed.  The Edradour was the runaway though.

And rum?  Well…this was an abortion.  I speak only for myself here (and perhaps one or two unnamed others), but was this distilled Barbie juice we were drinking?  Holy plastic flavors.  In a sojourn down to the afore-mentioned KWM I had seen a Cadenheads bottling that had been matured in Laphroaig casks.  I mentioned this to Scott, and unbeknownst to the rest he did indeed pick this one.  Peated rum?  WTF?!  While the rum appreciators said, “bah…this is not rum…it’s more like a whisky”, the whisky drinkers were swishing out their mouths in distaste and declaring it nothing like our beloved malts.  In hindsight, I’d be curious to know if any actually liked it.  Something different anyway.

As is becoming the standard, the lads are merciless with their needling.  The Star Trek and wrestling references not only continue unabated, but a few have taken it upon themselves to draw obscure connections and parallels with our book selection.  Sigh.  And here I thought I had surrounded myself with the elite.  This delusion was further shattered by the avalanche of Mandingo, John Holmes and general porn comments.  This little foray into the gutter was the lowest we’ve sunk yet…and was bloody hilarious.  If we needed any more assurance as to why this is a men’s club…this was it.

All in all, a truly memorable night.  It was great to have Chris back in the fold (you may remember he had sat in on our ‘”Wizard’s First Rule” gathering) and equally great to have Jay for the first time.  I think this group is going to work out just fine.  Though we’re a little bigger now, all concerns about too many seemed to unfounded as we never really had any “shhhhhhhhh” moments.  Well done, all.  This was a great night to have been the new guys’ first.

A few random thoughts:

Rod Stewart has ‘Bob’ hair…the Glencairn dilemma…Hamlet in the original Klingon…”Honey, I’m coming home”…countless Star Trek, wrestling and porn references…Mandingo…hostel head (Ostby)…plastic in my rum…the pink box…

mmmmmmmmIMG_5109IMG_5119IMG_5120
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A little more ... I can get the whole thing in....IMG_5142IMG_5145IMG_5150
 
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IMG_5189IMG_5193IMG_5194HOUNDSOFBASKERVILLE
– Curt
 
 
Aug 232013
 

Liquorature Gathering #020 – “Shogun” (James Clavell)

Date:  September, 2010

Host:  Pat

Whisky:  Forty Creek Barrel Select (Canadian), Johnnie Walker Green Label, Dalmore 12 y.o., Aberlour 12 y.o.

Rum:  Angostura 1919, Bacardi 8 y.o.

 

This…was a helluva read.  Which, only logically, led to a helluva night.  Pat pulled no punches with beverage selection.  Four whiskies and two rums.  We had a little Canadian content here, as he broke out the Forty Creek for us.  Not quite as mellow as the Alberta Premium, but delish nevertheless.  It was nifty to finally sample the JW Green.  It is certainly the sum of its parts, with a couple of its component whiskies being blatantly obvious on the palate.  The rums, as has been typical of late, were quite well-received as well, with the Angostura 1919 leading the charge.

Pat’s amigo from work, Lorne, sat in for this session.  I’ve said it before…I have nothing but admiration for anyone who can walk into a room full of strangers and, not only fit in, but seem comfortable.  Lorne was involved in much of the evening’s conversation, raising points of his own and contributing to threads started by others.  He was keen to sample all the bevvies (we all are, of course, but that’s not what I mean…he was all about trying new things).  It was good meeting him and I hope he does join us again at some point.

For those unaware…Pat, Clint and I all built the same model of house on the same street.  As we all have vastly different tastes though, we modified the hell out of them, and I’m sure most people wouldn’t even realize it was in fact the same plan.  That being said…there is just something about Clint and Pat’s set-up that usually elicits great conversation.  Uh…Excepting last month’s abortion with HHGttG, that is.

This was our second true epic novel to date (the first being ‘Atlas Shrugged’), so I was quite curious to see how it would turn out this time ’round.  Quite well in fact.  We chatted about the aesthetics of the novel; historical accuracy; character development; sex issues; religion; concept of death; bodily functions and hygiene, etc.  From there we discussed  some other examples of historical fiction.

As the night progressed, I snuck out a couple samples of my own to share with the gang.  First…I poured from both the Alberta Premium Rye 5 year and the Alberta Preumium Rye 25 year to let the gang see the difference.  A little later I broke out Ardbeg Supernova.  Lorne in particular had been hankering for some peat, and I think this monster absolutely sufficed.

One more bottle surfaced before the end of the night.  It was a sad occasion in all honesty, as this was Bauer’s last meeting with us.  He is moving on in life to a new home and career in Saskatchewan (don’t mock him too mercilessly).  While on Islay (Scotland) a few days previous, I had picked up a little something special for him.  All the gang chipped inand we presented our Bruichladdich boy with a hand bottled (by me) and hand numbered (one of only ~420) valinch of a single cask from the Bruichladdich shop.  The cask is called ‘Music Man’.  If you know Bauer…it truly could not have been any more fitting.

Though there were a few scheduling issues for this little powwow (mostly caused by me trying to ensure I could be there for Bauer’s last sit-in), it turned out to be a great evening.  Cheers to all involved, the following in particular:

  • Bauer – best in all that comes, mate.  You’ll be missed ’round here.  Thanks for everything.
  • Pat – For hosting and putting together a fine night
  • Lorne – for braving us eccentrics for the night.

Slainte!

The brilliant randoms for the night…a duck for pillowing…selection of ‘Geonesis’ for ladies to read in our December mixed meet with the ladies’ club…’Twilight’ stopping the conversation dead…Lorne’s presence…roadrunner with blood…sampling the ABP25 and Supernova…Bauer’s sendoff.

201_6323201_6329The Last Hippie Communes with the Universal All201_6336
 
201_6337201_6340I'm concentratin' here!201_6344
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– 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

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– 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