Mar 022016
 

Liquorature #077 – “Under Heaven” (Guy Gavriel Kay)guy-gavriel-kay-la-rinascita-di-shen-tai-L-85P79x[1]

Date:  October 30, 2015

Host:  Curt

Whisky:  Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt, Nikka From The Barrel, Kavalan Solist Bourbon, Chichibu Port Pipe

 

A few years back Lance gifted me a copy of ‘The Fionavar Tapestry’.  The whys of this gift are a little elusive, even in reflection, as fantasy is/was far from my preferred genre of fiction.  Previous escapades being limited to mostly a dozen or so ‘Dragonlance’ books in my teens, earlier Liquorature selection ‘Wizard’s First Rule’ and one or two others (and no…not even ‘Lord Of The Rings’ at that time).  I’m not sure if he thought he could win me over or if there was an even grander design.  Either way, I came away from it after turning the last weighty pages with a great appreciation of the work, but an even more profound appreciation for the man himself.  Kay that is, not Lance.  I already loved that old chap.

I’ll not share details here, but several factors went into my choosing ‘Under Heaven’ for the Liquorature crew.  First off…a few scenes in ‘Fionavar’ simply blew me away.  Battle scenes in particular.  I wanted to revisit that magic.  A while later, and after many a word shared with GGK himself, another one of his works, ‘Ysabel’, knocked my socks off.  Kay’s mix of fantasy (very lightly and deftly applied in the case of ‘Under Heaven’ and ‘Ysabel’) and history is extremely appealing.  And in the case of the latter, Kay’s tossing in some brilliant weavings of Celtic mythology had me turning pages through the wee hours.  Finally…Mr. Kay is himself a malt lover.  The more he and I conversed on the subject, the more I came to see how sprawling his knowledge and interests really are.  Sports, literature, art, travel, politics, people, Canadiana, and much, much more.  In many instances, the points of intersection were key enough to make me aware how blessed we are to have someone like this share of their thoughts via the written – and timeless – word.

That becomes paramount when diving into a book like ‘Under Heaven’, where most of us readers will be largely unfamiliar with the time and place captured in its pages.  More importantly, the customs and beliefs of an empire (or dynasty?) as depicted herein, become a challenge for us in terms of relatability from our distant vantage.  It’s how Kay handles this and empathetically leads us into this unfamiliar terrain that is a gift from his pen to our minds.  His insights and talent for evoking vivid imagery make Tang Dynasty era China (‘Kitai’, in this fictionalized telling) not only relatable, but uniquely appealing.  And did I mention it is set against a backdrop of actual Chinese history?  I’ll say no more, lest I spoil the tale for anyone.

The lads in the club had a favorable, if mixed, reaction to it.  When I say ‘mixed’ I refer mostly to preferences for certain pieces and characters in the story.  The writing was unanimously lauded and appreciated.  The unfolding of the tale itself left some with conflicting opinions.  No one, however, contested the magnitude of the work, and a couple are, in fact, going to move on to Kay’s follow-up work ‘River Of Stars’.  Says something, aye?

In terms of playing into the theme and all that we do here in Liquorature, well…suffice it to say there really is no such thing as a Chinese whisky (locally anyway), and what I could source as a distilled Chinese beverage tasted like sweatsocks and ramen noodles.  Yep.  We had to try it, of course, and I simply have to say…not awesome.  Having said that, I branched out a bit for this one and went with a general ‘Asian’ theme.  Some Japanese and Taiwanese malts from a couple of consistently great distilleries.  The Kavalan was a favorite, but the Nikkas we sipped surprised a couple of the lads.  Seems the collective has a sweet spot for Asian malts.

Dinner was sweet Thai chili chicken over jasmine rice, bringing a mix of heat and sweet, followed by rich vanilla ice cream and lychee fruit.  All paired surprisingly well with big single malts.

There is more I could share here, but some has not fully played out yet (sorry, can’t tell), and some is simply reserved for those that were there at the time.  All in all, a special night made moreso by some help I received from the author.  Thanks for that, Guy.  Appreciate it.

Until next…

Random notes:  Lychee cocktails … Chu Yeh Ching Chiew … Danny sat in … tried the DI cask … a wee gift … sweet Thai chili chicken … ice cream with lychee …”The French of Asia” … “He yin’d her yang” … “I’m just gonna roll a a twenty-sider”

 

– 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