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

Aug 252013
 

Liquorature #040 – “Lord Of The Rings” (J.R.R. Tolkien)LOTR

Date:  May, 2012

Host:  Jay

Whisky:  Amrut Fusion, Amrut Intermediate Sherry, Amrut Two Continents, Amrut Portonova

Rum:  Old Port Deluxe

 

Thank f*ck I’ve finally knocked this big b*tch off my list.  After years of getting riled from a few of my more literate amigos for not having delved into Tolkien’s masterwork I finally did the deed.  Let’s be clear…I did not come to this one willingly.  It was foisted on us by Jay.  Just the motivation required to finally do it up.  I should note here that this one stretched all rules of acceptability for Liquorature selections.  Books are to be single volume novels that stand alone.  So how does this three-parter qualify?  Well…it was argued that the intent was to have this published as a single volume and that it was actually the publishers who split it into pieces.

Cynicism and skepticism abounded, but in the end we took a majority rules vote and it was allowed to stand as Jay’s choice.

So, the concern I had always had about this one (yes…I knew the story ahead of time from having seen the films) was that it was just another fantasy tale (irrespective as to whether or not is was the granddaddy of ‘em all) and simply did not warrant being chosen due to lack of discussable subject matter.  When this happens, we tend to end up with some natter about the writing style, some favorite scenes discussions and a debate on the merits of the genre.

Indeed, we did discuss the genre, compared it to other fantasy we’ve covered to date, compared to the films, etc.  Much as foreseen though, there weren’t many ‘true’ discussion points.  Maybe this one suffered the same fate as did ‘Atlas Shrugged’.  We came in expecting a mind-meltingly deep philosophical discourse and ended up with anything but.  Oh well.  A lesson to be learned about expectations, I suppose.

For the devourables this eve…Jay threw out a blast from the past for this guy.  Pizzas ordered from Gondola.  I didn’t even know this chain still existed.  I remember going to Gondola when I was a wee lad in Manitoba.  Gotta say…bloody delish!  Thin crust…crispy as hell…tastier than tasty.

Malts on offer this eve?  Also from the far off lands (not quite Mordor, but not far off either).  India, this time.  A revisit to a couple of favorites, and a couple that were new to some members of the club.  All from the Amrut distillery in Bangalore.  Fusion, Portonova, Intermediate Sherry and Two Continents.  Even the rum, Old Port Deluxe, was an Amrut product.  Nice little flight of bevies from one of the most exciting and dynamic distilleries in the world.  And yes…these drams were appreciated by all.

So…the libations certainly helped grease the wheels of verbosity.  Lance’s juggling of the dwarfs’ names form the Hobbit and the nearly canonical reference to the lesser Jackson, Tito, were cause for great laughter.  A line-up of bottles boasting ABV’s of ~50-62% does not fall without a fight, but this little brotherhood of over-the-hill warriors, chubby dwarfs, effeminate elves and other lesser heroes did our best.  In the end…we went down swinging.

The Randoms:  “It’s gonna happen if you drink that” … Tito Tolkien … Counting dwarfs … “The Tony Robbins of Middle Earth” … “Gargamel” … “You lived in Fionavar?!” … The Mordor gay sign … debate over value of the appendices … sadly, no Robert or Bauer.

 

 

 

 

– Curt

Aug 232013
 

Liquorature Gathering #025 – “The Fionavar Tapestry” (Guy Gavriel Kay)

Date:  February, 2011

Host – Lance

Whisky:  Bruichladdich Manzanilla 12 Willow Park Exclusive

Rum:  Bruichladdich Renegade Grenada 11 Year Old, Angostura Dark 5 yr old, Favell’s London Dock Navy rum

 

The fantasy flag is waved in the Liquorature camp with more fervent fanboy-ism than even I (Surujbally’s appointed ‘Hippie’) can muster for all things Ardbeg.  And that is saying something.  Mention Lord of the Rings, Goodkind, Jordan or Fionavar and you’re nearly guaranteed to have someone spurting in their pants and someone else ready to launch into ‘the Great Debate’ (whether or not LotR can be considered for Liquorature selection…BTW, I weigh in with a resounding NO!).

While five out of eight of us are big fans of the genre, the remaining three are lukewarm (at best) in terms of reception.  Interestingly, all three of us that seem to have an allergy to fantasy have either a predisposition towards Ayn Rand, or an outright rejection of illogical leaps of faith (ahem… ‘Mr. A-is-A).  To us non-converts, the prevalence of dues ex machina and resolution through means beyond physics is simply…too foreign.

To be fair, however, we have tackled a couple of fantasy works now, and I take away positives from both.

Let’s chat about the edible and quaffable now.

Lance’s curry (‘fess up, boy!  ‘Twas the wife who dunnit, wudnit?!) dishes were spectacular.  A certain someone visited the spread three times, finally moving on to filling a mug with this spicy goodness, as we’d dirtied all of the dishes.  Must confess, though it wounds me and burns like an untreated STD (uh…or so I hear), rum actually works just right with curry.  The sweet and spice harmonize well.

Methinks Lance should share his recipes, as did Pat with his man-chili.  I’d love to have these dishes more frequently.  Perhaps I simply need to sit in for dinner more often, huh?  The only downside is the cavity-inducing grog he serves up to guests.  Coruba, anyone?

After we finished stuffing ourselves on this Indian bounty, I quickly shifted back to a man’s drink and popped the cork on Lance’s whisky sacrifice for the event, Willow Park’s exclusive Bruichladdich Manzanilla.  Bauer would have liked this one.  Thankfully a few of us have bottles we can share with him when next he makes it out (Miss ya, buddy).

This was a night full of bloody great conversation.  The laughs were non-stop.  Sweet medicine after a hard week at work.  At one point with tears flowing down our cheeks, Lance mentioned how needed this was and referred to it like a refreshing rain (or some such poetic gibberish).  All kidding aside, the point was taken.  Think we all let our shoulders sag a bit this night.  You could almost hear the knots in people’s backs releasing.

Confession.  Lance picked me up a copy of ‘The Fionavar Tapestry’ about a year and a half ago now.  On two separate occasions I picked it up, but quickly set it down again.  Just not in the right frame of mind for it.  His selecting it for our February pick was actually somewhat of a relief for me (though a few others groaned under the weight of such a massive undertaking), as I finally had forced motivation to read it, and could no longer insult Lance by not reading the gift he’d given me.

So, let’s see…A few freakin’ loved it.  At least one said, ‘no, nae, never’.  The rest sat in a camp that weighed flaw against appreciation for scope, visuals, story-telling and originality (which was also a sticking point for some others).  Overall…quite a positive reception really.  I concede to appreciating it much more than when I started, and can say I am glad for having read it.  All true analysis stays within the group.  Read it yourself if you care to speculate as to what we may or may not have liked.  Anyone who has read it…drop a line here on Liquorature.  Love to engage on this one.

In the end, I think everyone was simply in the right mental space to have a great night.  It turned out to be just that.

 

The randoms:  Obama, the mage…Newman, the wizard…Rum and the special olympics… “Dammit, I got a svart in my bowl” …score many baskets…like a liger…the Hoff…Mandingo’s baseball bat… “Mandingo…whatta guy” …”The was f*ckin’ rad, let’s eat pizza”.

 

– Curt