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 042016
 

Liquorature Gathering #059 – “Slaughterhouse-Five” (Kurt Vonnegut)slaughterhouse_five

Date:  December, 2013

Host:  Scott (aka Ginger Buddha)

Whisky:  Pig’s Nose, Bulleit Bourbon, Nikka Miyagikyo 15 y.o.

 

All this happened, more or less.

Man, it took is a long time to get ’round to Vonnegut.  I always thought it would be me to pick him at some point, but our Ginger Buddha beat me to it.  I’d have chosen something different (most likely ‘Cat’s Cradle’), but applying the pizza philosophy, any Vonnegut is good Vonnegut.

Like most of the author’s work, there is a jumbled and disjointed mishmash of surreality, science fiction, metaphysical, metaphorical, absurdist and appreciably literate meandering.  Though this may sound like a convoluted way of saying ‘what the fuck?’, the reality is that Vonnegut is hard to pigeonhole.  He’s equally difficult to form opinions on or analyze with any true sense of authority.  I think that’s why this choice worked extremely well for us.  In fact, I still debate doing ‘Cat’s Cradle’ at some point, simply to be able to revisit this mad genius.

The guys were non-committal in terms of expressing disdain or appreciation.  I think there was an acknowledgement of something remarkable, but a lack of truly getting on board with the delivery.  Fair enough.  I can see how Vonnegut is an acquired taste (or an unacquired taste, as the case may be).

Scott likes to play to themes with his whisky selections, often tying his choices back to the book in some manner or other, however I’ll be pickled if I can remember what (if any) ties there were between the drams listed above and this World War II era tale.  Either way…enjoyed.  In particular, the Miyagikyo 15 year old.  We’re discovering that a few of us have a rather keen appreciation for the art of Asian distillation.

So it goes…

 

– Curt

Jan 022015
 

Liquorature #065 – “The Stars My Destination”the stars my destination

 

Date:  October 24th, 2014

Host: Scott

Whisky: Mortlach Rare Old, Balblair 1989, Nikka Taketsuru 21 y.o.

 

Back to back forays into the realms of deep space. Sci-fi is starting to hold a little more clout with a few of us old codgers in the club who ignorantly initially mistook it for prepubescent nerd porn and summarily dismissed most of the genre out of hand. Thankfully a few of the literati in Liquorature have seen fit to force their agenda down our throats with their selections and catapult us into the stars (and the future).

Scott announced his selection just as I did, neither of aware that the other was going deep space on the crew.  So be it.  Two months in a row of escaping the third stone from the sun.  God knows with the life most of us lead we can use the ultimate escapism.  You may recall last month’s ‘Star Maker’ was about as much fun as an anesthetic-free vasectomy.  It delivered in terms of message but left us lurching to the finish line due to its incredibly dry pacing and method of delivery.  I think a few of us were somewhat reticent to pick up another book with ‘star’ in the title so soon after.

Happy to say ‘The Stars My Destination’ started off fast and immediately picked up speed.  This pseudo anarchistic dystopian romp pretty much had all of us at ‘hello’.  I think the breakneck pace and instantly imaginable characters had something to do with that, but let’s not sell short the fact that the story itself was immensely engaging and, like much good science fiction, the speculative nature and forward thinking led us all to pause for a moment and try to take ourselves back to 1957, the time of writing.

As is often the case with these sorts of tales, imaginative discussion is often lubed with a few drams of something strong and neat.  Scott picked out a few new ones for us (new to club members, that is).  Highlight for this guy had to be the Nikka Taketsuru 21, with a nose to die for.  The Balblair wasn’t far behind.  We were on relatively good behaviour, but have happily happened Ginger work through these bottles in the days since this gathering.

Great choices for this month, Buddha; drinks and book. Look forward to seeing where you take us next time.

…Having said all of that, I can’t but help feel relieved to place my feet back on terra firma (or at least adrift upon a fishing boat) with next month’s selection of “The Old Man And The Sea”.

The randoms: Blind tasting … “jaunt savant” … “need a nipple for that?” … “jaunt with Jiz” …

Until next…

 

– Curt