Jul 032015
 

Liquorature #070 – “‘Salem’s Lot” (Stephen King)Salem's Lot

Date:  April 3rd, 2015

Host:  Bauer

Whisky:  Ardbeg Supernova 2014, Bowmore 15 y.o. Cask #800040 (Wilson & Morgan), Glen Moray 24 y.o. Cask #1350 (Duncan Taylor)

 

Atta boy, Bauer.  Bringing a little bit of grit back into the club with some ’70s styled horror.  Nasty verminous, dirty vampires.  The way vampires were intended to be.  I make no bones about the fact that this is one of my favorite books of all time.  That comes back to much more than just the story itself.  There are some beautiful examples of small town imagery here that resonate like harmonics played on an old dinged up Guild.  Images of creeping sunsets, autumnal eves in porch swings and sleepy, unsettling townie life.  I’ve experienced this.  Takes me back many, many years, but once you’ve lived this way it simply never leaves you.  Now tack on the dark and despairing sense of dread that hovers suffocatingly over this book and you have an absolute recipe for one of the all time great timeless chillers.  I came into this one absolutely certain that everyone would have similar feelings.  And if they didn’t…well…by the end of the night they would.

Errr…maybe not so much.  Seems this one was generally enjoyed by all, but only one or two felt even close to as taken in by this one as I did.  Not sure whether that speaks more to their tastes or mine.  Hmmm.  Irrespective, there was an appreciation for setting, dialogue and King’s mastery of the craft.  The impact of dread may not have hit everyone, but the writing itself was not the focus of critique.  Interestingly enough, there were a few in our crew who admitting to being more drawn to Anne Rice’s preternatural homoerotic gothic stylings than the vampire-as-vermin approach.  I don’t mind Anne Rice (in fact, I rather enjoy her writing), but my undead don’t wear velvet.  Just sayin’.

With some serious life changes on the way, Bauer shared some incredible news with the gang this eve.  Let’s just say it means more sleepless nights, someone new in the house to share his love of toys and rhymes with ‘maybe’.  Congrats, buddy.  You’ll be an amazing dad.  Can’t wait to be a part of this.  Additionally, this will have been our last Liquorature gathering at this pad, as a new home was just over the horizon.  Married in January…baby on the way…new home.  Big year.  Love to see my mates doing well.

All in all, a great night full of good whisky (especially that Supernova!) and even better company.  Now…back to the grave.

Random Notes:  “we needed a couple more ‘oy vey’s’ … ‘a sneeze in this proximity wins all the food’ … ‘atta boy, blue!’ … the announcement … Chris’s impromptu neutering courtesy of Captain Awesome.

Until next…

 – 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 #024 – “Another Roadside Attraction” (Tom Robbins)

Date:  January, 2011

Host – Curt

Whisky:  Ardbeg Blasda, Ardbeg Ten, Corryvreckan, Ardbeg Uigeadail, Ardbeg SN2010, Kilchoman Spring 2010, Kilchoman Summer 2010, Port Charlotte PC6, Port Charlotte PC7, Port Charlotte PC8

Rum:  Robert Watson’s Demerara Rum, The Kraken, English Harbour 5 y.o.

 

This had to be a big night.  It was the eve of our second anniversary.  Hard to believe this little collective has existed for two years already.  Though there have been a few changes since the inception, for most part things are cruising along as we put in place so many months back.

This gathering was at my place.  The pressure was double.  First…I’ve kinda felt like each time I’ve hosted, it hasn’t quite lived up to my expectations, and second…it had to be big and memorable to mark the milestone.  Months in the planning led to a hell of a soiree, I think.  Many facets came together to deliver a night that ranks up with my favorites, and I can finally rest a little easier knowing that it came off much as I had hoped.

First things first…I wanted a book that would wreak havoc on everyone’s preconceptions of what was possible in a novel.  A few authors came to mind (Vonnegut, Rushdie, Robbins, etc).  In the end, I elected to go with one I had actually considered as my first Liquorature selection last year:  Tom Robbins’ “Another Roadside Attraction”.  This one was bound to push some buttons.  Firstly, it would offend the purists (ahem…less artistically bent) in any ‘black and white’ take on narrative and structure or ‘A is A’ writing.  Secondly, it would finally target that hot button topic we’d barely scratched to date…religion.  And finally, it would divide the counter-culturalists among us from the more conservative.

Next consideration was beverages.  This had been something I had been working on since my trip to Islay at the end of September.  I found a rum there that simply shattered any ideas I had for presenting anything different.  More on this little gem momentarily.  With the whiskies I would choose to present, I wanted to do a more formal tasting.  I wavered between a couple of selections as I was buying bottles over the course of months.  This kind of bit me as I simply couldn’t decide between ideas so instead just went all in.  I made it an ‘Islay night’…enormous smoke and peat.  We worked our way through 5 expressions of Ardbeg, 3 Port Charlottes and 2 Kilchomans.  Yep…ten drams on offer.  Most at hefty 46% or higher.  Several in the 60% range.

Of course, all of this enormous peaty posturing was somewhat lost on the rummie, so for rums…a reappearance of the Kraken (which Surujbally mentioned needing to revisit) and one of the collective’s favorites…English Harbor 5 year old.

Finally…back to that first rum.  While wandering a shop on Islay last year I passed a bottle marked Watson’s Demerara Rum (cool, I thought…being as that is Robert’s last name).  Something made me stop however, and I simply couldn’t believe it when I took a closer look.  In smaller letters above the ‘Watson’s’ it actually said ‘Robert’.  This was a real ‘Robert Watson’s Demerara Rum’.  What are the odds of finding a rum with the name of one of our members on it?!  So blown away was I that I used valuable suitcase space and weight (which could have been another bottle of scotch) to mule this home from Islay.  It sat hidden for months until this event.

Needless to say, the gang was as utterly gobsmacked as I had been.  Tons of fun and lots of laughs.  And how was it?  Well…see Lance’s review.  The guys loved it.  Everyone tried it, but at the end of the night I sent it home with Robert.

With 13 bottles open, legs were a bit wobbly by the end of the night, but…it was damn good social lubricant.

In a throwback to everyone’s favorite Liquorature meal to date, I nabbed Pat’s recipe for ‘El Cid Chili’ and worked up a batch of this delicious man-meal.  Meat, jalapenos, spices and more meat.  That’s real eats.  Who needs vegetables?  Bah…filler.

On to the book…

There was some rather heated (in a good way) discussion on religion.  C’mon…about time we hit this one.  We’ve touched it briefly a couple of times (“Chrysalids”, “Atlas Shrugged”, etc), but never in a yay/nay type situation.  Rather predictably, I thought, lines were drawn in the group between the more/less conservative.  I think there was more appreciation than actual adoration from a few, but a couple loved it nevertheless.  Some…well…not so favorably opinioned.  Hey…Robbins is not for all.  We need these books that cause division among us.  Makes for a more enjoyable and lengthy discussion.  The few times all have been on board for a certain tale, we have been guilty of fellating the book for half an hour and then running out of things to say.

A final bit of fun…

I sent out a couple of pieces for the guys to give their input.  The first was a list of our books to date and a request that they rate them numerically (one to ten…in half mark increments).  Results were nifty.  It is quite eye-opening to see what resonates with some and what doesn’t.  I’ll put together a little post on the results in the coming days.  The second bit was a series of questions (‘what was your favorite character to date?’, ‘what was the best gathering to date?’, ‘biggest disappointment to date?’, etc).  Again, quite enlightening.  These results I believe I’ll keep to ourselves.  Hey…what happens at book club stays at book club.  The one detail I will share is that the biggest disappointment to date was overwhelmingly said to be the loss of Bauer.  No surprise.  (We miss you, buddy).

All in all…a good night.  I think we made some memories.

 

Randoms:

The reception to Robert Watson rum (and the fight over whether the rummie or Watson would take it home)…’hippy dippy’ book…Pat’s dad living this book…the Stoned Masons…Weasel Jesus…the thumb of Christ…Scottish karate…’with modern technology we finally got ‘er done’…spiritual Darwinism…”safe bet he pees his pants”…revealing all of the survey results…peyote-totin’ honey…the Schneider’s hot dog of rums…the department of redundancy department…the universal sadness over missing Bauer.

201_7566-1That's a lotta likker201_7591-1201_7593-1

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DSC_0064-1DSC_0065-1DSC_0073-1The three stooges
DSC_0091-1DSC_0092-1 copy41GiuM90NtL__SS500_Roadside
 
 
– 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

 
Feb 102010
 

Sigh.  Like so many things in life, the good stuff isn’t free.

The gents in the club know I have a soft spot for Ardbeg.  In fact, the “Uigeadail” is probably my personal favorite whisky right now (See review under “Beverages”).  I am slowly nearing the end of a great bottle of the “Airigh Nam Beist”, and the ten year old is brilliant as well.

Ardbeg have blitzed the market over the past couple of years (not to the extent that Bruichladdich has, but…) with a slew of bottlings including (but not limited to) “Blasda”, “Corryvrecken”, “Supernova”,  “Renaissance” and now…coming Feb 15th to select markets…”Rollercoaster”.  So, being a fan of Ardbeg’s (mostly) heavily-peated offerings, what exactly is the “Ardbeg Problem”?

Call me naive, but I always imagined the whisky industry to be one of refinement, sophistication and adhering to something of a moral compass.  Let’s face it, the SWA heavy-handedly enforces many of these whisky morals.  Where my naivete shows is in my hoping that somehow whisky prices would be governed by something a little more rigid than the law of supply and demand.

Does this go against my philosophical views on laissez-faire capitalism and uncontested freedom of production and distribution of one’s work?  Well, yeah.  Do I actually believe that pricing should be controlled?  Reluctantly…no.  Would I happily buy more if the costs were to drop?  Absolutely.

The thing is, there is a prestige that comes along with buying that $100 bottle of whisky.  When a dram is offered, we immediately get a sense of our personal value.  Would you share your great expensive whiskies with someone who wasn’t a good friend?  Of course not.  Unfortunately many times the high price tag becomes an advertisement for quality.  We all know however, that just because something has a great marketing campaign and snazzy adverts does not mean the product is all it’s cracked up to be.

Which brings us back to Ardbeg.  Is it that good?  Does the whisky live up to the hype?  Well…yes…it is and it does.  Is it worth the price tag?  Up to you, I suppose.  Cost becomes subjective as we assign value to something.  How badly we want something determines how much we would be willing to spend on it.  My advice…let your tastebuds decide…not the marketing.  Taste as much as you can before buying, and use independent reviews to make informed decisions.  Arbdeg, for example, can not keep up with production demands.  A tip I received…snatch up the ten year old and “Uigeadail” by the case.  Canada may soon find itself unable to procure one of Islay’s finest whiskies.

I remember reading a whisky forum a while back, where one of the bloggers, in complimenting a certain distillery, made a snide remark about how if the distillery were to see these positive reviews they would most certainly jack the price.  A valid concern?  Not sure.  Something for another day though.

I suppose in the meantime, boys, we should resign ourselves to ackowledging that we have an expensive vice.

Clint’s insightful little comment to me:  “Always remember, whisky is made by Scottish people for Scottish people, so there’s bound to be a way we can save a buck or two.”