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.

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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 #011 – “The Time Traveler’s Wife” (Audrey Niffenegger)

Date:  December, 2009

Host:  Clint/Jamie (Mixed Night)

Whisky:  n/a

Rum:  n/a

 

Some of our significant others (and friends thereof) have a ladies book club.  Robert tossed out the suggestion a while back of doing a book swap with them.  Our favorite for their favorite.  When all rankings were submitted and weighted accordingly, “Perfume” won out as the guys’ highest ranked book.  Should note that the book had to be from our first cycle (ie. everyone’s first time picking a book).  The ladies selected “The Time Traveler’s Wife” for us.  Though many of us approached with trepidition, it was actually not a bad read.  Our meeting was a mix of the guys’ and gals’ clubs, and totalled eleven of us, I believe.  Discussion was divided into two sessions, tackling each book at a turn.  Each session ranged from an hour to an hour and a half.  Good conversation…fun night.  Clint and Jamie were great hosts.  As this was just before Christmas, there was a humorous gift exchange (spoon, Robert?), quizzes, and good food.  We opted for a “bring your own” approach for this one in terms of bevvies.  I broke open a great bottle of Ardbeg Uigeadail for the occasion.  Fantastic whisky.  To be honest, there was some concern about how we would manage this whole set-up, but it went over very well.  Maybe an annual Christmas tradition now?

 

– 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.”