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 232013

Liquorature Gathering #015 – “Wizard’s First Rule” (Terry Goodkind)

Date:  April, 2010

Host:  Scott

Whisky:  Cragganmore 12 y.o., Scapa 16 y.o., Dalwhinnie 15 y.o.

Rum:  El Dorado Demerara Distillers Single Barrel 10 y.o., Santa Teresa 1796 (encore presentation)


So…our first foray into fantasy was a rousing success.  Both in terms of reception to the title in question, and for hatching a lively discussion.  Well picked, Scotty.  The evening was a blast.  Festivities were underway sometime around 8:00.  With a couple of stragglers a little later than our 7:30 curtain call, a few of us were chomping at the bit to crack open a bottle.  Scott’s selection of malts took us from Speyside, through the Highlands to the Islands.  A fine range, and much to Robert’s delight, I’m sure…no peat monsters lurking.  It was a gorgeous eve in which a few of us strolled the distance to/from Scott’s place, so some lighter bevvies were an ideal decision.  The rum?  Hey…what can I say…never made it that far.  Lance will sate your curiosity with a review in the near future, I imagine.

This month’s gathering saw our first guest.  An old friend of mine, Chris, joined us for the eve.  I ran into Chris a couple months back, after not having seen him in a while, and while catching up told him of our little collective.  He said he had been trying to form or find something like this, but that most of friends were…Neanderthals (I believe was his term).  I told him I would see what we could do about having him sit in for a session.

I am always impressed when someone can walk into a room filled mostly with strangers and fit in comfortably with no noticeable lags in conversation or awkwardness.  Such was the case this evening.  While he interjected thoughts and insight throughout the discussion, I also noticed Chris having many side-conversations with the Liquorature folk.  There’s a sort of pressure involved with being the guy to bring a guest, but the pressure was eased early, as Chris fit in well.  Thanks to the crew for making him welcome.  You are truly all gentlemen and scholars.  I should also note…a fear I’ve had (and shared with Robert at least) regarding having more than our seven-man crew appears unfounded.  My concern lay mainly in whether we’d all be able to speak with so many in the room.  Tonight proved otherwise, and I believe is a testament to the level of respect we all show one another.

Scott’s book was quite well received.  Though I am a newb to the world of fantasy, most of the others definitely are not.  It was enlightening to see their take.  High marks from most, and at the very least there was a healthy level of appreciation, if not outright favoring opinion.  The criticisms raised were poignant, and comparisons against some of the benchmarks in fantasy lit were informative.  The aspects of the book which garnered the most appreciation from us actually seemed to be the parts that most deviated furthest from tradition.  A few of us have since picked up, or continued reading on in the series.  Sigh…only eleven more books or something.

The night was rounded off with some chatter about other books, other beverages, travel, history of video games and…what Liquorature night would be complete without those torturous forays into discussions of Star Trek and old school Wrestling?  The boys love to rag on me for my absolute revulsion of all things related to either.

As always, a ridiculous dose of humor, mockery and sarcasm were prevalent.  Clint’s reaction to Bauer’s ‘Hot For Teacher’ comment will go down in the annals.


Chris’s inclusion and subsequent natural fit…Clint’s whisky shower…someone finally mentioning Salman Rushdie without Lance bursting into flames…Bauer’s new ridiculous hat…discussions of how sexy Mr. Goodkind is…listening to the frogs in the pond (I used to live in Scott’s place…and miss those sounds at night)…and a great conversation.

Thanks, Scotty.

One last thing…

I see the dynamic of the group changing slightly.  For the better.  Those that were a little reserved initially, now speak up much more.  We’re also building up a decent ‘back-library’ of reference points for our discussions.  I like how this is developing.

Until next time…slainte!

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Ginger BuddhaThe Group minus Ruminsky, who was too busy taking the shot to pose :-(

– Curt