Monday, August 31, 2009

The Bourbon Road

I thought I wanted some Canadian whisky for Saturday kickoff. I can get a fifth of Black Velvet 8 year old for about 10 dollars. Try getting an 8 year old Scottish whisky for that price. Good luck. Or Irish or Bourbon. The Canadian whiskies I've tried have been smooth, but not much flavor. Would 4 more years in the barrel make it more flavorful?

Maybe I'll have bourbon instead. I can't say I recall the last time I drank bourbon. Maybe in Kentucky? I wasn't sipping it on ice or anything, to be sure. I think I took a slug of Maker's Mark straight from the bottle and thought it was pretty good for straight from the bottle. I know I had Jim Beam with my uncles and thought it was meh mixing whiskey, but way to expensive for what it is. I'd rather have Old Overholt for almost half the price.

So I've been reading reviews on the internet, trying to find a good cheap bourbon. Emphasis on the cheap. My options are:

Rebel Yell
Old Grand-dad
Ezra Brooks
Old Crow
Ancient Age
Ten High
Old Fitzgerald
Evan Williams
Early Times

Here's my problem: In the aggregate, every review reads the same. Caramel sweetness, vanilla and toffee notes, some oaky woodyness, finishing with some mild spicyness and an overall citrus flavor in the oily mouthcoating. Seriously, some amalgamation of that is in every review for every one of these brands.

Here's my other problem: take any of those brands and put it into google with "worst bourbon", and they all will show up with someone saying it is fit only for cleaning their battery contacts. Now put it into google with "best value bourbon" and someone will be singing its praises, fit for kings.

I almost went with Evan Williams based solely on one review:

100 proof. Bottled in bond. Directly from the bottle it is initially hot. It tears a path up the sides and back of your throat and makes you salivate from the jaws slightly before blooming large in your upper chest. Behind is scorched sugar and some terrible feeling of apprehension and flashes of a girl with cigarette breath and a small black lace bra in the back seat of a primered Plymouth with an exhaust leak. I like it.

I suddenly saw myself driving a black Plymouth Barracuda through the desert, an eight ball for a clutch, a bottle of Evan Williams in my hand, and Betty Page riding shotgun while listening to Danzig's 13 over and over and over...

Yeah, maybe I'm starting to lose it.

Story time; I once bought a bottle of Fundador because Hemingway mentioned it repeatedly in The Sun Also Rises. It was not smooth. It had that strong smell of rubbing alcohol and the taste had hints of kerosene. Worst of all it was about 22 dollars. For around 10 I can get Stock 84 and it is smooth with no hints of disinfectant. But I digress. I like my whiskeys sweet rather than dry. If I can get those vanilla and caramel notes they always talk about in a smooth whiskey for less than 15 dollars I will be a happy man.

I think I might compromise and get that Black Velvet because I'm sure it will be at least smooth if nothing else, and roll the dice on a random bottle of bourbon. All told I'll get two bottles of whiskey, and maybe even two good ones, for about 24 dollars.

Wish me luck!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

From my childhood 4: crazy lamps

My grandparents had two crazy lamps in their living room. It is hard to describe them to people. There was a top and a bottom part, connected by little pillars. There was a light on the top which illuminated the bottom portion, which had a greco-roman statue of a partially nude woman. When you turned the lamp on (which they never did), little beads of oil were pumped down little wired strands to give the illusion of rain. I had never seen anything like it since, until the other day.


Click through to embiggen.

This is basically my grandparents lamp exactly. My question is, what the fuck? My grandparent's lamp was sold at the estate sale many years ago. If it was still in our family's possession, it probably would have gone down like this:

Here's my Grandma Fern's rain lamp. If you've never seen one of these before, mineral oil runs down the fishing wire to make it look like the statue is surrounded by rain. My theory is that in 1970, all future grandmothers were issued one of these lamps.

One of the lady's breasts and her buttocks are exposed. Needless to say, I found this very fascinating as a young boy.

Grandma Fern gave it to me while I was in college. Many a wacked-out visitor spent hours staring at the droplets running down the wires. They were usually pretty scared by it, as the lady has no pupils and it gives her eyes an evil-zombie sorta look.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Stay on target

If you are like me and looking for an inexpensive TV tray to dress up your balcony, there is good news. I found success at Target. Previously they had some of the taller ones for 40 dollars. But as luck would have it their inventory changed - or maybe it was because I was at a different location - and they have TV trays for 9 dollars. Your choices are natural wood finish or black. I chose black. They are the right height for my lawn chairs, and most importantly the right price.


Smokers are welcome to sit outside. All that is missing now is a good drink, which I am working on procuring.

Friday, August 28, 2009


Today I notice that the price of Irish whiskey has moved a bit. Jameson moved up from 20 dollars a fifth to 22. Bushmills white label moved from the same spot to 23. Kilbeggan held the same spot at 20, and Irish manor is still holding the title of best value whiskey at 16. That is all.

While the world works


That's right baby, I drive the wiener. You wanna go for a ride?

Preparations for the harvest

Winter is a dreamy time of long nights, warm pajamas, coats, Christmas lights, and merriment during the cold and gloom. It is all too easy to have this dreamy time become a dreary time of grey days, freezing nights, aweful driving, and the feeling of being a shut in. In order to avoid that situation, I have a few recipes that might help you during those long winter nights to come. The autumn harvest might be a good time to experiment and dig in.

First is the classic Irish jug of punch. I have tried this, but only with room temperature water; not yet have I tried hot water. Never the less it is a favorite of mine and it was a traditional way of drinking whiskey in Ireland. I would be disappointed if they've stopped drinking punch in Ireland. I digress, experiment with brands to find the flavor that suits you best.

In a glass jug mix:
Some Irish whiskey
Hot water
A pinch of sugar
A dash of cloves
Zest of lemon

If you are needing some caffiene, Irish coffee is loved the world over. If you are like me and dislike coffee, here is a new twist: whiskey and tea

As I said before, pilsner and hot pretzels is another treat. I try to avoid iced drinks in the winter and have hot drinks instead. Hot pretzels and cold beer is a fair compromise.

If you must drink something chilly, I do miss Tetleys beer. It is a thick beer, similar to a Guinness but not as dark. In fact I am tempted to pick up some this weekend if the weather continues to sour. It warms the soul! Make sure you have a big glass; they only come in talls.

In mid autumn, nothing beats a trip to the cider mill. And one sure way to work the chill of an autumn afternoon from your bones is to heat a saucepan of fresh apple cider and add some pumpkin pie spices and some brandy. I prefer an unobtrusive, unassuming brandy. My brandy odyssey was so long ago I cannot recall what brand I preferred. Probably some California distiller around the Korbel mark. Let me know what you find. I must confess the brandy selection in this town is not robust.

Finally, a regional favorite here is to add Tom and Jerry's mix to some hot water and brandy. I am not sure what is in T and J mix; it is frozen but I believe it is egg yolks and sugar. Who knows? Some spice it with nutmeg or cinammon. Pretty simple if you just want to dash together a hot mug.

But most importantly people, sleep warm.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Mr. Booze takes a break

I haven't had a drink since Saturday. I don't plan on taking another one until Saturday, September 5th. That day, my friends, is kickoff. The long drought is almost over, and the rainy season of college football will be once again upon us. I figured it would be good to detox for a few weeks, in anticipation of another season of disappointments and heavy drinking.

Long have I gazed into the spheres, trying to divine the shape of the season. Will Cal finally have its long awaited break out season and Rose Bowl run? Will USC finally show a chink in the armor? Will Florida run the tables and show the world why Urban Meyer is the best of the best? Will Notre Dame finally return to glory? Can Bob Stoops break the "Chokelahoma" mantra?

These answer I cannot give. Clouded, the future is. It was clouded last season, and I could not foretell the answers. This year, even murkier the waters have become.

I still haven't decided what I'll drink for game day kickoff. I am thinking I'll give Canadian whisky another go, and this time maybe go crazy and spend more than ten dollars. Ian Fleming drank Tangle Ridge. Shall I give that a go?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Libraryster for the week

So Obama's reading list is newsworthy, according to the good folks at Slate? Well if that is the case, aren't you far more interested in what Mr. Booze is reading?

Ian Fleming - Thrilling Cities. The creator of James Bond gives you a tour of the world's most thrilling cities of 1959 and 1960. It is a must read. Some things are timeless, like his praise of Oriental women or why the Chicago Art Institute is the only museum to break his "no museums" rule.

Napoleon Bonaparte - Memoirs. The man who ushered in the Romantic era in Europe and changed the world order for a few years. Great man or tyrant? His own thoughts on that question as recalled during his final years at St. Helena.

J. Christopher Harold - The Age of Napoleon. This is not merely a history of the man, but as much as possible is a history of the era.

Patrick Suppes - Introduction to Logic. I is gonna be a smarty pantz one day. Dis will halp me be is a smart.

Beethoven - Piano Sonatas Vol. 1 and 5, John O'Connor piano. This is really a mixed bag for me. I suppose there are only so many ways to interpret the sonata in C# minor (moonlight they call it).

Also, I have on hold Beethoven's arrangements of folk songs from the British Isles. On hold because I could not get the damn CD storage cabinet drawers open.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Changing seasons

This summer was supposed to be a summer of wine. I imagined I would drink a steady quantity of red wine instead of the whiskey punch that got me through half of winter and spring. That was partially true. I did continue with punch, and I stopped with wine about a month or so ago. The last jug of Paisano skunked into vinegar prematurely and I haven't gotten wine since. I tried for rum, but it didn't work out that way. I thought about going Bourbon, but I didn't want to gamble. My one foray into American whiskey - Kessler - was a bust.

Now normally I don't drink beer. It has about double the calories of whiskey. It has sugar and carbs, and whiskey does not. It will make you fat. After all, they don't call it a whiskey gut do they?

However, it has been a chilly August. It is already getting cold at night. School is starting next week and the shadows are getting longer. Autumn is fast approaching, and one thing I like in chilly months is a good Pilzner and some hot soft pretzels. I have a feeling that if the weather continues to chill, I'll have to truck up to the store for some good pilzner (New Glarus Edel Pilz is a winner in my book) and a box of super pretzels.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The furniture post

Over the last two weeks I came to the realization that I need a table for my balcony. It happened when I was walking around the apartment complex and saw two ladies sitting on their balcony. They were sitting across from each other with a tv tray between them. They were jabbering away in some language I did not recognize and drinking out of mugs with a carafe between them. The younger one was smoking. It felt very cosmopolitan. I felt like I could be in France.

So what I need for my balcony is a cafe table. If I cannot get a cafe table, a tv tray will suffice. Strangely, tv trays are selling for around forty dollars these days. Madness. I don't want to spend the money for a cafe table or even a tv tray.

For a few days I scoured the student ghettos to see if a cafe table or tv tray was left at the curb. After all, it was move out week and an endless assortment of junk was left out. No luck. I have looked over Craigslist. So it looks like I will be forced to pay the long buck. Unless you have any clever suggestions?

Monday, August 17, 2009

The library is my napster

My friends and I like to muse about telling grandchildren about the Golden Age of Napster like the old curmudgeons we surely will become. One could download almost any song imaginable. Sure, there were some obscure limits. But I built up a good repertoire of Heavy Metal and Classical songs. Good times.

I haven't tried filesharing in years. I have to hand it to them, the RIAA did a great job of scaring the bejeezus out of me. So no more filesharing? What then? Well, I found the public library to be robust. Sure, it doesn't have the great Metal albums. I'll just save up and buy those. But all those great Classical albums that you've been dying to hear? The library has most of them. I'm not worried about Hayden not getting his royalty checks. And there are so many versions of Beethoven's Emperor Concerto, how is one to know which to buy? Definitely if you like Classical or Jazz, the library is the way to go. I've learned to request material from other branches and place holds. The library is my Napster.

Friday, August 14, 2009

More on the whiskey front

I discovered, through the interwebs, that there is another Cooley whiskey on the market. It isn't quite here in Cheeseland yet, though. From the distributor:

"Thank you very much for your interest in Kellan Irish Whiskey. At the moment
we only did a soft launch of the brand in certain key states - unfortunately
non-near your place of residence. May I recommend you purchase a bottle

I will give you an update as soon as it is available in stores and I've had a bottle. Cheers.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Whiskey ups and downs

First, the good news: interwebs rumor that Amrut Indian Whisky is coming to the States in October 2009. Great. Unless I don't like it, in which case it will be like that time I bought the first Carcass album Reek of Putrefaction expecting Heartwork/Necroticism style awesomeness. Boo!

The bad news: internet rumor is that Paddy's will be sold. To whom? Maybe the buyers will keep production at Midleton and fight to expand market share and bring it to America. Maybe they will roll it up or muck it up. I've never had it. Maybe it is terrible? Maybe it is awesome. I'm hoping it is the latter and that someway or somehow it comes Stateside.

Final thought: it seems a shame that I live so close to Canada (though so far compared to where I once lived - just an hour away) and yet I've barely scratched the surface of Canadian whisky. And to be fair, I've had much better experiences with our well mannered neighbors to the north than with American whiskey. Take that, Kessler's. Smooth as silk my ass.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Clubhouse times

Last night I went to a party in the clubhouse. I've been there before. Always good times. Lately I've had less compulsion to take my camera with me everywhere I go. I regret, in a small way, leaving it at home.

The afternoon light was golden. Then it turned to the blue hour. Even though it was sultry, the haze made it more picturesque.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The passage of time

Yesterday I sat on my balcony and watched a spider weave its web.


It was nice to sit and not be in a hurry to do something. I reminded me of Thoreau. I just sat and watched as the spider carefully crossed underneath the web like a monkey on a jungle gym. It hooked the thread in regular rows, though sometimes it made a mistake. It never went back and tried to fix anything, it just kept moving forward. Maybe spider silk is too sticky to pull off and reapply?