Monday, May 21, 2012

Good Stuff

There aren’t many perks available to the freelance writer. Sure, you get to hone your supplicatory skills when editors take seven months to cut your check. And, similarly, way too many publications operate under the sad and foolish notion that their offer to print your words on paper is all the payment you could possibly require. And, of course, you get to field emails from every colander-headed fuckwit with access to a Gmail account. But really good stuff, shiny stuff, is as rare as genetics majors at Liberty University.

That being said (and the whining is over for now…probably) I am, every so often, on the receiving end of manna from Booze Heaven. Since I write mostly about alcohol, you see, producers of that delicious nectar occasionally send me sample of their product in order to collect my opinion of same.

So, in case you are on the lookout for something yummy to pour into your tummies, here are some thoughts.

Whistle Pig Straight Rye Whiskey

Rye is one of my very favorite tipples. Sipped straight, over ice, with a splash of water, or as the base component for such classic cocktails as the Manhattan and the old fashioned, rye is a vital part of any well-stocked liquor cabinet. It has fallen out of vogue in the last thirty-or-so years, sadly, and is due a comeback. Thankfully, the good people at the Whistle Pig Distillery in Shoreham, VT, are on the scene to aid in that revival.

My oh my, but this is good stuff. Distilled from clean New England water, and the process overseen by master distiller Dave Pickerell (formerly of Maker’s Mark), Whistle Pig fits the bill for every one of my above-stated uses for rye whiskey. On its label you will see “100/100,” which means the goodness inside is 100% rye and 100 proof.

Enjoy it neat, or mix up a fine batch of old fashioneds. Either way, you’ll be satisfied.

Tequila Distinguido

Sometime around 1840, a fella called Don José Trinidad Contreras founded the Mexican town of Valle de Mazamitla (today known as Valle de Juárez), and immediately began distilling tequila. Because his tequila was of the highest quality, the distillery grew like wildfire water, and is still with us today, owned and managed by descendants of the Contreras family.

Available in Silver, Reposado and Añjeo (generally speaking, Good, Better and Best), Distinguido is one of the few tequilas I have ever tried that is truly sippable. Which is not to say it won’t improve a pitcher of margaritas, or add a few more rays to a tequila sunrise—it will do both, with gusto. But before you start sullying it with OJ or splashing it into a blender, first dribble a couple of fingers (of the Añjeo, naturally) into a rocks glass, find a comfy seat, and then sit back and just take it in. Swirl it, smell it, sip it. That feeling on your tongue? It’s 150 years of Mexican ingenuity and art.

Give it some props.

Innis & Gunn Irish Whiskey Cask

This delectable Scottish Stout has a flavor unlike any I have ever tasted. Aged in oak barrels that have previously been used to age a fine, triple-distilled Irish whiskey (or whisky, and shut up about it…), it lands on your palate in a decidedly non-barley-pop sort of way. It hits, in fact, if only for a moment, like a fine, triple-distilled Irish whiskey—your taste buds curl up and giggle in the same way, and your uvula dances the Lochaber Broadsword.

And if all that wasn’t enough, this limited edition beer, with its 7.9% ABV, packs a splendid alcoholic wallop. So, don’t pound it (unless, for reasons unknown, you’re after some kind of fucked-up fraternity flashback). No, just pour it off into a chilled mug, and enjoy.

Perfectly lip-smacking, and that’s a fact.

Newcastle Summer Ale

Newcastle has been one of my brews of choice for over 20 years. Until recently, they have avoided entering into the mostly tedious seasonal market, but I’m glad they did. While it’s not as exceptional as their traditional red ale, this summer version is quite tasty.

A tad lighter than the red, and slightly hoppier, the Summer Ale is perfect for backyard shindigs, or as a restorative after an afternoon’s car washing or lawn mowing. It easily surpasses most American microbrews, and treats conglomerate beers in much the same way Joe Pesci treated people in Goodfellas.

Pink Pigeon Rum  

And, at last, we come to Pink Pigeon Rum. Flying in the face of the Cuba Libre crowd, my favorite way to take rum is unblemished but for an ice cube or two. For years I’ve been a Sailor Jerry fan, but no longer, fellow drunkards, no longer.

Assembled from organic sugarcane on the hypnotic tropical island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, and flavored with a secret assemblage of spices—among them nutmeg, and vanilla from Moroccan orchids—Pink Pigeon stands above all other spiced rums, in much the same way Andre the Giant might stand over Verne Troyer.

It alights on your tongue and puts down its spicy roots, as at least five separate flavors go on a walkabout to the back of your throat, where, when you swallow, a burn sweeter than a Beiderbecke solo slaloms downward, into your stomach, and suffuses your belly with a warmth of such potent contentment it would cause Bacchus to grin in the moonlight.

But please—oh, please—don’t ruin this astonishing libation with some foul soft drink or fetid daiquiri fruit. Just decant a few ounces into a glass (I suggest crystal, as it is worthy) and introduce your senses to alcoholic ecstasy.

Last Call

And, so, there you have it, friends. A few ideas that will set fire to your next get-together, your next special event, your next Monday afternoon.

Drink well.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Canned Hunts...or...Ted Nugent is a Gigantic Asshole

Let’s talk about hunting.

First, let me say right at the outset, that I have no problem with hunting, per say. I have hunted; I have shot cousins of both Bambi and Thumper. And then I ate them. So, no, my grumble isn’t with hunting. My grumble is with the charade known as “canned” hunting. Unclear on what constitutes a “canned” hunt? Read on.

What it Is &What it Is Not

I’m willing to wager that most of you know what hunting is. You get the appropriate paperwork in order (otherwise, you’re not hunting, Cletus, you’re poaching). You oil up a weapon suitable for the task. You dress up in the best togs the Bass Pro Shop has on its racks, and that will fit on your Amex card. You schlep your weapon and other assorted shit into the Great Outdoors, and you walk around for a while, being very quiet. Then, if you are skilled and/or fortunate enough, some manner of furred creature will make its presence known to you (hopefully the type of furred creature you set out to locate, and one that is legally in season). And at that point you take aim, fire, and collect the remains.

True hunting (sometimes referred to as “fair chase” hunting) requires no little amount of time, skill, physical exertion, and luck. True hunting is respectful of the animal victims. Their deaths are accomplished as quickly and painlessly as can be arranged. Cruelty isn’t tolerated.

None of the above can be said of canned hunting.

Canned hunts require no skill, and no physical exertion or stamina. They don’t require even any luck. Here’s how they work.

You travel to Texas. (Other states offer canned hunting “excursions,” but Texas pretty much has the market cornered. There are, in fact, some 125 non-native animal species living on canned-hunting “ranches” in Texas.) You arrive at a “rustic lodge,” where you meet your “guide.” You leaf through a brochure, looking at glossy photographs of animals—sometimes ordinary animals, like deer or elk, but more often than not “exotic” animals, where “exotic” should be read as “endangered,” such as rhinos, leopards, tigers, lions, etc. You select the animal you wish to kill. You hand over your Black Amex, and sign off on charges that can, depending upon the animal you wish to kill, run upwards of $75,000. You schlep your weapon and other assorted shit out to a chauffeur-driven Hummer or Cadillac limousine, where your “guide” and his lackeys stow everything in the trunk. Your drive through the country is over in mere minutes. You roll to a gentle stop outside an enclosure. It’s a couple of hundred yards square and delineated by chain-link fencing. Two of your “guide’s” assistants scurry into the enclosure, heading for a small shed or hut. From inside the hut they drag your chosen animal. It’s wearing a muzzle if it’s a predator, and also a large leather collar, from which a thick, hefty chain dangles, leading to a stake in the ground a few yards from the hut. You climb from your air-conditioned Hummer, and a lackey passes you a gun that is loaded and ready to fire. As the beast lounges in the sun, unable to escape due to the chain and stake, you take aim and shoot. Once a lackey confirms that the animal is deceased, you trot out to its carcass and have your picture taken—you and your kill. Then you climb back into the Hummer, and are quickly delivered back to the “rustic lodge.” A few weeks later, the stuffed and mounted head of your kill arrives at your house, ready to be shown off on the wall of you rec room—proof that you are not a Middleclass Suburban Doughebag, but that you are a Hunter; proof that you are not a Buffoonish Corporate Cunt, but that you are, indeed, a Man.

The Animals

Needless to say, the victims of canned hunts are a long fucking way from wild, free-ranging animals, capable of using their evolved strength, speed and cunning to avoid a hunter’s bullets. Often times, the most time they have ever spent under the sun has been while living on a canned hunt “ranch,” eating unhealthy food and waiting around to be shot.

The animals come from numerous outlets, but most often (and most revoltingly) from zoos and circuses. When an imprisoned animal, be it an attraction at a zoo or a performer in a circus, ages, the costs of its upkeep increase accordingly. Older animals require expensive medications, specially prepared diets, and more than the usual amount of attention from veterinarians and other staff members. Now, let’s say you operate a zoo and you find yourself with a toothless old cheetah on your hands. It can’t chew its food, or, hell, even growl anymore, but you’ve spent a small fortune over the years keeping it on four paws and snapshot-ready, and humanely euthanizing it would look way too much like simply burning all that money. Thankfully, canned-hunt people are willing to pay piles of the long green to take that cheetah off your hands. Then, by golly, you can take that cash and send off to Africa for a newer, younger cheetah.

Zoos, game parks, circuses, etc., are usually undermanned and underfunded. While this is certainly the case, trotting out one’s shortcomings as an excuse for one’s greed and dumb-assery are actions that belong only the intellectually bankrupt and the truly small.

Lunatic Fringe

Ted Nugent has gone on the record vis-à-vis canned hunts. The all but talentless former rocker believes that only the “lunatic fringe” among anti-hunting activists are against canned hunting. And he must know what he’s talking about, seeing as how he is, himself, a complete fucking lunatic. Cat-Scratch Ted owns a “ranch” outside Detroit (yeah, there’s two words that belong together: Ranch and Detroit) that specializes in canned hunts. And as the spokesdummy for the activity, his bank account is almost as swollen as his head. Nugent also has several large-animal kills in the record books, all of which were obtained during canned hunts, and thus are almost as suspect as his stupid fucking mustache.

According to many media outlets, Nugent recently threatened the life of the President. A cursory examination of his comments reveal them to be no more threatening to Mr. Obama’s life that most of what passes for dinner-table conversation in homes all over the Ugly South. The best thing he said, however, has received little in the way of professional commentary. During the same interview in which he gibbered about President Obama’s “criminal” activities, he mentioned that he, Nugent, would be dead before the year is out.

Sweet shit, maybe there is a god. I mean how could any Supreme Being worth a communion wafer resist the opportunity to wax a gigantic asshole like Ted Nugent?

On the Lighter Side

As depressing and stupid as it is, there is some fun to be had with the subject of canned hunts.

First there’s this: the leading packager of canned hunts calls itself the Safari Club.

The Safari Club.

You know, trekking through Darkest Africa to bring down a trophy Oryx or wildebeest? Intrepidly braving the heat, disease and predators from the comfort of your…Range Rover? Boldly going where no man in a Brook’s Brothers suit has ever gone before? Picture texting shots of the carcass back to your family with your fucking iPhone? Settling down in your Chippendale’s camp chair after a hard day of tracking a toothless jaguar across a weedy playground and enjoying an ice-cold Mike’s Hard Lemonade?

Safari Club? Canned hunts are safaris in much the same way that lynchings are expressions of civic pride.

And who can forget Dick Cheney. Remember his canned hunt? In 2006 Vice President Evil Cocksucker visited the Armstrong Ranch outside Corpus Christi, TX (go figure), for a canned quail hunt with campaign contributors. Toward the end of the day, Heartless Fuckface took aim at a covey of the little birds and blasted away. He didn’t hit Tweety, but he did pepper 78-year-old Harry Whittington’s chest, neck and face with birdshot. The man didn’t die, fortunately, but he did spend some time in the ICU (and probably still has a really hard time with airport metal detectors). The owner of the ranch, Katharine Armstrong, summed up the situation with these pithy comments: “The nature of quail shooting ensures that this will happen. It goes with the turf.”

Um…no it doesn’t.

I’ve been hunting quail since I was old enough to hold a .410 shotgun, and I’ve never, not once, heard of such a thing happening. You know why? It’s not because me and my family are better shots than Dicklick Bugnuts. And it’s not because, as some witnesses claimed after the incident, that Whittington “crept up” on VP Nazi Pig Fucker “unannounced.” (And, what? Cheney thought he was being ambushed by Acorn?)

It happened because it was a canned hunt. The birds’ wings had been clipped, and they couldn’t fly more than 10 or 12 feet above the ground, instead of their normal 30 to 40 feet. Yes, Virginia, there is a direct correlation between the relative heights of one’s target, one’s companions, and the spray of one’s shotgun.

I mean, fuck…


OK. The canned hunt.

It isn’t hunting. It’s a way for a select group of fuckwits, who already have way too many ways of crapping up the world at their disposal, to continue crapping it up.

Fuck ‘em. They are superfluous to contemporary society.