Charbay 12, LAWS Edition 1

This is another whiskey distilled from beer and another sample from Sku, who we learned so much about a couple of days ago. This is a rather sober label, and doubtless represents Sku in the grip of his super-ego. But enough nonsense.

I’ve reviewed another Charbay distilled from hoppy bottle-ready beer before, and while I thought that was an interesting diversion this one is a completely different beast. While that R5 was very young (probably less than 2 years old, quoth Sku) this one is 12 years old. And it wasn’t a regular release; it was bottled for the Los Angeles Whiskey Society (Sku is a member, which says a lot about them, I think).

This has received a lot of rave reviews (from Serge, for example) and Sku says it may be his very favourite whiskey. Me, I’m only hoping that it won’t be as bad as the Whipnose.

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This sample of Whipnose, a hopped whiskey from some outfit called the Seven Stills of SF, seems to represent a new low, or high, depending on your point of view, in Sku’s career as a perpetrator of avant garde sample bottle labels. As you can see this one doesn’t even have a label; instead, Brakhage-style, Sku has written the name directly on the bottle. And he has chosen a colour that is all but impossible to read and has written the name vertically down the bottle in a free, almost baroque script. I put it to you, however, that this in fact is a complex text, worthy of analysis in and of itself.

Any semiotician worth her salt probably has a sense of what is going on here but at the risk of redundancy let me offer a reading: the near-illegibility of the text disappearing into the gold of the whiskey in the bottle is an allegory of the relationship between this whiskey and the double hopped IPA it was distilled from—Sku wants us to remember that behind this text (the whiskey) is the trace of another author (the brewer) and also the fragility of the signature, the imprimatur, if you will (and I think you will) of the creator of a small-scale artefact in a late-capitalist economy normally flush with mass-produced goods. This, I think, also explains the use of free-hand in place of the usual printed label (notice the tension between the hard, straight lines of the “w” and the sprawl of the “e” which reaches out to the horizon, evoking as well the symbol for infinity). Continue reading