Over the course of several months, my mongrel house blend has evolved several times.  The mix began as a solution of 75% Forty Creek and 25% Cortel XO. On reflection, this was not a particularly satisfying blend. Well, that’s to be expected in a routing of learning the language of the spirit. Following the initial blend, I re-mixed to create something that was effectively 55% Forty Creek,  25% Cortel XO and 20% Borysfen. The “1.1” version of the blend was much more smooth and satisfying.  The Borysfen smoothed the mix.

With only 125ml of this second mix left, I’ve added

  • 200 ml of Forty Creek’s Small Cask VSOP (Ontario)
  • 75 ml of Dujardin VSOP (Germany/France)
  • 50 ml of Borysfen VSOP (Ukraine)

The mix at this stage is 59.73% Forty Creek VSOP, 6.94% Cortel XO, 16.67% Borysfen VSOP and 16.67% Dujardin VSOP.  The lowering of the proportion of the Cortel and Borysfen made a significant difference to the smoothness; the 1.1 was noticeably superior to the 1.2.

Given my mongrel blend’s loyalty to the Ontario-made product (Forty Creek), how can I not return with enthusiasm to an Ontario-based poet from time to time.  Today I’m going to focus on John B. Lee’s Hired Hands.  The collection dates to 1986, though my copy appears to have been printed in 1992.  According to Brick Books,

John B. Lee’s prodigious output began with his first publication Poems Only a Dog Could Love in 1976 and now has well over 50 books. Prize Winner for Winston Collins/Descant Prize for the Best Canadian Poem, John B. Lee lives in Port Dover, Ontario, Canada where he works as a full time author.

He is the Poet Laureate of Brantford & Norfolk County. He is also an Honourary Life Member of The Canadian Poetry Association.

His work has appeared internationally in over 500 publications, and has been translated into French, Spanish, Korean, Hungarian and Chinese. He has read his work in nations all over the world including South Africa, France, Korea, Cuba, Canada and the United States.

I like that Lee resides in Port Dover – a town which has hosted a biker-oriented Friday 13th rally every Friday 13th since 1981 and which is a circuitous mid-way point to Grimsby (the home of the makers of Forty Creek) were I ever to decide to make the pilgrimage (er, trip).

I don’t know if Hired Hands is Lee’s best work.  Given that he has managed to produce more than 50 books, I’m guessing not.  But I don’t know.  I’ll describe the collection as a Canadian rendition of a Steinbeck novel – in poetry form.  The protagonist of the collection calls to mind the itinerant workers to be found in Of Mice and Men, Tortilla Flat or even Cannery Row.  I am a tremendous fan of Steinbeck and my comparison is far from being a dismissal.

This collection is an extended examination and remembrance of a fellow human being.  It is also a portrait of the human being as poetry.  Not everything in this book will be memorable to me but these lines will certainly stay with me:

When Tom died

his face did

a jagged thing I’d never seen 

it do before

jutting out of the coffin satin

like a rude cut stone

The current mongrel blend ( AHB 1.2) is not as balanced and smooth as I would like.  There is not enough sweetness.  It is an edgy, smoky blend with a lot of dried fruit.  The younger brandies have far too much dominance.  I find myself wishing for higher proportions of Borysfen and Cortel.  But truly recalling to mind the terrific E&J Gallo XO.

While contemplating this further, consider another dose of John B. Lee’s poetry from Hired Hands:

I’m dancing

with pitchfork logic

in my face.

Tom’s mad

as ice on a roof

because his dog was hit by a car

and I’m to blame

and though

I wasn’t around

that’s why.

With this, I will close my season of exploration of burned wines.  I thoroughly enjoyed exploring the flavours.  But winter is over and brandy is, at least to me, a winter’s companion.  I intend to return to brandy in the fall and a second iteration of my AHB may follow then as well.  As with writing, I frequently feel a need to set aside what I have learned – a process of rest to allow the deeper parts of my mind to process and inform what I have experienced.  Now, we are well into spring and my mind turns to other things.