March 04, 2006

Vodka Review: Ketel One

This fine vodka has been made in Schiedam, Holland, by the same patriarchal family since 1691 - & they have no intention of letting their drinkers forget this. The list of names on the bottle outstrips Jim Beam in its antiquity & knee-splitting hilarity: Joannes Nolet, Jacobus Nolet, Joannes Nolet, Joannes Nolet, Jacobus Nolet, Joannes Nolet, Jacobus Nolet, Joannes Nolet, Paulus Nolet (a controversial decision), & Carolus Nolet, who has run the family vodka business since 1941, although he is severely inbred & suffers from the down syndrome. James & I often wondered why Jim Beam is named Jim Beam, when James B. Beam does not appear in the chronicles until third or fourth. Did Jacob Beam name the company after his grandson? as William Van Duzer Lawrence named Sarah Lawrence College after his daughter, & Leland Stanford named his university after his son, who also happened to be named after him. Who would name a whiskey after their grandson ? or visa versa? James, of course, is the English New Testament version of Jacob. I believe that when the Vulgate Bible was written in Latin, the New Testament was translated from the Greek & the Old from the Hebrew, so the earliest English versions of the names were already long different by the time of the earliest English translations of Tyndale & Wyckliffe (Jesus is the NT version of Joshua.) Jacobus, I presume, is the Dutch Jacob. Does it make a difference in the quality of spirit, if control is carefully kept within a family with a Biblical genealogy, with as it appears Old Testament & New Testament eras. The makers of Ketel One proudly assure us that every batch is still tasted my a member of that illustrious dynasty - as if sensory memory stays in the family in the same way sins do. I recently had the pleasure of seeing the corporate tasting room for Budweiser in St. Louis, Missouri, where my older brother occasionally sits on the panel. There, also, the direct descendants of Eberhard Anheuser & Adolphus Busch, mostly named Augustus (when in Rome...), still perform the crucial quality assurances. (Eberhard gave Adolphus his brewery & daughter, & spent the rest of his life sober & alone on a small island in the Pacific.)

My drinking companions for this tasting of Dutch Vodka were Mr Darren Southworth (a material physicist currently studying at Cornell) & Miss P_____ K__________ (a Russian violinist at the Cleveland Institute). ‘P(olina)’, of course, like Paulus, is another derivative of St. Paul, the inventor as it were of the religion Christianity - Paul being the Greek & Roman version the Jewish Saul, when the literate apostle was converting the gentiles. Mr Southworth & Miss K__________ both ranked the vodka as being very fine, & many excellent jokes & anecdotes were exchanged, as much as one can wish from a $21 bottle of booze, & well worth the price of today's headache & fatigue. P______ told us that if one drinks only vodka, one neither gets drunk nor hungover, which turned out to be a fatulent Russian lie. I inquired the Russian present about a joke sent me from Jennie Richardson, whom I asked to send me Russian jokes while she was there. I quote it directly from the e-mail, dated Monday, 24 October, 2005:

There's a monkey who goes to the store every day and buys a bottle of vodka and three yogurts. Every day the same woman sells the things to him. Then one day she says, "I just have one question: I understand why you want the vodka, by what's with the yogurt?" The monkey says he'll show why. He opens the vodka and takes a swig, then opens the yogurt and pours it on his head, yelling "I'm drunk, I'm drunk, I'm drunk!" So maybe it's not funny, but in context anything has a great potential. This young Russian, who is the host of Tim from my group, told this joke in his best and not so great English. Emily and I couldn't stop lauging. The next day, Tim told it in his not-so-great and best Russian in class to our professor.

Miss K__________ assured me that most Russian jokes are funny, & we discussed how comedy is different in different cultures. Since learning it, I have told this joke dozens of times in America, & have yet to receive more than a polite chuckle. Sometimes people respond angrily to a joke they do not get, which could be the psychological root of xenophobia. General Jack D. Ripper, in Dr. Strangelove; Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Love the Bomb, is paranoid about the communist conspiracy to flouridate his precious bodily fluids. Purity of Essence. He points out that Russians drink only vodka, which is why he only drinks rain water & grain alcohol. Would the Russians get this joke? Or is the root of humor somehow linked to xenophobia, as Jennie's joke was only funny when a Russian told it in fractured English or an American told it in fractured Russian?

I had also asked Miss Richardson while she was there to find out what ‘James’ was in Russian, because while James was there, they just pronounced ‘Djames’ badly & made dumb comments about James Bond, but I insisted there must be a James in Russian because there’s a Bible in Russian & ‘James’ is a biblical name! I charged her to find a Russian Bible, & tell me what it says it Acts 1:12, “When they entered the city, they went to the upper room where they were staying, Peter & John & James & Andrew, Philip & Thomas, Bartholomew & Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, & Judas son of James.” According to that passage, there were two apostles named James, & one second-generation, much like a family of brewers. Were any of Jesus’ disciples wine makers, or simply distributors of the blood of Christ? As Jesus himself allegedly said in the apocryphal Acts of James 3:21, “Verily I say unto thee, whosover drinketh the blood of the son of man, shall as finding water in a stone, bring forth the wine of my Father’s kingdom, & shall quench the thirst of all who seek the cup.” Note the emphasis on producing this sacred fluid. Combine it with the OT Jewish importance of Patriarchal Dynasty, & you have the jist of the theosophy of the Nolet, Busch, & Beam families. ‘James’ was the most common name for babies in America during the ’40s & ’50s, & continues to rank #17 today, but I have no idea if ‘Iakov’ remains a popular name in post-Communist Russia. (The best graph for American baby names is the Baby Names Voyager.)

At two o’clock in the morning, Mr Southworth concluded that a third of a bottle of vodka is “not enough to get anyone anywhere later,” so it was promptly finished. My compliments to the Ancient Blood of Schiedam!


MrA said...

You never know, maybe those vodka sniffing and discerning genes are cultivated in the family. In India they've got those lineages of skilled musicians, and there does seem to be something to it, even if it simply means that they are good because they were taught from a young age.
Not that discerning a good vodka should really take all that much discernment.
I do admit to being a sucker for those little poetic descriptions on the labels of expensive liquors. Anything that can add an element of awe and mystery to the consumption of hard alcohol is always welcome.

Anonymous said...

Will this appear translated to Russian automatically?
When you were drinking that vodka, with what did you chase it? One thing I learned in Russia is that the next day it all depends on what went with the vodka. For example, pickles, because of their salt, or sour cabbage salad, help one to take in the vodka... A very Russian combination... or if you're really especially brave: sardines! or salted salmon. I don't have the stomach for the fish or the vodka personally, but definitely if you are dabbling with an evening of drinking vodka... drink it with pickles!
Or, for some really funky vodka, put some horseradish in it, and drain it after three days. That will be hard core.
And about Russian jokes: I am collecting them. But frequently, they just aren't funny. I am emailing my collection to you James..

James Welsch said...

I'm excited to post more foreign jokes.
I think the way to get any older posting translated, is to click on my link, & then click on the "March 2006" history links, & then click on the post, or whatever. Or click on this:

The other translations are pretty hilarious & clunky, so I can only imagine what the Russian is like.

We chased the vodka with homemade jam on toast. The next day was pretty rough.