The wine pundit’s job is a varied one. This evening I’m launching the detective murder mystery A Carrion Death at Exclusive Books in Hyde Park. Here is a new use for brandy:
When Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip (above) asked me to launch A Carrion Death (Headline, 2008), I thought how do you launch a book? A boat is easy: smash a bottle of Champagne against the stern and push it down the slipway. Although in the case of the Titanic, this was not done.
The White Star Line hosted a lunch in Belfast of oysters with dulse (edible seaweed) followed by Lough Neagh eels with champ (potatoes mashed with milk and chopped spring onion) and although a fair amount of fizz was drunk (along with a few cases of Bushmills whiskey), we know the ship came off second best to a giant ice cube.
So launching a book is a task not to be taken lightly, as I’m sure Eugene Ashton and the accountants at Jonathan Ball will appreciate. Smashing a bottle of Champagne on a copy seems a bit of a waste. It will scare the security guards and also wet the pages, make the ink run and the book difficult to read. So I decided to read the thing in search of some inspiration.
Well, without giving the game away, A Carrion Death is about diamonds. There are the ones mined by the Botswana Cattle and Mining Company at the Maboane diamond mine in the Kalahari and others smuggled in from Angola. Then there’s the terrific character of detective Kubu, who unravels the plot which has more kinks than a koeksuster.
He’s what the marketing department would call a Black Diamond: a black person who aspires to the same heady lifestyle that has raised crystallized carbon to the acme of aspiration. He sings opera to himself in the car, enjoys good food and wine and when he needs to ponder the twists in the diabolical plot, he does so over a snifter of brandy.
Which brings us to the third sort of diamond and a solution to the problem of how to launch a book. Demant is a new premium brandy from Oude Meester. Come to think of it, Oude Meester is a most appropriate distiller as Michael and Stan are old masters, retired university professors both. Demant is a first order approximation to the Afrikaans diamant and since the Botswana Cattle and Mining Company was founded by a Hofmeyr, on behalf of the mythical family I’d like to propose a toast. So please raise your glasses and drink to the health of detective Kubu: may he live to solve many more cases.