Sunday, June 21, 2015

Metaphors of wood and whisky

In the very first post of this blog I suggested that there were many metaphors to be had at the expense of boxes and booze, and that we would explore them all.  There may be a few in this post, so you have been warned.  All puzzles are given a name by their designer.  The names can be interesting, intellectual, playful or mysterious, suggestive of some unknown reference known only to the designer.  Most often the name has to do with the appearance or theme of the puzzle.  Sometimes, the name takes on a life of its own and becomes part of the provenance associated with the box.  The prolific puzzle box master Akio Kamei of the Karakuri Creation Group designed such a box for one of the group’s exhibitions.  Each Karakuri exhibition in recent years has a theme around which the designers create their new puzzles, and this exhibition was themed “nostalgic”.  He wanted to depict the idea of a light switch, which needed to be turned on.  Many of Kamei’s designs involve imaging real life scenarios that he has translated into a puzzle box.  In this case, the translation literally went a little off target.  The box, which is meant to be called the “electric circuit” box, based on the light switch concept, ended up being called the “Erectric Circuit” box on its official listing, certainly by accident(?).  

The "Erectric Circuit" box by Akio Kamei

You also have to understand a bit more about me to know why I found this to be particularly amusing.  When I’m not enjoying well-crafted puzzles and cocktails (or writing about them!) I sometimes have to attend to my other job, which is being a urologist.  You can say I took a professional interest in this puzzle box.  The “Erectric” Circuit box is another beautifully made design by Kamei, and you really can turn the light on.  What you can’t tell from the pictures, which would give away the secret mechanism, but which makes this box live up to its accidental name even more perfectly, is that when you turn it on, the box literally rises to the occasion.  I couldn’t make this stuff up.

How do you turn it on?

It wasn’t hard to decide how to complement this puzzle.  I was certainly up for the challenge. To celebrate this electrifying box I have paired it with “a good stiff drink”, the Yamazaki Distillers Reserve.  Japanese whisky has been around for almost 100 years, and the Yamazaki distillery was Japan’s first, founded in 1923.  Taking ages old classic scotch making techniques and giving them their own eloquent styles, Yamazaki created a world class whisky expression which has to be tasted to be believed.  I had the fortune to do just that a few years ago, when an acquaintance suggested I had to try it.  It was so good (I tried it a few times just to be sure) I resolved to pick up a bottle of my own.  Fast forward to the present, when I wandered into my local spirit shop with the intent of finally making good on that resolution, only to be laughed at by the proprietors.  Unbeknownst to me, one of the Yamazaki whiskies (the 20 year sherry cask) had recently been named “best whisky in the world of 2015” in Jim Murray’s whisky bible, and subsequently all Yamazaki and every other Japanese whisky for that matter quickly became impossible to find anywhere.  They hadn’t had any new shipments in months.  Neither had any other store in the entire city.

The Yamakazi Distiller's Reserve

What was I to do?  I did what most victims of the new whisky craze do and gave up hope of ever buying a bottle of the stuff.  Filed it away right next to Pappy.  I had other concerns anyway, I was leaving soon on a business trip to a tiny seaside resort town in the Netherlands called Noordwijk.  A few days later I was wandering about this tiny town, fighting off the jet lag, and discovered the town’s own tiny spirits shop.  And I don’t make a habit of finding every spirit shop wherever I go, just trust me this one magically appeared, with a bottle of Yamazaki waiting on the shelf inside. The Distillers Reserve is an elegant blend of different caskings from the distillery, including whisky aged in French Bordeaux casks, Japanese Mizunara casks, and the famous 20 year Sherry casks.  And it’s amazing, full of fruit, oak and spice.  There might still be a bottle left in Noordwijk, but I’d hurry if I were you.  Just like the saying goes, a good whisky is hard to find.  Or was it a hard puzzle is good to find?  Anyway this story, about whisky and wood, has a happy ending after all.

Happy Father's Day!

Happy Father's Day everyone!

For more on Akio Kamei:

For more on the Yamazaki:


  1. Incredible that you found a bottle just where you happened to go in Europe! I suspect that this bottle cost considerably more than the hideously expensive puzzle boxes that you buy!

    Unfortunately (or luckily) I cannot drink whisky any more after an "incident" with a bottle of whisky when I was a medical student. Let's just say it was full at the beginning and empty at the end and it's a very easy puke!!!


  2. It was fate, Kevin. And the puzzle boxes are not hideously expensive. They are incredibly reasonable. And Mrs B+B reads this blog. Just sayin.

  3. Being a loyal Jamieson's fan, and because your potion is so inaccessible, I will buy the box and the most suitable love potion substitute. I am sure Pappy and the Urologist will thank me later.