Review: Guano & Nitrates

Rating: ★★★★☆
The Valparaiso Men’s Chorus

Genre: Traditional sea songs performed with a jazzy New Orleans flavor.
Rating: R
Target Audience: Grownups that still know how to curse, drink, and party

A few times each year, it seems, an album comes out of left field and absolutely blindsides me. Generally it’s from an outsider band (read that, not established as a pirate band), and usually they do something so novel that it makes for an absolutely unique, must-have album. The Valparaiso Men’s Chorus album Guano & Nitrates only came into my possession through the most unlikely of circumstances – I likely never would have found them on my own. And such would be the tragedy. Continue reading

Review: The Pirate Primer

Rating: ★★★★★
The Pirate Primer: Mastering the Language of Swashbucklers and Rogues
by George Choundas

Talking like a pirate is the bane of my existence. As someone generally recognized as a guy who’s “really, really into pirates”, as the host of a fairly sizeable annual Talk Like a Pirate Day Party, and as DJ of a weekly pirate-themed radio show, folks pretty much expect me to “talk the talk.” Problem is, I generally don’t.

The core element to what’s widely regarding as “pirate talk” is essentially a mix of gutteral throat scratching combined with maritime words and a shameless knack for “hamming it up.” But sadly, I’m not by nature a ham. What’s more, common pirate impersonations don’t work well on the conversational level, as everything must be an enthusiastic exclamation. This may work fine at parties or festivals, but if you need to actually convey detailed information (as pirates surely did from time to time,) then one needs to find a way to actually – not yell, not growl, not utter – but yes, TALK like a pirate. Easier said than done, in my book. Continue reading

Review: Skallywagg Pirate Hat

Rating: ★★★★☆
Captain Jack’s Pirate Hats

I’ve reviewed Captain Jack’s Pirate Hats before, and now I do so again. This may seem odd, in that most of his hats are essentially similar – all that usually changes is the shape, the color, and options regarding waterproof treatment. Being as these are matters of taste rather than quality (which is always exceptional in my experience with Jack’s Hats), it’s of little point for me to review each and every hat he makes. But there are a few styles and lines that bear particular mention, and the Skallywagg Limited Edition is one such hat.

The Skallywagg is an extra-thick hat with an extra-wide brim. Formed into a traditionalish tricorn fashion with a rolled back, it is then beat up and (yes) shot with a musket – and this makes the Scalliwagg special. Most of Captain Jack’s Pirate Hats are essentially infants – crisp and new, ready to grow, wear, and age with their new owner. Continue reading

Review: Yellowbeard

Rating: ★★★★☆
When the bulk of the Monty Python cast teams up with Cheech and Chong to create a pirate movie – and then tosses in a David Bowie cameo just for good measure – the results are sure to be anything but dull. As to whether it’s actually good, well, that’s another question. Yellowbeard straddles that difficult line between genius and awkward, and I can’t quite determine which side of that line it spends most of its time. But while I don’t know that Yellowbeard is actually a good movie, I do know that I enjoyed it, which is all the really matters.

The film follows the exploits of Yellowbeard the pirate, escaping prison after 20 years of incarceration. He is essentially the human embodiment of the Muppets’ character Animal, as he glares out from a face that’s all teeth and wild hair, and spends his time killing, raping (to which the women only seem to marginally object), and – if there’s still time – seeking his long lost treasure. To do so he begrudgingly enlists the aid of his son, who he’d conceived the night before his arrest 20 years prior, as well as the additional aid of Dr. Gilpen and Lord Percy Lambourn (played by Peter Cook, who portrays the clueless drunk with astounding genius.) They’re pursued by the British Navy and government agents (particularly a Blind Pew, a sightless spy with preternatural hearing.) Continue reading

Review: Folding Camp Stool

Rating: ★★★★★
Pirate Furniture Company

It was a warm spring eve when the first speck of daylight peaked out from behind the stormclouds what bombarded us throughfore the day. The landlocked crew was emerging from a long afternoon bunkered beneath the shelters, and most figured it was time to enjoy some grog beneath this small sliver of sunlight we was granted before nightfall. I myself was of like mind, and led the way to the makeshift bar that had been erected. But once the rum was poured, we realized the tragedy of our situation – we’d nowhere to rest ourselves. The ground was all but saturated, puddled and muddy, yet nary a chair was in view. And while pirates don’t think much of a little dirt, sitting in a pool of slimy muck is best left ta pigs and spaniards. One by one, the swabs around me resigned themselves ta standin while they drank, except for the remote few that just gave up and settled their flanks inta the muck beneath their toes. But as for me own self? I charted a different course. Continue reading

Review: Gosling’s Family Reserve

Rating: ★★★★★
Gosling’s Family Reserve

I’ve long been a fan of Gosling’s Black Seal rum. Dollar for dollar, it’s one of the finest rums around. True, it isn’t for the faint of heart – but it soundly encompasses what rum is meant to be, and is one of the most affordable rums around that can be enjoyed straight up. So when Gosling finally started making their Family Reserve Rum more readily available, I was duly excited to finally try it.

First, it’s always a delight when a rum distiller takes the time to package their product in a manner befitting a spirit of such rich history. Gosling’s Family Reserve (also called Gosling’s Old Rum) is bottled in frosted glass of an extremely dark green. Its cork is sealed in black wax, embossed with a company seal and identified with rustic labels which include individual bottle/batch numbers. The whole affair is encased in an open-faced wooden box, and is truly a sight to behold. Continue reading

Review: The Last Voyage of the Black Betty

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy the CD
Genre: Jazzy, beatnick lounge songs. About pirates.
Rating: PG-13
Target Audience: Late teens to early retirement

It may surprise you to learn, I listen to a LOT of pirate music (far more than I’ve yet reviewed, shamefully.) As such, I’m rarely truly surprised. Impressed, certainly – it’s always a treat to hear a new origninal song, or an exciting new presentation of an old song. And it’s always thrilling to learn of a new pirate-rock or pirate-shantey group picking up the torch and lending their talents to create truly original material. BUT, sometimes it feels like I’ve heard it all. Continue reading

Review: Zaya Gran Reserva

Rating: ★★★★☆
Zaya Gran Reserva Rum

Click to buy!
from Internet Wines and Spirits

Never has a rum looked more dignified. The bottle is tall and elegently marked with its black and gold label. The neck is tightly wrapped in palm, which contrasts beautifully with the rich mahogany, 12 year aged, pure sugarcane rum within. The bottle itself is extra thick, and the additional heft this creates only further lends the impression that this is a rum worthy of note.

Upon removing the cork, the rum itself smells heavy and sweet, and tastes the same. It’s full of contradiction, weighty and aloof, yet surprisingly forward. It’s kind of like meeting a dusky tribal queen dressed from head to toe in rich silks and golden feathers, and when you reach out to politely kiss her hand she instead sits on your lap and liplocks you in front of your bewildered crew. Yeah – something like that. Continue reading

Review: Jack Tar Superior

Rating: ★★★★☆
Jack Tar Superior

Rum is made with molasses. As such, molasses is a common factor in the very nature of the rum flavor. Sure, there are often other subtle facets – fruits, spices, leather, etc. But molasses is so much a part of rum that many folks don’t seem to differentiate one from the other. But sometimes a dark rum comes along that transcends – and escapes – the molasses and becomes wholly and truly rum.

Jack Tar smells cool and heavy – and shamelessly of rum, plain and true. It’s not brown sugar, it’s not molasses – it’s rum. And just a bit peppery. It has a hint of undefined sweetness – not fruit or sugar, just sweetly rum (there’s that word again.) To the taste, Jack Tar is a whole-mouth experience. Where some rums seem to settle on one part of the tongue or another, Jack Tar envelopes and conquers it all, spreading instant warmth and spice throughout. It’s surpisingly smooth, but is followed with a wonderfully satisfying bite after you swallow, leaving the roof of your mouth all happy and tingly. Subsequent sips build on the first, leading to an increasingly warm and deep experience. Continue reading

Review: Santa Teresa 1796

Rating: ★★★★☆
Santa Teresa 1796

Santa Teresa 1796 is a truly glorious rum out of Venezuela. Some rums require time to get to know them, but Santa Teresa was love at first site. When first I saw it, the dignified wine-like bottle hidden beneath a rugged cardboard tube, complete with ribbon and wax seal, I expected I was in for a treat. And upon uncorking the bottle and taking a sniff of the amber rum inside, my expectations were instantly confirmed. To the nose, Santa Teresa is cool and spicy – and ultra, ultra smooth. It carries an extraordinarily soft aroma of oak, with underlying subtleties of banana and vanilla.

On the tongue, Santa Teresa is surprisingly unimposing, tasting richly of what I can only call “almost-fruit.” As it warms in the mouth it seems to thicken and cool. And yet when swallowed, it leaves behind a wonderfully penetrating heat along the roof of the mouth.

Incredibly gentle yet maddeningly seductive, this is a rum well worth experiencing.