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Issue 58 - Too much monkey business

Whisky Magazine Issue 58
August 2006


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Too much monkey business

Jefferson Chase on how drink can bring the animal out

Among the more telling phenomena in the universe – and an argument for humorous, if not intelligent design – is that the more highly developed an organism's brain, the greater the enthusiasm with which that creature will likely consume alcohol.

A15 per cent solution of spirit suffices to kill almost all sorts of bacteria, while dogs enjoy beer and many monkeys, if the Discovery Channel is to be believed, unwind with cocktails after a hard day's work.

This brings us to an excellent short story by the American writer Thom Jones. Here's how it starts: Dr. Koestler's baboon, George Babbitt, liked to sit near the foot of the table when the physician took his evening meal and eat a paste the doctor had made consisting of ripe bananas and Canadian Mist whiskey. Koestler was careful to give him only a little, but one scorching afternoon when the generators were down and the air-conditioners out, Koestler and Babbitt sat under the gazebo out near the baobab tree that was the ersatz town square of the Global Aid Mission and got blasted.

Now, there's nothing nicer than a drink shared between buddies, but this particular one turns ugly when Babbitt swipes Koestler's bottle and runs up a tree with it.

Jones' Way Down Deep in the Jungle, first published in the New Yorker in 1994, is a bit like MASH goes to Africa. Babbitt commits some very lewd acts before falling from his perch and waking the next morning with a raging hangover. Meanwhile, Koestler – a dissolute doctor doing hum...

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