Literature and Liquor: ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ and Johnnie Walker Blue Label Scotch

Although ”For Whom the Bells Tolls” is recognized as one of the greatest war novels of all time, Hemingway’s fifth book encompasses much more than bloody violence in the trenches. Set in the 1930s, “For Whom the Bells Tolls” tells the story of American university professor Robert Jordan, who is skilled in demolitions and decides to fight for the Spanish Republicans against the Nationalists led by General Francisco Franco.

Using the chaotic political climate in Spain as a backdrop, Hemingway portrays the war as a struggle between democracy, represented by the Republicans and fascism, represented by the Nationalists. Since Robert Jordan aligned himself with the Republicans, he finds himself fighting alongside communists against the fascist forces. Although Jordan is not a communist himself, he has several enlightening political discussions with the young eager communists around him that leave readers thinking.

Besides firearms and civics, “For Whom the Bell Tolls” is jam-packed with suspense, action, ardent romance, exploration of spiritual beliefs and hilarious Spanish obscenities. The majority of these moments happen as a result of the interactions between Jordan and the guerrilla forces he hides out with for most of the novel. The vivid cast of loyal Spanish men and women Jordan finds himself fighting alongside bring more color and life to the novel, but also quite a bit of tragedy from both sides of the war. Some of these characters, like the tough as nails and vulgar Pilar, had to watch as citizens from her village were executed by members of her guerilla movement for their loyalty to the fascists. Although Pilar has to live with the decision she made to start the guerilla resistance that day, others were swept into the conflict without a choice. Maria, a young Spanish woman, lived through her parent’s execution and was raped by the fascists when the war first broke out. Jordan’s interactions with these Spanish soldiers begin to change and shape him, especially as he begins to fall in love with delicate Maria.

The perfect bottle to fall in love with as you experience Robert Jordan’s budding romance with Maria is the prestigious Johnnie Walker Blue Label Scotch. By far the most expensive and distinguished bottle to grace the Liquor and Literature column, Blue Label can cost up to $200 a bottle. Johnnie Walker Blue Label is the flagship scotch of Johnnie Walker, as the ranking system goes from Red Label, Black Label, Double Black, Green Label, Gold Label Reserve, Platinum Label, and finally arriving at Blue Label in order of quality.

In terms of taste, Johnnie Walker Blue has a robust orange and vanilla flavor that slides down the gullet without a struggle. The texture is silky yet creamy, and manages to gently warm your insides without the typical alcohol burn. Although Blue Label is incomparable to lesser scotch, and therefore a perfect counterpart to possibly the greatest war novel of all time, the exorbitant price is probably not worth it unless you are a scotch lover like Hemingway himself.


Dean Ravenola is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at dean.ravenola@uconn.edu.