The Summer Exhibition at the Grilli Gallery, Edinburgh: a joyful expression of flowers, femininity, seashore and sunshine.
This is a most inspirational selection of paintings to celebrate summer with a relaxed sense of freedom. – which is just what we all need to experience at this time.
Marion Drummond, Joan Gillespie, David Smith and Muriel Barclay, who regularly show at the Grilli Gallery, bring together a well curated, complementary group of artists covering portraiture, still life, figurative work and landscapes.
As you step inside the gallery, the first painting on the left hand wall is a charming illustration of two young women, dressed in pretty sun-dresses and clinking their coupes of champagne; they appear to be sitting outside, smiling so intently at each other as if they have not met for a long while – indeed the title is Remember That.
Muriel Barclay is influenced by such artists as Manet, Degas, Matisse, as well as portrait photography by Testino, Lee Miller and Diane Arbus. Like a fashion shot, such delightful detail here from the elegant clothes, loose strands of hair, soft pink blush on the girls’ cheeks and manicured crimson nails. Imagine the personal narrative of these friends or sisters, behind the astute observation of their genuine joy, capturing this moment, as if through the lens of a camera.
Like Edgar Degas, the romantic world of ballet is also dramatised by Barclay to reflect the classic style, movement and energy. Before Class shows a glimpse of the dedication and tireless training to ensure perfection in every step, poise and posture.
Their gleaming, glowing skin and stretched, taut muscles express the physical work-out at the Barre. This is just one of a series illustrating dance and music performance, with a focus on graceful gestures from fingers to pointed feet, the quiet concentration of creativity.
A sublime selection of floral paintings by the inimitable Marion Drummond, PAI, with blossoming roses and posies in porcelain jugs and glass vases. Pink Roses is simply mesmerising, each thickly painted petal shimmers in shades of strawberries and cream, with the shaft of sunlight reflected in the glass jug.
“I would probably describe myself as a representational artist and my focus is on light. My subject matter is always real and studied; number of petals of any flower observed. I used to paint with a knife but now tend to work quickly with fingers and rags, I sculpt the paint, feeling my way and mixing on the board for speed and spontaneity. I cannot feel anything like the same excitement when working with brushes.” Marion Drummond, PAI
A gentle palette of yellow and green is beautifully crafted in Narcissus, again with subtle luminosity, all part of her distinctive, masterly technique.
Happy Flowers is a stunningly realistic Still Life with lemon and orange to give perspective; such vivid colours and texture contrasting the lush green leaves with the fragility of soft petals. These botanical paintings would certainly bring a virtual floral scent to your home year round.
Many years of hill walking, mountaineering and rock climbing in the Highlands has instilled David Smith, RSW, a passion for nature and outdoor life. After travelling around with sketch pad in hand to paint en plein air, here are several land and seascapes from the Isle of Lewis to the South of France.
A charming image is of a Hebridean Fisherman, wrapped up in yellow oilskins beside the trawler on a pier, checks his bulging fishing net – you can almost smell the salt sea air. Also most atmospheric is The North East Coast, with its wild grass and seaweed covered shore line, a curving row of cottages, reminiscent of Joan Eardley’s beloved Catterline.
The theme of fishing is also used in meticulously crafted compositions, such as Mackerel and Fruit, juxtaposing a shiny green-scaled fish with a few purple plums on a carved wooden table. All that’s missing is a recipe – oily fish and sweet juicy fruit would be so healthy and delicious.
Elsewhere, if you are a lover of seafood, a painting of a large red Lobster will make your mouth water.
From a turquoise-tinted Cote d’Azur, in Canal du Midi, Argens, take a trip to another tranquil scene, Mountain Villages which has a more abstract structure, a patchwork of pointillist fields around a cluster of red tile rooftops. (see image below).
Joan Gillespie studied with Alberto Morrocco at Duncan of Jordanstone and then Sir Robin Philipson at the ECA, becoming inspired by the Scottish Colourists and the masters of Fauvism – Derain, Matisse and Cezanne. She is renowned for her iconic portraits and floral studies with impressionist flair.
Take time to absorb the colour and decorative design in Yellow Tulips, a painterly block pattern with a touch of Peploe-esque vision of a decorative domestic scene; perfect colour palette and tonal harmony.
‘There is so much in these mere objects, flowers, leaves, jugs, what not – colours, form, relation. I can never see mystery coming to an end’. Samuel John Peploe, 1929 (1871-1935)
Here too are Joan’s fresh-faced portraits defining the essence of modern femininity with an independent strength of character.
“In the Garden Room” illustrates the cool, calm pose of a young woman, simply defined, akin to a quickly drafted sketch with just a couple of lines to depict her brows, nose and eyes, sitting in quiet contemplation.
Yet there is such depth of dramatic mood here, with the bold, black outline of her figure, clothes, chair and plants, a vivid blend of blue, pink, green, gold. Is that a slight smile playing around her raspberry-red cupid bow lips.? As if day dreaming, this is an evocative, serene composition.
Other beguiling figurative studies of women here too, reclining, resting, each lost in their own thoughts and solitude. Little Nude is also a delicate, intimate scene, the model’s head hidden beneath a large black hat, and curled up in the foetal position, she seems to be hiding from the world.
Vivacious colour, decorative detail and an enriching sense of imagination flow through these paintings of people and places, each with its own intriguing backround story. This is a joyful expression of sunshine and seashore, flowers and womanhood to celebrate the magic of Midsummer days.
Summer Exhibition, 13 June to 18 July, 2020
20 a Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6HZ
Open at present by appointment only. View the exhibition on line www.art-grilli.co.uk
The gallery will open from 29 June, with restrictions on visitor numbers for health and safety.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Telephone: 07876 013 013
“Edinburgh Festival-time” Solo Exhibition
Jack Morrocco DA FRSA
25 July to 29 August 2020
Highland Boundary Distillery: Wild Scottish Botanical Spirits & Liqueurs – for natural, refreshing, cool cocktails this summer.
Strathmore Glen around Blairgowrie, with its loamy soil, long summer days and mild climate, is renowned for the best soft fruits in Scotland, if not the UK, especially raspberries. This peaceful, lush landscape is home to Highland Boundary Distillery at Kirklandbank Farm, located, as its name suggests, on the geological fault line which runs north west from Stonehaven to the Isle of Arran.
The Distillery opened in 2016 by Dr. Marian Bruce and Simon Montador, and their ethically produced wild, Scottish spirits and liqueurs are intricately linked to their specialist conservation of this natural environment.
Around the Farm Distillery, they nurture indigenous trees, flourishing meadows and hedgerows as well as a wildlife pond with aqueous and wetland plants to attract dragonflies, newts and frogs. In the apothecary garden, a collection of medicinal herbs, borage, sweet violet and rare species is central to their biodiversity, flora and fauna research.
After a couple of years of careful experimentation with foraged buds and botanicals, they launched Birch and Elderflower Wild Scottish Spirit which was awarded Gold Medal at the San Francisco Spirits Competition, 2019.
Recently launched is their Larch and Honeysuckle Wild Scottish Spirit and already a prestigious Double Gold medal winner at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2020.
Standing tall and slender, the European larch is unique because it is the only deciduous conifer in the country, and in folklore, said to have protective powers against evil spirits. In Spring, the larch flower is a small green bud often tinged with pink before ripening into bright green cones, turning gold in Autumn.
The larch cones are picked in the local woodlands to be infused and macerated in grain spirit for several months to extract the oils and flavour. Just a touch of honeysuckle essence is then added for the final distillation process.
“I plucked a honeysuckle where the hedge on high is quick with thorn,
And climbing for the prize was torn, and by the thorns and by the wind,
The blossom that I took was thinn’d, And yet I found it sweet and fair”.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
In the language of flowers, honeysuckle – aka woodbine – is a symbol of good luck and devoted affection in love and marriage. With antibiotic properties the infusion of flowers were traditionally used to treat coughs, headaches and food poisoning.
The Springtime cream trumpet-shaped petals slowly turn an exotic pink in Summer. At Highland Boundary they only pick a small sample of flowers as required, preserving the blooms for butterflies and bumblebees to extract pollen and nectar.
On the nose, the first whiff of Larch and Honeysuckle Wild Scottish Spirit is beautifully perfumed with a fragrant aroma of vanilla and rose blossom. Sipped neat over ice, the taste is a complex balance of fresh pine and citrus fruits. Larch buds in fact have a similar flavour to juniper berries, the key ingredient of gin.
Therefore, ideal to try with Tonic water such as the Walter Gregor range, crafted from herbs and botanicals in the garden of the eponymous 19th century Aberdeenshire minister and plantsman.
The speciality Spiced Tonic with cinnamon, cloves and orange would be a fine mixer. Alternatively, for a summer pink drink, Scottish Raspberry Tonic ….and add a few fresh raspberries too.
Highland Boundary Wild Spirits offer a subtle botanical alternative to gin, vodka, rum and tequila in a diverse range of cocktails.
Tequila is dominated by smoked oak, vanilla, caramel and spices with similar characteristics to this aromatic Scottish spirit.
45 ml Larch and Honeysuckle Wild Spirit
15 ml Cointreau or Triple Sec
30 ml Lime Juice
(Various Margarita recipes give different measurements for Tequila and Cointreau)
Add all ingredients into a cocktail shaker. Wet the rim of a glass with a wedge of lime and then dip into a saucer of salt. Strain the cocktail and serve straight, (or on the rocks), with a slice of lime on the side. The Cointreau and lime give a tart citrus flavour to the vanilla and spicy undertones of the Wild Spirit – a hint of Mexican sunshine in a glass.
As well as a Birch and Elderflower Liqueur, there’s also a Birch and Sloe Liqueur, damson pink in colour and bursting with hedgerow leafy freshness.
The Blackthorn is a hedgerow plant producing oval leaves, snow-white flowers and dark purple-blue Sloe berries between August and November. The sloe is like a wild plum but too sour to eat as a fruit, and traditionally picked in Autumn to make homemade jam and jelly, wine and gin.
Birch and Sloe Liqueur has oodles of forest fruit aroma – cherry, plum, blackberry – perfect for sipping with ice or in a flute topped with sparkling wine, Prosecco or Champagne, for a refreshing pink aperitif, like a Kir Royale.
There’s also a slight bittersweet aftertaste reminiscent of Campari. You could therefore adapt the classic Italian cocktail with Birch and Sloe Liqueur and instead of Gin, try Birch and Elderflower Wild Spirit.
25 ml Sloe Liqueur (instead of Campari)
25 ml Gin ……or try Birch and Elderflower Wild Spirit
25ml Sweet Vermouth
Fill a glass three-quarters full with ice. Pour over the spirits. Stir gently until fully chilled. Garnish with an orange twist.
Highland Boundary has invented this fruity tipple in celebration of a natural woodland of trees, fruits and flowers in colourful harmony.
In a glass add some crushed ice and pour in the Birch and Sloe Liqueur together with the lemon juice and elderflower syrup. Stir and add the soda water. Drizzle over the Cherry liqueur at the end, add slice of lemon and serve.
Marian Bruce and Simon Montador are true inspirational entrepreneurs with such a magical, “spiritual” vision through the care of their local environment.
“Never has our reconnection to nature seemed more important and we’re delighted to make our second release botanical spirit. We love to feature new and exciting flavours drawn from iconic Scottish plants around us in Perthshire and it’s a pleasure to create drinks that showcase the fantastic landscape. ”
Highland Boundary Distillery
For information on the distillery, range of award winning Wild Scottish Spirits and Liqueurs, on line purchase, where to buy, serving suggestions and cocktail recipes.
See Chapter 1 for a review of Birch and Elderflower Wild Scottish Spirit and Liqueur.
The Balvenie Stories: ‘The Edge of Burnhead Wood’ 19-Year-Old – a legendary new single malt to savour this summer
The story starts with a sprig of heather …
Actually, it starts, like all stories, with inspiration. “Stories are the lifeblood of The Balvenie Distillery and are deeply embedded in all the work we do” says The Balvenie Malt Master, David C Stewart MBE.
This particular chapter in the history of the distillery is marked by release of The Edge of Burnhead Wood 19-Year-Old, the latest expression to join its celebrated The Balvenie Stories range.
It’s a story that “captures the majestic Speyside landscape and the inventive essence of The Balvenie’s loyal and determined craftspeople.”
The history of whisky making in Dufftown, in the ancient parish of Mortlach, Moray is long and celebrated. Situated on the river Fiddich and with relatively mild, damp winters and cool, cloudy summers the town would go on to produce more malt than any other in Scotland and become “The Whisky Capital of the World”.
The town was founded in 1817 by James Duff, 4th Earl of Fife to give employment to soldiers returning from the Napoleonic wars.
The Clan family of William Grant had been in the area even longer, and he had over 20 years’ experience in the whisky industry before establishing the Glenfiddich Distillery there in 1887. Success would see him develop The Balvenie Distillery in a nearby converted mansion in May of 1893 using second-hand “seasoned” stills, known to be capable of producing good whisky.
Balvenie would be a sister to Glenfiddich but came to be known as more “craft” and esoteric, experimenting and producing limited editions, but all of undisputed quality: rich, luxuriously smooth and underpinned by the distinctively honeyed character.
The distillery is only one of a handful with its own malting floor and the only to carry out all the “Five Rare Crafts” on-site. It still grows its own barley, uses traditional floor maltings and keeps both coppersmiths and coppers on site, making The Balvenie the most handcrafted of single malts.
The distillery “remains true to the techniques and stories passed down by its craftsmen from generation to generation, while also looking forward by exploring new techniques, flavours and marriages to develop unique and original Balvenie expressions.”
And that is what these stories are all about. The Four “chapters” created since May 2019 are a collection of single malt whiskies representing tales of character, endeavour and generational knowledge gathered at the Balvenie Distillery. These are narratives peopled by the crafts people sowing the barley, firing the kiln, watching and mending the coppers, making casks. The whisky tells its own story, the taste holding memoirs of its making from the origin of the casks and barley to notes on perhaps a little added peat or heather or the toasting of the barrel.
The Sweet Toast of American Oak 12-Year-Old tells the story of the things that can happen when an ancient technique meets fresh ideas with the use of cask finishing in Virgin Oak barrels from Kelvin Cooperage in Louisville, Kentucky.
A Week of Peat 14-Year-Old is a tale of a return to the way The Balvenie used to be made, and of an experimentation with extra peatiness.
A Day of Dark Barley 26-Year-Old tells of experimentation with oven-roasted barley to make changes at the point of distillation.
The latest story, The Edge of Burnhead Wood 19-Year-Old, launched in May 2020, is one of exploration and craft. It is the first ever expression of The Balvenie to be made entirely from ingredients grown on the estate. Inspiration comes from the winding paths through the steep Speyside hills surrounding the distillery leading to a moor of heather, the “wee modest crimson-tipped flower.”
Heather in its various forms cloaks some 4 to 5 million acres of the Scottish landscape and peat contains centuries of it in compressed form, but this story retraces that search for a local ingredient. The answer, of course, came from local knowledge and the distillery worker who knew where it lay. The journey up the rolling hills reveals views of Dufftown below, before passing through the barley field and towards the tree line. It’s a path that would have been well known to William Grant and perhaps smugglers and bootleggers. The acidic ground underfoot becomes wetter, the snow melt feeding the heather and the same spring water used to produce the whisky.
The process of discovery and experimentation at the point of distillation back in 2000 would fondly come to be known as “The Heather Trials”. With a twist to the tale the hopes nearly went up in smoke. Concern that the sap within the herbal, earthy newly cut heather might introduce a bitter edge led to it being left to dry before use, but when added to the kiln – whoosh, and it was gone! Luckily experience would win out and dampened and laid on top of dark coals over glowing red-hot it gives off a blue grey plume of smoke.
There are back stories of worries of low supplies of malt and water, that there might be “no more turning the floor”. The main theme is one of tradition but with a lot of experimentation as well. And time, always time. Things happen at a slower pace at The Balvenie. The people who were featured at the beginning of the adventure are only now seeing the end, some twenty years on.
The end? Well the conclusion is the whisky itself.
The outcome produced something different, as intended with the typical honey sweetness but tempered down. Not fruity on the nose, it’s rather fresher and slightly herbal. The flavour softens in the mouth, oak dryness and warmth opening up into richer dried fruit and a hint of spice. The finish is very long and lingering, slightly sweet and floral.
As a prologue, the story telling is also carried through to the packaging with a bespoke illustration by Andy Lovell, evoking the light and atmosphere of the distillery’s landscape.
And as an epilogue for those similarly fascinated with the parallels between storytelling and whisky- making, The Balvenie has produced a book exploring the themes of endeavour, endurance, determination and resolve. Pursuit: The Balvenie Stories Collection, contains seventeen stories taking us from the Australian outback to a Hong Kong cafe, from the writing desk of F. Scott Fitzgerald to the vast emptiness of the Antarctic.
Pour a dram and immerse yourself in this traveller’s tale across moorland heather, its scent distilled in this new single malt.
The Edge of Burnhead Wood 19-Year-Old was launched globally on 1st May 2020 and available from select whisky retailers, RRP £260.00
The entire Balvenie Stories collection is currently available in select whisky retailers, at the following prices; The Sweet Toast of American Oak 12-Year-Old (RRP £45.00), The Week of Peat 14-Year-Old (RRP £65.00) and A Day of Dark Barley 26-Year-Old (RRP £600.00).
Highland Boundary Distillery– the story of how Scotland’s ancient woodlands inspired a collection of hand-crafted Wild Spirits
Once upon a time, the ice slowly melted.
The land it revealed is what we now call the Strathmore Valley, scoured out by an Ice-Age glacier along the Highland Boundary line which separates the Scottish Highlands from the Lowlands.
The great wood of Caledon, a primaeval forest, covered most of Scotland for thousands of years and the first pioneers of this land left anew was the Birch. Able to thrive in the most forbidding of landscapes it is no wonder that the first human settlers treated these trees with mystical reverence.
The “Lady of the Woods” would come to symbolise fertility, renewal and purification for the Celtic people. The birch would provide good fuel, useful for smoking herrings and in the distillation of whisky.
The power of the Birch marked the imagination, scenery and language. its roots running deep in Scottish culture and heritage. The old Scottish word for Birch is Birk.
Now Simmer blinks on flowery braes,
And o’er the chrystal streamlets plays;
Come let us spend the lightsome days
In the birks of Aberfeldy.
Robert Burns (1787).
In 1787, Robert Burns, the National Bard, visited The Birks of Aberfeldy, a riverside woodland with an impressive waterfall. He was fascinated by the birk and hawthorn, finding that the simple traditions associated with them evoked the passing seasons, love, fleeting fulfilment and loss.
Around thirty five miles from this poetic spot, Kirklandbank Farm near Alyth, Perthshire is located right on the geological fault line. This is where the Highlands rise to the North and the Strathmore valley spreads out to the South, a tranquil, green, richly fertile landscape.
As well as rearing Rockies, a rare breed of Hebridean sheep, Dr. Marian Bruce and Simon Montador are biologists with a passion for biodiversity and conservation. Surrounded by ancient trees, native flowers, hedgerows and meadows, they were inspired to capture the essence of this natural wilderness with true spiritual imagination.
The birch is just one within a panoply of sacred trees. Regarded as a gift from the Earth Mother, the Elder tree is a symbol of regeneration, believed to ward off witches – hence, Harry Potter’s coveted Elder Wand. The Elder’s delicate, frothy white flowers are instantly recognisable and have been widely used in cordials and liqueurs.
Aptly named, their Highland Boundary Distillery was developed within the old milking parlour at their farm and here, with magical innovation, they hand-craft a fine collection of botanical spirits and liqueurs.
After careful experimentation with the flavours of local flora, Birch and Elderflower Wild Spirit was launched in 2018. Birch buds and elderflowers are picked in Springtime to ensure that only a small amount from any single plant is picked in season. The botanicals are combined with grain spirit and mineral-rich spring water, filtered through the red sandstone bedrock from beneath the Alyth Hill.
The 40% ABV strength Birch and Elderflower Wild Scottish Spirit is produced in small batches through a four-stage sequence of dilution, maceration, distillation and infusion, using a 100-litre copper alembic Still from Portugal.
The simple, harmonious approach of production follows the Highland Boundary’s Eco-Green ethos with solar panels, biomass heating, recycling water, sustainable harvesting to preserve and regenerate the wild, natural environment.
The bottle (with a cork and wood stopper) features a logo of a cool, sea-blue wolf, which celebrates Scottish wildness and is a modern twist on the Pictish animal stone carvings found near the farm.
And it all links into Scottish cultural heritage. The Scottish botanist John C. Loudon wrote about the Birch in his 1842 Encyclopaedia of Trees and Shrubs: “The Highlanders of Scotland make everything [out] of it”. In traditional medicine the birch provided healing tonics, ointments and oils.”
Medicinal properties for the Elder were documented from as early as 1620 as a cure-all for everything from freckles to piles and bites from mad dogs. (Good to know!).
So, back to the story of ice. The Birch and Elderflower Wild Spirit is more akin to whisky and suitable as an ice-cold shot, served on the rocks or for a long drink with a mixer – sparkling water, soda or tonic.
Birch and Elderflower Wild Scottish Spirit with Tonic
The forest pine-flavour of birch buds, fragrant notes of the elderflower with a splash of fizzing tonic, and a slice of lemon or apple, creates a pure and refreshing drink.
Highly recommended is Bitter Orange and Elderflower Tonic from London Essence to draw out the honeyed elderflower and zesty citrus notes, and add a twist of orange peel.
As well as a long ice cold drink, this Wild Spirit has the complex depth shows versatility and can substitute gin, vodka, rum and tequila in classic and modern cocktails.
Forest Dry Martini
50ml Birch and Elderflower Wild Scottish Spirit + 25 ml dry vermouth + ice.
The earthy, floral flavour of the spirit is a fine alternative to Gin, and shaken up with Vermouth, a complex fortified herbal, spicy wine, results in a perfectly balance, bittersweet Martini. A garnish of an olive or indeed sprig of thyme enhances the herbal scent.
See the website for many other classics such as the MacJito, a modern Scottish minty whirl on a Mojito, a reinvented Wild Negroni and a spicy Bloody Mary.
Creative colourful cocktails too inspired from Scottish literature and legends such as the much loved Outlander time-travelling Highlander tales.
The White Raven: In a cocktail shaker add ice cubes and pour in the Birch and Elderflower Wild Scottish Spirit, lime juice, honeysuckle syrup and apple juice. Garnish with borage flowers.
Birch and Elderflower Wild Scottish Spirit was awarded a Gold Medal at the 2019 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, presented to “Exceptional spirits that are near the pinnacle of achievement.”
Highland Boundary has also produced a Birch and Elderflower Liqueur has also been crafted for a lighter alternative (20% ABV) and is equally versatile in various refreshing drinks. The wolf logo now wears a jazzy Technicolour Dreamcoat.
At the San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2020 the liqueur was awarded a Silver Medal.
To let nature come to the fore, a dram of the Liqueur simply flows over a generous glacial block. It’s not crystal clear, there has evidently been some “magic” going on. Nor is it syrupy as might be expected with just a light viscosity. The nose too is subtle, a light floral from the Elderflower, but not overpowering. Soft and subtle to the taste, with again those flowery notes, a little resin and warmth and a long fairly sweet aftertaste.
The liqueur can also be added to Prosecco or Champagne, just like a soupcon of Crème de Cassis for a Kir or Peach puree in the Bellini.
The pungent pine aroma and fresh floral taste of Birch and Elderflower Wild Scottish Spirit and Birch and Elderflower Liqueur, is akin to a ramble through a Scottish woodland; Rabbie Burns would certainly have approved. Slainte Mhath.!
More stories to follow ..
For all information on the Wild Scottish Spirits and liqueurs, where to purchase, on line sales, cocktail recipes and how to serve and full background on this farm distillery in Perthshire.