Archive | October 2020

The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company – the only Cheddar made in Cheddar – preserves a thick, tasty slice of English Heritage.

The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company, the only dairy in the village of Cheddar, Somerset, produces authentic cheese, recreating the ancient 12th century craft and tradition.  

Although versions of cheddar are made today around the world, the original cheese was produced in Cheddar dating back to 1170. With the absence of refrigeration the problem of how to store surplus milk was solved by turning it into cheese. Cheesemakers discovered that if you pressed the fresh curd to squeeze out the moisture, the cheese lasted much longer, transforming milk to ensure ‘the perfect food’ was available all year round.

The Cheddar Gorge features a series of caves which provided the ideal chilled environment for maturing the cheese.

This fine cheese became popular with the aristocracy and received Royal patronage. The Great Roll of the Exchequer records that in 1170 King Henry II purchased 10,240 lb  (4.6 tons) of Cheddar Cheese at a farthing per pound totalling £10.13s 4d.  He declared it to be the best in Britain and his son, Prince John, continued to serve Somerset cheddar cheese at banquets. 

King Henry 11, Patron of Cheddar cheese

In the 19th century, Joseph Harding, a Somerset dairyman was known as “the father of Cheddar cheese” for inventing the revolving breaker for curd cutting, saving hard manual labour.

Harding believed that Cheddar cheese is “not made in the field, nor in the byre, nor even in the cow, it is made in the dairy.” Joseph Harding and his wife were key pioneers in the introduction of the cheese into Scotland and North America. 

The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company, Cheddar

The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company, formerly a tourist shop selling fudge, sweets, cards and making “a bit of cheddar in the back room,” was taken over in 2003 by John and Katherine Spencer with entrepreneurial vision. With previous long experience in the dairy industry, they have developed their successful, independent, Artisan business through extensive research, experimentation and plenty of passion. 

The cheese is hand made in the traditional way from unpasteurised raw milk delivered to the dairy each morning from one local farm, and the truckles are slowly matured, wrapped in muslin cloths.

“Using only fresh, local, unpasteurised milk, we preserve the original character of our namesake. This, we believe, is our responsibility and privilege.”  John and Katherine Spencer

In 2006, the Spencers had the innovative idea to reintroduce the unique, traditional method of storing cheese in the Cheddar Gorge Caves, which has significant influence on flavour and texture – Gough’s Cave is the original, historical Cheddar Cheese larder.

Cheddar Gorge Caves – cheese is matured for 12 months

The Company produces 60 tons of cheese each year. It takes about 10 litres of milk to make 1 kilogram of cheddar.  In total about 333,000 tons of cheddar are produced in the UK per year.

So, now the important question, how is their authentic Cheddar Cheese made?

All cheese is made in a similar way. It’s a process that transforms milk into curds and whey. The whey is drained and the curd remains; this curd is already ‘fresh’ cheese.

Cheddaring involves cutting, turning and stacking blocks of curd, allowing it to cool, drain further and ‘knit’ together again over a period of time.

After pressing in moulds, the whole cheeses are dressed in traditional cotton/muslin cloth before being transferred to the maturing stores. The use of cheesecloth is a vital and historical way of allowing the cheese to gradually dry and develop a rind.

Whole cheeses weigh around 26Kg and are matured slowly. Generally, the older the cheese, the stronger the flavour. Our youngest mellow cheddars are around six months old and the oldest cheddar is usually around two years old.

Now – time to sample a selection of three cheeses from the Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company.

A selection of Cheddar Gorge cheese

Vintage Cheddar (aged for 20 – 26 months)

A robust mighty strong cheese – extended maturing time resulting in a more vibrant, nutty cheddar with drier harder body”   Best Cheddar at both the World and British Cheese Awards

The taste test:  The slow, slow production over two years is like the finely crafted creation of a fine vintage wine. With its thin grey rind, it is certainly very hard, similar in texture to Parmesan, with a pungent, punchy strong flavour.  You only need a thin slice – (so economical!) – to experience the extraordinary rich creamy taste.  Marvellously, majestically mature. King Henry 11 would approve.

It’s a hearty cheese ideal for Toasted Cheese or even better, Welsh Rarebit; as they say, when the leaves fall in Autumn and Winter, the cheese melts.

Welsh Rarebit –  ‘caws pobi’, which is Welsh for toasted cheese. This simple, homely dish of toasted bread covered in melted cheese and topped with mustard and spices has been popular since the 1500s – the first recorded reference was Welsh Rabbit, although it never had rabbit in it.!

A 16th-century tale tells how God asked Saint Peter to get rid of the Welsh from heaven, as they kept causing a ruckus. Saint Peter stomped outside the Pearly Gates and shouted ‘caws pobi!’, to which all the Welshmen duly tumbled out excitedly, allowing the gates to be slammed shut behind them.

As a traditional dish it has its own national day – September 3rd is Welsh Rarebit Day.

There are various recipes but this is rather tasty. “When you’re cold, tired and hungry, nothing beats this posh cheese on toast,” say the Hairy bikers.

Caws Popi – Welsh Rarebit – Gourmet Toasted Cheese

Welsh Rarebit  – serves 4.

25g butter   25g plain flour, 110 ml strong dark beer, 150 g mature Cheddar, grated, 1 free range egg yolk, 1 tsp English mustard,  pinch of Cayenne pepper, 4sp Worcester sauce, 4 thick slices granary or wholemeal bread, freshly ground pepper.  

Preheat the grill to high.  Melt the butter in a non-stick saucepan and stir in the flour. Cook over a low heat for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Slowly add the beer. Simmer for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly until the sauce is thick and smooth.

Add the cheese, egg yolk, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and cayenne pepper, Stir constantly, until the cheese melts. Season with freshly ground black pepper and set aside.   Place the bread on a baking tray lined with aluminium foil and toast on each side until golden-brown. Spread the cheese sauce thickly over the bread, making sure the slices are completely covered so the edges don’t burn. Return to the grill for 20-30 seconds longer until lightly browned and bubbling. 

Add a fried egg for a nourishing, Cheesey feast, a Buck Rarebit.

Cave matured (aged for 12 months)

Matured in the natural Cheddar Gorge cave, the natural environment with constant temperature and humidity provide perfect conditions.  A unique, complex cheddar flavour.

Silver Medal, British Cheese Awards, Bronze Medal, World Cheese Awards. 

The taste test: Lighter in texture than the Vintage with a distinctive, slightly smoked flavour – almost crumbly like a Cheshire, but a seriously fine mature cheddar.  

Serve with a selection of crisp crackers and water biscuits, slices of British apple – perhaps Cox Orange Pippen or Russet – and sweet, fruity Quince jellyAlternatively, the classic accompaniment of chutney or pickle.

Oak Smoked Cheese (aged for 6 months)

When we say smoking, we mean smoking! Cold smoked over smouldering oak chippings from old whisky barrels. Think bonfire night or wood burning stoves.”

Champion cheese, Devon County show, (the first time a smoked cheddar won the category). Gold, 2018 and 2019.

The taste test.  Wow! is the word, this is so distinctively unique.  Earthy with a hint of truffle, this is intensely smoky, like a sipping a dram of Laphroaig or Bowmore single malt from Islay, with a subtle seaweed saltiness. The oak chippings from the whisky barrels have done their work brilliantly. 

To some astute or sensitive palates, the strength of smokiness is also reminiscent of  smoked fish such as salmon or kippers.

 Enjoy a slither or two with chunky bread or crackers; With the complex layer of flavours, this would also jazz up a Wild Mushroom or Butternut Squash Risotto which often have the addition, respectively, of Parmesan and Gorgonzola.  Just sprinkle this delectable cheese on top of these dishes would add the perfect, rich, smoky creaminess.

Cheese Straws

The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company is also renowned for their Cheese Straws.  These are handmade with puff pastry and mature cheddar.

Cheese Straws – so buttery!

Best to warm in the oven for a few minutes although they can be nibbled cold. Stuffed with 37% of cheddar in each straw, these are seriously cheesy and crispy.  Like a Ploughman’s Lunch baked as a thick, flaky biscuit. The rich buttery texture is amazing.

Cheddar Cheese with Cheese Straws for a Ploughman’s lunch

The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Co. certainly do preserve a thick, tasty slice and slab of English Heritage with their high quality, traditional Cheddar Cheese.

Visit the Cheddar Gorge Cheese Co. Shop in Cheddar, Somerset where you can taste samples of the complete range including Mellow, Extra Mature, Vintage, Cave Matured, Oak Smoked and Herb, Cider and Port flavours

Purchase cheese, pickles and preserves, cheese straws, savoury biscuits and crackers as well as pottery, cheeseboards and cheese knives. 

“Cheese your Bundle” – choose your choice of three or six portions of Cheddar from the wide range.  Christmas and corporate gifts, hampers and selection packs of cheese and accompaniments.

The Visitor Centre –  Small groups are welcome by appointment to watch the cheesemakers at work on a 30 minute tour which also features a film showing the complete process. 

Browse the website for all information on produce, visiting the shop and on line purchase.

Online mail order: efficient, eco-friendly next day delivery. 

www.cheddaronline.co.uk

The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Co.

The Cliffs, Cheddar, Somerset, BS27 3QA

Tel. 01934 742810

Cheddar Gorge Cheese is also available at a wide selection of Farm shops and Delis around the country, including:

Riches Cider – Highbridge, Somerset, Whiterow Farm Shop – Frome, Wiltshire, Owtons At Country Market – near Haslemere in Hampshire, Village Larder – Washington, West Sussex, Allington Farm Shop – Chippenham, Wiltshire, Royal Windsor Farm Shop – Windsor, A F Blakemore & Sons – Darlaston (Nr Wolverhampton), Cobbs of Engleford – Theale, Reading, Berkshire, Brace of Butchers – Dorchester, Darts Farm Shop – Topsham, Exeter, Devon

Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve – the famous Scotch Whisky is jazzed up with a taste of tropical sunshine, spirit and soul.

The Glenlivet Scotch Whisky Company is part of the Pernod Ricard global drinks portfolio, producing 21 million litres of spirit each year, and one of, if not the best selling single malt whisky in the United States. The Glenlivet 18 year old, for instance, has won numerous awards, winning five double golds at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.  

With the tagline, “Original by tradition” The Glenlivet has always been innovative to keep up to date with popular trends. Now their first Single Malt to be finished in rum barrels brings the sunny spirit of the Spice islands in the West Indies to the Scottish Highlands with the launch of The Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve.

My biggest challenge at The Glenlivet has always been ..consistency of style.. It’s important for us not to become complacent, and to ensure The Glenlivet stands the test of time in quality and in depth of range.”  Alan Winchester, Master Distiller

“The Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve is looking to extend that summer feeling, another example of us setting new standards, this time by turning the typical into the tropical.’  Marnie Corrigan, Brand Director, Whiskies, Pernod Ricard UK.

Described as offering a sweet, citrus, fruity and caramel taste, it can be enjoyed neat, on the rocks or in a selection of cocktails such as the signature Caribbean-inspired tipple, Tartan Tiki.

Before we sample this inspiring new Single Malt Whisky, let’s go back to the start of the journey almost two hundred years ago.

The Glenlivet Distillery, Speyside

A remote Scottish glen in Speyside, through which the River Livet flows, surrounded by hills and fresh water springs, was where George Smith learnt the craft of distilling spirits, creating a characteristic, delicately balanced, malt whisky.

In August 1822, King George IV arrived in Scotland for a state visit and asked to try this fine, yet illicit, whisky. Glenlivet soon became the byword for the best in whisky, and 1824 George Smith was granted the first legal licence to produce the official Glenlivet whisky.

George Smith, the innovative founder of The Glenlivet, 1824

Unfortunately, local whisky makers wanted to destroy this successful business with Royal and aristocratic patronage, such that Smith had to carry a pair of pistols to warn off smugglers to protect his treasure of precious golden spirit.

 By 1852, the novelist Charles Dickens was a rich man with an astute taste for good things in life; he wrote a letter to a friend recommending the “rare old Glenlivet” as a fine single malt whisky, which was above his great expectations!.

Glenlivet 12 year old with Dickens’ letter on the label

The distillery remained in family hands over the generations, taken over by the founder’s great nephew, Captain Bill Smith Grant in 1921, having to deal with severe loss of sales during the Prohibition era.  To woo American drinkers back after its repeal, he forged a partnership with the Pullman Train company which served miniature bottles of Glenlivet whisky – spreading the word and the taste across the United States.

Drinks served in the Buffet Car – America train travel in the early 20th century

1950 – The Glenlivet is now the most popular Scotch whisky sold in the USA and through increased global travel, it’s promoted worldwide.

2015 – Master Distiller, Alan Winchester, creates a speciality single malt, the Founders Reserve, to capture the original smooth, fruity taste. 

Scotch Whisky regional map

Whisky can be matured or finished in various types of casks and barrels –  wood, wine, port, sherry, madeira, beer and rum.  Rum casks, known as a Butt or Puncheon, is not a new idea, especially for Irish and US whiskey-makers.

2020 –  The launch of the new Caribbean Reserve, carefully crafted by finishing their fine Speyside single malt in oak puncheons to take on the flavour of Caribbean rum. 

What Glenlivet say:

Nose: Sweet notes of pear and red apple meet a fabulous tropical twist of ripe bananas in syrup. Palate: Rich caramel toffee notes, followed by mandarin orange, vanilla and melon, well balanced and smooth. Finish: Citrusy and delicate.

The first test for this pure amber liquid is the aroma of sweet, tropical fruit, and then a sip to detect a complex array of honey, orange, apricot, coconut, ginger and subtle spicy rum flavours. Expect a lingering, slow finish which is distinctly smoky – warming, bonfire wood smoke to my palate – with hints of cinnamon, nutmeg, baked banana and overall, it’s so rich and smooth.  

Whisky nosers, as they called themselves, eschewed what they saw as the pretentiousness of wine vocabulary. While oenophiles resorted to recondite adjectives, whisky nosers spoke the language of everyday life, detecting hints of stale seaweed, or even diesel fuel.
Alexander McCall Smith,  The Sunday Philosophy Club

As well as sipped neat or on the rocks, this rich, rum soaked whisky is an ideal partner in various rum and whisky cocktails such as a Mai Tai, Rob Roy, Whisky Sour and an Old Fashioned.

The Mai Tai was created in 1944 by Victor Bergeron at his bar, Trader Vic’s, Emeryville, California, inspired by the ancient Tiki culture and paradise island life of French Polynesia.  When his cocktail of dark Jamaican rum, fresh lime juice, a dash of orange Curação, French Orgeat (almond) syrup, was given to a friend from Tahiti, the response was “Mai tai, roa ae” which means “Out of this world, the best.”

Trader Vic’s original Tiki Cockail, the Mai Tai

Mai Tai  – with Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve instead of Rum.

50 ml Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve, 25 ml Triple sec, (or Cointreau), 25 ml lime juice, 15 ml Orgeat or Orange syrup.

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice, shake briskly then strain into a Highball glass with ice cubes. Garnish with lime and mint.

Caribbean Reserve Mai Tai cocktails

The delicious sharp, tart taste of orange and lime blends perfectly with the spicy, citrus notes of the whisky and certainly hits the spot.   Just like when sipping a Margarita, I am transported on a trip to Mexico – with this Scottish Mai Tai, catch the tantalising taste of South Sea island sunshine.

Rob Roy  – created in 1894 by a bartender at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, New York City.

Rob Roy recipe

Switch your usual Scotch for Caribbean Reserve which blends so well with the spicy-herbal Vermouth and the aromatic flavour of the Bitters.

50ml Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve, 30ml Sweet Vermouth, (e.g. Dubonnet), 1 – 2 dashes of Angostura Bitters; Pour all ingredients into a shaker with ice, strain into a coupe and garnish with a twist of orange. (Maraschino cherries are traditional but the orange adds extra zest).

The Roy Roy Scotch whisky cocktail – popular since 1894

These are adapted from two classic Bourbon cocktails:

Whisky Sour  

50ml Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve, 25ml lemon juice, 15 ml sugar syrup, 2 dashes Angostura bitters,  ½ fresh egg white.  Shake up with lots of ice, strain into a glass with ice; add zest of lemon and garnish with orange slice.

Old Fashioned

50ml Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve, a dash of Angostura bitters, 1 white sugar cube.   Mix the sugar and bitters in a tumbler glass until the sugar dissolves.  Stir in the whisky and add a large ice cube. Garnish with slice of orange and maraschino cherry.

Old Fashioned

The cocktail inspired its eponymous Old Fashioned glass and Cole Porter celebrated it in this bittersweet song.

Make it Another Old Fashioned, Please

Since I went on the wagon, I’m certain drink is a major crime
For when you lay off the liquor, you feel so much slicker
Well that is, most of the time.
But there are moments, sooner or later
When it’s tough, I got to say, love to say, Waiter

Make it another old-fashioned, please
Make it another, double, old-fashioned, please

The Glenlivet has also invented their own tropical cocktail – Tartan Tiki  

Tartan Tiki – the Glenlivet Tropical island-style cocktail

50ml The Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve, 25ml Pineapple Juice, 2 Dashes of Angostura Bitters Stir these together over ice in a tall glass and top with Peach Sparkling Water.

The recipe creates an ice cold, fruity Whisky “Rum Punch” – more suitable perhaps for hot summer days …. but this is the idea, to bring back the chill-out, Caribbean mood, spirit and soul during the winter and Festive season.

The good news is that the Tartan Tiki cocktail kit has just been launched so that you can easily shake this up at home: The hamper includes 70cl bottle of The Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve, two bottles of sparkling water, Angostura Bitters, pineapple juice and an orange for the garnish. (6 – 8 serves).

Create at Home – The Tartan Tiki Cocktail kit

Tasting and testing, sipping and sampling The Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve in so many different ways, shows how flexible this jazzed up Single Malt proves to be.  Sip a dram poured over a large cube of ice, shake up one of these revamped, classic cocktails above or the tropical Tartan Tiki.

Another seasonal suggestion, instead of the usual Rum, a Caribbean Reserve Hot Toddy would be the perfect, sweet, spicy, smoky winter warmer.

Slainte Mhath!

Where to buy:

The Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve is available for purchase at Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Amazon and Co-op. RRP £38.59. 

Browse the website and shop on line.

https://www.theglenlivet.com/en-UK

The Caribbean Reserve Tartan Tiki Cocktail kit, RRP £49.50.

https://shop.createcocktails.com/collections/the-glenlivet-caribbean

The Glenlivet Distillery, a painting by Euan McGregor

Solace

Botanical paintings by Julie Croft & photographs by Alexander Van Der Byl, Dundas Street Gallery, Edinburgh.

Solace – as defined in the dictionary, a noun to mean “comfort or consolation in a time of distress or sadness.”

During this difficult, disruptive year to normal life, work and travel, many people have been inspired by nature – whether city park, country ramble or a wind-blown stroll along a beach.  This strange, surreal time at home has given the opportunity to listen to bird song and observe blossoming flowers in Spring and now the changing trees in Autumn.

Julie Croft studied illustration at Leicester Polytechnic, and then developed her artistic technique and medium as a mural artist during the 1980’s and 1990’s.  Today, her paintings are on a much smaller scale, working at her home in Edinburgh.

The theme of Nature and the Landscape has inspired Julie over the past few months, during the worst times of lockdown, the brighter days through the summer and now heading through the Autumn into Winter.  Here is a most wonderful series of her botanical illustrations and miniature landscapes.

So take a look back to the emerging flourish of plants during April and May with charming watercolours such as Spring Greens.  These slender twigs with their tiny leaves and burst of buds is beautifully sketched and painted in soft colours with such delicate detail.

Moving on swiftly into June and July, blossom blooms with a whiff of Summer Scent from three flowers, which look like, a pink poppy, white daisies and lilac grape hyacinth.  They do transport you into the garden on a warm summer day.

On a walk in October, it’s all about berries, conkers and all the leaves turning golden brown.  This is another charming trio, with a small, dry, curled up leaf, in Autumn Berries. 

And a wonderful collection of golden, sand and burgundy leaves fallen from the trees in the soft shades of the Fall.

Winter Trees is a lovely pencil and watercolour sketch which perfectly sums up the chilly days at the dark end of a year in Nature.

 The wet dawn inks are doing their blue dissolve.
On their blotter of fog the trees
Seem a botanical drawing —
Memories growing, ring on ring,
A series of weddings.

Winter Trees, Sylvia Plath

Julie Croft also paints atmospheric land and seascapes – watercolours on Daler Rowney paper which create a richly textured backdrop. These intimate, small scale scenes are so pleasing to the eye.

At the other side of the gallery is a collection of photographs by Alexander Van Der Byl who is in his final year as a Photography Student at Edinburgh College of Art.

A successful career is already on the cards as this year he was awarded the Astaire Art Prize 2020.  It is presented for outstanding undergraduate work by a third or fourth-year student at the ECA, founded by Mark Astaire, a University of Edinburgh Politics graduate and investment banking professional. This year four winners were chosen from a shortlist of twenty artists, each receiving £250.

“I could see all the students produced such wonderful and varied collections of work. It was difficult, but I had so much fun trying to select just four works!”  Mark Astaire 

“ … work that is sophisticated, intelligent and dynamic.” Gordon Brennan, School of Art Painting Lecturer

The Anticipation of Change, Alexander Van Der Byl

Van Der Byl’s award winning photograph is entitled The Anticipation of Change, which was taken in a former carpet shop in Leith; shabby, peeling flock wallpaper, tartan lino, blue carpet, gas meter, the table laid with a teapot and glasses, beneath a Vettriano print of the “The Billy Boys” on the wall. A cold, empty room perhaps, but there is a sense of pride and belonging in what is someone’s business.

This photograph is part of a series called “Return to Sender, No Such Address” of ten Hahnemühle German Etching Photograhic prints, “documenting the process of leaving a domestic space, (and) explores a presence which is transient and short lasting.” 

Home from Work, Alexander Van Der Byl

Home from Work focuses on another empty room, with an enticing warm light shining through the open door, perhaps the kitchen and a meal being prepared for the person arriving back home at the end of the day. With shimmering shadows and a half hidden portrait, this is such a haunting image.

Again, a fascinating glimpse of a domestic scene, with a television, an empty bookshelf, plant, vase, lamp in Rocking Horse Winner – the blurred effect of a child’s toy horse cleverly depicting a flash of movement.

Rocking Horse Winner, Alexander van der Byl

Here are also a few black and white portraits, which capture the thoughtful facial expression of the subject, in a quiet, quick, snap shot moment.

Portrait of a girl, Alexander Van Der Byl

From Julie’s painterly nature walk through gardens, woodland and the seashore, enter Alexander’s contemplative world of deserted rooms and streets.  With their distinctively different artistic vision, they share a theme of nostalgic memory, time past and present, the experience of isolation and silence, with a comforting, joyful sense of peace. Solace indeed.

SOLACE – Dundas Street Gallery, 6 Dundas St, Edinburgh EH3 6HZ

17th – 24th October, 2020. 11am – 6pm daily.

Exhibition closes Saturday 24th, 2pm

Fallen Brewing Company, Kippen, Stirlingshire – all aboard for an inspiring, thirst-quenching train journey.

It’s like a 21st century version of The Railway Children – an inspiring tale of an entrepreneurial young couple with an adventurous spirit – and a love of trains and beer – to live the dream.

Kippen Railway Station, 1856 – 1934

First opened in 1856, the Kippen Railway Station, at the foot of the Fintry hills in Stirlingshire, was one of busiest stations on the Forth & Clyde Line due to local industries, until it closed in 1934.   Paul and Karen Fallen purchased the former Victorian station in 2012, spending a year transforming the heritage site into their home and business, Fallen Brewing. (Fallen is pronounced “Phalin”)

The Old Engine Shed was renovated into the Mash Tun and they began brewing in April 2014. 

Fallen Brewing Company, Kippen

The Station setting, rich in character and history, is reflected in their traditional brewing methods with a modern twist, based on carefully picked ingredients such as hibiscus, raspberry, peach, coffee, cacao, passionfruit, lime to create a refreshing range of craft ales and stouts.

Many of the names of each beer are cleverly inspired by the world of trains – Platform C, Local Motive, Switch and Chew Chew or local places as in the rather witty, Stirliner Weisse.

Fallen Brewery has recently rebranded the beer cans, working with Union Creative for a series of charming designs. Now packaged in fabulous, fun rainbow colours, they are illustrated with unique labels based on original pen and ink drawings by Dr. Zain Kapasi, a GP in East Lothian, a keen artist and photographer.

Fallen Brewery at Kippen Station – drawing by Dr. Zain Kapasi

The railway-themed, decorative artwork on each branded beer can, tell the story of Fallen Brewery: the hills and rural landscape around the old Kippen Station, with cute wee trains chugging along the scenic route from Glasgow to Stirling and Edinburgh.

The Glasgow-Stirling-Edinburgh train route, drawing by Dr. Zain Kapasi

Zain’s illustrations were exactly what the coloured designs needed. They add texture, interest and provenance to the cans.”  Fallen Brewery team

Dr Kapasi is inspired by this project and would love to write and illustrate his own children’s books.  A Scottish version of Thomas the Tank Engine would be brillliant – and likely to be very popular.  Kids love Choo Choo train sets. Just imagine, picture books, toys, T shirts, TV series – (and, of course, Fallen Chew Chew Beer for the adults!).

The Fallen craft beers are made using only pure, soft Scottish mountain water and the best hops and malts from around the world.  So, let’s start tasting a few of the Regulars.

Odyssey –  4.1%

This is Fallen’s best-seller, a revamped version of a traditional Bohemian Pilsner.  – described by Paul as “a blonde beer with a fruity aroma and slightly spicy, citrus and stone-fruit flavour.”

Verdict:  A classic America Blonde, good frothy head, light gold colour, with a fragrant, fruity, herbal scent; Fresh peach, lightly hoppy bittersweet taste, refreshingly smooth.  This is a seriously quality, moreish pale ale.

Switch  – 4.8%

A smooth base of pale malts and oats yield a soft, pillowy texture. The delicate bitterness allows tropical fruits to take centre-stage in this juicy, hazy and refreshing pale ale.

Verdict: A delicate, golden IPA.  On the nose, sweet mango and watermelon, developing into a luscious taste of the Caribbean sunshine. The initial sour notes are quickly mellowed by the juicy fruitiness, a touch of spice and lingering dry malt flavour.

Local Motive –  3.9%

First brewed for our local, The Cross Keys in Kippen, a classic, balanced, easy-drinking session style modernised with Mosaic dry hops.”

Verdict: Pale amber colour with lively carbonation, a rich hoppy, sweet fruit perfumed aroma. A finely textured flavour blending mango, apricot and tart tang of grapefruit with an earthy pine bitterness.

Stirliner Weisse – 4.5%

Our interpretation of a Berliner Weisse … flavours of citrus, peach and passionfruit for a sherbet explosion and lasting refreshment.”

Verdict: Pour a glass of this effervescent golden liquor with a thick white head. Soft tropical fruit aroma before the first sip gives a mouthfeel of sharp, sherbety fizz, layered with bitter hops.  Complex tart and tangy flavours create a rich, fresh tasting beer.  

As one fan has described Stirliner Weisse “Hugely refreshing and drinkable stuff. Glad I bought two cans.”

Chew Chew, Salted Caramel Milk Stout – 6%

A sweet, briney, chewy beer brewed with dark Belgian candi syrup, lactose and sea salt. ..a decadent and satisfying beer.”

Verdict: A strong coffee colour with a creamy head and then be prepared for a whiff of sweet caramel and chocolate. Take a slow sip of this richly textured milky, malty Mocha of a beer with undertones of fudge, chocolate brownies and hint of roasted hazelenuts.  Yes, delicously decadent.

Despite being brewed with dark Belgian candi syrup, it’s not overly sweet, the sugary, toffee taste is well balanced by a sprinkle of Hebridean sea salt in the caramel flavour.  A good, solid stout with a bold, boozy punch which would pair well with a platter of oysters.

Chew Chew Stout would pair well with succulent, salty oysters

The experts at Fallen recommend the perfect partner to a Chew Chew – a lightly-peated whisky.  Detective Inspector Rebus, partial to a smoky Laphroaig with a beer chaser, is sure to approve.

Rebus took a long swallow of beer. Having nursed his pint while Rebus downed two double whiskies and two beers, Grant was dismayed to find another half poured into his glass as soon as there was room for it.” 

The Falls, Ian Rankin

The innovative, award winning team at Fallen Brewing Company

Fallen Brewing is all about eco-friendly sustainability – electricity from 100% renewable sources, the spent malt becomes cattle feed, hops are composted and the beer is vegan, unless stated otherwise.  

“We brew beers we want to drink ourselves and we only want to drink the best. The beers are unfiltered and unpasteurised and we source the best ingredients, fill all casks and kegs by hand, and (with) our own canning line, we have total control over the quality of every beer.”

Paul and Karen Fallen have certainly embarked on an adventurous journey on the fast track, inspired by and preserving the cultural and industrial rural heritage of the Kippen railway. In just six years, the brewery has won numerous awards for their distinctively different, hand crafted range of Scottish beers based on commitment, creativity and passion.

Hope this has whetted your thirst and if so ….

Full list of beers, stockists and the online shop, visit,  www.fallenbrewing.co.uk

Have a Vacay – and dream about the great escape with an ice-cold cocktail in hand.

 “Roof top BBQs, moonlit strolls & dappled skies, surprise birthdays & poolside rays, beach day breaks & all night raves, Christmas Eve’s & drinks at Steve’s, glamping excursions & cold weather aversions, hen nights & chicken dinners, blind dates & best mates.”

Vacay Craft Cocktails in a Can offers you that tantalising tropical taste of those sandy beaches and party time.  The premium, gluten free, vegan cocktails have been created by a team of mixologists and culinary experts, using natural ingredients, no artificial flavours or sweeteners. 

We created Vacay as we wanted to provide an exciting option that tastes delicious, but also allows venues to provide the speed of service they require. Sophisticated yet eccentric, Vacay was born as a confident, quirky, unique and stylish new canned cocktail brand taking cocktails out of the bar to new horizons.”

Vacay cockails – Holiday mood and Happy Hour, anytime

Creating a new alcopop was all about developing a fresh personality, image and identity. The bright colourful packaging  is all about fun, animated designs based on sharp, simple Japanese-style illustrations. 

Moscow Mule

Moscow Mule (6.5% abv) –  Misty Isle Vodka, blended with ginger beer, lime juice and a dash of Angostura bitters.

The Moscow Mule was invented in 1941 at New York’s Chatham Hotel. John “Jack” Morgan, owner of the Hollywood Cock’n Bull Restaurant, and John Martin, of Heublein, collaborated by combining their respective products, ginger beer with Smirnoff vodka – a cocktail described as “inventive genius.”

The distinctive, Misty Isle Vodka from the Isle of Skye is triple distilled, made with water from Storr Lochs, resulting in a clean, crisp spirit suitable for enjoying in cocktails and mixed drinks. 

This is a good size serving (330ml) – enough for a tall glass  – and seriously refreshing with a tart citrus tang followed by a warming hit of ginger beer, such that the smooth, quality Vodka is a bit washed out.  The typical Moscow Mule would be about 10 – 11 abv, but this lighter, sparkling version is 6.5%.  A balance of sweet and spicy, perhaps a little too sweet on the alco-pop side for some palates.

Moscow Mule traditionally served in a copper tankard

Garnished with a slice or wedge of lime and mint, it is popularly served in a copper tankard, which takes on the cold temperature of the drink.

Tom Collins

Tom Collins (6.1% abv) – 58 Gin with Sicilian lemon juice, soda water and natural cane sugar.

Created by New York saloon-owner Jerry Thomas, his original blend of gin, fresh lemon, simple syrup and soda was first published in the Bon-Vivant’s Companion, 1876.

The Tom Collins cocktail reminds me of sitting on a porch in the summer and drinking lemonade,” says Bradley Evans, head bartender in Manhattan. “It’s a NYC staple.”

Its simplicity is said to be the beauty of this well-balanced tipple.

The handy cocktail to pop in a bag for the beach

The Vacay version of a Tom Collins is crafted with 58 Gin, a small-batch copper distilled gin produced in Hackney Downs, and when poured into a tall balloon glass over ice, expect a burst of effervescent fizz.

Rather than lemonade, to my taste it was more like Bitter Lemon, but equally thirst-quenching and quaffable.  Again, the alcoholic content may be “drowned” out by the sweetened citrus and soda but instead the aim is to offer a healthier, tipple. A lemonade for the grown ups.

“A Paloma in a can with a cactus doing the can can.”

Paloma (5.7% abv) – Blanco Tequila mixed with pink grapefruit, lime juice, soda water and natural sugarcane.

This jazzy orange and green can illustrated with a dancing cactus.  “A Paloma in a can with a cactus doing the can can.”  Such a super cute image, I would love it on a T-shirt.

The Paloma is the most popular tequila-based cocktail in Mexico. It’s said to be named after La Paloma (“The Dove”), – the popular folk song composed in the early 1860s, – created by the legendary Don Javier Delgado Corona, owner and bartender of La Capilla in Tequila, Mexico.

Vacay has selected the award-wining Espolón Blanco Tequila, double-distilled in the Highlands of Jalisco, Mexico – and it’s all about the perfect pour, with a splash, a dash and a squeeze of soda, lime juice and pink grapefruit.   When I think of a classic Mexican cocktail, it’s one of my favourites –  a Margarita (Tequila, Triple Sec Liqueur /Cointreau and lime juice) and this Paloma is certainly related, a sassy sister perhaps, given its similar sharp, tart citrus kick. 

The aroma is a fresh whiff of grapefruit, and the taste is akin to a light, sparkling Margarita. In fact, you could smear the rim of the glass with salt for a complex sweet, sour, bitter, salty flavour.  This is a zesty sparkling cocktail with the taste of the Mexican sun. 

Vodka Soda

Blood Orange Vodka Soda (5.2% abv) –  Misty Isle Vodka, blood orange juice and hibiscus syrup, lemon, soda water.

The simple mix of vodka with soda was jazzed up in the early 1990s, by a bar tender in Washington, as a Rose Kennedy Cocktail, named after the matriarch of America’s first family.  Commonly known as a “VSS” (vodka soda splash), it’s  Vodka, Club soda, garnished with a slice of lemon and just a splash of cranberry juice to give a pale pink tint.

The Vacay version  of a Vodka Soda is a twist on the Rose Kennedy with Misty Isle Vodka from the isle of Skye, topped up with sparkling soda water, a slurp of hibiscus syrup and a splash of blood orange juice to give a vibrant shade of  the summer sun. 

Hibscus syrup has a delicate floral aroma with a tart cranberry and citrus flavour.  The first taste is clearly lemon to the fore, but sweet, a tad reminiscent of lemon and honey cough mixture I had as a child.  Served ice cold, it is extremely refreshing and at only 130 calories for the 330 ml can, this is a low alcohol, easy drinking cocktail.  Drink Responsibly is the message.

So take time out, relax and dream of a great escape with these cool, contemporary craft cocktails.  Have a Vacay, as they say!

The recommended retail price is £4.50/330ml can

For more information and to purchase on line, in packs of 4 or 24 – http://www.haveavacay.com

Land, Sea and Sky – majestic coastal paintings by Steven Hood at the Dundas Street, Gallery, Edinburgh

It is not only this sense of place but the uniqueness of experience at a specific moment in time.   These new paintings offer a kind of permanence to that experience, to what was observed and more importantly for what was felt. Steven Hood

Steven Hood painting En Plein Air

Steven Hood studied drawing and painting at the Edinburgh College of Art (1985-89) and has enjoyed a prestigious career with regular solo exhibitions at private galleries, and amongst numerous others, at the Society of Scottish Artists, Noble Grossart Award and the Royal Scottish Academy.

Living and working in the Edinburgh, the foreshore around Granton has been a favourite stomping ground since childhood.  With such a close affinity to the iconic views over Firth of Forth, here is a magnificent, moody seascape, ‘Haar over Cramond Island.’  

Haar over Cramond Island

For those who don’t know the word, Haar: noun – a cold sea mist off the North Sea. Just a vague glimpse of the distant island can be seen through a hazy light struggling to break through the mass of greyness.

Haar Enveloping Inchkeith Island

The fine perspective in ‘Haar Enveloping Inchkeith Island’ leads the eye from the grassy sandy cover, rocks and lapping waves to the slither of an island lost in the fog on the horizon. These two mesmerising scenes, enveloped in a semi opaque, soft light, convey the chilly, swirling haar, with such delicate atmospheric quality.

Following in the brushstrokes of the pioneering Impressionists, Monet, Cezanne, Van Gogh et al, Steven Hood likes to paint natural landscapes outside “en plein air,” for a personal, direct response to swiftly changing light and weather.

Evening Sky, Gamrie Bay

A recent trip to the Aberdeenshire coastline shows he is a master at capturing the movement and patterning of clouds. Like the artist, in “Evening Sky, Gamrie Bay,” near Gardenstown, we too stand on the beach under a wide shimmering sky in the rosy dusk.

Van Gogh was fascinated by wheat fields, painted again and again with cypress trees, reaper or birds.  Hood also depicts the glorious golden harvest, the tall stalks bent over in the sea breeze in “Cliff Top Wheat Fields, Aberdeenshire.”  The blocks of bold colour are most effective.

Clifftop Wheat Fields, Aberdeenshire

Observing the light over the seashore at the end of the day is very much a recurring theme, such as the ambient detail in “Setting Sun, the Mouth of the River Almond.” The dark waves and grey rain clouds contrast with a glimmer of pink rays casting a faint glint on the water.

Setting Sun, Mouth of River Almond

Most inspiring is a duet of sunsets, “snapped” quickly over a few minutes on 26th June, looking over to Fife.   This is all part of his aim to seize the likeness of a place at a specific moment, akin to a painterly photograph.

Setting Sun over Fife, 26th June

A large drop of sun lingered on the horizon and then dripped over and was gone, and the sky was brilliant over the spot where it had gone. 
― John Steinbeck, ‘The Grapes of Wrath’

After the Sunset, 26th June

Turner created hundreds of sketches and paintings of different weather conditions, especially clouds and rain such as “Beach, English coast” (1835).

Beach, English Coast c.1835-40 Joseph Mallord William Turner

With similar powerful abstract expression, “Rain Clouds over Inchkeith Island,” the slanting, lashing downfall dramatically evoked with a flurry of thick, brash, brushstrokes.

Rain Clouds over Inchkeith Island

Art is more than a visual response, and Steven Hood clearly conveys the enriching emotional experience, a real sense of place.

These paintings are even more powerful when viewed in the gallery and this is a great space to stand back and observe the wild natural beauty of the Scottish coastline. They recall so poignantly the sentiment of Masefield’s poem, “I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky.”

Land, Sea and Sky – Steven Hood

Saturday 10th October to Wednesday 14th October 2020 

10.30am – 5.30pm

Dundas Street Gallery. 6 Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6HZ 

Social distancing measures will allow for 6 people in the gallery at any given time. Masks must be worn and hand sanitiser will be provided. 

Visit the website to view the exhibition www.stevenhoodartist.com

Le Grand Cros – classic, crisp, cool Rosé wines from Provence

Le Grand Cros Domaine, Provence, South of France

In Provence, making Rosé wines is a speciality and a longstanding way of life, thanks to the climate, terroir and varietals which are perfectly suited to this wine.  Provence is the number one French region for its production.

Soft pink blushing wines

Traditionally sipped al fresco in summer, such is the popularity of rosé, also called Rosato or Rosado wine, that it is now consumed year round. Not much more than a decade ago, the market was led by semi-sweet blush wines from California, but today it’s bone-dry, pale pink wines primarily from Provence. The Greeks planted the first grapevines here over two thousand years ago, the oldest wine region in France, and Rosé is the oldest known wine.

The consumption of rosé wine has continued to rise such that one in three bottles of wine purchased is a bottle of rosé.  Exports of Provence wines have skyrocketed by nearly 500% in just 15 years!

Jumping on the bandwagon, Kylie Minogue has even launched her own Côtes de Provence Rosé to mark her 52nd birthday this year. Her name is on the label, but she is not the winemaker!.

Kylie has launched her own Cote de Provence Rosé

It was in 1989 when the retired Canadian diplomat and businessman, Sir Hugh Faulkner and his English wife, Jane, an artist, bought the Grand Cros domaine.  Located near Carnoules, 50km north-west of St Tropez in the valley of the Maures mountains, it’s surrounded by pine and olive trees.

Le Grand Cros – a verdant landscape of vines and olive groves

Their eldest son, Julian, completed Masters degree in Bordeaux and in 2000, took over the management of the 24 hectare estate which now produces a range of classic white, red, rosé and sparkling wines.   One of their rosé wines was especially chosen for the banquet at Windsor Castle celebrating the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. 

Le Grand Cros Domaine

Julian runs the family vineyard in the traditional style with a modern, entrepreneurial, business approach. The “Jules” label was launched in 2005 to offer a range of good value wines from different regions and appellations across the south of France. He developed new technology, a computer-linked weather station and embarks on sales trips from Hong Kong to New York.  To reach a younger, international market, the “Jules” brand  is promoted on YouTube. 

Passionate oenophiles – Hugh, Jane and Julian Faulkner

Le Grand Cros is known mostly for its quality rosé wines, so I was delighted to have the opportunity to sip and sample two of their award winning wines.

Le Grand Cros wines: the taste of the South of France in the summer sun

Le Grand Cros,  L’esprit de Provence, 2019

Julian Faulkner introduces it thus:

“Dry and fruity, this rosé seduces with its tenderness, elegance and freshness. With its pretty texture and beautiful aromatic concentration, it is particularly suitable for gastronomic moments.”

This is a carefully crafted blend of grape varieties – Cinsault, Grenache, Mourvedre, Shiraz

With a beautiful shade of peach or perhaps smoked salmon, expect an aroma of apricot, grapefruit, a hint of lychee with floral and herbal notes.  The first taste offers a tart, soft berry and citrus fruitiness, well balanced to release a refreshing, dry, crisp character.  The complex layered, depth of flavour would complement a diverse range of cuisine, especially seafood – ceviche, sushi, pasta with clams, fish soup and indeed a slice of delectable smoked salmon.  An elegant, easy drinking Rosé to experience over a leisurely lunch. 

Gold Medal at the Vinalies Internationale and Mundis Vini; Best Rosé Œnologues de France competition, 2019.

Jules – Cote de Provence

Jules  – Cote de Provence, 2019

Grape Varieties: Grenache, Semillon, Cinsault, Rolle

This pink blush wine offers a rich aroma of ripe white peaches, sweet orange and the tang of lemon, presenting an initial gooseberry tartness, akin to a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. But the underlying flavour is softer, lighter and mellow. Sip and savour to detect strawberry and crème de cassis with a slight acidity of grapefruit.  Luscious, ripe, and summery – year round.

A great value rosé, delightfully delicate to sip, day or night, as an aperitif or to accompany classic Provençal Provencal dishes, such as Bouillabaisse, Ratatouille and Pissaladière, the region’s sophisticated take on pizza with caramelised onions, garlic, anchovies and pitted olives.

The Jules label has created the quintessential Provence Rosé, winning a clutch of major awards over the past decade not least, Gold Medal, Concours des Grands Vins de Mâcon, 2010 and Silver Medal, International Competition of Rosés of the World, 2011.

Le Grand Cros Vineyard

With a respect for the environment and climate, Julian blends science and art, passion and instinct to ensure the quality of our wines that best reflect the spirit of this Provencal estate. Faulkner Wines produces over 500,000 bottles of quality wine and sells to over 20 countries.  

Le Grand Cros – Aurelia

Another leading Faulkner wine is Le Grand Cros –Aurélia named after Julian’s eldest daughter. Such was the overwhelmingly positive reaction to the Aurélia 2015 that a 2016 release followed. A three-year gap ensured the vintage was once again perfect to launch Aurélia 2019, with a creamier texture and greater complexity.

“If you have tried previous vintages, the 2019 is more feminine with less vinosity. Just like her namesake, she is growing up and showing immense charm and finesse.” Julian Faulkner

For the Faulkner family and Le Grand Cros vineyard, life is rosy.!

For more information, suppliers and purchase on line: http://www.faulknerwine.com