Archive | December 2020

Scottish Ballet present “The Secret Theatre,” a fantastical, sparkling, Festive Fizz of a Christmas movie.

Every year, Scottish Ballet kickstarts Christmas entertainment, staging sixty- eight performances of a Festive ballet around six cities from early December to February. Sadly, it has now been nine months since all theatres closed and to reflect the company’s artistic commitment for creativity and performance, the Artistic Director, Christopher Hampson decided that the Show must go on. 

The world premiere of Scottish Ballet’s first, full-length, feature film “The Secret Theatre”  can be viewed in the comfort and safety of your own home from Monday 21st December.

The enchanting story is about a little boy, Leo, who embarks on a fantastical adventure as he kicks his football along a city street until it hits an old door, which opens with a screech; like Alice falling down the rabbit hole, he steps inside the auditorium of a grand, Victorian theatre, its rows of plush red seats left empty and in darkness.

Leo sneaks inside the closed theatre, (Leo Tetteh)

The curtain opens and he ventures backstage, where suddenly, amidst a clutter of costumes and props, a cast of clowns, acrobats and colourful characters from The Nutcracker and The Snow Queen, spring into life.

They are the forgotten, dusty ghosts of Christmas past. hidden in the wings of this secret Theatre.

The Ringmaster and the circus of clowns, strongman and dancers

Jumping out of a wicker basket is Lexi, (aka, the Summer Princess in The Snow Queen) who guides Leo into a magical mash-up of fairy tales, featuring the Sugar Plum Fairy, Nutcracker Prince, Snow wolves, Jack Frosts and dazzling white Snowflakes.

Lexi (Alice Kawalek) and Leo (Leo Tetteh)

Leo is spellbound, his wide eyes full of joy and wonder, as we follow his rollercoaster ride through snapshot scenes, moving swiftly between the Circus, Roma camp, Ice Kingdom and a glamorous, glittering Christmas Eve party.

A lively Roma Dance by Mazelda (Grace Horler)

The graceful, playful choreography by Christopher Hampson and Peter Darrell, flows together seamlessly, linking the scores of Rimsky-Korsakov and Tchaikovsky – the glorious, romantic music recorded live by the Scottish Ballet Orchestra. 

A flurry of dazzling white Snowflakes in “The Snow Queen”

Instead of simply filming a staged production, The Secret Theatre is a genuine work of cinematography. set in outdoor locations, the Tramway, & the King’s Theatres in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Creative camera work and special effects too – disappearing dancers, flying white drapes and a magic carpet with Disneyesque wizardry.

Nutcracker Prince (Jerome Anthony Barnes) and Sugar Plum Fairy, (Sophie Martin)

The spectacle is captured through the intimacy of camera lens, observing every swirling step and pirouetting pas de deux, with all the fabulous, glittering costumes, in such fine detail.  

The icy gaze of the Snow Queen, (Catherine Devernay)

The superlative performances are all the more dramatic due to the stunning close ups, such as The Snow Queen, with her ice-blue lips and the prancing peacock of a Ringmaster in his feathered top hat. 

The enigmatic Ringmaster, (Bruno Micchiardi)

This is pure theatre on screen, blending two classical Fairytale ballets with fantastical Narnia and Toy Story– style vision and childlike imagination, all the way to the last magical, tearjerker moment.   

While nothing beats seeing Scottish Ballet live on stage, their heart-warming movie is the essential, sparkling Festive treat for 2020 which will appeal to all ages.  Book your free tickets now.!

The World premiere of The Secret Theatre is screened on Monday 21 December at 6pm.

Tickets are free and must be booked in advance on the website: 21st December to 24th December, 2020.

https://www.scottishballet.co.uk/event/the-secret-theatre

Performance duration: one hour.

Donations are welcome to support Scottish Ballet and local theatres. There is an accompanying programme, as well as a series of talks and workshops.

Production Credits

Created by the CEO/Artistic Director of Scottish Ballet, Christopher Hampson and Lez Brotherston

Co-screen directors: Jessica Wright and Morgann Runacre-Temple.

Choreographers: Christopher Hampson and Peter Darrell

Designer: Lez Brotherston

Writer: Sam Brown

Producer: Beth Allan, Forest of Black

Director of Photography: David Liddell

Tom Savano hand-crafted Cocktails – a story of innovation, creativity and passion: just taste one and see!

For a new business idea, product and brand to succeed, you need to be an entrepreneur with both a financial mind and imaginative vision.  The original germ of the idea for a Cocktail company, began ten years ago when James Kerslake was on holiday in Ibiza, sipping a Mojito at the Café Mambo and watching the sunset.

Cocktail Hour at sunset, Cafe Mambo, Ibiza

Back in London, while working in Investment banking by day, he would shake up cocktails at home, as well as social drinking ideas such as BarPanda, an app to order drinks in a bar and split the bill with friends.  The world of hospitality, food and drink had always been an interest, but only as a side line to his full time career.  In 2007, aged 27, James launched a specialist food bar in London aimed at hungry, health-conscious office workers – artisan wraps, made-to-order salads, sushi, burritos and freshly made smoothies, a pioneering, new venture at the time. 

From making batches of Mojitos for parties and picnics with friends, this led to being asked to supply his speciality cocktails for a friend’s wedding and the idea for a professional Drinks business was sparked. A lightbulb moment indeed. 

James Kerslake admits he has always been a bit of a dreamer, a romantic idealist; the brand name, Tom Savano is his alter ego, fictional character who is in search of exciting, new experiences and “spiritual,” journeys of discovery.

Tom Savano reflects perfect moments with a cocktail in hand

Escape to your favourite travel destinations with Tom’s signature cocktail collection, perfected using artisan spirits from small craft distilleries.

Tom Savano Cocktails are ready mixed and bottled at bar strength and quality, using only artisan spirits from the best, local, small batch distilleries.  “When it comes to independent spirit makers, it is character, story and heritage, that are important in defining flavour.”  James Kerslake

The artistic labels represent a cultural sense of place as reflected through Tom’s sunglasses to illustrate the cocktail’s origin from Italy to New York and Mexico.

Having finely crafted the first four Tom Savano signature cocktails, Margarita, Negroni, Lychee Martini and Old Fashioned, they were entered for the global Speciality Spirits Masters Awards in August 2019. 

Three months later, James was informed that his brand new products had won no fewer than three gold medals and one silver medal. An incredible, auspicious start to his fledgling business which was officially launched in December 2019.  After nine years in the creation, the Award-winning Tom Savano handcrafted Cocktail company was ready to splash.  

Single Estate Reposado Margarita – Gold Award,  Speciality Spirits Masters, 2019

The attractive, squat bottle is for 2 servings; through the lens of the sunglasses, an idyllic image of a swimming pool, palm trees and loungers, just the place to relax with this cocktail.

The Jalisco Estate Reposado Tequila is blended with fresh Agave, Mexican herbs and lime.  This Ocho Tequila is made in the traditional way from hand harvested Blue Agave plants, and the piña, the succulent core, is roasted in brick ovens and crushed between stone wheels. The recipe is based on a Tommy’s Margarita, created in 1990 in San Francisco by Julio Bermejo at  Tommy’s, his parents’ restaurant.  Instead of Triple Sec or Cointreau, Julio added a spoonful of Agave nectar for a natural, honeyed flavour.

I kept the bottle in the fridge for a day or two so that it was well chilled. This is an authentic, ready made cocktail so it should not be diluted by adding ice.!

My first sip of the Tom Savano handcrafted Margarita was lip smackingly good. Wow is the word.! The sharp, tart citrus tang just sings aloud, and then savour the earthy, smoky aftertaste which is smoothly mellow with an exquisite, complex depth of flavour.  As suggested on the bottle, do dip the rim of your glass with salt – ideally Pink Himalayan – to create the perfect serve.  This is Mexican sunshine in a glass with a whiff of salt sea air.

English Garden Lychee Martini – Gold award, Speciality Spirts Masters, 2019

The image on this bottle reflected through Tom’s sunglasses, is an avenue of pink blossoming trees with oriental, painterly style with a backdrop of skyscrapers.

The Lychee Martini was invented in the 1990s in Clay, a late night Korean restaurant in New York. The story goes Han-jae Park used to make it for local bartenders after they finished work. Also known as “Lycheetini,” based on a lychee liqueur or syrup, is a beautiful, delicate, and unusual cocktail. Lychees have the sweet taste of grape, strawberry and melon, but with a slightly sour finish.

The Tom Savano Lychee Martini includes British elderflower vodka with a layering of lychee and a blend of vermouths.  The floral aroma is all about encapsulating an English Garden in Springtime.  The artisan brand of spirit is Jelly’s English Elderflower vodka made in Desborough, Northamptonshire featuring coriander, liquorice, cardamom, orris root, lemon and handpicked local elderflower.

The cocktail has a fruity, floral perfumed aroma and softly textured flavour with the Vermouth cutting through the sweetness to give the kick of a dry Martini. 

Devon Coastal Negroni – Silver award, Speciality Spirits Masters, 2019

Count Negroni famously invented his eponymous cocktail in Florence in 1919 and having celebrated its centenary last year, this remains a glamorously, fashionable, ruby red aperitivo.

‘Devon Coastal’ Negroni’ features Salcombe gin, a small batch craft gin from Devon, inspired by seafaring voyages from centuries past, with classic Italian vermouth, Amaro and a hint of orange.  

It is poetically described as “More mellow than a traditional Negroni with just the right amount of bitterness and a subtle hint of sweet orange. One sip and you’ll be transported to an overgrown villa in Florence, nibbling Cicchetti as the late afternoon lingers on.”

Kentucky Winter Old Fashioned – Gold award, Speciality Sprits Masters, 2019

Colonel James E. Pepper, a Kentucky distiller of bourbon and the bar tender of the Pendennis Club, Louisville, jointly created this cocktail around 1900.  It is immortalised in song, “Make it Another Old Fashioned, Please” by Cole Porter.

This Tom Savano recipe combines a smooth Kentucky bourbon and a spicy Rye, with dark sugar, a house blend of Bitters and a hint of orange peel.

“Carrying the heritage of more than a century of American whisky making, this timeless drink will take you to a porch in Kentucky at golden hour, watching the birds nest for the evening.”

The idea behind Tom Savano Cocktails is genius, based on an inspired recipe for success.  James Kerslake had all the ingredients to hand: financial knowledge, creative imagination, mixology skills and artistic branding with a colourful garnish of passion and pizzazz.

Tom Savano Cocktails celebrated its first anniversary in December 2020 and what a year it has been.  In March when the Covid-19 pandemic Lockdown began in the UK, James focussed on home delivery – two months of stock sold out in just eight days.  Production was increased to meet exceptional demand with continuing high sales through the Autumn and Winter, as well as an increase in gifts for the Festive Season.

Two new signature cocktails joined the collection this year, the Caribbean Dawn Mai Tai in the summer and the Smoky Maple Ragtime Manhattan has just been launched in time to toast Tom’s first birthday.

Tom Savano has now partnered with London’s Cinnamon Club and received more awards including the prestigious ‘Best New Product of the Year 2020’ at the Spirits Business Global Masters 2020.

 Join the fan base!

These cocktails are incredible! It’s like being in the best cocktail bar in London but in your home!

Absolutely delicious cocktails, gorgeous packaging and speedy delivery. We have already placed another order…

To find out more about Tom Savano Handcrafted Cocktails, where to buy, how to order and ideas for gifts. There’s a choice of six cocktails in two sizes of bottles for two or five servings.

https://tomsavano.com/shop/

Tom Savano cocktails – the perfect gift for you, friends and family

Tom’s Club is a place for cocktail lovers with a passion for travel. Sign up as a member for discounts on your cocktail delivery orders and receive invites to Tom’s Club events.

The Alcoholic Boozy Christmas Hamper

Christmas Hampers 2020

Tom Savano has teamed up with a few independent food and drink producers to create hampers in aid of The Trussell Trust charity.  There are five different hampers: a vegan/gluten-free variety, a healthy option, a chocolate hamper, an alcoholic version and a classic family hamper, with a fine selection of artisan food and drink, with all profits going to charity, to feed families in financial difficulty, who are in need this Christmas.

https://www.tomsavano.com/savexmas

Classic Christmas Hamper

Callan at 60 – An exhibition of evocative and elegant Figurative paintings by Damian Callan @ the Dundas Street Gallery, Edinburgh

As he celebrates his 60th birthday in December 2020, Damian Callan can reflect on a most successful career, specialising in figurative painting and portraits, teaching art classes for adults and children, and as the author of two books, Paint Like Degas and Paint Like Renoir.  

Damian Callan at work in his studio

This exhibition is partly a retrospective collection from the past twenty-five years (kindly lent by the owners), which are complemented by new sketches and paintings. The subjects for these figurative scenes are his wife Ruth, their four children, cousins and friends while on holiday in Argyll and Outer Hebrides

Beach Run, Damian Callan (2010)

Damian Callan has followed in the tradition of two Scottish masters in the genre of painting children. Joan Eardley is renowned for her iconic portraits of the twelve Samson bairns who lived near her Glasgow studio. Born in 1835, William McTaggart grew up on a remote farm in Aros, Kintyre, a memory which would later permeate the subject of his paintings: “the fisherfolk of his past and a recurring vision of children playing in the surf …rosy cheeked kids,  bathed in perpetual summer sun.“  Lachlan Goudie, The Story of Scottish Art.

Here too are Callan’s painterly reflections to illustrate the family’s seaside adventures in the summer sun, between 2003 to 2014, from Skipness, Kintyre to the Isles of Berneray.  These colourful “snapshot” images capture the joyful sense of freedom as the kids run on the beach, play in the sea, and gather cockles in rock pools.

Harris Surf, Damian Callan (2006)

There is such a tangible feeling of movement in their exuberant, arm waving gestures, as the kids jump and splash in the waves. Several charming paintings show the fun of messing about in boats and rowing a dinghy. 

Green Boat, Damian Callan (2007)

The process starts with photographs and from these prints, sketches are made to create a loose impression of the realistic images, and then finally, working on the composition in oil on canvas, panel or paper. Callan has perfected the inventive use of a printmaker’s roller, to add texture to the surface of the paint to depict the shimmering water and frothy white surf.

Children and Lighthouse, Damian Callan (2009)

These timeless images of happy carefree days bring a real sense of nostalgia for our own childhood, whatever age we are.  Children and Lighthouse in particular, has a vintage quality, reminiscent of favourite stories such as Swallows and Amazons and the Famous Five adventures by Enid Blyton.

Fast forward to 2020 and a diverse range of new work – seascapes, figurative sketches and fashionable frocks with oil paintings, small studies and prints for sale.

From the earlier style of composition with impressionistic, smudges of brush strokes, there is now a bolder, brighter approach with vivid colour and clarity.  

Running In, Damian Callan (2020)

As shown in Running In and Running Out, these are gleeful moments of youthful energy with a fine depiction of movement, in Callan’s distinctive, characteristic painterly style.

Running Out, Damian Callan (2020)

Escape is a lovely picture of a wee boy, standing in the boat as if pretending to be a Venetian gondolier, as the children look out for fish and crabs along the seashore.  Again, the vision of carefree, childhood fun, evoking the nostalgic world of Enid Blyton.

Escape, Damian Callan (2019)

Damian Callan has long been influenced by the figurative paintings of Edgar Degas, whose work he examined and explored in academic detail, to write his book, “Paint Like Degas.”  

Degas was spectacularly inventive in his approach to composition,” he says, “Movement characterizes many of his subjects –the dancers, the racehorses – .. .. the pattern and rhythm of repeated figures, the dancers in a line on the Barre.” 

Ballet Class, Edgar Degas

With similar, elegant, Degas-esque mood and manner, there is a series of beautifully composed paintings of Damian’s wife Ruth, pinning up her hair, dressing and posing in silky, floaty cocktail gowns.

Classical Dress, Damian Callan (2020)

These are delightful, intimate portraits of the artist’s slender model, as she zips up a blue dress and shows off her posh, crimson-plum frock – humorously described as Lockdown Bedroom Dress. Sadly all dressed up and nowhere to go for a night out at the Ballroom or go to the Ballet.

Lockdown Bedroom Dress, Damian Callan (2020)

“Callan at 60” is a most impressive retrospective of his career, from the tranquil, domestic portrait, Ruth, Daffodils and Kettle, (1995), through a time-travelling trip around atmospheric seascapes to the recent Vogue-style fashion shoot.  

William McTaggart painted young children to portray “an optimistic symbol of renewal and rebirth.”  Likewise, Damian Callan has preserved his memories to portray family life and the innocence of childhood with imaginative vision, humour and heartfelt love.  

Callan at 60 @ Dundas Street Gallery, 6 Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6HZ

11th – 17th December, 2020 – open daily, 11am to 6pm.

A well illustrated catalogue with an inspiring introduction by Ruth Callan is available at the gallery.

For more information, view a Gallery of images and details of Online events, see the website:

https://www.damiancallan.com/events.html

Monday 14th December: 10am, Live Virtual Tour of Exhibition

Tuesday 15th December: 10am. Artist’s Talk & Short Film with contributions from collectors

Wednesday 16th December: 10am, Painting Demonstration

‘Echoes of Existence’ by Helen Acklam: quirky, colourful Scottish landscapes, with an emotional sense of home and heritage.

Helen Acklam is a mixed media artist, working across watercolours, acrylic paintings and sculptures.  Originally from Yorkshire and now living in Dumfries, she is inspired by the Scottish landscape, sea, history, archaeology, geology and myth. 

This on-line exhibition presented by the Dancing Light Gallery, is an evocative series of paintings of rural crofts and cottages located around the Highlands and Islands.

Aird, Helen Acklam

From classic Victorian scenes, “Monarch of the Glen,” Highland lochs, mountains and furry coos, the artistic genre to depict Scotland’s wild, natural landscape has continued over the centuries. 

A Highland Croft, Peter Graham, 1836-1921

Hebridean seascapes and farm Crofts, in particular, have always had a perennial, worldwide appeal, perhaps due to nostalgia, family ancestry, a favourite destination, and simply the timeless, scenic beauty,

Francis Cadell frequently visited the island of Iona to capture this peaceful, spiritual place with their isolated cottages on the seashore.

Clachanach Croft, Iona, Francis Cadell

Helen Acklam brings a unique, modern, “Scottish Colourist,” painterly style to her illustrations of traditional crofts, cottages, bothies and shielings located around the Outer Hebrides.  

Towards Borgastan, Helen Acklam

Borghastan  – Borrowston – with a population of about 50, is a crofting township on the Isle of Lewis, at the northern end of Loch Carloway

This is a charming old But ‘n Ben in Towards Borgastan – which may be in a slight tumbledown condition, with its wind battered corrugated iron roof,  shabby paint on the front door and bent posts in the garden.  The soft, pink-tinted clouds in the sky – maybe a snapshot of Sunset – is most atmospheric.

From the Clearances of the 18th and 19th century, when evicted crofters emigrated to North America, and the ongoing hardship of remote island life, some of these cottages are empty and forgotten.  There’s a glimpse of human history here, a memory of a long lost family and small-holding farming life

From the lone shieling of the misty island
Mountains divide us, and the waste of seas,
Yet still the blood is strong, the heart is Highland,
And we in dreams behold the Hebrides.
(from the Canadian Boat Song)

Joan Eardley is renowned for her expressionistic land and seascapes around her cottage in Catterline, Kincardinshire.  

Winter Day, Catterline, Joan Eardley

From these higgledy piggledy cottages in Winter Day, to cornfields and seashore, Eardley expressed her emotional affection for the colour and light of the coastal village. Painting outdoors in wild, stormy weather, she incorporated grasses, grain and seeds into the oil paint to bring the feel of the land on to the canvas.

Helen Acklam has also visited this iconic village with its curving row of cottages along the sheer cliff edge.  Cottages, Catterline is beautifully composed with the layered, blocked structure – the midnight blue inky sky, white washed houses with red roofs and the flourishing green meadow of tall grasses and red poppies. 

Cottages, Catterline, Helen Acklam

Acklam often mixes acrylic paint with inks, gouache, graphite and metal leaf for a richer texture, tone and visual effect. A sprinkle of sand from Luskentyre beach, Isle of Harris, would certainly add an authentic fragment of the actual terrain and topography.  

At first glance, Leurbost Loch, (Isle of Lewis), depicts a rather sad, wee house.  But look closer. This is a mini masterpiece of minimalism to evoke the remote setting, the shimmer of a mountain beyond the loch and what seems like a swirl of winter snow in the sky. 

Leurbost Loch, Helen Acklam

A collage using scraps of paper from local old books are imbedded in some works, to represent the strong Religious faith and beliefs of the Islanders. More than just a sketch of a cottage, these illustrate the heritage, culture and tradition of their Gaelic way of life.

Blue Cottage, Labost, Helen Acklam

Blue Cottage, Labost (Isle of Lewis) is another magical “portrait” of two country crofts, the garden sloping down a hill with the remnants of what could be an ancient drystone wall and an old fence.

With a light sketchy method, there is a real character here, as if the tiny windows are like eyes and the red door, a long nose – enchanting, quirky and comical illustrations which would be ideal for children’s picture books and traditional fairy tales.  

These are all real crofts and cottages which you could visit on a tour of these islands, just enhanced with vivid and vivacious colour, humour and imagination.  Moreover, there is an underlying, tangible, emotional sense of place, reflecting the communities today, as well as preserving the heritage of derelict, deserted homes.  The Echoes of Existence indeed, blowing in the cool, sea breeze.

Echoes of Existance by Helen Acklam

Dancing Light Gallery – a new on-line exhibition

View the paintings here: https://www.dancinglightgallery.co.uk/product-category/current-exhibition/

Visualise a painting on your wallA Croft for Christmas!

Download the app ‘Art Visualiser’ onto your phone or iPad via the app store.   https://artvisualiser.com/

Go to the painting of your choice and click the grey button ‘Visualise on your Wall’ below the painting details. Follow the instructions on your phone or ipad. Please note this app works best in daylight or with all the lights on. It is easy to use and lets you see what a painting would look like, in your own home, before you buy.

All paintings can be delivered Nationwide, Free of Charge.

For more information and enquires, Email: info@dancinglightgallery.co.uk

N.B An exhibition of Helen Acklam’s paintings is being planned to take place at the Dundas Street Gallery, Edinburgh in March 2021
 

“Christmas at the Botanics” – an enchanting walk in the park amidst the glittering glow of fairy lights and festive fire.

After enticing 70,000 visitors to the inaugural event in 2017, and 76,000 in 2019, “Christmas in the Botanics” is back again, transforming the garden at night into a winter wonderland.  With the pantomime season cancelled for 2020, this outdoor entertainment offers a magical treat for all the family. 

Just a short walk from the West Gate, a choral rendition of Joy to the World will put you in festive mood as you stroll beside a meadow of giant snowballs like sparkling Christmas Tree baubles.

Christmas Spheres – giant snowballs and glistening baubles

All around, the bare winter trees and evergreens glimmer and shimmer in colourful shadows.  Wander over the Chinese Hillside with a garland of lanterns hanging from the branches beside the lake with a spouting fountain. 

Chinese lanterns

One of the highlights is the ‘Laser Garden’, where you are enveloped in a thick beam of green, glittering fairy lights, while a white mist swirls between the trees, creating a very spooky woodland atmosphere.

The Laser Garden filled with flickering, flying fairies

Kids will love to try to catch hold of these tiny, Tinkerbelle fairies, as they dance around you and sparkle along the path.  This is a magical, theatrical moment and I really felt like a child again. 

Another surreal sight, is the beautifully lit, tumbling waterfall at the Rock Garden, where the trees and plants are ‘painted’ in soft shades of green and purple. With the floating waterlilies in the pond, it’s like a landscape by Monet come to life. 

The painterly Rock Garden like a Monet watercolour

Turning along each path of the trail, the Botanics is brightly illuminated with installations such as a crystal, be-jewelled Christmas Tree, ‘Starfield’ featuring twenty twinkling stars, and ‘Constellations’, with sculptures of Orion, Little Bear et al.  

Starfield

Warm up in the ‘Fire Garden’, ablaze with flickering bulbs and flaming torches, while you sing along to Silent Night.  Through each different landscape, the air is filled with the familiar classics, Michael Buble is Walking in a Winter Wonderland, Chris Rea, Driving home for Christmas and for Kylie, It’s the Most Wonderful Time.

Listening to the sharp, clear quality of the soundtrack, you would think that the performers, choirs and orchestras are hidden behind the trees!

Cathedral of Light

Enter the ‘Cathedral of Light’, an arch of flower bud lights through a long tunnel with a clever optical illusion.  A dazzling, zigzag display of colourful Diamond lights is projected on the architectural structure of the towering Glass Houses, choreographed perfectly to the jazzy-rock music score by Metallica. 

The 21 Diamond installation along the 128 metre Glasshouses

An artistic pile of Sledges is reminiscent of the sculpture, “Sled” (1969) by the German Fluxus artist, Joseph Beuys, who in fact visited this garden a few times, for an exhibition at Inverleith House.  

A towering Tree of Sledges

This grand 18th century mansion is the backdrop to a magnificent animation with images of iconic places around the city from the Castle to the Forth Bridge.

Inverleith House is illuminated like a huge Advent Calendar

The windows of the house are like the boxes of an Advent Calendar with the dates flicking over from 1st to 24th December, as Mariah Carey belts out, “All I want for Christmas is You.” 

“All I want for Christmas is You” sings Mariah Carey

This enchanting walk through this series of installations is like a mixed box of well-designed, glittering Christmas Cards …. but unfortunately, there is no narrative or overall theme. At its heart, this event is for families with young children, so a simple story could link these different theatrical scenes together.

The Fairies in the Laser Garden could be trying to help a lost Reindeer in his search for Santa Claus.  Children could then follow a fun and fantastical, Peter Pan-style journey, flying through the Constellation of stars, land of ice, snow and fire, from the Chinese Hilltop to Lapland.  (Just an idea!)

And yes, a jolly Father Christmas does makes a magical appearance with his flowing white beard and a majestic red coat, waving outside his log cabin in the forest.  

 ‘Christmas at the Botanics’ runs at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh on selected dates from 2nd December, 2020 to 3rd January 2021.

Information on dates, opening times, travel, parking, entrance gates and tickets: https://www.rbge.org.uk/whats-on/christmas-at-the-botanics-2020/

Tickets prices range from: Adult £19, Member £16, Child £13 (4-16), Family £60. Carers and children under 4, free. (subject to a single transaction charge).

A Pop-up Bar serves a range of food and drink *: e.g. Mulled Wine, Prosecco, Beer, Cider,  Hot Chocolate, Tea, Coffee, soft drinks; Hot Dogs, Burgers, Veggie Burgers, BBQ snacks, Fries, & Children’s portions. (* but where are the traditional roasted chestnuts and mince pies?!)

‘Christmas at the Botanics’ is produced by events promoter Raymond Gubbay Limited a division of Sony Music, in partnership with the RGBE and Culture Creative, in collaboration with Mandylights, Lightworks, ArtAV, & Liverpool Lantern Company.

Ben Lomond Scottish Gin – the distilled essence of wild berries, woodland pine and fresh mountain air

By yon bonnie banks and by yon bonnie braes,
Where the sun shines bright on Loch Lomond.”

Loch Lomond at the heart of the Trossachs National Park, linking the Lowlands and highlands, is the perfect destination for a relaxing escape and sporting adventure.  With its thirty, tiny islands and surrounded by lush forests, the largest expanse of fresh water in Britain is dominated by the high peak of Ben Lomond.

The magestic natural beauty of Loch Lomond, Ben Lomond and Trossachs National Park

The former Loch Lomond Distillery dates back to 1814 located near Tarbet, with a new Distillery founded in 1964 at the southern end of the loch. Today, the Loch Lomond Group produces Single Malt whisky, Single Grain Whisky and Deluxe Blends, receiving seven gold medals at the International Spirits Challenge 2020.

The distillery launched its Ben Lomond Scottish Gin in 2019, inspired by the scenic beauty of the eponymous mountain, fruit, flora and trees of the National Park. The unspoilt natural world of land and loch has inspired both the recipe and attractive, artistic design.

Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park

On the steep, steep side o’ Ben Lomond,
Where in soft purple hue, the highland hills we view,
And the moon coming out in the gloaming.”

The chunky, tall bottle illustrates the mighty Ben, the lilac-purple glass reflecting both the glistening dark water of the loch and flowering heather on the hills,  while the wooden stopper is a symbol of the surrounding woodland.  Most imaginative indeed.

The bottles of this small batch, premium gin are filled, labelled and sealed by hand. With a 43% ABV, Ben Lomond is a contemporary London Dry Gin.  This refers not to the city, but a specific style and process dating back to the 18th century; all the flavours must be natural, plant based botanicals, no synthetic ingredients, with nothing added after distillation except water to produce a clear, unsweetened spirit, not less than 37.5% ABV.

The finely crafted recipe is a blend of berries, flowers, herbs, spices and essential botanicals. The Rowan tree is found higher in the mountains than any of Scotland’s other native trees, blossoming with white flowers in summer, and in Autumn a burst of bright red berries.

The Rowanberries are foraged around the Loch Lomond area, including from wild trees beside the distillery. 

Engrained in Celtic mythology, the Rowan tree, associated with magic and enchantment, was widely planted outside houses and churches as a protection against witches – cutting down a rowan was considered taboo in Scotland.  It was known as the Traveller’s Tree as boats made from Rowan wood provided a safeguard from storms. The red berries, rich in Vitamin C, was also used to treat scurvy, and traditionally made into jams, jellies, vinegar, wines and spirits.

Oh, Rowan Tree

“How fair wert thou in simmer time, wi’ all thy clusters white.
Now rich and gay thy autumn dress, wi’ berries red and bright..”

Another key ingredient are juicy blackcurrants which are also hand-picked just north of the distillery. The rowan berries and blackcurrants are added straight into the Still during the distillation process, both integral to the natural fruit flavours.     

The selection of eleven botanicals also includes Juniper to provide essential earthy notes, Coriander seed, a hint of lemony spice, Orange peel for citrus freshness, Rose petals and Orris root give a floral fragrance, Angelica Root, a dry hop-like character, Cassia and Liquorice add a touch of sweetness, and Szechuan pepper for warming spice.

The botanicals distilled in Ben Lomond Gin

So first a sip of the neat Ben Lomond Scottish Gin to appreciate the aroma and pure flavour. It’s crystal clear with a pungent, woodland scent on the nose which is followed through with floral and fresh pine notes on the tastebuds.

Next, the G&T Test.  I added a few cubes of ice to 25 ml measure of gin, a good splash of Fever Tree Tonic Water (Refreshingly Light) and a slice of lime. The blend of bittersweet berries comes to the fore, with a citrus zing and a subtle lingering flavour of fruit and earthy spice.  The texture is intensely smooth, clean and so fresh tasting.  

The Perfect Serve, (by the master distillers of Ben Lomond Gin)

Fill a high ball glass with cubed ice; 25 ml or 50 ml Ben Lomond Gin, top up with Fever Tree Tonic; add a garnish of blackberries and slice of lime. Squeeze in a wedge of lime juice, softly stir three times to mix together and serve. 

The Perfect Serve – Ben Lomond Scottish Gin and Tonic

Blackcurrants have long been associated with quality alcoholic drinks, most famously the liqueur, Crème de Cassis de Dijon. (Cassis is French for Blackcurrant). The Kir aperirif was created and named by the deputy mayor of Dijon, Canon Félix Kir – Crème de Cassis with white wine and Kir Royale is the Cassis liqueur with Champagne.

The distillery has therefore wisely invented a Scottish Kir-style cocktail.

The High Road  

Fill a highball glass with cubed ice, add 40ml Ben Lomond Gin, 20ml lemon juice 15ml Cassis, top up with Fever Tree Tonic, and garnish with a wedge of fresh lemon.

O ye`ll tak` the high road,
And I’ll tak` the low road,
And I’ll be in Scotland afore ye.
But me and my true love will never meet again,
By the bonnie, bonnie banks o` Loch Lomond.”

As well as the berries as a key ingredient, the addition of orange brings a refreshing tang to the Gin so what could be more appropriate than mixing up a classic Negroni. It is also most apt as the Ben Lomond Scottish Gin was launched a century after Count Negroni invented this Italian aperitivo in Florence.

Negroni

25 ml Ben Lomond Scottish Gin, 25 ml Sweet  Rosso Vermouth, 25 ml Campari

Pour all ingredients into a Rocks glass with a large ice cube or sphere (this melts more slowly).  Stir gently for a minute or two – this is not a cocktail to be shaken. Express the zest of a wedge of orange and garnish with a twist of orange peel for a beautiful crimson-red winter warmer.  

A classic Negroni with a Scottish twist and the zest of orange

The dry, bitter flavour of the Campari is softened by the Sweet vermouth, perfectly complementing the berry- rich Gin and the sharp citrus taste of the orange sings through.

A classic Gin Martini  (50 ml Gin and 15 ml Dry Vermouth, with twist of lemon or an olive) is also a fine partnership with this Scottish Gin.  Experiment with your own favourite gin cocktails.

Following the success of the London Dry Gin, in July 2020, Loch Lomond Distillery launched two flavoured gins, infused with wild fruit essences, Ben Lomond Raspberry & Elderflower and Blackberry & Gooseberry.

At the Scottish Gin Awards 2020, Ben Lomond Scottish Gin was given the status of Highly Commended for London Dry Gin. And just announced (December 2020), Ben Lomond Gin has been awarded three medals from the Spirit Business Gin Masters – Gold for Raspberry & Elderflower infused gin and Silver for both the London Dry style gin and Blackberry & Gooseberry infused gin.

To protect the Scottish rural countryside which inspired Ben Lomond Gin is in a partnership with the John Muir Trust. Born in Dunbar in 1838, John Muir became a renowned explorer, botanist, geologist and mountaineer, pioneering the Conservation movement worldwide.  In the USA, he was the father of National Parks to protect forests, woodlands and wilderness and as early as 1892, his motto was, ‘Explore, enjoy and protect the planet’.

Nature lovers, walkers, hikers, bikers, writers, poets and artists have flocked to Loch Lomond for centuries to experience the tranquil peace of this timeless, natural wilderness. 

Beautifully packaged, with its silky smooth, aromatic flavour, Ben Lomond Scottish Gin has been artistically “painted” – a distillation of the colours, flora and fresh mountain air, like a watercolour landscape in a bottle.

The tagline for Ben Lomond Scottish Gin is “Be Inspired”

To find out more about Ben Lomond Gins and buy on line, see the website:

https://www.benlomondgin.com