Edinburgh: Picturesque Notes by Robert Louis Stevenson – an enchanting, personal memoir exploring the city’s culture and heritage.
“Stevenson’s writing strikes the twenty-first century ear as still being fresh and intensely readable … we are in the company of an agreeable and relaxed guide giving us an anecdotal run-down on Edinburgh over a cup of coffee or lunch.”
Alexander McCall Smith
Novelist, poet and travel writer, Robert Louis Stevenson first published Edinburgh: Picturesque Notes in 1878, (revised 1889). This attractive new edition has been published by Manderley Press, a new indie publisher founded by Rebeka Russell, focusing on forgotten or out-of-print books which feature a memorable house, place or landmark. The books will be small hardbacks, quarter-bound in cloth and printed on high quality paper. Cover artwork will be available to buy as prints.
“I have always loved books, art, travel and old houses, so when lockdown happened, I decided the time was perfect to set up Manderley Press. Armchair travel and literary escapism had never seemed so important!” Rebeka Russell
Most appropriately, the name ‘Manderley’ is taken from the classic romantic novel, ‘Rebecca.’ “I could swear that the house was not an empty shell but lived and breathed as it had lived before.” Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca.
The first book selected for the Manderley Collection is ‘Edinburgh’ featuring decorative artwork by Iain McIntosh (as shown here on the front cover), with a marvellous Introduction by Alexander McCall Smith, who is renowned for his popular and most amusing novels set in the city (44 Scotland Street, Isabel Dalhousie).
McCall Smith begins with succinct biographical background explaining that having studied engineering (to join his family clan of lighthouse designers) and then law, RLS wisely followed his literary vocation as an excellent storyteller.
‘Stevenson found Edinburgh such a rich source of inspiration for his writing. This is a walk through parts of the city that have survived to this day as they were during his lifetime.
If we were to stroll down Heriot Row with him today, there would be no surprises for him when we reached No. 17, although he might not have expected a plaque.’
RLS moved here with his family in 1857 when he was seven. From the nursery window, he loved to watch the lamplighter, the Leerie, switch on the gas lamps every evening.
McCall Smith describes how much the city inspired him from his childhood, frequently ill in his bedroom, looking out over Queen Street Gardens. As young man he explored the streets, taverns, monuments, rivers and hills, fascinated by ancient history, legendary myths and cultural heritage.
“It is at times a prose poem. It is a stream of conscious memoir about living in a town so gorgeously romantic it could be an opera set; it is a love song to a city.”
This personal Memoir is divided into ten chapters, taking the reader on a journey to Stevenson’s favourite haunts as well as describing seasonal weather and festivities. RLS appreciates how the magic of Edinburgh gets under your skin – “ the place establishes an interest in people’s hearts; go where they will they find no city of the same distinction.’
‘What a clashing of architecture! Greek temples, Venetian palaces and gothic spires are huddled one over the another.. the Castle and the summit of Arthur’s Seat look down with a becoming dignity.‘
This is a city set up on a hill, he explains, dominated by the Castle with its open view to sea and land.
Tourists love to stroll down the Royal Mile from the Castle to the Palace of Holryroodhouse as did Stevenson to see St. Giles Cathedral, Parliament Close and the High Court spotting “ an advocate in wig and gown and a tide of lawyers.” (just as you will see today).
He is especially shocked by the social inequality between the overcrowded tenements, families living in a ‘huge human beehive’ in the Medieval Old Town, in contrast to the wealthy citizens in their grand houses on Heriot Row and Moray Place et al. around the Georgian-Victorian New Town.
Chapter Four is Legends, illustrated with a drawing of a man in a blindfold and bow tie with a hangman’s noose in the background – Deacon Brodie, a respected city councillor and cabinet maker by day but a thief by night – whose secret double life sparked the novel, ‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’.
Edinburgh may be haunted by ghostly tales of grave diggers and murder but this is a “city of churches .. a clamour of bells upon the Sabbath morning in one swelling, brutal babblement of noise”. Babblement! – Stevenson’s rich language is inventive and colourfully poetic.
RLS was inspired by the stone carved tombs of the moody, gothic Greyfriars Kirkyard. More than a century later, J. K. Rowling followed in his footsteps to borrow a few names on the gravestones – Potter, Riddell, Scrimgeour, McGonagall, – now resurrected as her famous fictional characters.
The symmetrical grand design of the New Town features spacious crescents, round circuses, and private gardens. This sounds like the writer is standing on the corner of Heriot Row and the steep hill of Dundas Street with a view of Fife: “It is surprising to see a perspective of a mile or more of falling street and beyond that woods, villas, a blue arm of sea and the hills upon the further side.”
RLS takes a walk to the Dean Bridge over the Water of Leith where “carriages go spinning by and ladies with card cases pass to and fro about the duties of society” (elegant 19th century ladies who lunch!).
He recalls outdoor adventures as a schoolboy with a love of nature: “many an escalade of garden walls, a ramble among lilacs .. when the Spring comes round, the hawthorn begins to flower and the meadows smell of young grass”.
Calton Hill has hardly changed since Stevenson’s day with the Athens of the North ‘Parthenon’, Lord Nelson’s monument and Observatory. “Of all places for a view, Calton Hill is the best, since you can see the Castle, Arthur’s Seat, Holyrood Palace, Princes Street, Leith, the Firth. It is the place to stroll on one of those days of sunshine.”
In the chapter, Winter and New Year, RLS embraces the Scotch dialect to describe the cold wind – “snell, blae and scowthering, words which carry a shiver with them.” But there’s nothing cosier than an old pub, “the warm atmosphere of tavern parlours and the revelery of lawyers’ clerks.”
He finds a painterly beauty in the winter chill. “We enjoy superb sunsets, the profile of the city stamped in indigo upon a sky of luminous green.”
The New Year festive season in Edinburgh is listed in the book, ‘1,000 Places to See before you Die,’ attracting thousands of global visitors to join in the Hogmanay Street Party with music and fireworks.
For RLS too, it was “the great national festival, a time of deep carousel, musicians, whisky and shortbread, singing Auld Lang Syne”.
He remembers student days at Edinburgh University enjoying “heroic snowballing – skating and sliding on Duddingston Loch – reminiscent of the iconic painting of Reverend Robert Walker by Henry Raeburn (c.1795).
While he is fond of the city streets and sociable lifestyle, he would often escape to the rural tranquility of the Pentlands, Fairmilehead for a walk beside rivers and rolling hills, “a bouquet of old trees, a white farmhouse, the bleating of flocks… a field of wild heathery peaks”.
After many journeys far and wide, Robert Louis Stevenson left his family home in 1887 for the last time, sailed to New York, toured America and from San Francisco he and his wife Fanny chartered a schooner to cruise the South Seas. In 1890 they settled on the island of Upolo where he adopted the Samoan name, Tusitala, the Teller of Tales.
Stevenson would never forget his emotional attachment to the city of his birth, as he wrote in this memoir of Picturesque Notes.
“ There is no Edinburgh emigrant, far or near, from China to Peru, but he or she carries some lively pictures of the mind, some sunset behind the Castle cliffs, some snow scene, some maze of city lamps, indelible in the memory.”
Note: I would like to suggest that a decorative ribbon bookmark would enhance the design and the leisurely experience of reading these classic books by Manderley Press.
The addition of photographs and imagery in this feature are to offer background information and colourful illustration only.
“Making a cocktail is an art, like theatre. A bar is the stage for many performances.
The Bartender is a doctor, psychologist and psychiatrist all in one.”
The Bottled Cocktail Company is an exciting new venture in the fast expanding ready-to-drink market established by Keivan Nemati and a group of friends to share their avid passion for cocktails.
Nemati started working in the drinks industry in 2009 in London and is a former Bar manager at The Zetter Townhouse. Inspired by the similarities between the crafting of cocktails and the art of fragrance, he began studying perfumery as well as collaborating with spirits brands on developing new products.
The Bottled Cocktail Company’s mission is simple:
‘We believe that cocktails should not be relegated to cocktail bars, to bring a true mixology experience whenever you want in the comfort of your own home.’
During the Covid pandemic lockdown in the UK between 2020-21, with bars and restaurants closed (and people shielding at home), the way we consume alcohol changed dramatically. Instead of just sipping wine over dinner, we bought spirits and cocktail shakers to concoct our favourite tipples while entrepreneurial mixologists and drinks businesses caught on to the demand and created pre-mixed cocktails in cans, cartons and bottles.
Staying in became the new going out, and the Japanese buzzword ‘On-nomi’ (‘drinking alone’) led to socialising by zoom with ‘virtual’ happy hour parties.
But when was the first pre-batched cocktail produced?
In 1860, Gaspare Campari founded his eponymous aperitivo drinks brand in Novara, near Milan, and in 1932 an attractive triangular bottle of pre-batched Campari Soda was produced, still a bestseller today. The Bellini was invented in the summer of 1948 by Giuseppe Cipriani at Harry’s Bar, Venice – Prosecco and fresh peach pureé. 1988 – the Luciano Canella winery created Canella’s ready-to-go Bellini.
1990, USA – the Barcardi Breezer, a ready made, sweet, fruity rum punch soon brought the alcopop taste of the Caribbean to the British Isles.
Fast forward to today. The ready-to-drink sector was the only alcohol category to see growth of sales over the past couple of years, outperforming the rest of the drinks industry with UK sales in 2020 reaching £412 million.
‘RTDs are amongst the most innovative and creative drinks in the market, forever changing, adapting and growing the potential’.
London Spirits Competition. (June 2021)
Welcome then to the Bottled Cocktail Company which has launched its initial range: El Presidente, Elderflower Highball, Negroni, Dry Gin Martini, Old Fashioned and Passion Fruit Spritz, with more to be released in the coming months.
All drinks are ready to serve, well chilled, to be sipped either straight up or over ice. Nemati’s professional experience both as a mixologist and his knowledge of perfumes, ensures that the finest spirits and ingredients are selected for bespoke, premium quality cocktails.
The Negroni was invented just over a century ago in Florence, when Count Camillo Negroni decided that he wanted his usual Americano (Campari, sweet vermouth, soda water), to be jazzed up. The creative bar tender replaced the soda with gin, unwittingly creating Italy’s beloved and world renowned cocktail.
Silver Fir Negroni, 21% abv.
Gin, Italian Vermouth, Orange Bitter & Silver Fir
Simply pour 80ml – 100ml into a Rocks glass over a large ice cube. Garnish with a twist of orange.
The Taste Test:
On the nose, a richly aromatic, earthy, woodland scent and then the first sip: elegantly smooth, followed by the delectable sharp, bitter orange tang which lingers on the tongue. It is the perfect Aperitivo – meaning that the bittersweet, herbal flavour opens up the stomach to give one an appetite. This is simply exquisite.
“About 80% of (our) perception of flavour actually comes from the sense of smell. We create our own aromatic essences and tinctures to tweak the flavour profile of classic cocktails”.
The crafting of a London Dry Gin is a culinary science, blending specific botanicals for the perfect balance of floral, fruit and spicy notes. Instead of drowning gin in a G&T, nothing could be more delectable than a very dry, oh so romantic, Gin Martini.
Dry Gin Martini, 26% abv.
Gin, French Vermouth & Wintergreen Essence
The BCC suggest chilling the bottle in the freezer for two hours before serving, instead of stirring over ice to avoid any dilution. Pour 70ml – 100ml into a cold Martini glass and garnish with a twist of lemon or green olive.
Alternatively for a more savoury flavour, try a pickled pearl onion which creates a Gibson. This was invented at the Player’s Club, New York in the 1940s for the American artist, Charles Dana Gibson, when the bar had no olives for his Martini.
The BCC version enhances the usual recipe of Gin and a splash of Vermouth with a special wintergreen, eucalyptus and peppermint essence,“ brightening up the gin and wine botanicals, adding mouthfeel and length.”
The Taste Test:
I added a couple of green olives and took a tentative sip of this ice cold cocktail. My goodness this packs a punch – although it has a delicate flavour and silky smooth texture, beautifully cool, crisp and dry. This hits the spot in an instant with the pure, clean taste of a Gin Martini which I adore.
As did Dorothy Parker!
As this is BCC’s secret recipe, the ratio of gin to vermouth is not given and there are many variations, according to preference. Harry Craddock’s Savoy Cocktail Book (1930) dictated 2 parts gin to 1 part vermouth, while other bar tenders say that a very dry Martini is 3.5 parts gin to 1 part Vermouth.
Elderflower Highball 20% abv.
London Dry Gin, Elderflower, Lime, Fresh-cut-grass Essence
Pour 70ml to 100ml into a glass filled with ice and top up with your favourite mixer, (tonic, soda, ginger ale) for a long refreshing drink.
The Taste Test
With a good splash of tonic and slice of lemon, this is a fine alternative to a G&T. The Elderflower liqueur adds a floral sweetness and the lime cuts through with a sharp, citrus tang.
With Nemati’s technical wizardry perfecting perfumes, the fresh-cut grass essence is so imaginative – Elderflower Highball would certainly be ideal for summer picnics and sitting relaxing in the garden.
The Silversea cruise line has several “house” cocktails such as the Silver Spirit named after one of the elegant ships: 60ml Gin, 60ml elderflower liqueur, 12ml lime juice and 40ml Sauvignon Blanc.
Elderflower Highball ‘Silver Spirit’
80ml – 100ml Elderflower Highball (gin, lime juice, elderflower cordial). Top up with Prosecco.
Do try this fragrant, lip smacking gin cocktail.
These 70 cl bottles offer between 7 -10 serves so perfect for parties – spend much less time measuring, stirring, mixing and shaking drinks and enjoy a relaxing time drinking with your friends. Turn your home into a classy Cocktail Bar with your own personal ‘mixologist’ .
“To me, a cocktail must satisfy the eyes, satisfy the nose and thirdly, satisfy the palate. The perfect cocktail is a crescendo of colour, flavour and texture.”
Sipping, sampling, testing and tasting these seriously impressive BCC cocktails has been a delightful, delicious experience. Keivan Nemati and friends clearly have the magical touch of the alchemist to create a fresh, modern twist to these timeless classics.
The stylish bottle design and branding, developed by the Italian creative agency HB Production, feature a geometric pattern, colour and shape to represent the concept of each cocktail.
The BCC is already building up a strong fan base:
Great service and the Negroni is delicious! Can’t wait to try the rest of the range”
Ordered the El Presidente and Old Fashioned and loved them both. Really great quality, so quick and easy. Good value too.”
For more information on all the BCC cocktails and to purchase from the online shop:
BCC cocktails are also sold through: Drinkinbible, Sip & Share, Wildsip, Indy Cellar & Not On The High Street
P.S. Keivan Nemati co-wrote ‘Make Something Bloody Marvellous,’ a gin-based cocktail book using foraged botanicals, which was shortlisted at the Gourmand Cookbook Awards 2020.
Codorniu is probably one of the UK’s most recognisable Cava labels and no wonder. As the pioneer winemakers behind the first ever bottle of Cava, this is the oldest Spanish winery celebrating over 450 years of cultural heritage with the famous C Logo as the iconic image.
In 1551 Jaume Codorníu founded his family wine making business producing still wines; the marriage between the heiress Anna Codorníu and winegrower Miquel Raventós in 1659 brought two wine dynasties together but Anna’s surname was retained as the brand name.
Two centuries later, Josep Raventós Fatjó came back to Spain from a fact-finding research trip around France and, copying the production method of French Champagne, created his own brand of sparkling wine. He ordered a cave (or cava in Catalan) to be built, a labyrinth of underground cellars to store wines for fermentation at a constant, cool temperature.
In 1872, he produced his first bottle of Cava using the same traditional method as Champagne, using a blend of native grape varieties of Penedès: Xarel·lo, Macabeo and Parellada.
Manuel Raventós was an early drinks entrepreneur, keen to develop Cava as a successful business. In 1895 he made plans to build a new building at the winery with the Art Nouveau artist, Josep Puig i Cadafalch in charge of design and construction.
When it opened in Sant Sadurni d’Anoia near Barcelona in 1915, Cavas Codorníu became a Catalan Modernist artistic symbol of the company’s enterprising spirit and vision of the future.
Marketing Champagne Codorniu was most inspired with 1898 artistic posters by Ramon Casas. Codorníu was also first advertised on Spanish Television in 1959 – once again a pioneering commerical promotion ahead of the game.
In 1976 the Codorníu House of Cava was named a National Historic Artistic Monument by King Juan Carlos.
Since its earliest days, Raventós Codorníu winery has been synonymous with innovation and quality, using premium grapes from the family vineyard estate. The traditional method involves two fermentations of the grape juice, first in barrels before transferred into bottles where yeast and sugar are added, then sealed with a temporary closure. The wine has a secondary fermentation to convert into alcohol and a natural by-product, CO2, dissolves into tiny bubbles to create naturally sparkling wine. The bottles are turned neck down and gradually rotated funnelling the yeast sediment (the lees) into the neck. When this is cooled, the pressure of the wine pushes out the sediment, a little sugar and wine called a dosage is added and the bottle finally sealed with a cork.
So time to pop a couple of corks!
Codorníu Vintage Brut 2019.
Grape varieties: Macabeo, Xarel·lo and Parellada. Alcohol content: 11.5%.
There is a specific harvest time for each variety of grape, Macabeo at the end of August, followed by Xarel.lo and finally Parellada, early October. The grapes are destemmed and crushed with the wines blended and bottled. A second fermentation followed by a period of ageing in the underground cellars at a constant temperature for at least 9 months. This is the traditional method.
Characteristics. A pale straw yellow colour, an aroma of citrus fruit, almond blossom with notes of brioche and dried fruits and nuts. A fine mousse on the palate with balanced freshness. Serve well chilled.
The Taste Test
Nose: lemon zest, softly floral.
Taste: the first sip is sensational, the “fizz” is so delicate and fresh tasting, crisp apple and dry like a water biscuit. The overall impression is its smooth elegance, far removed from a sweet Prosecco or honeyed Chardonnay Cava.
If this were a blind tasting with a few coupes of French champagne, it would surely fool the judges.
The quality is due to the fact this is a vintage cava made with grapes from a single harvest. Perfect to sip as an apéritif or with tapas and fish dishes- smoked salmon, calamari.
(Interestingly, Sainsbury Taste the Difference vintage Cava is supplied by Codorniu so they have selected the best!).
Codorníu Rosado Cava
Grape varieties: Monastrell, Garnacha and Trepat. Alcoholic content, 11.5%
This sparkling wine is also made in the traditional method, the same way as Champagne which gives the wine depth of flavour, elegance and long-lasting, fine bubbles.
Characteristics: A dry, pure and bright Rosé fizz with the aroma of strawberry. Serve chilled (6-8°c)
The Taste Test
Nose: pale cherry pink in colour with the fragrance of summer berries and blossom
Taste: light and fruity with zingy notes of raspberry, strawberry and juicy plum. Fresh and vibrant, rather than sweet, well balanced and with a crisp finish, like a dry, blush Rosé from Provence with bubbles. This is the flagship Rosado Cava in the UK.
A delicious, pure, pink fizz to sip as an aperitif – perhaps add a raspberry to the flute too. This is a celebratory toast as a charismatic change from classic Cava. In summer, (or any time), serve with a dessert of mixed berries and cream.
Proudly Catalonian, Codorníu Cava has been contemporary since 1872, constantly keeping up with trends and tastes to maintain its global reputation, producing an innovative range of sparkling wines, Anna Codorniu, Brut Codorníu, Non-Vintage Brut, Vintage Brut, Codorníu Ars Collecta Blanc de Noirs.
Named after their 17th century ancestor, Anna is the most modern expression in the range, the first to use chardonnay grapes: youthful, fresh with a unique personality, this is the brand’s emblematic Cava reflecting its fine heritage. The perfect aperitif and an ideal partner for shellfish, sushi, sashimi and carpaccio.
Today, Raventós Codorníu has more than 3,000 hectares of vineyards, one of the largest vineyard owners in Europe; Codorníu is the best selling Cava brand in Spain and exported to 50 countries, 54 gold medals and their range of sparkling wines are served at over 50 Michelin star restaurants worldwide.
Codorníu promote a contemporary Mediterranean lifestyle – sunshine, beaches, joy, freedom; casual, spontaneous, sometimes sophisticated; celebrations and special moments in life – to share the Cava experience worldwide.
Codorníu Discovery and Iconic tours in the Cava Capital
Casa Codorníu is located 30 minutes from Barcelona in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia. Learn all about the history of the family dynasty on a tour of the House of Cava, the majestic Art Nouveau building designed by the architect, Josep Puig i Cadafalch; Taste three iconic prestigious Cavas and a small aperitif.
Read more about Codorníu Cava here:
Just time to add a personal recommendation for VIDA, an exciting new wine and spirit company in the UK, highly regarded for personal customer service.
VIDA UK is the third branch of the company, following on from Sofia & Vienna, as part of a growing family tree. The idea behind Vida Wines began about 5 years ago when a vineyard was acquired in Northwest Bulgaria, close to the medieval fortress of Baba Vida, which inspired the name.
The region has a long winemaking history thanks to a unique microclimate. As wine makers and importers, VIDA Wines offer the finest Central and Eastern European wines carefully curated from 15 countries to showcase the classics, new producers and exclusive wines.
Country of origin: Bulgaria, Danubian Plain
Grape Variety: Vigonier. Vintage: 2020. ABV: 12.5%
Characteristics: Delicate nose with great elegance and aromatic nuances of white flora, apricots, herbs, toast. Dense with fresh acidity and a slight minerality which contributes to its great quality. Long, persistent, fruity finish.
The Taste Test:
Aroma: a delicate fruitiness, the scent of an orchard.
Taste: As I would often select Sauvignon Blanc (NZ), Chenin Blanc (South Africa), and Pinot Grigio (Italy), this has a fresh, dry, crisp clarity which is distinctively different. The lingering, soft apricot – peach flavour adds to the dryness with a hint of lime and spicy lemongrass. Deliciously delicate. The viognier grape creates an aromatic fuller-bodied style of white wine and pairs well with white meats, fish, shellfish, scallops and dishes with earthy herbs, e.g. basil in a classic Italian Caprese.
On Trust Pilot, Vida Wines has received 5 stars from 92% of their customers.
Reviews from happy drinkers: Winter 2021
Excellent service, great selection of wines and superb advice, cannot fault them and will certainly be buying more Vida wines.
Great service and the wine was beyond expectations.
Vida may be a new company in the UK but they have a refreshingly old fashioned attitude to customer service and I fully recommend them.
These are a few suggestions from VIDA which will add an inspiring range of hand picked European wines for your Christmas or New Year party.
Under £10 wines:
• VIDA EXCLUSIVE : VIDA Viognier 2020 Vida Wines and Spirits UK, £9.99.
• VIDA Direct from Vineyard : Averesti Selectie Cabernet Sauvignon NV Vida Wines and Spirits UK, £7.99.
Under £15 wines:
• VIDA Direct from Vineyard: Kristančič Chardonnay 2019 Vida Wines and Spirits UK, £14.69.
Under £25 wines
• VIDA direct from Vineyard: Kristančič Pavo Cristatus Classic Cuvee 2014 Vida Wines and Spirits UK, £21.29.
Browse the full collection of wines and spirits here:
Eat, Drink and be merry this Festive seaon. Cheers!
The virtuoso ballerina, Natalia Osipova gives a truly exhilarating, passionate performance as Carmen in a filmic re-imagination of the classic tale.
Since Bizet’s opera was first staged in 1875, based on Prosper Mérimée’s novella about Don José, a soldier, Micaëla a peasant girl, Escamillo, a bullfighter and Carmen, the flirtatious gypsy, Carmen has been creatively adapted and updated afresh, from the Broadway musical, Carmen Jones to Matthew Bourne’s The Car Man.
After being postponed last year during lockdown, the world premiere of Didy Veldman’s intimate dance-drama, Carmen took place on 17th December, 2021 in Edinburgh. With a music soundtrack combining orchestral extracts from Bizet’s opera and new compositions by Dave Price, the cast of international dancers, Jason Kittelberger, Isaac Hernández, Hannah Ekholm and Eryck Brahmania is led by the superstar ballerina, Natalia Osipova.
Having trained as a gymnast, Osipova studied ballet at the Moscow Academy before joining the Bolshoi, then American Ballet Theatre and the Royal Ballet, performing leading roles in Swan Lake, Giselle, The Nutcracker and Don Quixote with award winning success.
‘As Kitri in “Don Quixote” Osipova has a gamine quality, the turn of her head, the flash of her smile, her response to the music .. she is never more alive than onstage. – New York Times
‘ .. one of the truly great Giselles of our times.’ – Backtrack
With a backdrop scene of a city apartment block, the Carmen set comprises a large sofa, coat stand, full length mirror and iconic film director chairs. Cinematography is at the heart of the contemporary, audio- visual narrative in which Brahmania plays a camera man, filming the dancers’ every move – in character and off stage – with the click of the clapper board as the next scene is snapped.
The plot follows the twist and turns of the tangled love interests between José, Michaela, Carmen and Escamillo, which echo the personal relationships between the dancers when relaxing on the sofa in the Green Room. Through the camera lens, the intimate close ups have an element of film noir voyeurism in Rear Window mood and mode.
With a bouquet of red flowers delivered from an admirer, Carmen seems lost and vulnerable, staring intently at herself in the mirror, perhaps searching to find her true self in the reflection.
The opening sequence is fast paced action to the strident sounds of an electronic music score with acrobatic leaps, axels and jetés. First dressed in rehearsal T shirt and leggings, Carmen changes into a red velvet basque, satin cummerband and black ‘cigarette’ trousers akin to a matador’s suit of lights.
Each scene is perfectly matched to the seamless flow of familiar Bizet tunes criss-crossing with a romantic 1950s-style movie score and melancholic violin and cello sequences. To enhance the music and dance, it’s all very cinematic with dramatised videos of the four protaganists projected on screen. While the voyeurism vision is a clever device, the continuous frantic rushing around by the film maker, even into the auditorium, becomes rather distracting.
As dark feelings of jealousy radiate, a passionate Pas de deux with Carmen and José is performed to a Tango rhythm in slow, sensual motion. Jason Kittelberger has a strong muscular physicality, a large bear of a man, yet he holds Natalia in a tender embrace.
She prowls like a sleek panther, eyes alert, ready to pounce on her prey, her slender arms and legs extended in straight linear precision with every high kick; in one breathtaking move, she wraps her foot around his neck like a snake, drawing him closer.
Watching from the wings, Michaela is consumed with rage, putting on Carmen’s red hat and cape, as the two rivals prepare to fight for their man. With her teasing, taunting manner, Carmen casually dismisses José and turns her flirtatious smile and guile to entice Escamillo into a dangerous game of seduction: the dancer Hernández brings cool, romantic Latino charisma to the heroic Torero character with soulful intensity.
The colour of crimson blood-red dominates the stage design and costumes from a flurry of rose petals to the fabulous swirl of the Toreador’s cloak as the dramatic tale of love, hate and revenge races at fast speed to its terrifying, tragic, but rather sudden, conclusion.
With a performance time of just eighty minutes, this minimalist version of Carmen could certainly be extended to develop charactersation and Spanish cultural heritage of the original Mérimée story, in a full scale production with live music. The Edinburgh International Festival 2022 or 2023?
Natalia Osipova is a truly dazzling, dynamic dancer combining acrobatic agility, acting skills and elegant balletic poise. Her insightful, psychological portrait expresses every facet of the feisty, free-spirited Carmen with vivacious energy and ever-shifting, pure emotion.
‘Love is a rebellious bird that no one can tame
Love is a gypsy’s child,
If you do not love me, I love you
If I love you, then beware!’
from Habanera, Carmen (Bizet)
‘Carmen’ is a Bird & Carrot Production in association with The Pleasance Theatre Trust
Director and Choreographer: Dido Veldman, Composer: David Price, Set and costume: Nina Kobiashvili, Video artist: Oleg Mikhailov, Lighting design: Ben Ormerod
Natalia Osipova: Carmen, Isaac Hernández : Escamillo, Jason Kittelberger: Don José, Hannah Ekholm: Michaela, Eryck Brahmania: Camera man/fan/cleaner
The World Premiere took place on 17th and 18th December 2021, Edinburgh International Conference Centre.
Ramsbury Single Estate Gin: hand-crafted through a blend of farming heritage and modern innovation direct from ‘Grain to Glass’.
Ramsbury Distillery is renowned for its speciality spirits and the Single Estate Gin is a modern twist on a classic London dry gin. Distilled in a copper Still using their home-grown Horatio wheat, nine botanicals including locally picked quince to create a crisp, full bodied gin with fragrant, floral and fruit notes.
The Ramsbury gin and vodka makers are also farmers on the 19,000 acre estate across North East Wiltshire, West Berkshire and North Hampshire with rolling wheat fields, a traditional well for fresh water, wheat mill, orchard, woodland and a lake. Spirits are produced with the lowest environmental impact through copper stills generated by a bio-mass boiler which burns wood from chopped fallen trees. Once the distilling is complete, the spent grains are fed to the farm animals and waste water is funnelled back through reed beds to provide natural filtration.
When experimenting with the final selection of botanicals for the Single Estate Gin, they wanted to create a distinctive sweet fruit flavour and picked quince from the orchard which was, as they say, “a stroke of magic – Ramsbury Gin went from perfect to outstanding.”. Healthy too, enriched with an essential dose of Vitamin C.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon.
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon.
From ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’ – Edward Lear
‘Ramsbury is only one of four distilleries in the UK that operates a grain to glass approach with each bottle traceable back to a single field on the estate.’
Mikul Kalyan, Ramsbury Single Estate Spirits’ Global Brand Ambassador.
On the label, as well as the Rams head logo, there is the exact geographical location of the single field on the estate where the wheat was harvested that year for each bottle of hand crafted gin. Ramsbury is one of only a handful of global distilleries to create truly sustainable, eco-friendly, natural, single estate spirits.
Ramsbury Single Estate London Dry Gin (40% ABV)
Ingredients: Nine botanicals – juniper, fresh quince, cinnamon, liquorice, oris root, dried lemon peel, dried orange peel, coriander and angelica.
Nose: Juniper gently infused with the grassy and fruity tones of quince. Lighter citrus notes coupled with a woody fragrance from the angelica, complemented by the spices of cinnamon to create a balanced and complex aroma.
Palate: Floral tones and crisp quince fade into savoury juniper with a refreshing finish and a touch of spice ….and charming character.
Ramsbury distillery suggests the perfect serve for a G&T is to add a classic Indian tonic, slices of apple and lime and plenty of ice.
Rave reviews for Ramsbury Single Estate Gin:
‘Lush’ said one happy drinker. ‘The gin is complex with a nice finish – highly recommended.’‘
‘Fantastic gin. Unbelievably good. Great twist with the quince, satisfying and refreshing’.
‘Delicate, sophisticated and delicious – perfect in a Martini‘.
Yes indeed. In my view, this smooth, fragrant gin is perfectly partnered with a dash of dry Vermouth and served ice cold.
60ml Ramsbury Gin
10ml Dry Vermouth
Add gin and vermouth to a mixing glass filled with cubed ice, stir until well chilled. Strain gently into a martini glass. The suggested garnish is lemon zest and a sprig of rosemary. An olive also works well to my taste as shown in the image above.
The mouthfeel texture is elegant and silky smooth and the gin combines perfectly with the similar citrus and spicy botanicals of the vermouth for this delectable, very dry, classic cocktail.
This is the drink which James Bond orders in “Casino Royale” by Ian Fleming (1953), named after the seductive double agent Vesper Lynd. The original ingredient Kina Lillet is no longer available so now substituted with Lillet Blanc or dry Vermouth. Bond specifies that the drink be shaken until very cold, although it’s best gently stirred as shaking it tends to create a more diluted drink.
50ml Ramsbury Single Estate Vodka
25ml Ramsbury Single Estate Gin
20ml Lillet Blanc
Mix all ingredients in a Martini glass or a Coupe over ice and garnish with a twist of lemon. This certainly packs a punch, perfectly balanced, bittersweet and stylish for a glamorous occasion – a literary legend of a cocktail.
And what could be better than a a spicy and sparkling party cocktail for the Festive season.
35ml Ramsbury Single Estate Gin
25ml Clementine juice (or 3 wedges of clementine)
10ml Sugar syrup
Top up with Champagne
Sugar & Spice rim
Roll the rim of the champagne flute in lemon juice. Add all ingredients (except Champagne) to a cocktail shaker, shake with ice and strain into a flute. Top up with champagne and add a sprinkling of cinnamon powder & white caster sugar around the rim of the glass.
The Ramsbury Estate is also home to a brewery, smokehouse and a shop selling honey and rapeseed oil made on the farm. The brewery was launched in 2004, followed by the distillery, a smokehouse in 2014 and an oil press in 2015.
The Bell is a 300-year-old former coaching inn in the village of Ramsbury and today is a welcoming country pub with guest rooms, serving homely British food based on local produce from the Estate – and, of course, their own speciality Ramsbury Single Estate Gin and Vodka.
For more information, Distillery tours, stockists and online shop:
The Bell at Ramsbury: https://thebellramsbury.com/
The smart new Neighbourhood Kitchen-Bar-Garden, is the place for coffee and cocktails, lunch, supper and Sunday Brunch
The Bruntsfield Hotel, in the southside of Edinburgh is a grand property of four connecting Townhouses dating from 1861. Converted into a hotel in the 1920s, today the quiet location overlooking the Links and Meadows Park is ideal for visitors within easy walking distance to shops, theatres, cinemas and a short bus ride to the city centre.
As part of a £1 million investment, the Hotel’s former Bisque Brasserie has been transformed into The Neighbourhood to welcome hotel guests, locals, shoppers, students and office staff to meet, eat and drink, and described as “a new, exciting all-day dining, working, and socialising space”.
A recent media launch party was a marvellous opportunity for a sneak preview to sip a cocktail or two and sample the food. In the large, L shaped space, the Neighbourhood Bar is well designed for comfort and relaxation, the booth tables ideal for a couple or group of friends
As well as good selection of wines, Scottish beers the bar tenders have invented a menu of house cocktails such as the “Scottish Garden” made with Edinburgh Gin, Grey Goose vodka, Elderflower cordial and apple juice. This is so refreshing, tart and fruity ….and rather dangerous as you hardly taste the alcohol!
The Penicillin sounds like a healthy tipple to keep the bugs away – a blend of Famous Grouse and Laphroaig whiskies, lemon juice, honey ginger syrup, the perfect winter warmer, plus all the classics, Cosmopolitan, Negroni and a signature Ferrero Rocher Martini – Smirnoff vodka, Frangelico, cocoa liquor and whipped cream.
“We want The Neighbourhood to be somewhere to work and play with homely food, creative cocktails, and true Scottish charm.” Alistair Bruce, General Manager
Around the corner from the Bar is the Kitchen Bistro where Chef Colin Moore and his team serve an all day food menu focusing on seasonal, local ingredients, classic and modern Scottish cuisine.
For lunch, a choice of sandwiches and sharing plates. Warmly recommended is the Crab Arancini, a tiny, tasty light bite, and for a hearty meal, good old Fish and Chips – having sampled an appetiser portion, this was superb, crisp batter and perfect fat fries.
Other dishes include Cullen Skink soup, Scallops with cauliflower puree and Stornoway black pudding and Haggis ravioli with neeps, potato and whisky sauce. All the favourites too – pizza, pasta and burgers with vegetarian/vegan and gluten free options. And you might be tempted by Apple crumble or Sticky toffee pudding.
With the King’s Theatre, Dominion and Cameo Cinemas, a short walk away this is the ideal place for a drink or meal before or after the show.
The Neighbourhood is open for breakfast each day and at the weekend for a leisurely Brunch to enjoy a full Scottish fry up, Eggs Benedict/ Royale or Smashed Avo with Feta. Sip a spicy Bloody Mary or for a celebration, opt for the bottomless Prosecco to turn brekkie into a party.
Outside is the ‘secret’ garden, a plant filled patio where you can sit in heated booths with good lighting for alfresco drinks year round – dog friendly too after a walk around the Meadows.
As a change from WFH why not visit the Neighbourhood for a business meeting, work on your laptop with tea and coffee on tap and fast Wi-Fi for just £10 per day.
Hospitality is also family friendly with a healthy, appetising menu for children who can join in fun, educational quizzes to keep them entertained.
‘Eating at the Neighbourhood should feel like eating at your family dining table. Good food and good company is at the heart of what we’re about’.
Visit The Neighbourhood for coffee, a glass of wine, brunch, lunch or supper. The Kitchen is open from Wednesday to Sunday, 7am-1am, while on Monday and Tuesday, the Bar is open from 5pm until late.
Check all the information, browse menus and book a table here: www.thebruntsfield.co.uk/theneighbourhood
Best Western Plus Bruntsfield Hotel
69 Bruntsfield Place, Edinburgh, EH10 4HH
Experience ‘Christmas at the Botanics’ this festive season – a sparkling, starlit walk through a winter wonderland
The night before Storm Arwen roared into town, it was a crisp cold dry night for the launch of ‘Christmas at the Botanics’ at the Royal Botanic Garden. Returning for its fifth year, this one-mile illuminated trail is inspired by the beauty of nature through the avenues of trees, plants, meadows, ponds and waterfalls with dazzling visual effects.
As you set off on the adventure through the magical forest, the creatively curated, amplified music soundtrack will immediately put you in festive mood. As you walk around, hear snatches of lyrics from a medley of all the famous, classic songs, Walking in a winter wonderland, Michael Buble, Driving Home for Christmas, Chris Rea, White Christmas and Let it Snow, Bing Crosby, O Holy Night, Il Divo and Waltz of the Flowers by Tchaikovsky
The lake beside the Chinese Garden sparkles with colourful lights over the waterlilies like a Monet-esque painting. ‘Digital Rain’ is a dazzling show of slender LED lights hung from the branches to give the effect of a shimmering, dripping rain shower.
A fabulous flutter of ‘Fireflies in the Woods’ is a dance sequence of 100 fairy lights flitting between the branches is like stepping into a Disney animated movie. Truly magical but impossible to capture on camera as they disappear into the dark night in an instant!
You never know what’s around the corner, such as this surreal woodland of Teepee trees like alien spaceships.
Enjoy a slow stroll along a meandering path with decorative sculptures to depict milkmaids, geese, partridge et al. for the carol, The 12 Days of Christmas.
The ‘Aquastell’ installation features seventeen luminous arches with beams of light flashing like shooting stars across the night sky.
Beside the Rock Garden is a mesmerising scene of trees, plants and bushes around the blue-tinted waterfalls
Visitors walk through the dazzling domed canopy of the ‘Christmas Cathedral’ featuring thousands of individual flower buds on long ribbons of sparkling lights.
Warm up as you wander around the edge of the ‘Fire Garden,’ a grassy meadow dotted with flaming torches and lanterns; a peaceful spot to pause to observe the flickering light and silhouette of trees, as you listen to Robert Burns’ Auld Lang Syne, a global anthem to reflect the end of the year and the start anew.
If you love to trim your Christmas Tree with old tinsel and trinkets, you will be inspired by the collection of Giant Baubles, 3 feet high or so, glittering gold and silver balls lying amongst the bushes.
A highlight of the trail is ‘Sea of Light’, an audio visual spectacle to recreate the swirling rhythm of the waves of water flowing in harmony to the music, a special sound installation created by ITHACA.
The magnificent mansion, Inverleith House appears in the darkness like a huge Doll’s house with superb imagery lighting up the windows with pictures of wreaths, gifts and Christmas cards through a medley of songs, Jingle Bells, Papa Elf and Home Alone.
As you experience the joyful music and dazzling installations, it’s the technical wizardry which impresses with theatrical sound and vision. A few statistics: 17 kilometres of power cable, 650 LED lights (to keep energy output low), 1,500 string lights, and 4,950 candles in the Fire Garden.
Adults and children alike will enjoy this leisurely winter walk through the garden, transformed with razzle- dazzle festive decorations; drinks and snacks available around the trail and the Terrace café.
‘Christmas at the Botanics’ runs for 32 nights on selected dates from 25 November, 2021 – 2 January, 2022. Tickets are on sale from www.rbge.org.uk/christmas.
Adult £20, Member £17, Child (4-16) £14, Family £66. (Children under 4 and carers, free).
‘Christmas at the Botanics’ by Culture Creative and Raymond Gubbay Limited, a division of Sony Music, is one of 14 illuminated trails across the UK presented in partnership with the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh.
Photographs courtesy of Kenneth J Scott
Image of ‘Christmas Cathedral’ by Mandylights
The 1881 Distillery, located in the grounds of Peebles Hydro Hotel in the Scottish Borders, is named after the year when the Hydropathic Spa first opened here, offering Therapeutic treatments using water from its own Shieldgreen Spring.
The Victorian Spa tragically burned down in 1905 but was rebuilt, and with an ethos for health and wellbeing, became a popular tennis destination. In the 1920s, Peebles Hydro had more tennis courts than Wimbledon and hosted tournaments and the Scottish Championships.
It was this tennis heritage when G & T was served on the lawn in the summer sunshine, which inspired the idea a few years ago to create a Gin distillery at the Resort. Built above the former swimming pool, the 1881 Distillery opened in October 2019.
Charlie Leckie, Brand Manager, is a sixth generation member at the family hotel: “We’re proud of the heritage of Peebles Hydro which is embodied by the 1881 Gin, a blend of carefully chosen Scottish botanicals and distilled in the heart of the Borders.”
With the tagline, ‘Spring to Spirit,’ water is sourced from the local Shieldgreen spring which had traditionally been used for the Hydropathic Spa treatments. ‘Felicity’, the copper Still makes five distinctive gins – London Dry, Pavilion Pink, Honours, Rafters and Tiffin, each with their own logo and bottle illustration paying homage to the heritage of Peebles Hydro. Tonic 81 is also made at the Distillery, Premium, Light, Pink Grapefruit and Elderflower, the perfect mixer for each gin.
Hydro London Dry Gin (40% ABV)
The botanicals include juniper, bay, hawthorn berries, cardamom, cassia, birch bark, fir needles, grapefruit peel, grains of paradise, milk thistle – many grown in the Peebles Hydro gardens – then blended with the pure Spring water.
Nose: Fresh, piney juniper and fir, with grapefruit citrus and aromatic cardamom.
Palate: Hawthorn, birch and fir back up an initial wave of juniper, giving way to warming cassia and bay.
Finish: A long, smooth, citric finish with bay leaf and subtle earthiness from our local botanicals.
Serve: a large measure with a wedge of pink grapefruit and a splash of premium tonic water.
The Hydro G&T is available RTD in a can, perfect from summer picnics to Christmas parties.
The Taste Test: If popping a cork of Champagne should sound like a maiden’s sigh, my ice-chilled can of G&T opens with a loud fizz, which I poured into a large glass over ice and slice. A subtle flavour at first with floral and earthy juniper notes but then an underlying aromatic ginger spice kicks in, which is sharp and refreshing.
1881 Pavilion Peebles Pink Gin (40% ABV)
The 1881 Pavilion Pink Gin is a classic gin with the addition of wild Scottish red berries and a hint of floral hibiscus, named in honour of the hotel’s historical tennis pavilion.
Nose: Silky red fruits, juniper, spice and citrus
Palate: Fresh raspberry complemented by strawberry, hibiscus and gentle spice from cardamom and grains of paradise
Finish: Creamy fruit fading to citrus, pine, red Berries
Serve: A few fresh raspberries, a sprig of mint, tonic and ice.
The 1881 Pavilion G&T is also available ready to drink in a can.
The Taste test: Floral, fruity and fragrantly perfumed with a honeyed sweetness. An ice cold summertime drink or served with dessert: raspberries / strawberries & cream, Eton Mess, Strawberry Pavlova, or Scones and jam for a decadent Afternoon tea.
Rafters Subtly Smoked Gin (40% abv)
In the Summer of 1905, a spark in the roof space caused a devastating fire at Peebles Hydro. But within a few years the hotel was thankfully restored with grand Edwardian architecture and art deco style. To commemorate the Phoenix rising from the ashes is Rafters Subtly Smoked Gin, with its stunning image depicting the hotel billowing with smoke.
Nose: Subtle but distinct sweet oak smoke, followed by our signature profile of juniper, cardamom and grapefruit.
Palate: Warming smoke and spice intermingle to create a savoury gin suitable for sipping or mixing. The palate develops into juniper freshness backed by citrus.
Finish: A lengthy finish of warm citrus and wisps of smoke draw you back for another sip.
Serve: Sip neat, over ice, or in a G&T with a wedge of lime and a slice of chilli pepper.
The Taste test of pure, neat gin: The aroma of oak smoke followed by earthy juniper and citrus sweetness. Then the first taste – distinctive bonfire wood smoke and a blend of spices to create a savoury gin with a lingering juniper freshness. Warming cardamom, fruity citrus and delectable smokiness.
Wow! This has the X factor, utterly divine and one of the most delicious, dynamic, dramatic gins I have experienced.
The verdict from the Masters of Malt
Distilled using a variety of gin botanicals including piney juniper and tart pink grapefruit. An undertone of smoke supports vibrant grapefruit citrus, a touch of cinnamon and a strong juniper finish. Best served over ice with a classic tonic to enjoy the complex, smoky spirit with a garnish of lime and ginger. Subtle hints of smoke on the palate make this a distinctive spirit which stands up particularly well in cocktails, including a Negroni.
1881 Rafters Negroni
50ml Rafters gin, 25ml sweet Rosso vermouth, 25ml Campari. Orange garnish.
The simplest of cocktails to make at home without the need of a shaker – just pour all these ingredients into a chunky Rocks glass with a large ice cube. Stir gently and add a wedge of orange. The bittersweet aroma of the Campari blends perfectly with the Rafters gin to make a delicious and very special smoky Negroni. The Count would certainly approve!.
1881 Dry Gin Martini
50 ml Rafters gin, 15 ml dry vermouth.
Add to a cocktail shaker with lots of ice and stir or shake gently. Pour into a cocktail glass or champagne saucer with a garnish of olive. The smokiness enhances the typical bone-dry punch of a Martini with such an elegant, smooth taste.
As we are heading into dark, chilly nights of winter, why not ring the changes of a Whisky hot toddy and add Rafter’s gin instead ?
Hot Gin Toddy
300ml water, 1 ginger teabag, 2 cinnamon sticks, 4 cardamom pods, 4 whole cloves, 1 tablespoon clear honey, freshly squeezed orange juice, 100ml 1881 Rafters gin (serves 2)
Add the water, ginger teabag, cinnamon, cardamom pods and cloves to a saucepan and simmer for 5 minutes; stir in the honey and citrus juice and gently heat for few more minutes. Remove from the heat and add the gin. Strain off the spices, if preferred, or keep the cinammon stick to stir and pour into two large mugs, with an orange or lemon garnish. A winter warmer after a bracing walk in the snow.
1881 Distillery news:
This festive season, the 1881 Distillery offers gift boxes of four gins in two sizes, 5cl and 20cl. – Hydro London Dry, Pavilion Pink, Rafters and Honours Navy-strength Gin.
1881 Distillery won Silver award for Flavoured Gin of the Year at the recent Scottish Gin Awards 2021. Tiffin Gin incorporates light aromatic, warming spices to achieve its distinctive taste, with notes of cumin, cardamom, and kaffir lime.
Visit the 1881 Distillery and Gin School
The 1881 Distillery at Peebles Hydro has the largest residential Gin school with a classroom of 26 mini-stills, offering a range of day and overnight Experiences to learn about distilling gin and craft your own spirit, Tours and tastings.
For more information on Peebles Hydro, 1881 distillery, on line shop and the Gin School:
Peebles Hydro, Innerleithen Road, Peebles, EH45 8LX