Archive | January 2022

Enjoy a hearty, homely dish of Macsween haggis and sip a Benriach dram (or two) this Burns’ Night. Slainte Mhath!

Robert Burns 1759 – 1796

Benriach Whisky distillery and Macsween of Edinburgh are collaborating to present what they hope will be the largest virtual Burns supper on 25th January, 2022 to unite people from across the globe to celebrate the legendary bard’s life and work.

Rachel Barrie, master blender of Benriach Single Malt Scotch Whisky and James Macsween will bring together traditional food and drink from their two Scottish companies.  

In the 1890s, John Duff, a true whisky entrepreneur decided to build his new distillery on a small hill, or ‘Ben,’ on the site of the old Riach farm in Speyside, and so the Benriach Distillery was founded in 1898.  In the 1990s, Benriach began making small batches of triple distilled spirit to enhance the fruity, multi-layered character, developing a range of classic, peated and triple cask distinctive single malt whiskies.

In March 2017 Dr. Rachel Barrie became Master Blender for The GlenDronach, Benriach and Glenglassaugh group of distilleries. Known as the ‘First Lady of Scotch’ for her artistry and expertise, she has received many most prestigious accolades, is a ‘Keeper of the Quaich’ and a member of the Whisky Magazine’s ‘Hall of Fame’. Rachel is responsible for developing, testing and expertly fine-tuning the whisky flavour at Benriach.

Dr. Rachel Barrie, Master blender

‘My ambition has always been to unlock the secrets of Scotch whisky making and provenance, to develop and nurture richness of character and celebrate it with the world.’

Dr. Rachel Barrie

Charlie Macsween worked for William Orr & Sons, an Edinburgh butcher, poulterer and game dealer in the 1940s where he met his wife, Jean and in 1953 they founded the Macsween butchers shop in the district of Bruntsfield. The family business has been handed down three generations, (today managed by James and Jo Macsween), renowned for haggis and vegetarian haggis and exported worldwide.

The world famous Macsween haggis

So let’s sample two of the Benriach signature single malt whiskies.

The Original Ten is three-cask matured for at least ten years in bourbon barrels, sherry casks and virgin oak, creating layers of fruit, honeyed malt and toasted oak with a subtle trace of smoke.

Benriach The Original Ten – Distillery notes:

Colour: Summer Gold

Nose: Orchard fruit, honey and toasted oak

Palate: Ripe pear, nectarine and malt sweetness, with a finishing note of almond and spiced vanilla, on a base of vanilla cream and pastry.  A hint of smoke.

Silver Medal 2021: San Francisco World Spirits Competition

The Taste Test:

Nose:  Fresh floral, stone fruits, dried fruit soaked in sherry, gingersnaps, clove, vanilla

Palate:  A rich sweetness, Honeydew melon, pears, barley sugar, caramel, stewed cooking apples creating sweet-sour notes with an underlying hint of salt; almonds, marzipan, cinnamon, vanilla, dried and candied fruits.

Finish:  The sweet and spicy Christmas cake notes linger with a hint of orange peel. Malty and oaty akin to a sweet porridge with lingering almond notes.

The Smoky Ten was launched in 2020 to show off the distillery’s skill at working with peated malt. Master blender Dr. Rachel Barrie and her team created this expression using whisky matured for at least ten years in bourbon barrels, toasted virgin oak casks and Jamaican rum casks. The whisky is then combined to create smooth layers of sunripe fruit, aromatic smoke and toasted oak spice for a balanced sweet and smoky finish.

Benriach The Smoky Ten – distillery notes

Colour: Bright gold

Nose: Ripe orchard fruit syrup, smoked honey glaze and oak spice

Taste: Smoked applewood, honey maple and spiced pear finishing with lingering fruit and smoked oak

Smoke level: Rich

Double Gold Medal 2021 San Francisco World Spirits Competition

The Taste Test:

Nose:  Stone fruits, (apricot, peach) and tropical fruits (pineapple and mango), aromatic bonfire smoke, treacle

Palate:  Molasses, dark Rum, woodchip smokiness (smoked salmon without the fishyness), the whiff of bonfire rather than peak reek.  Then the underlying fruitness, apples, pears, kiwi, blackberries, earthy, vegetal herbs and nutmeg spice.

Finish:  beautifully balanced rum and smoky peat flavour, sweet and spicy, citrus tang, vanilla and toasted barley.  As described in previous reviews, this is ‘A Summer BBQ in a glass,’ to be savoured at any time – especially on Burns Night.

The creative art of the cocktails will jazz up a traditional dram for party ambience. Benriach suggests two delicious tipples for Burns’ Night, such as a simple, sparkling Highball.


50ml Benriach The Original Ten and top up with soda.

Stir gently over ice and garnish with an orange slice.

The Benriach Highball


This is based on the classic Hot Toddy recipe with lemon and honey, so called for its healthy, medicinal ingredients and the Smoky Ten adds a peaty warmth.

25ml The Original Ten, 25ml The Smoky Ten, 20ml fresh lemon juice, 20ml honey – ginger syrup

Shake all the ingredients with ice, then strain into an ice filled rocks glass. Top with ginger ale and garnish with lemon peel or candied inger.

The Benriach Penicilin

Alternatively, what could be more appropriate than the Robert Burns, a variation of the Rob Roy. If absinthe gives too much of a kick, add Pernod instead.

The Robert Burns cocktail

Robert Burns

50ml Benriach The Smoky Ten, 20ml sweet vermouth, Dash of orange bitters, Dash of absinthe or Pernod.

Add the whisky, vermouth, orange bitters and plenty ice to a cocktail shaker. Strain into a martini glass or coupe then add the dash of absinthe (or Pernod). Serve with shortbread if you have a sweet tooth.

‘Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great Chieftain o’ the Puddin-race!’

From ‘Address To a Haggis’, Robert Burns.

The biggest myth of all is that haggis originated and belongs only to Scotland but in fact is an ancient, global dish. Going back thousands of years when hunters returned with their kill, as well as eating the meat, the fresh offal would be chopped and mixed with cereal and herbs and cooked over the fire.

So why is haggis so closely associated with Scotland? Robert Burns wrote his eight-verse poem, ‘Address to a Haggis’ to honour his favourite dish, which would have been a regular, cheap family meal in his day. After his death in 1796, a group of friends organised a Burns Supper to commemorate his birthday on 25th January. The tradition of Burn’s Night featuring the traditional toast to the haggis and a dram of whisky or two, continues to this day from Scotland to North America and Russia et al.

The Macsween haggis is a mixture of lamb, beef, oats, onions and spices like an oaty, spicy mince and a great source of iron and fibre and still based on grandfather’s original recipe.  Their Vegetarian haggis is a combination of onions, carrots, swede, mushrooms, kidney beans, lentils, seeds and spices. Approved by the vegetarian society, it is suitable for vegans.  

Haggis is usually served with neeps and tatties, (mashed turnip and potato). As I do not eat meat, Macsween Vegetarian haggis is simply superb, a fine blend of healthy vegetables and pulses with a warming spiciness – simply the best!

Ye Pow’rs wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o’ fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu’ prayer,
Gie her a

From “Address to the Haggis’ Robert Burns

James Macsween and Dr. Rachel Barrie will host a virtual Burns Supper on 25th January 2022.

Join in a worldwide celebration of Robert Burns’s 262nd birthday and raise a glass to the Scottish Bard in traditional manner. 

Dr. Rachel Barrie and James Macsween will co-host this special virtual Burns’s Supper – a Waitrose event with Benriach Single Malt Scotch Whisky & Macsween of Edinburgh.

Slainte Mhath!


Take a bracing stroll along the seashore with Fee Dickson Reid at the Torrance Gallery, Edinburgh

‘The sea is a huge part of my life. I live by it, I walk with my wee dog every day by it, I swim in it no matter what the season, and of course I paint it. It’s very much my muse’. 

Fee Dickson Reid

West Wind, Fee Dickson Reid

With her home in North Berwick, just a pebble’s throw from the beach, Fee Dickson Reid specialises in large, atmospheric seascapes along the East Lothian coast. This collection has been an ongoing project for several months, as the theme emerged naturally when she was drawn to painting at different times of the day.

Hence the evocative title of the exhibition, Night, Day, Dawn, Dusk featuring fifty seascapes from sunrise to sunset, observing the ever-shifting expanse of light on sand and sea.

Just like in the Phantom of the Opera – ‘Night-time sharpens, heightens each sensation, Darkness stirs and wakes imagination‘ – the ink black sky is brilliantly illustrated in a series of dramatic, moody paintings. 

The Rain falls at Night, Fee Dickson Reid

A shimmering glow of moonlight shines on the glistening sea in The Rain falls at Night, with a threatening storm cloud overhead and a misty whirl of black and grey clouds. 

There is a most spectacular burst of light flashing across the heavens, shaped like a tornado in Shades of Night, illuminating the sheen on the surface of the gentle flowing waves.

Shades of Night, Fee Dickson Reid

 ‘I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky ….’

From ‘Sea Fever,’ John Masefield

And now a stroll along the beach in the cool light of day in the panoramic scene, As The Wind Blows. The perspective is beautifully composed, drawing the eye over the sea-soaked sand to the water’s edge and beyond to the Bass Rock and Fidra, with a furious flurry of soft clouds and welcome patch of blue sky. 

As the Wind Blows, Fee Dickson Reid

The waves in Glengarry Point show the splish-splash rhythm of the sea water with such clarity and translucency as the curve of the bay leads out to the bird sanctuary Rock. It gives the viewer the impression of standing on the beach alone with a realistic sense of tranquility.

Glengarry Point, Fee Dickson Reid

Fee describes how she likes to paint a seascape in one session to capture ‘the wide open sky and far horizon in all its changing light’ all in one go, instead of returning to finish it later.

The freshness of a new day on the seashore is witnessed in Soft Start where two thirds of the scene is a broad expanse of sky, with pink tinted clouds and an early promise of sunshine. The tide has just gone out leaving behind glistening pools of water.

Soft Start. Fee Dickson Reid

Milan Kundera’s philosophical novel, ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’ centres on the theme of living for momentary beauty. Most aptly Fee has used this title to illustrate the pure delicate light as dawn breaks over the sea with an amber gold shimmer. 

The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Fee Dickson Reid

Dusk: one can never tire of watching a sunset, always a peaceful and truly painterly experience when the sky is splattered in all the shades of the rainbow from orange to indigo as seen in The Light of Setting Suns.

The Light of Setting Suns, Fee Dickson Reid

With a sweep of brushstrokes, this is a mesmerising composition, akin to Rothko-esque abstract expressionism, as is the vivid Fade to Dusk as the sky glows with glorious shades of pink, purple and crimson.

Fade to Dusk, Fee Dickson Reid

The tidal flow of the sea clearly captures Dickson Reid’s creative imagination, and in a couple of paintings, Froth and Frills and Drop Shadow, the power of the crashing waves denote such energy and atmospheric vision.

Drop Shadow, Fee Dickson Reid

Take visit to the Torrance Gallery soon for an exhilarating walk along these beautiful deserted beaches, to experience the realistic light, a refreshing sea breeze and the soothing sound of the waves on the shore.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide ..

And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,

And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.  

From Sea Fever, John Masefield

The Torrance Gallery

Fee Dickson Reid – solo show

Night, Day, Dawn, Dusk

15th January to 5th February

Tuesday – Saturday, 11am-5.30pm.

36 Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6JN

Fee Dickson Reid on the beach at sunset, working en plein air for another seascape.

Experience PÄRLA PRO toothpaste tablets for the fresh, clean, ‘just been to the dentist’ feel and a brighter smile.

PÄRLA is a natural, high gloss whitening, ethically sourced, sustainably packaged range of British toothpaste tablets which are vegan, zero waste and plastic free and what’s more will help you ‘Get the Carrie Bradshaw gleaming white smile’. 

Did you know that over 3 billion plastic toothpaste tubes end up in landfill each year.?

PÄRLA (the Dutch for Pearl), is an eco-friendly solution to brushing our teeth –  toothpaste tablets as an effective alternative to toothpaste in a plastic tube.

Toothpaste should protect people’s smiles – without harming the environment.  Our plan is to radically transform what we use to clean our teeth. That’s why PÄRLA is different – a dehydrated toothpaste tablet in a reusable glass jar and completely plastic-free packaging’.

This was very much the basis of the 15 minute pitch given by two business partners on Dragon’s Den on 29th April 2021. 

The Dragons meet the Dentists to hear about PÄRLA toothpaste tablets

The popular BBC show which sees entrepreneurs and inventors present a unique business plan to a team of investors in a bid to secure financial support. In fact Dragon’s Den is back for the 19th series on BBC 1 this week from 6th January 2022.  

Dr Simon Chard and Dr. Rhona Eskaner on Dragon’s Den

In Episode 5 of Series 18, two dentists, Dr. Simon Chard and Dr. Rhona Eskaner put their idea for Pärla toothpaste tablets to the judges, asking for a £70,000 investment for 9%  equity. They claimed the tablets have the perfect dose of fluoride to prevent tooth decay.

After intense questioning to find out more about the ingredients and proven effect, Tej Lalvani offered all the money but in return wanted more than three times the nine per cent equity requested.  Deborah Meaden made the same offer as Tej then Deborah and Tej followed up by combining their offers for all the money and 15% equity each. Simon and Rhona suggested 20% equity, meaning 10% from each of them. However, neither of the Dragons could go lower than 30% and the offer was not accepted, citing the percentage equity the Dragons were after as too much.

‘I sincerely hope you take over the world with that, and I will be switching’

Deborah Meaden.

But the good news is that this innovative team of Dentists went ahead to launch these naturally whitening, ethically sourced, sustainably packaged PÄRLA Original toothpaste tabs.  Promoted on ITV’s This Morning and in magazines, by the summer of 2021 the media reported that “One pot of these sustainable, teeth-whitening toothpaste tablets sells every minute.”

So who are these entrepreneurial dentists.? 

Dr Rhona Eskander has been described as the ‘woman who is working ‘To change the health and wellness industries in the UK’. She is the only female dentist to win Best Young Dentist at the Private Dentistry awards in three years; Dr Simon Chard is an award winning, cosmetic dentist, a co-owner of Rothley Lodge Dental Practice and is a director on the British Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry Board; Dr Adarsh Thanki is the owner of the Ace Dental Group of highly-skilled multidisciplinary dental surgeons using the latest technology.  

Following the Original formula, the new improved PÄRLA PRO is supercharged with teeth whitening, sensitivity-reducing and immunity-boosting powers. The professional-grade toothpaste tab is specifically formulated with advanced ingredients at the forefront of dental innovation. It remains totally vegan and zero waste, as well as cruelty-free, palm oil-free and SLS-free.

The foaming agent of conventional toothpaste is sodium lauryl sulfate which, according to some dentists, isn’t the best thing for teeth.“SLS can cause irritation in the form of ulcers and derived from palm oil it’s a huge environmental problem,” Dr Eskander.

Just as Skincare was revolutionised with the use of hyaluronic acid and vitamin C for moisturising and anti-ageing effect, Pärla Pro has the addition of hydroxyapatite as part of the new formula. “This mineral is a building block of natural enamel. It works by blocking all the open pores and smoothing the surface of the tooth, which – in tandem with our four signature stain-removing ingredients – adds a high-gloss, whitening shine.”

Time to switch from my usual toothpaste and pop a pill instead.  It does take a few days to get used to the rather strange sensation of crunching this little white tablet for a second or two before brushing your teeth for two minutes in the normal manner.  Immediately, you notice there is no frothing foam covering your mouth which means that you don’t spit out half way. This retains all the ingredients to work their magic on your teeth. 

It is extraordinary the deep cleaning effect of the tablet.  I think we all assume that the foam of toothpaste has a cleaning action, but then you rinse and spit out the foam containing the active ingredients.  Chewing the tablet ensures that all the essential minerals and fluoride coat the teeth and are absorbed into the gums, bloodstream and body – like a dental Vitamin pill for the mouth.  

I have frequently suffered from plaque which needs to scrubbed and scraped off by my dentist or hygienist every six months. What I noticed very quickly was the lack of plaque building up, such as between my lower front teeth. It really does give the “just been to the dentist” fresh, clean feel with a light peppermint taste.

For a truly white Hollywood smile, I think it would require more than crunching a tablet to achieve the results of a professional intensive, bleaching method.  But perhaps in due course, the stain removal ingredients would achieve a whiter, brighter smile  – like a shiny, white fresh-water Pearl.!

Get the Carrie Bradshaw smile with PÄRLA PRO!

Coincidentally, Carrie Bradshaw and friends are back on screen just now in the new series, “And Just Like That,” a decade older from SATC days but still with her perfect healthy teeth.

The facts and figures PÄRLA PRO at a glance:

The first toothpaste to support a healthy immune systemeach tablet contains at least 50% daily RDA of vitamin E (an antioxidant), B12 & selenium.      

Adds a high-gloss, whitening shine through the mineral hydroxyapatite.

Fights tooth decay with key ingredient, fluoride. 

Fights sensitivity with potassium citrate.

The natural and gentle foaming agent is sourced from coconuts.

No artificial flavourings – peppermint essential oils are used instead for minty freshness.

Four signature ingredients include kaolin and calcium carbonate to remove coffee, tea and red wine stains.

Packaged in a reusable glass jar which reduces the millions of toothpaste tubes that end up in landfill.

The only sustainable tooth decay-busting product that protects your smile as much as it does the planet.

Reviews by happy customers: 

I previously tried another brand of toothpaste tabs but the Parla Pro is less chalky and leaves my teeth and mouth feeling very clean. I’m a convert!

This is the only toothpaste tablet I have found for sensitive teeth and it works well

We trialled a jar of these great toothpaste tablets and loved them so much, we’ve just reordered on a four-month subscription basis.

I totally agree with these comments and after using PÄRLA PRO toothpaste tabs for a month or so, I am probably convinced that these are extremely effective for dental hygiene and health. Time to sort out a regular delivery to kick off 2022 with professional dental care at home and a whiter smile.

PÄRLA PRO is available from & and costs £8.00 a month on subscription.