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Scottish Ballet presents the world premiere of ‘The Scandal at Mayerling’ – a real life Romeo & Juliet tale of passionate love and tragic death.

With unwitting, timely prescience, (following recent Royal scandals), Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s epic narrative ballet has now been reimagined afresh by Scottish Ballet in a dramatic new touring production.

Originally created by MacMillan, an innovative, ground-breaking choroegrapher, for the Royal Ballet in 1978, The Scandal at Mayerling is based on the tragic, true story of Crown Prince Rudolf, the only son of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria and his wife, Elisabeth.

Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria

When he was 23, his parents selected 16 year old Princess Stephanie of Belgium to be his wife but this was a very unhappy, arranged marriage. A few years later when Rudolph met and fell in love with Baroness Mary Vetsera, his parents demanded that he swiftly end the affair, and also that he could not divorce Stephanie.

Baroness Mary Vetsera, 1888

On the morning of January 30, 1889, the bodies of Rudolf, aged 30, and Mary, aged just 17, were found at the Hunting lodge, Mayerling in the woods outside Vienna. The scandal of the affair and apparent suicide pact was immediately hushed up by the Austrian Royal family. As heir to the throne, Rudolf’s death, publicly announced as a heart attack, left the succession in jeopardy, dividing the Hapsburg empire which ultimately led to the Great War in 1914.

The Mayerling Incident, full of mystery, murder and intrigue, has been adapted many times for the movie screen: a 1936 French movie starring Charles Boyer and Danielle Darrieux; Mel Ferrer and Audrey Hepburn, (1957); Omar Sharif and Catherine Deneuve, (1968). The Illusionist, (2006), set in Vienna, 1900 is a fictionalised version of the royal romance. 

This passionate story of real life star-crossed lovers also inspired Sir Kenneth MacMillan to devise a narrative ballet, exploring the social, political and personal background of Crown Prince Rudolf, set within the opulent grandeur of the Royal court. John Lanchbery, conductor of the Royal Ballet orchestra, suggested Liszt as the composer, selecting over thirty pieces to orchestrate into an atmospheric, lyrically lush score.

Lynn Seymour, David Wall and Kenneth MacMillan in rehearsals for the premiere

The premiere of Mayerling took place on Valentine’s Day 1978 at a Royal gala with David Wall as Prince Rudolf and Lynn Seymour as Mary Vetsera.  The audience gave the ballet and MacMillan, a prolonged ovation and the critics praised the ballet’s boldness and originality: Mary Clarke described ‘.. a thrilling, moving theatrical experience’. Clement Crisp commented that MacMillan had moved the three-act ballet from its 19th century structure and conventions into the realism of modern life.  And after a revival by the Royal Ballet at the Met. New York, Anna Kisselgoff  was impressed by  ‘great dancing, great acting on a level of sophistication and richness of detail’. 

Lynn Seymour and David Wall as Prince Rudolf and Mary in the 1978 premiere by the Royal Ballet

Opening in April at the Theatre Royal Glasgow before a Scottish tour, Scottish Ballet now presents a sumptuous new version entitled The Scandal at Mayerling, featuring the full company of forty dancers.  This world premiere will be the first time MacMillan’s iconic ballet has been produced in the UK outside London. 

The drama centres on the Prince and his relationship with the women in his life – his wife, his mother and his mistresses – dramatised through a series of intense duets.  

Crown Prince Rudolf and the powerful women who control his life

Rudolph is a desperate, disturbed young man, trapped in a charmed world of royal wealth and privilege, seeking an escape in in the reckless pursuit of women (both nobles and prostitutes), drink (Cognac and Champagne), drugs (morphine), and revolutionary politics. He also has a morbid fascination with death. With clear echoes of another anti hero, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, he was obsessed with a skull and a revolver which he keeps in his room, as he delves into a deteriorating state of psychosis and addiction.

Edward Watson as Prince Rudolf, with skull (Royal Ballet production, 2013)

MacMillan’s precise and potent choreographic storytelling focuses on characterisation with psychological insight to relate a brutal account of human nature, in a way which only dance can express.  With his moods ranging from desire to rage, Rudolf is one the most demanding male roles created in British ballet requiring a high level of technique and stamina coupled with strong acting skills.  

Christopher Harrison as Prince Rudolf and Sophie Martin as Mary

However, the dancers of Scottish Ballet excel at dramatic clarity as recently illustrated in the stunning adaptations of A Streetcar Named Desire and The Crucible, based on the iconic plays by Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller. 

Eve Mutso as Blanche DuBois in ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’

The Scandal at Mayerling is a story rich with political intrigue, conflicting emotions, passion and obsession played out against an archaic and crumbling empire. Sir Kenneth’s choreography is some of the most visceral and emotionally charged ever produced – it demands our attention right up to the ill-fated conclusion.”  Christopher Hampson, Artistic Director/CEO of Scottish Ballet .

This revival has been adapted and staged by Christopher Hampson and Gary Harris in association with the choreographer’s widow, Lady Deborah MacMillan:

Kenneth didn’t set out to shock people but was acutely aware that in the ballet world of fairies and tutus, more realistic insights into human behaviour might prove difficult. There is a strong Scottish connection – Kenneth was born in Dunfermline – and Scottish Ballet attests to the highest aims of ballet companies worldwide, performing the best of the classics as well as looking to the future in choreography and designs.” 

This bold, ambitious new production features an elaborate stage set and lavish costumes with the Franz Liszt score performed live by the Scottish Ballet Orchestra.

Dancers and rehearsal staff are taking part in a series of workshops with the Fight and Intimacy Direction company, Rc-Annie. Training in the safe use of replica imitation firearms will also create the authenticity for realistic theatre.   

An intimate pas de deux, Christopher Harrison as Prince Rudolf and Sophie Martin as Mary

The historical mystery of the Mayerling Scandal has recently had a new twist. In 2015, a long forgotten collection of letters found hidden in a bank vault in Vienna might now reveal the secrets behind one of the world’s greatest love stories. 

Please forgive me, I could not resist love,’ wrote Mary Vetsera in a farewell letter to her mother, Helen, ‘I am happier in death than life.’

Apparently, an unknown person had deposited a leather-bound folder containing personal documents, letters and photographs of the Vetsera family, including Mary’s letters, which were finally discovered, 126 years after her death.

Dark, dangerous and daring, ‘The Scandal at Mayerling’ by Scottish Ballet promises to be a richly romantic and captivating dance drama. With a tasty flavour of the raunchy, period TV drama, Bridgerton, (with more bite), it’s sure to be a smash hit and described once again, as in 1978 as “a thrilling, moving, experience.”

Book your tickets now!

Scottish Ballet – The Scandal at Mayerling

Tour dates: 13-16 April 2022:Theatre Royal, Glasgow, 21-23 April 2022: Eden Court, Inverness, 5-7 May 2022: His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen,  25-28 May 2022: Festival Theatre Edinburgh

Age guidance 12+

https://www.scottishballet.co.uk/event/the-scandal-at-mayerling

Video: https://fb.watch/bYomodbYi-/

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society and Kingdom Scotland create a fragrant, sweet and spicy, spiritual partnership

The Society Kingdom Collaboration of whisky and perfume

First launched for Christmas 2021, this is a most creative business collaboration to demonstrate how Scotch whisky has inspired and been imaginatively paired with Scottish fragrances.

The partnership between the Scotch Malt Whisky Society and Kingdom Scotland celebrates the aromatic synergy between whisky and perfume, both produced through a similar distillation method. The perfumes can be sampled together with the paired whiskies at the Society venues in London, Glasgow and Edinburgh, guided by the knowledgable experts behind the bar. 

The people who said it couldn’t be done were so dull’

Pip Hills, Society Founder.

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society was established in Edinburgh in 1983 and now has more than 27,000 members and branches around the world. The idea all started in the 1970s, when Pip Hills sampled the delights of whisky drawn straight from the cask – undiluted and unadulterated – and this soon led to the idea of forming a club for whisky lovers. Hence, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS), to share whisky in its purest form for those with a passion for flavour. 

Whisky tasting and testing by the expert drinkers at the SMWS, 1992. Pip Hills, centre

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society selects unique single casks and exclusive blends from more than 140 distilleries from Scotland and beyond promoting a new batch of around 20 rare single malt whiskies every month. The team of whisky experts seek out whisky in its purest form with a diversity of flavour and give each bottling a curious, quirky name.

Members enjoy exclusive access to these speciality whiskies through the world’s most colourful whisky club.

The vast collection of specialist bottlings by the SMWS

Imogen Russon-Taylor enjoyed an international career from film studios to drinks companies before moving back to Scotland to work in the Scotch whisky industry. This experience and insight into the delicate crafting of Scotch, soon inspired her to launch her fragrance business, Kingdom Scotland.

Imogen Russon-Taylor and her Kingdom Scotland perfumes

At the University of St. Andrews, she researched historical records of perfumed ingredients and stories of Scottish botanists and plant collectors. Born in 1889, the Scottish botanist Isobel Wylie Hutchison was an adventurous and pioneering explorer who took a 260-mile solo trek across Iceland, later travelling across the Arctic circle into Greenland and Alaska where she collected floral and grass samples for the Royal Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh and Kew. A biography about her life is poetically called, ‘Flowers in the Snow.’

Isabel Wylie Hutchison – Botanist and Arctic explorer

With this background knowledge, Imogen selected and foraged specific plants, flowers and botanicals to create a range of luxury perfumes – unisex, sustainable, ethical and crafted in Scotland.

“It’s the landscape, the history and elemental weather. If I could bottle that in scents, such as gorse on the way to the beach and its coconut notes, I thought it would be an amazing Scottish brand.”

Imogen Russon-Taylor

The ancient craft of distilling whisky also links into the Scottish environment – the heritage, culture and wild terrain of lochs, forests and mountain peaks.

Whisky is in the business of “bottling Scotland” across the distinctly different distillery regions from Lowland to Speyside, Highland to Islay.

“Bottling Scotland” in a whisky barrel

The Laphroaig 10 year old single malt is for instance poetically described as “no other aroma so perfectly encapsulates the island. Peat reek, soft oak, craggy coastline, screeching gulls. .. in a glass.” 

Just a sniff of this dram will certainly transport you to Islay.

Words used to capture the complex scent and potent taste of whisky are certainly wide ranging: citrus, floral, woodland, seashore, BBQ, bonfire, spice, hazelnut, chocolate, dried fruit, cheese, Christmas Cake et al.

Experience the fragrant aroma before the first sip

Just like testing a perfume on one’s wrist or a card, we first need to “nose” a whisky as 95% of ‘flavours’ are in fact the whiff of the aroma.

The tantalising taste of a fine single malt lingers on the tongue just like a splash of scent on the skin. The sense of smell indeed lingers in the mind, engrained in the remembrance of things past.

In similar fashion, Imogen was keen to ‘bottle Scotland’ in her hand crafted scents: ‘ to transport you to a memory, a place, a moment in time. I want to create that “sense of place” in my fragrances’.

“Bottling Scotland” in a perfume

A Sensory Experience event at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, Edinburgh, gave the marvellous, magical opportunity to take an aromatic journey linking whisky and perfume and vice versa.

Metamorphic Eau de parfum is influenced by Imogen’s love of Ardbeg and other Islay single malts, reflecting the layered, crystalline rock formations of the Highlands and Islands formed around 400 million years ago.

Fragrance notes:

Top – Black Pepper & Tobacco
Heart – Incense, Minerals, Islay Malt & Dark Rose
Base –  (as the scent warms on the skin), Amber resin & Leather

Such a rich smoky peat and lingering tobacco scent and oh so masculine with the underlying tones of leather seats of a vintage classic car.

This Kingdom Scotland perfume has been expertly paired by the experts at the SMWS with their Lightly Peated collection, a flavour profile blending fragrant Parma Violet/rose/ freesia floral notes and smoky wood ash.

Peat fire tales on Orkney (Highland Park, 1st fill Oloroso butt).

As described by the whisky ambassador, expect fish and chips, blood orange, smoky peat fire, lime salt, honey, and altogether smooth and well balanced.

The Taste Test:

Nose: oak, sherry sweetness, juicy raisins, vanilla, coffee  

Taste: a teardrop of water to open up the flavour: a seashore briney breeze, dark sherry, roasted coffee beans, dried fruit, hazelnuts, caramel, woodsmoke  

Finish:  warm spice, nutmeg, ginger, raisins, espresso coffee and oozing with campfire smokiness.   

Portal Eau de parfum is inspired by the Caledonian forests on the Ardnamurchan peninsula with the pungent scent of Scots pine and lichen, herbaceous botanicals and bergamot to evoke the experience of being out in the fresh country air.  

Fragrance notes:

Top –  Herbaceous botanicals & bergamot
Heart – Verdant flora
Base – Vetiver, bark & Scots Pine

This clearly bottles the sensory experience of a woodland walk after the rain in spring or summer and Vetiver oil is said to be calming for meditation and relaxation.  

Portal is matched with a whisky from the SMWS Juicy Oak & Vanilla flavour profile range: honeysuckle, coriander seed, juicy fruits, chocolate-coated cherries, passion fruit and pineapple sorbet, such as Summer Garden Curiosity and Day Sipper.

Day Sipper. (Linkwood, Speyside, 1st fill Bourbon barrel)

As described: big, robust, cherry, juicy, sweet, playful – an anytime, daytime dram. 

Nose: fresh cut grass, floral fragrance, leafy, oatmeal, hint of honey

Taste: soft stone fruits, (plum, damson), rose blossom, tree bark, moss, honey, coconut, citrus notes

Finish: Earl Grey and herbal tea, orange, vanilla, almonds, marzipan.

Imogen Russon-Taylor – with her whisky inspired perfumes at the SMWS

This is indeed the ultimate sensory experience: sip, taste and smell the natural fragrance of Scotch whisky afresh through the art of perfumery.

This innovative, cultural and truly spiritual collaboration between the Scotch Malt Whisky Society and Kingdom Scotland allows us to appreciate even more how the seductive aroma of spirit and scent capture the romantic, wild, natural landscape of Scotland in a contemporary way.

The SMWS, The Vaults, Leith, Edinburgh

The Scottish Malt Whisky Society

The original HQ is The Vaults in Leith, Edinburgh where it all started nearly 40 years ago, then developed with club premises on Queen Street, Edinburgh, Glasgow and London.  There are now 27,000 members and branches around the world – Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore and the US.

Belonging to the world’s most entertaining whisky club gives access to exclusive Members’ Rooms, a network of global partner bars, tasting events, whisky education and a monthly members’ magazine Unfiltered.

The Members’ Lounge Bar, SMWS, Queen Street, Edinburgh

Visit one of the Society venues in Edinburgh, Glasgow and London, where you can sample the expertly selected whiskies across the flavour profiles together with the associated perfumes. These unisex fragrances are the perfect gift combined with a bottle of the paired Single Malt for the whisky lover.

As a unique and exclusive luxury brand, the Kingdom Scotland perfumes are available at Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Les Senteurs, Gleneagles and The Balmoral Hotel, Edinburgh.

https://smws.com/about

https://kingdomscotland.com

Portal inspired by the forests on Ardnamurchan peninsula

The French Film Festival is back with Screen Horizons@ Summerhall, January to April 2022. 

The French Film Festival UK is the only festival dedicated to and embracing French and Francophone cinema in all its diversityInstead of waiting until November, an inspiring season of French and Francophone cinema comes to Summerhall from 30 January to 17 April, 2022.

Presenting a diverse range of films for all ages, from award-winners to new talent, classics to documentaries and animation.  Several will be accompanied by introductions, Q&As and talks by leading experts in film and French culture.

The courtyard beer garden and Royal Dick pub at Summerhall Arts Venue

With the easing of restrictions, we’re delighted to be able to offer Summerhall screenings in the newly re-equipped Red studio theatre with its Seventies’ vibe. Audiences will have the chance to catch up with French Film Festival titles they may have missed the first time around. The programme really does have something for everyone.”

Richard Mowe, Director, French Film Festival UK

The comfortable, intimate Arthouse cinema at Summerhall

Summerhall, located near the Meadows, is a well established and popular visual arts and performance venue, – with a pub, brewery and gin distillery on site too – a buzzing cultural centre year round with exhibitions, drama, music, films and, in August, Edinburgh Festival Fringe shows.

And what must be the best kept secret, a brand new cinema opened here in October 2021!  

The Red Lecture Theatre was previously used for the Edinburgh Short Film Festival, Cinefile, French Film Festival and Cinematic, shows films every weekend as well as special events.  The revamped cinema was financed from the Screen Scotland’s Cinema Equipment Fund, featuring Dolby 5.1 surround sound and DCP projection and is the only cinema on the southside of Edinburgh.  Each Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the venue screens new releases, independent films, modern horror, retrospectives and world cinema.

The French Film Festival UK presents Screen Horizons@ Summerhall.

As Valentine’s Day 2022 fell on a Monday, there is still time for a delicious sweet taste of romance on Sunday 20 February with a 3pm matinee screening of Love Affair(s).  

The French title, ‘Les Choses qu’on dit, les chose qu’on fait’  is translated as ‘The Things We Say, the Things We Do,’ a classic brief encounter tale of two strangers thrown together by chance, set against the lush green French countryside. Exploring their notions of what real love is, the chemistry between Daphne and Maxime is viewed with authenticity, elegance and compassion. Directed by Emmanuel Mouret, the film has been described as a more serious Love Actually, pitching between the philosophical and farcical.

Neils Schneider and Camelia Jordana in Love Affair (s)

This really sounds like a smash hit with rave reviews, awards and accolades:

Best Film nomination, Césars 2021.

Rotten Tomatoes – Critics score,100%

‘ Mouret channels a cacophony of beating hearts in an effortless conversation about the universal trappings of love and monogamy’.

‘A complex romantic drama which twists and turns at every juncture’.

Later that afternoon on 20 February at 5.30pm is Hello World! (Bonjour Le Monde!) for adults and children alike. With perfect topicality in the race to save the planet, this is a whimsical animated study of our fragile ecosystem.  How is a bird born, why does one come into the world as an insect, mammal or fish?

Hand crafted papier-mâché puppets with a colourfully painted backdrop interpret the life and habitats of a pike, beaver, bat, salamander, turtle, dragonfly and several birds to illustrate the amazing spectacle of the natural world.

An enchanting scene from Hello World!

And here a few more highlights over the next couple of months:

Oh Mercy! / Roubaix, une lumière (Sunday 27 February, 15.00)

A fictionalised adaptation of the 2008 French TV documentary Roubaix commissariat central, which followed a police officer and his colleagues in Roubaix, near Lille, as they deal with the shocking homicide of an elderly woman. The investigation has real authenticity to create a riveting, compassionate drama and among the potential suspects are the neighbours who report the crime, Claude and Marie.  Grégoire Hetzel’s sombre soundtrack creates a suitably chilling Bernard Herrmann, (Psycho, Citizen Kane, Taxi Driver), mood and ambience. 

Engrossing and well worth checking out’. Time Out

Simply Black / Tout simplement noir  (Sunday 6 March, 17.00/Sunday 13 March, 15.00)

Jean-Pascal Zadi’s feature debut follows, JP, an actor and activist (played by Zadi himself) who, tired of the bigotry and racism in France, decides to organize a “Black Man’s March” to raise awareness in Paris. The politically incorrect satire is essentially a mockumentary through a series of dramatic, often hilarious misadventures. By exploring how racism remains a serious issue in France, Zadi questions whether the motto ‘liberté, égalité, fraternité’ is more of an ideal than a universal truth. 

An extraordinary comedic work of lilt and sparkle’. The New Yorker

Jean Pascal Zadi stars in his mockumentary political satire, Simply Black

Léon Morin, Priest / Leon Morin, prêtre: (Sunday 10 April, 17.30/ Sunday 17 April, 15.00)

The French Film Festival always includes a classic programme of vintage movies which are always a joy and here is another classic in Screen Horizons.  

In 1961, a year after appearing in Breathless, Jean-Paul Belmondo starred as Léon Morin, Priest, playing a devoted man of the cloth who attracts all the women in a small village in Nazi-occupied France.  Holy but human, he finds himself drawn to a widow—played by Emmanuelle Riva—a religious skeptic. Sparse yet utterly convincing in period detail, this is a potent study of desire, religion and politics.

Belmondo is masterly at embodying how Morin uses his charisma and surly, forthright charm. Riva’s emotional vitality powers the story with an oscillating vibrancy .. the accumulation of small expressive touches is as exact and suggestive as a pointillist masterpiece’. Deep Focus review

Adolescents / Adolescentes  (Sunday 17 April, 17.30)

Emma and Anaïs are best friends and yet everything in their life seems to set them apart – from their social backgrounds to their personalities. Five years in the making, Adolescentes is a remarkable achievement, charting the lives of the two girls from the age of 13 to 18 as they grow into maturity. Things turn more emotive when the personal meets the political during key moments in French history from the Paris attacks to the election of Emmanuel Macron.  

Melancholic and graceful, ‘ ….capturing moments of aesthetic bliss  ..comparisons to Richard Linklaters 12-year narrative ‘Boyhood’ are evident.Hollywood Reporter

For the full Screen Horizons programme of films, trailers, dates and tickets – https://frenchfilmfestival.org.uk/2021/front-page/screen-horizons/

Supported by Film Hub Scotland, part of the BFI’s Film Audience Network, and funded by Screen Scotland and National Lottery funding from the BFI.

The 30th anniversary edition of the French Film Festival will run in November and December 2022, as always touring numerous towns and cities across the UK, as well as an online programme. Keep up to date with all news of this special celebratory year.

https://frenchfilmfestival.org.uk/2021/

Sozyë Nish, Noya and Noyster: Soya and fish-free organic sauces for sustainable, healthy, tasty dishes

This is a timely tale about how we can all help create a brave new greener world.  

The global taste for soy sauces and soya beans requires a constant removal of the crop which has greatly reduced the ability of forests to absorb and store carbon dioxide. Sea life is also affected as fish and oysters are used for the production of fish-based sauces.

Observing this serious ecological and environmental impact, Jacob Thundil used his experience and passion for food and innovation to create a range of organic, allergen-free, sustainable tasty sauces.

Jacob Thundil sourcing seaweed on a Scottish beach near Wick

 “While experimenting to make a vegetarian stock, the savoury notes from a particular Scottish seaweed reminded me of fermented soya. This led me to carry out hundreds of kitchen trials to perfect the world’s first British soya sauce alternative. I hope you will support our mission to brew delicious sauces which are kind to the planet and to you.”

Jacob Thundil, Founder – Sozyë

Thundil sourced sustainably-harvested, certified organic seaweed from the seashore near Wick on the North East coastline of Scotland – only the tops of the leaves are collected to enable them to regrow within a few weeks.  Sozyë Noya, Nish and Noyster sauces are formulated as soya-free, plant-based alternatives to soy, fish, and oyster sauces.

Soy sauce is traditionally produced by fermenting soybeans and wheat, a staple ingredient in  Oriental dishes and a popular seasoning in American cuisine.  The daily consumption of soy sauce in Japan alone is estimated at about 30 ml per person. That’s a lot of soya beans.

A traditional Fish sauce is made by fermenting anchovies with salt for up to 12 months.  It’s used in many different Asian dishes predominately Vietnam and Thailand, a popular ingredient due to its robust flavour profile.  It can also be made from shrimp and tuna belly.

A traditional Oyster sauce contains oyster extract, soya, wheat, and a handful of preservatives, also used in many different Asian dishes. 

The world famous Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce

Many people might not realise that Worcestershire sauce is actually a Fish Sauce, (also made from anchovies), first created in the city of Worcester in 1837 by two pharmacists John Lea and William Perrins, thereby founding Lea & Perrins, still today a household brand. Pronounced Wooster-sher, it’s used to flavour steak, chicken and fried fish, added to soups and stews and is an essential ingredient of a Bloody Mary.

The biggest misconception about an Anchovy-based sauce is that it’s “fishy.”  In cooking, the fermented seafood functions more like salt and brings a deep, savoury, umami punch. 

There used to be just four main flavour profiles for food and drink – sweet, sour, salty and bitter. Now we have a fifth taste, umami, a distinctive savoury taste, which comes from the Japanese word meaning the ‘essence of deliciousness.’  It was coined by a Japanese chemist, Kikunae Ikeda, who noticed a particular flavour in asparagus, hard cheese and dashi, a Japanese stock made from kombu (kelp), a brown seaweed found in shallow coastal seawater.

Stronger flavoured foods like anchovies, salted fish, Parmesan, mushrooms, fish sauce, seaweed, oysters and olives et al. have an umami profile.  Words used to describe umami include well-rounded harmony, aromatic, and appetizing.

Seaweed has been part of the Japanese diet for thousands of years and Nori is perhaps the most familiar type used to make Sushi rolls. Eating seaweed is a super-healthy and nutritious way to add extra vitamins and minerals to your diet.

In Scotland, seaweed has been gathered on the sea shore – not so much for eating –  but for the exquisitely crafted, seasalt-infused Isle of Harris gin.  Sugar Kelp, gathered sustainably by hand from local sea-lochs, is the key botanical and when there is no ‘r’ in the month, the kelp is left to recover and grow, ensuring this vital local habitat for sea life is not harmed.

ishga skincare: The name ishga is the Gaelic word for water and the Hebridean Islands is where the mineral rich seaweed is sourced to create its organic skincare with anti-ageing and hydrating properties.  The award winning ishga marine cream is described as a ‘revolutionary antioxidant moisturiser’.

Hebridean seaweed – the active ingredient in ishga marine skincare

Seaweed is therefore such a versatile, nurtritious, natural plant for health and beauty. So let’s have a taste of Sozyë sauces with a few appetising ideas for classic Asian dishes and cocktails.

Sozyë Noya Sauce is sweet and savoury with a slight salty flavour and can substitute both dark and light soya sauces.  Add as normal to a stir-fry, and when sautéing vegetables or to flavour white or brown rice.  Start by adding a little at a time during cooking to check the taste to your liking. Use as a marinade mixed with herbs and spices, in salad dressings and it’s the perfect dipping sauce for sushi.

Noya sauce with Sushi rolls

Celebrate Chinese New Year: Health and Happiness Noodles (based on recipe by Gok Wan)

340g dry Yi Mein noodles, 1 tablespoon groundnut oil, 2 cloves crushed garlic, piece of chopped ginger, 100g asparagus, 100g green beans, 2 spring onions; 3 tbsp Noya sauce, 2 tbsp Noyster sauce, 2 tsp runny honey,  ½ tsp sesame oil, ground white pepper, toasted sesame seeds, 50g pea shoots. Serves 4

Blanch the noodles in boiling water for 2 mins, drain and put in a bowl of cold water to prevent sticking.  Heat the groundnut oil in a wok and add the chopped vegetables and cook for 3 minutes.  Add the garlic and ginger. Return the noodles to the pan and mix through, then add a little hot water, Noya and Noyster sauce, sesame oil and honey. Heat through and then season with, if required, a little salt and pepper.  Garnish with sesame seeds and pea shoots.

Chinese New Year – Happiness Noodle dish

Sozyë-style Bloody Mary  

50 cl Vodka, 120cl tomato juice, a few shakes of Noya or Nish sauce *, a few shakes of Tabasco, pinch of celery salt, ground pepper.  Celery sticks, olives and a slice of lemon or lime for garnish. (* instead of Worcestershire sauce)

Bloody Mary – vegetarian style with Noya or Nish sauce

Sozyë Nish or Noyster sauces would also be the ideal alternative, (if you are not vegetarian) for a Bloody Caesar which is made with Clamato juice, to complement its pungent flavour of the sea.  

Sozyë Nish sauce is the first like-for-like substitute for regular Fish Sauce – organic, soy, fish and gluten-free made from Scottish seaweed.   I first splashed a generous dash of Nish Sauce into a vegetarian Mie Goreng and the flavour is amazing: yes, that quintessential umami salty, earthy mushroom or avocado flavour – to my palate anyway.  A fried egg, sunny side up, is the golden crown of this delectable noodle dish.

A delicious Mie Goreng with a perfect soft fried egg on top

Again use Sozyë Nish sauce as a dip, a marinade, for a warming depth of flavour to pasta and mix with garlic and chilli for a salad dressing. It also does not have the slightly harsh vinegar undertone which is more prevalent in the Noya sauce. 

Nuoc Cham

This tasty, tangy Vietnamese dipping sauce and dressing has a subtle umami kick.  

3 tablespoons lime juice, 2 tablespoons sugar, ½ cup water, 2 ½ tablespoons Nish sauce.  Optional ingredients:1 small garlic clove, finely minced, 1 or 2 thinly sliced chillies.

Combine the lime juice, sugar and water, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Add the Nish sauce and any of the optional ingredients. Taste and adjust to your liking, balancing out the sour, sweet, salty and spicy flavours. Perfect for dipping fried Spring rolls, grilled prawns or chicken, drizzle over rice and as a vibrant salad dressing.

Nuoc Cham dipping sauce and dressing

Pad Thai

The popular street food in Thailand is a quick and easy stir fry noodle dish to try in order to experiment with Nish Sauce.  It can be adapted for all diets as it is traditionally made with prawns, chicken or tofu (or other vegetables), with peanuts, egg, tamarind paste, garlic and bean sprouts all sautéed together in a wok.  Many recipes on line for meat, fish and vegetarian/vegan options.

Pad Thai with either chicken, prawns or tofu

Sozyë invented the world’s first Oyster Sauce alternative from Scottish seaweed.  Noyster Sauce is the ideal substitute, a well-balanced blend of sweet, salty and savoury with a hint of seaweed. Again it can be simply used as a dip such as Nouc Cham (as above), in a vinaigrette, stir-fries, roasted vegetables, a marinade and to flavour meat and fish. 

Asian Greens

1 tbsp vegetable oil, 2 tbsp Noyster sauce, 350g mixed Asian greens (pak choi, choy sum or tatsoi)

Stir the oil and Noyster sauce with 1 tbsp water in a saucepan. Cook for 2-3 mins until glossy, then set aside.  Cook the greens in salted boiling water, simmering for 2 minutes until just wilted, then drain and drizzle the sauce over the greens.  

Mixed Asian greens with Noyster Sauce

Noyster Sauce Vegetable stir fry

For this revamped classic Asian side dish, choose what you like from broccoli, chopped carrots, green beans, sugar snaps, chopped eggplant, sliced red onion, mushrooms, kale, pok choy, asparagus, baby corn, bean sprouts. Cauliflower florets will need an extra few minutes to cook.   For two people, this is a quick and simple stir fry with vegetable oil flavoured with 2 tsp garlic paste, 4 tbsp Noyster sauce and 2 tbsp Nish sauce.

Vegetable stir fry with Noyster sauce.

Food for thought!

To paraphrase marketing tag lines from Lea and Perrins:

Just a dash of Sozyë brings food alive’.

Splash into your spaghetti Bolognese and add a splosh into your stir-fry.!’

These exciting, innovative British-made Sozyë Noya, Nish and Noyster sauces made from Scottish seaweed have already achieved great success as the winner of the Great Taste Awards in October 2021. 

For more information:

https://sozye.com/

Available from Planet Organic Instore and www.planetorganic.com

‘Hotel to Home’ by Sophie Bush: the story of how traditional industrial design has inspired cool, contemporary décor.

This lavishly illustrated book takes the armchair traveller on a global journey to peek inside the most original revamped buildings from Berlin to Cape Town, Chicago to London, Sydney to Singapore: destinations for design enthusiasts. Sophie Bush is the founder of Warehouse Home, a biannual magazine and interior design service,  specialising in the industrial aesthetic for bold, contemporary style. 

When I travel, I hope to be inspired. Wherever I go, I try to stay in hotels with authentic stories and exceptional interiors. I am always looking for new ideas.”

Sophie Bush

The recent evolution of hotel design is fascinating.  Finding American hotels too large, old fashioned and impersonal, compared to his travels in Europe, Bill Kimpton opened the first, so called, Boutique hotel in 1981, The Bedford, San Francisco.  Three years later, Ian Schrager followed suit, launching Morgans on Madison Avenue, NYC, the first of a worldwide collection. Their respective vision was all about creative design & local culture, cocktail bars and modern cuisine, in-house music with personal attention from haute couture dressed staff.  Distinctive, desirable places to eat, drink, socialise, sleep, dream.

If the buzz words today are conservation and sustainability, then the re-imagining of disused factories and warehouses to create unusual Boutique hotels and private residences is a brilliant solution to preserve urban architectural heritage.  

This book features forty unique hotels, their stunning industrial architecture creatively preserved where steel structures, wooden beams and concrete walls now offer exciting and atmospheric places to stay with bold style and vintage vibe.

Architecture should speak of its time and place, but yearn for timelessness.’

Frank Gehry

The Titanic Hotel, Liverpool – a former rum factory

Formerly an old rum factory built in 1848, The Titanic Hotel, Liverpool overlooks Stanley Dock and is named after the legendary ship which was christened and set sail to New York from the city in 1912.  Now its exposed red bricked walls, iron columns and vaulted ceilings retain a sense of the its ‘spiritual’ history, juxtaposed with leather, tweed and wool furnishings.

A spacious suite in the Titanic Hotel

Soho House Chicago is a converted belt and leather tannery (1907). Now the vast concrete warehouse has been converted into a ‘Hip and happening’ private Club, full of impressive art work including by Damien Hirst.  The magnificent Drawing room has spacious soft velvet booths, chandeliers and polished parquet flooring.

Soho House, Chicago – the Drawing Room

The long forgotten 19th century Pearl Brewery is the charming, characterful setting for Hotel Emma, San Antonio, Texas, named after the heroic Prohibition era owner, which preserves the machinery, brickwork and distressed plasterwork with ‘timeless elegance.’ Furnished with Moroccan kilim rugs and leather armchairs, this is the place to chill out and sip a Texan craft beer.

Gorgeous George is an intimate, homely 32 bedroom, Boutique hotel in the inner city district of Cape Town, converted from two Art Deco and Edwardian buildings: wood panelling, brass and copper pipes with smart white tiles in the classic bathrooms.  As a cultural, arty, local hub, it’s described as “a living room for the neighbourhood.’

Gorgeous George – concrete, wood and leather materials decorate the bar and restaurant

The magnificent Zeitz Mocaa Museum, Cape Town showcasing African art, fashion and design, is located within a former grain Silo (1921) and its innovative restoration by the Heatherwick Studio, London, won a Global tourism award in 2019 from the British Guild of Travel Writers.  

The Silo Hotel entrance preserves the industrial heritage

On the top six floors above the Museum is the Silo Hotel with 18 foot windows for spectacular views over to Table Mountain and the Bay. The décor is a charming blend of Asian and European antiques, silk and velvet fabrics and African artwork. Stay in one of the 28 guestrooms including a Penthouse, all individually designed, and relax in the rooftop Bar.

The roof top bar at The Silo, overlooking Table Mountain

We created interiors to complement the stark industrial architecture with stylish, comfortable, decorative elements.”

Liz Biden, The Silo, Royal Portfolio Hotels.

A former United Artists Film Company office is now the address of the Ace Hotel Downtown, Los Angeles, a 1920s Gothic building partly inspired by Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia, Barcelona. Preserving the original structure, the décor focuses on Californian and Mexican culture and design – The Best Girl restaurant is named after the first movie screened at the UA theatre in 1927.

Ace Hotel, Downtown Los Angeles

The range of former industrial buildings is richly eclectic such as a former Cheese-making factory converted into the Ace Hotel, Chicago. The design concept is Bauhaus with bold, clean lines, plywood panels and chrome tubing, with a black, white and grey palette. The Bar has scenic views over the city skyline.

Ace Hotel, Chicago – a dramatic shower room

Clerkenwell, London is a buzzing neighbourhood of pubs, restaurants and creative businesses where The Zetter. Reminiscent of the slender shape of the Flatiron, NYC, the eco-friendly conversion of this Victorian warehouse retained sash windows, sourced vintage furniture and created a light-filled atrium with a changing showcase of art and sculpture. Rooftop rooms and a split level, circular Suite with private terraces offer panoramic views.

The Zetter, Clerkenwell

This is just a selection of the iconic hotels in unusual places – a former sugar mill in China, a Swedish power station and an 18th century garment factory in Paris – each preserving distinctive architectural features complemented with period or modern furnishings and artistic décor.  

As the title of the book suggests, Hotel to Home focuses on the designs, fabrics, material and use of space – bedrooms, bathrooms – to inspire the reader to add a touch of industrial chic to their own environment.  During nearly two years of lockdown, many of us working from home, we have been keen to decorate and design rooms afresh.

“If you want a golden rule that will fit everything, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

William Morris

Chapters on residential Real Homes, such as Manhattan loft apartments, illustrate how to blend painted brickwork and raw concrete walls, tiles and timber for the weird and wonderful warehouse aesthetic.  Read all about mixing and matching raw materials for texture and colour. Terrazzo (a blend of marble, glass and quartz chippings) looks so effective for snazzy kitchen worktops and bathroom floors.

Whether a hotel or a home, the clever juxtaposition of hard steel and wood materials softened by velvet draped sofas and a splash of bold primary colours creates a dazzling, dramatic look.  There are suggestions for paintings, prints and statement, photorealistic wallpapers to jazz up a room with street art, abstract rugs or ‘paint- splattered’ fabrics. Great ideas too on book shelves, office space, how to create a feature bed, bathrooms, kitchen layout and the most appropriate lights and lamps for each room. 

This is not a travel guide.

It is a design manual filled with ideas for achieving hotel chic industrial style at home.” 

Sophie Bush

Well, I would say this book is an inspirational collection of desirable, unusual places to stay with bold and beautiful bedrooms, sleek bathrooms, smart bars, velvet draped sofas and quirky artwork offering a fabulous, fashionable home away from home.

Since 1981, the Kimpton brand continues to revolutionise hotel living. As a travel writer, reviewing luxury hotels, I have stayed in the revamped, uber-cool and contemporary Kimpton Charlotte Square, Edinburgh which offers a leisurely, liveable, home environment (Edinburgh Hotel of the Year 2020). Also love the classy Kimpton Blythswood, Glasgow, named Luxury Brand hotel, 2020.

I recently visited the majestic Kimpton Clocktower, Manchester, which was named recently in the Sunday Times as one of the best 100 hotels in the UK.  Formerly, the Refuge Assurance Company (1890), the hotel features Victorian red brickwork, ceramic tiles and stained glass as well as the fun and funky Refuge cocktail bar.  

And also in Manchester is the most exciting, new Moxy, Spinningfields, an “experiential,” nine storey hotel clad in weathered metal panels over the original façade retained from the former Hat factory. Bar Moxy and the social atrium space has a modern, industrial feel, with local-inspired artwork, curated Manchester illustrations and illuminated signs across the lobby. 

“There are two things that make a room timeless: a sense of history and a piece of the future.”

Charlotte Moss

You don’t need to live in a former factory or brewery to jazz up the atmosphere, ambience and style of your home whether it’s Victorian, Edwardian, 1930s or 60s et al. It’s all about architecture, function, comfort, décor and design to enhance original features and embrace your personal lifestyle.

‘Hotel to Home’ is an inspirational guide for interior design provides expert advice on finding salvaged materials, vintage curios, recycled furniture and artwork to create an individual sense of place, space and heritage.  A helpful comprehensive list of architects, designers and stockists is given at the end of the book.  

This is a timely, important story of renaissance, restoration and renewal of historic buildings, re-imagined with cool, contemporary design, practicality and purpose.

Hotel to Home: Industrial Interiors inspired by the world’s most original hotels

By Sophie Bush

Published by Warehouse Home, hardback £30.

ISBN: 978-1-527226-51-7.

www.mywarehousehome.com

(Reviewers note: Hotel to Home is a coffee table book designed like a glossy magazine with superb illustrations. However, apart from a larger typeface for chapter summaries, the font size of the main text is miniscule, and to read the Contents page, one almost needs a magnifying glass. There is an alphabetical list of hotels at the end but no page numbers. )

Bedroom with claw foot bath in Gorgeous George, Cape Town

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

www.torrancegallery.co.uk

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

Celebrate the start of 2022 in sophisticated party style with The Bottled Cocktail Company.

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.”

Salvatore Calabrese

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.

Keivan Nemati, founder of the Bottled Cocktail Company

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.’

Drink with friends – social Zoom parties during lockdown

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?

Campari, the fashionable hot red drink since 1860

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.

The Bottled Cocktail Company inaugural collection

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.  

Count Camillo Negroni who created his famous cocktail in 1919

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.    

The Silver Fir Negroni from BCC

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.

The Negroni – sip before dinner to whet the appetite

“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”.  

Keivan Nemati

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.   

The BCC signature blend of spirits, herbs and spices for their Dry 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 pure taste of a dry Gin Martini

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.

Elderflower Highball fizzed up with soda, tonic or prosecco

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.”

Salvatore Calabrese

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 Old Fashioned is also in the BCC collection of cocktails

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:

www.bottledcocktailcompany.com

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. 

Wishing you a cool, crisp, sparkling Festive season with Codorníu Cava and Vida Wines

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.

The Codornuiu family vineyards, near Barcelona

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.

The underground cellars to store the wine for fermentation and ageing

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.  

The Codorniu Art Nouveau House of Cava

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.

Vintage advertising for Codorniu Cava in the late 19th century

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.

The first and very fashionable Catalan Cava launched in 1872

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.

The sophistated, elegant lifestyle of Cordorniu Cava

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.

Ice cold Codorniu Vintage Cava

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!).

Codorniu Rosado

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.

Pink fizz with raspberries for extra fruitiness

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. 

Codorniu Anna – the modern taste of Cava

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.

The, contemporary, Codorniu Catalonian lifestyle

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.

The vintage artwork at the historic Codorniu winery

Read more about Codorníu Cava here:

http://www.raventoscodorniu.com/en

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.

Baba Vida Castle, Bulgaria

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.

Vida Viognier

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.

•          Angerhof- Tschida Beerenauslese 2017: Angerhof-Tschida Beerenauslese 2017 Vida Wines and Spirits UK ,£13.89.

Under £25 wines

•          VIDA direct from Vineyard: Kristančič Pavo Cristatus Classic Cuvee 2014 Vida Wines and Spirits UK, £21.29.

•          Karl Fritsch Riesling Mordthal 2019 Vida Wines and Spirits UK, £21.79.

Browse the full collection of wines and spirits here:

https://vidawines.co.uk/

Eat, Drink and be merry this Festive seaon. Cheers!

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 Farming Estate and Distillery

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.

Hand picked Quince from the Orchard

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

The Owl and the Pussycat dined on mince and slices of quince…

‘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.

The creative, eco friendly distillation process from grain to glass

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.  

Ramsbury Single Estate gin from wheat field to bottle – refreshing and clean tasting

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. 

Gin Martini

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. 

The perfectly crafted Ramsbury dry Gin Martini

The Vesper

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​
Lemon slice​

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.

The Vesper – the literary legend of a Cocktail.

And what could be better than a a spicy and sparkling party cocktail for the Festive season.

Farmhouse Fizz

35ml Ramsbury Single Estate Gin
25ml Clementine juice (or 3 wedges of clementine)
10ml Sugar syrup
10ml Lemon
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.

Farmhouse Fizz – Festive sparkle and spice

Merry Christmas!

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:

www.ramsbury.com

The Bell at Ramsbury:  https://thebellramsbury.com/

The Bell Inn at Ramsbury

Experience ‘Christmas at the Botanics’ this festive season – a sparkling, starlit walk through a winter wonderland

The bare winter trees illuminated with sparkling colour and light

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.  

Follow the not-so-yellow brick road – (lions and tigers and bears, oh my!)

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.

The amazing water effect of Digital Rain

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.

A surreal collection of Teepee Trees

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.

Sculptured figures, birds and animals dramatise 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

The Waterfalls tumble over the rocks by moonlight

Visitors walk through the dazzling domed canopy of the ‘Christmas Cathedral’ featuring thousands of individual flower buds on long ribbons of sparkling lights.  

Christmas Cathedral

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.

The warming flames of the Fire Garden

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. 

Swirling waves flow around the Sea of Light

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. 

Father Christmas welcomes you beside his log cabin

‘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