The Scotch Malt Whisky Society and Kingdom Scotland create a fragrant, sweet and spicy, spiritual partnership
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.
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.
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.
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.’
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.”
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
“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.
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’.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.”
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.’
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.
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.
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.’
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
(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. )
Enjoy a hearty, homely dish of Macsween haggis and sip a Benriach dram (or two) this Burns’ Night. Slainte Mhath!
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.
‘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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Haggis!
From “Address to the Haggis’ Robert Burns
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.
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.”
The Bottled Cocktail Company is an exciting new venture in the fast expanding ready-to-drink market established by Keivan Nemati and a group of friends to share their avid passion for cocktails.
Nemati started working in the drinks industry in 2009 in London and is a former Bar manager at The Zetter Townhouse. Inspired by the similarities between the crafting of cocktails and the art of fragrance, he began studying perfumery as well as collaborating with spirits brands on developing new products.
The Bottled Cocktail Company’s mission is simple:
‘We believe that cocktails should not be relegated to cocktail bars, to bring a true mixology experience whenever you want in the comfort of your own home.’
During the Covid pandemic lockdown in the UK between 2020-21, with bars and restaurants closed (and people shielding at home), the way we consume alcohol changed dramatically. Instead of just sipping wine over dinner, we bought spirits and cocktail shakers to concoct our favourite tipples while entrepreneurial mixologists and drinks businesses caught on to the demand and created pre-mixed cocktails in cans, cartons and bottles.
Staying in became the new going out, and the Japanese buzzword ‘On-nomi’ (‘drinking alone’) led to socialising by zoom with ‘virtual’ happy hour parties.
But when was the first pre-batched cocktail produced?
In 1860, Gaspare Campari founded his eponymous aperitivo drinks brand in Novara, near Milan, and in 1932 an attractive triangular bottle of pre-batched Campari Soda was produced, still a bestseller today. The Bellini was invented in the summer of 1948 by Giuseppe Cipriani at Harry’s Bar, Venice – Prosecco and fresh peach pureé. 1988 – the Luciano Canella winery created Canella’s ready-to-go Bellini.
1990, USA – the Barcardi Breezer, a ready made, sweet, fruity rum punch soon brought the alcopop taste of the Caribbean to the British Isles.
Fast forward to today. The ready-to-drink sector was the only alcohol category to see growth of sales over the past couple of years, outperforming the rest of the drinks industry with UK sales in 2020 reaching £412 million.
‘RTDs are amongst the most innovative and creative drinks in the market, forever changing, adapting and growing the potential’.
London Spirits Competition. (June 2021)
Welcome then to the Bottled Cocktail Company which has launched its initial range: El Presidente, Elderflower Highball, Negroni, Dry Gin Martini, Old Fashioned and Passion Fruit Spritz, with more to be released in the coming months.
All drinks are ready to serve, well chilled, to be sipped either straight up or over ice. Nemati’s professional experience both as a mixologist and his knowledge of perfumes, ensures that the finest spirits and ingredients are selected for bespoke, premium quality cocktails.
The Negroni was invented just over a century ago in Florence, when Count Camillo Negroni decided that he wanted his usual Americano (Campari, sweet vermouth, soda water), to be jazzed up. The creative bar tender replaced the soda with gin, unwittingly creating Italy’s beloved and world renowned cocktail.
Silver Fir Negroni, 21% abv.
Gin, Italian Vermouth, Orange Bitter & Silver Fir
Simply pour 80ml – 100ml into a Rocks glass over a large ice cube. Garnish with a twist of orange.
The Taste Test:
On the nose, a richly aromatic, earthy, woodland scent and then the first sip: elegantly smooth, followed by the delectable sharp, bitter orange tang which lingers on the tongue. It is the perfect Aperitivo – meaning that the bittersweet, herbal flavour opens up the stomach to give one an appetite. This is simply exquisite.
“About 80% of (our) perception of flavour actually comes from the sense of smell. We create our own aromatic essences and tinctures to tweak the flavour profile of classic cocktails”.
The crafting of a London Dry Gin is a culinary science, blending specific botanicals for the perfect balance of floral, fruit and spicy notes. Instead of drowning gin in a G&T, nothing could be more delectable than a very dry, oh so romantic, Gin Martini.
Dry Gin Martini, 26% abv.
Gin, French Vermouth & Wintergreen Essence
The BCC suggest chilling the bottle in the freezer for two hours before serving, instead of stirring over ice to avoid any dilution. Pour 70ml – 100ml into a cold Martini glass and garnish with a twist of lemon or green olive.
Alternatively for a more savoury flavour, try a pickled pearl onion which creates a Gibson. This was invented at the Player’s Club, New York in the 1940s for the American artist, Charles Dana Gibson, when the bar had no olives for his Martini.
The BCC version enhances the usual recipe of Gin and a splash of Vermouth with a special wintergreen, eucalyptus and peppermint essence,“ brightening up the gin and wine botanicals, adding mouthfeel and length.”
The Taste Test:
I added a couple of green olives and took a tentative sip of this ice cold cocktail. My goodness this packs a punch – although it has a delicate flavour and silky smooth texture, beautifully cool, crisp and dry. This hits the spot in an instant with the pure, clean taste of a Gin Martini which I adore.
As did Dorothy Parker!
As this is BCC’s secret recipe, the ratio of gin to vermouth is not given and there are many variations, according to preference. Harry Craddock’s Savoy Cocktail Book (1930) dictated 2 parts gin to 1 part vermouth, while other bar tenders say that a very dry Martini is 3.5 parts gin to 1 part Vermouth.
Elderflower Highball 20% abv.
London Dry Gin, Elderflower, Lime, Fresh-cut-grass Essence
Pour 70ml to 100ml into a glass filled with ice and top up with your favourite mixer, (tonic, soda, ginger ale) for a long refreshing drink.
The Taste Test
With a good splash of tonic and slice of lemon, this is a fine alternative to a G&T. The Elderflower liqueur adds a floral sweetness and the lime cuts through with a sharp, citrus tang.
With Nemati’s technical wizardry perfecting perfumes, the fresh-cut grass essence is so imaginative – Elderflower Highball would certainly be ideal for summer picnics and sitting relaxing in the garden.
The Silversea cruise line has several “house” cocktails such as the Silver Spirit named after one of the elegant ships: 60ml Gin, 60ml elderflower liqueur, 12ml lime juice and 40ml Sauvignon Blanc.
Elderflower Highball ‘Silver Spirit’
80ml – 100ml Elderflower Highball (gin, lime juice, elderflower cordial). Top up with Prosecco.
Do try this fragrant, lip smacking gin cocktail.
These 70 cl bottles offer between 7 -10 serves so perfect for parties – spend much less time measuring, stirring, mixing and shaking drinks and enjoy a relaxing time drinking with your friends. Turn your home into a classy Cocktail Bar with your own personal ‘mixologist’ .
“To me, a cocktail must satisfy the eyes, satisfy the nose and thirdly, satisfy the palate. The perfect cocktail is a crescendo of colour, flavour and texture.”
Sipping, sampling, testing and tasting these seriously impressive BCC cocktails has been a delightful, delicious experience. Keivan Nemati and friends clearly have the magical touch of the alchemist to create a fresh, modern twist to these timeless classics.
The stylish bottle design and branding, developed by the Italian creative agency HB Production, feature a geometric pattern, colour and shape to represent the concept of each cocktail.
The BCC is already building up a strong fan base:
Great service and the Negroni is delicious! Can’t wait to try the rest of the range”
Ordered the El Presidente and Old Fashioned and loved them both. Really great quality, so quick and easy. Good value too.”
For more information on all the BCC cocktails and to purchase from the online shop:
BCC cocktails are also sold through: Drinkinbible, Sip & Share, Wildsip, Indy Cellar & Not On The High Street
P.S. Keivan Nemati co-wrote ‘Make Something Bloody Marvellous,’ a gin-based cocktail book using foraged botanicals, which was shortlisted at the Gourmand Cookbook Awards 2020.
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.
Two centuries later, Josep Raventós Fatjó came back to Spain from a fact-finding research trip around France and, copying the production method of French Champagne, created his own brand of sparkling wine. He ordered a cave (or cava in Catalan) to be built, a labyrinth of underground cellars to store wines for fermentation at a constant, cool temperature.
In 1872, he produced his first bottle of Cava using the same traditional method as Champagne, using a blend of native grape varieties of Penedès: Xarel·lo, Macabeo and Parellada.
Manuel Raventós was an early drinks entrepreneur, keen to develop Cava as a successful business. In 1895 he made plans to build a new building at the winery with the Art Nouveau artist, Josep Puig i Cadafalch in charge of design and construction.
When it opened in Sant Sadurni d’Anoia near Barcelona in 1915, Cavas Codorníu became a Catalan Modernist artistic symbol of the company’s enterprising spirit and vision of the future.
Marketing Champagne Codorniu was most inspired with 1898 artistic posters by Ramon Casas. Codorníu was also first advertised on Spanish Television in 1959 – once again a pioneering commerical promotion ahead of the game.
In 1976 the Codorníu House of Cava was named a National Historic Artistic Monument by King Juan Carlos.
Since its earliest days, Raventós Codorníu winery has been synonymous with innovation and quality, using premium grapes from the family vineyard estate. The traditional method involves two fermentations of the grape juice, first in barrels before transferred into bottles where yeast and sugar are added, then sealed with a temporary closure. The wine has a secondary fermentation to convert into alcohol and a natural by-product, CO2, dissolves into tiny bubbles to create naturally sparkling wine. The bottles are turned neck down and gradually rotated funnelling the yeast sediment (the lees) into the neck. When this is cooled, the pressure of the wine pushes out the sediment, a little sugar and wine called a dosage is added and the bottle finally sealed with a cork.
So time to pop a couple of corks!
Codorníu Vintage Brut 2019.
Grape varieties: Macabeo, Xarel·lo and Parellada. Alcohol content: 11.5%.
There is a specific harvest time for each variety of grape, Macabeo at the end of August, followed by Xarel.lo and finally Parellada, early October. The grapes are destemmed and crushed with the wines blended and bottled. A second fermentation followed by a period of ageing in the underground cellars at a constant temperature for at least 9 months. This is the traditional method.
Characteristics. A pale straw yellow colour, an aroma of citrus fruit, almond blossom with notes of brioche and dried fruits and nuts. A fine mousse on the palate with balanced freshness. Serve well chilled.
The Taste Test
Nose: lemon zest, softly floral.
Taste: the first sip is sensational, the “fizz” is so delicate and fresh tasting, crisp apple and dry like a water biscuit. The overall impression is its smooth elegance, far removed from a sweet Prosecco or honeyed Chardonnay Cava.
If this were a blind tasting with a few coupes of French champagne, it would surely fool the judges.
The quality is due to the fact this is a vintage cava made with grapes from a single harvest. Perfect to sip as an apéritif or with tapas and fish dishes- smoked salmon, calamari.
(Interestingly, Sainsbury Taste the Difference vintage Cava is supplied by Codorniu so they have selected the best!).
Codorníu Rosado Cava
Grape varieties: Monastrell, Garnacha and Trepat. Alcoholic content, 11.5%
This sparkling wine is also made in the traditional method, the same way as Champagne which gives the wine depth of flavour, elegance and long-lasting, fine bubbles.
Characteristics: A dry, pure and bright Rosé fizz with the aroma of strawberry. Serve chilled (6-8°c)
The Taste Test
Nose: pale cherry pink in colour with the fragrance of summer berries and blossom
Taste: light and fruity with zingy notes of raspberry, strawberry and juicy plum. Fresh and vibrant, rather than sweet, well balanced and with a crisp finish, like a dry, blush Rosé from Provence with bubbles. This is the flagship Rosado Cava in the UK.
A delicious, pure, pink fizz to sip as an aperitif – perhaps add a raspberry to the flute too. This is a celebratory toast as a charismatic change from classic Cava. In summer, (or any time), serve with a dessert of mixed berries and cream.
Proudly Catalonian, Codorníu Cava has been contemporary since 1872, constantly keeping up with trends and tastes to maintain its global reputation, producing an innovative range of sparkling wines, Anna Codorniu, Brut Codorníu, Non-Vintage Brut, Vintage Brut, Codorníu Ars Collecta Blanc de Noirs.
Named after their 17th century ancestor, Anna is the most modern expression in the range, the first to use chardonnay grapes: youthful, fresh with a unique personality, this is the brand’s emblematic Cava reflecting its fine heritage. The perfect aperitif and an ideal partner for shellfish, sushi, sashimi and carpaccio.
Today, Raventós Codorníu has more than 3,000 hectares of vineyards, one of the largest vineyard owners in Europe; Codorníu is the best selling Cava brand in Spain and exported to 50 countries, 54 gold medals and their range of sparkling wines are served at over 50 Michelin star restaurants worldwide.
Codorníu promote a contemporary Mediterranean lifestyle – sunshine, beaches, joy, freedom; casual, spontaneous, sometimes sophisticated; celebrations and special moments in life – to share the Cava experience worldwide.
Codorníu Discovery and Iconic tours in the Cava Capital
Casa Codorníu is located 30 minutes from Barcelona in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia. Learn all about the history of the family dynasty on a tour of the House of Cava, the majestic Art Nouveau building designed by the architect, Josep Puig i Cadafalch; Taste three iconic prestigious Cavas and a small aperitif.
Read more about Codorníu Cava here:
Just time to add a personal recommendation for VIDA, an exciting new wine and spirit company in the UK, highly regarded for personal customer service.
VIDA UK is the third branch of the company, following on from Sofia & Vienna, as part of a growing family tree. The idea behind Vida Wines began about 5 years ago when a vineyard was acquired in Northwest Bulgaria, close to the medieval fortress of Baba Vida, which inspired the name.
The region has a long winemaking history thanks to a unique microclimate. As wine makers and importers, VIDA Wines offer the finest Central and Eastern European wines carefully curated from 15 countries to showcase the classics, new producers and exclusive wines.
Country of origin: Bulgaria, Danubian Plain
Grape Variety: Vigonier. Vintage: 2020. ABV: 12.5%
Characteristics: Delicate nose with great elegance and aromatic nuances of white flora, apricots, herbs, toast. Dense with fresh acidity and a slight minerality which contributes to its great quality. Long, persistent, fruity finish.
The Taste Test:
Aroma: a delicate fruitiness, the scent of an orchard.
Taste: As I would often select Sauvignon Blanc (NZ), Chenin Blanc (South Africa), and Pinot Grigio (Italy), this has a fresh, dry, crisp clarity which is distinctively different. The lingering, soft apricot – peach flavour adds to the dryness with a hint of lime and spicy lemongrass. Deliciously delicate. The viognier grape creates an aromatic fuller-bodied style of white wine and pairs well with white meats, fish, shellfish, scallops and dishes with earthy herbs, e.g. basil in a classic Italian Caprese.
On Trust Pilot, Vida Wines has received 5 stars from 92% of their customers.
Reviews from happy drinkers: Winter 2021
Excellent service, great selection of wines and superb advice, cannot fault them and will certainly be buying more Vida wines.
Great service and the wine was beyond expectations.
Vida may be a new company in the UK but they have a refreshingly old fashioned attitude to customer service and I fully recommend them.
These are a few suggestions from VIDA which will add an inspiring range of hand picked European wines for your Christmas or New Year party.
Under £10 wines:
• VIDA EXCLUSIVE : VIDA Viognier 2020 Vida Wines and Spirits UK, £9.99.
• VIDA Direct from Vineyard : Averesti Selectie Cabernet Sauvignon NV Vida Wines and Spirits UK, £7.99.
Under £15 wines:
• VIDA Direct from Vineyard: Kristančič Chardonnay 2019 Vida Wines and Spirits UK, £14.69.
• 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:
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 gin and vodka makers are also farmers on the 19,000 acre estate across North East Wiltshire, West Berkshire and North Hampshire with rolling wheat fields, a traditional well for fresh water, wheat mill, orchard, woodland and a lake. Spirits are produced with the lowest environmental impact through copper stills generated by a bio-mass boiler which burns wood from chopped fallen trees. Once the distilling is complete, the spent grains are fed to the farm animals and waste water is funnelled back through reed beds to provide natural filtration.
When experimenting with the final selection of botanicals for the Single Estate Gin, they wanted to create a distinctive sweet fruit flavour and picked quince from the orchard which was, as they say, “a stroke of magic – Ramsbury Gin went from perfect to outstanding.”. Healthy too, enriched with an essential dose of Vitamin C.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon.
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon.
From ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’ – Edward Lear
‘Ramsbury is only one of four distilleries in the UK that operates a grain to glass approach with each bottle traceable back to a single field on the estate.’
Mikul Kalyan, Ramsbury Single Estate Spirits’ Global Brand Ambassador.
On the label, as well as the Rams head logo, there is the exact geographical location of the single field on the estate where the wheat was harvested that year for each bottle of hand crafted gin. Ramsbury is one of only a handful of global distilleries to create truly sustainable, eco-friendly, natural, single estate spirits.
Ramsbury Single Estate London Dry Gin (40% ABV)
Ingredients: Nine botanicals – juniper, fresh quince, cinnamon, liquorice, oris root, dried lemon peel, dried orange peel, coriander and angelica.
Nose: Juniper gently infused with the grassy and fruity tones of quince. Lighter citrus notes coupled with a woody fragrance from the angelica, complemented by the spices of cinnamon to create a balanced and complex aroma.
Palate: Floral tones and crisp quince fade into savoury juniper with a refreshing finish and a touch of spice ….and charming character.
Ramsbury distillery suggests the perfect serve for a G&T is to add a classic Indian tonic, slices of apple and lime and plenty of ice.
Rave reviews for Ramsbury Single Estate Gin:
‘Lush’ said one happy drinker. ‘The gin is complex with a nice finish – highly recommended.’‘
‘Fantastic gin. Unbelievably good. Great twist with the quince, satisfying and refreshing’.
‘Delicate, sophisticated and delicious – perfect in a Martini‘.
Yes indeed. In my view, this smooth, fragrant gin is perfectly partnered with a dash of dry Vermouth and served ice cold.
60ml Ramsbury Gin
10ml Dry Vermouth
Add gin and vermouth to a mixing glass filled with cubed ice, stir until well chilled. Strain gently into a martini glass. The suggested garnish is lemon zest and a sprig of rosemary. An olive also works well to my taste as shown in the image above.
The mouthfeel texture is elegant and silky smooth and the gin combines perfectly with the similar citrus and spicy botanicals of the vermouth for this delectable, very dry, classic cocktail.
This is the drink which James Bond orders in “Casino Royale” by Ian Fleming (1953), named after the seductive double agent Vesper Lynd. The original ingredient Kina Lillet is no longer available so now substituted with Lillet Blanc or dry Vermouth. Bond specifies that the drink be shaken until very cold, although it’s best gently stirred as shaking it tends to create a more diluted drink.
50ml Ramsbury Single Estate Vodka
25ml Ramsbury Single Estate Gin
20ml Lillet Blanc
Mix all ingredients in a Martini glass or a Coupe over ice and garnish with a twist of lemon. This certainly packs a punch, perfectly balanced, bittersweet and stylish for a glamorous occasion – a literary legend of a cocktail.
And what could be better than a a spicy and sparkling party cocktail for the Festive season.
35ml Ramsbury Single Estate Gin
25ml Clementine juice (or 3 wedges of clementine)
10ml Sugar syrup
Top up with Champagne
Sugar & Spice rim
Roll the rim of the champagne flute in lemon juice. Add all ingredients (except Champagne) to a cocktail shaker, shake with ice and strain into a flute. Top up with champagne and add a sprinkling of cinnamon powder & white caster sugar around the rim of the glass.
The Ramsbury Estate is also home to a brewery, smokehouse and a shop selling honey and rapeseed oil made on the farm. The brewery was launched in 2004, followed by the distillery, a smokehouse in 2014 and an oil press in 2015.
The Bell is a 300-year-old former coaching inn in the village of Ramsbury and today is a welcoming country pub with guest rooms, serving homely British food based on local produce from the Estate – and, of course, their own speciality Ramsbury Single Estate Gin and Vodka.
For more information, Distillery tours, stockists and online shop:
The Bell at Ramsbury: https://thebellramsbury.com/
The smart new Neighbourhood Kitchen-Bar-Garden, is the place for coffee and cocktails, lunch, supper and Sunday Brunch
The Bruntsfield Hotel, in the southside of Edinburgh is a grand property of four connecting Townhouses dating from 1861. Converted into a hotel in the 1920s, today the quiet location overlooking the Links and Meadows Park is ideal for visitors within easy walking distance to shops, theatres, cinemas and a short bus ride to the city centre.
As part of a £1 million investment, the Hotel’s former Bisque Brasserie has been transformed into The Neighbourhood to welcome hotel guests, locals, shoppers, students and office staff to meet, eat and drink, and described as “a new, exciting all-day dining, working, and socialising space”.
A recent media launch party was a marvellous opportunity for a sneak preview to sip a cocktail or two and sample the food. In the large, L shaped space, the Neighbourhood Bar is well designed for comfort and relaxation, the booth tables ideal for a couple or group of friends
As well as good selection of wines, Scottish beers the bar tenders have invented a menu of house cocktails such as the “Scottish Garden” made with Edinburgh Gin, Grey Goose vodka, Elderflower cordial and apple juice. This is so refreshing, tart and fruity ….and rather dangerous as you hardly taste the alcohol!
The Penicillin sounds like a healthy tipple to keep the bugs away – a blend of Famous Grouse and Laphroaig whiskies, lemon juice, honey ginger syrup, the perfect winter warmer, plus all the classics, Cosmopolitan, Negroni and a signature Ferrero Rocher Martini – Smirnoff vodka, Frangelico, cocoa liquor and whipped cream.
“We want The Neighbourhood to be somewhere to work and play with homely food, creative cocktails, and true Scottish charm.” Alistair Bruce, General Manager
Around the corner from the Bar is the Kitchen Bistro where Chef Colin Moore and his team serve an all day food menu focusing on seasonal, local ingredients, classic and modern Scottish cuisine.
For lunch, a choice of sandwiches and sharing plates. Warmly recommended is the Crab Arancini, a tiny, tasty light bite, and for a hearty meal, good old Fish and Chips – having sampled an appetiser portion, this was superb, crisp batter and perfect fat fries.
Other dishes include Cullen Skink soup, Scallops with cauliflower puree and Stornoway black pudding and Haggis ravioli with neeps, potato and whisky sauce. All the favourites too – pizza, pasta and burgers with vegetarian/vegan and gluten free options. And you might be tempted by Apple crumble or Sticky toffee pudding.
With the King’s Theatre, Dominion and Cameo Cinemas, a short walk away this is the ideal place for a drink or meal before or after the show.
The Neighbourhood is open for breakfast each day and at the weekend for a leisurely Brunch to enjoy a full Scottish fry up, Eggs Benedict/ Royale or Smashed Avo with Feta. Sip a spicy Bloody Mary or for a celebration, opt for the bottomless Prosecco to turn brekkie into a party.
Outside is the ‘secret’ garden, a plant filled patio where you can sit in heated booths with good lighting for alfresco drinks year round – dog friendly too after a walk around the Meadows.
As a change from WFH why not visit the Neighbourhood for a business meeting, work on your laptop with tea and coffee on tap and fast Wi-Fi for just £10 per day.
Hospitality is also family friendly with a healthy, appetising menu for children who can join in fun, educational quizzes to keep them entertained.
‘Eating at the Neighbourhood should feel like eating at your family dining table. Good food and good company is at the heart of what we’re about’.
Visit The Neighbourhood for coffee, a glass of wine, brunch, lunch or supper. The Kitchen is open from Wednesday to Sunday, 7am-1am, while on Monday and Tuesday, the Bar is open from 5pm until late.
Check all the information, browse menus and book a table here: www.thebruntsfield.co.uk/theneighbourhood
Best Western Plus Bruntsfield Hotel
69 Bruntsfield Place, Edinburgh, EH10 4HH
‘From Spring to Spirit’ 1881 Distillery at Peebles Hydro: natural, hand-crafted, refreshing Gins
The 1881 Distillery, located in the grounds of Peebles Hydro Hotel in the Scottish Borders, is named after the year when the Hydropathic Spa first opened here, offering Therapeutic treatments using water from its own Shieldgreen Spring.
The Victorian Spa tragically burned down in 1905 but was rebuilt, and with an ethos for health and wellbeing, became a popular tennis destination. In the 1920s, Peebles Hydro had more tennis courts than Wimbledon and hosted tournaments and the Scottish Championships.
It was this tennis heritage when G & T was served on the lawn in the summer sunshine, which inspired the idea a few years ago to create a Gin distillery at the Resort. Built above the former swimming pool, the 1881 Distillery opened in October 2019.
Charlie Leckie, Brand Manager, is a sixth generation member at the family hotel: “We’re proud of the heritage of Peebles Hydro which is embodied by the 1881 Gin, a blend of carefully chosen Scottish botanicals and distilled in the heart of the Borders.”
With the tagline, ‘Spring to Spirit,’ water is sourced from the local Shieldgreen spring which had traditionally been used for the Hydropathic Spa treatments. ‘Felicity’, the copper Still makes five distinctive gins – London Dry, Pavilion Pink, Honours, Rafters and Tiffin, each with their own logo and bottle illustration paying homage to the heritage of Peebles Hydro. Tonic 81 is also made at the Distillery, Premium, Light, Pink Grapefruit and Elderflower, the perfect mixer for each gin.
Hydro London Dry Gin (40% ABV)
The botanicals include juniper, bay, hawthorn berries, cardamom, cassia, birch bark, fir needles, grapefruit peel, grains of paradise, milk thistle – many grown in the Peebles Hydro gardens – then blended with the pure Spring water.
Nose: Fresh, piney juniper and fir, with grapefruit citrus and aromatic cardamom.
Palate: Hawthorn, birch and fir back up an initial wave of juniper, giving way to warming cassia and bay.
Finish: A long, smooth, citric finish with bay leaf and subtle earthiness from our local botanicals.
Serve: a large measure with a wedge of pink grapefruit and a splash of premium tonic water.
The Hydro G&T is available RTD in a can, perfect from summer picnics to Christmas parties.
The Taste Test: If popping a cork of Champagne should sound like a maiden’s sigh, my ice-chilled can of G&T opens with a loud fizz, which I poured into a large glass over ice and slice. A subtle flavour at first with floral and earthy juniper notes but then an underlying aromatic ginger spice kicks in, which is sharp and refreshing.
1881 Pavilion Peebles Pink Gin (40% ABV)
The 1881 Pavilion Pink Gin is a classic gin with the addition of wild Scottish red berries and a hint of floral hibiscus, named in honour of the hotel’s historical tennis pavilion.
Nose: Silky red fruits, juniper, spice and citrus
Palate: Fresh raspberry complemented by strawberry, hibiscus and gentle spice from cardamom and grains of paradise
Finish: Creamy fruit fading to citrus, pine, red Berries
Serve: A few fresh raspberries, a sprig of mint, tonic and ice.
The 1881 Pavilion G&T is also available ready to drink in a can.
The Taste test: Floral, fruity and fragrantly perfumed with a honeyed sweetness. An ice cold summertime drink or served with dessert: raspberries / strawberries & cream, Eton Mess, Strawberry Pavlova, or Scones and jam for a decadent Afternoon tea.
Rafters Subtly Smoked Gin (40% abv)
In the Summer of 1905, a spark in the roof space caused a devastating fire at Peebles Hydro. But within a few years the hotel was thankfully restored with grand Edwardian architecture and art deco style. To commemorate the Phoenix rising from the ashes is Rafters Subtly Smoked Gin, with its stunning image depicting the hotel billowing with smoke.
Nose: Subtle but distinct sweet oak smoke, followed by our signature profile of juniper, cardamom and grapefruit.
Palate: Warming smoke and spice intermingle to create a savoury gin suitable for sipping or mixing. The palate develops into juniper freshness backed by citrus.
Finish: A lengthy finish of warm citrus and wisps of smoke draw you back for another sip.
Serve: Sip neat, over ice, or in a G&T with a wedge of lime and a slice of chilli pepper.
The Taste test of pure, neat gin: The aroma of oak smoke followed by earthy juniper and citrus sweetness. Then the first taste – distinctive bonfire wood smoke and a blend of spices to create a savoury gin with a lingering juniper freshness. Warming cardamom, fruity citrus and delectable smokiness.
Wow! This has the X factor, utterly divine and one of the most delicious, dynamic, dramatic gins I have experienced.
The verdict from the Masters of Malt
Distilled using a variety of gin botanicals including piney juniper and tart pink grapefruit. An undertone of smoke supports vibrant grapefruit citrus, a touch of cinnamon and a strong juniper finish. Best served over ice with a classic tonic to enjoy the complex, smoky spirit with a garnish of lime and ginger. Subtle hints of smoke on the palate make this a distinctive spirit which stands up particularly well in cocktails, including a Negroni.
1881 Rafters Negroni
50ml Rafters gin, 25ml sweet Rosso vermouth, 25ml Campari. Orange garnish.
The simplest of cocktails to make at home without the need of a shaker – just pour all these ingredients into a chunky Rocks glass with a large ice cube. Stir gently and add a wedge of orange. The bittersweet aroma of the Campari blends perfectly with the Rafters gin to make a delicious and very special smoky Negroni. The Count would certainly approve!.
1881 Dry Gin Martini
50 ml Rafters gin, 15 ml dry vermouth.
Add to a cocktail shaker with lots of ice and stir or shake gently. Pour into a cocktail glass or champagne saucer with a garnish of olive. The smokiness enhances the typical bone-dry punch of a Martini with such an elegant, smooth taste.
As we are heading into dark, chilly nights of winter, why not ring the changes of a Whisky hot toddy and add Rafter’s gin instead ?
Hot Gin Toddy
300ml water, 1 ginger teabag, 2 cinnamon sticks, 4 cardamom pods, 4 whole cloves, 1 tablespoon clear honey, freshly squeezed orange juice, 100ml 1881 Rafters gin (serves 2)
Add the water, ginger teabag, cinnamon, cardamom pods and cloves to a saucepan and simmer for 5 minutes; stir in the honey and citrus juice and gently heat for few more minutes. Remove from the heat and add the gin. Strain off the spices, if preferred, or keep the cinammon stick to stir and pour into two large mugs, with an orange or lemon garnish. A winter warmer after a bracing walk in the snow.
1881 Distillery news:
This festive season, the 1881 Distillery offers gift boxes of four gins in two sizes, 5cl and 20cl. – Hydro London Dry, Pavilion Pink, Rafters and Honours Navy-strength Gin.
1881 Distillery won Silver award for Flavoured Gin of the Year at the recent Scottish Gin Awards 2021. Tiffin Gin incorporates light aromatic, warming spices to achieve its distinctive taste, with notes of cumin, cardamom, and kaffir lime.
Visit the 1881 Distillery and Gin School
The 1881 Distillery at Peebles Hydro has the largest residential Gin school with a classroom of 26 mini-stills, offering a range of day and overnight Experiences to learn about distilling gin and craft your own spirit, Tours and tastings.
For more information on Peebles Hydro, 1881 distillery, on line shop and the Gin School:
Peebles Hydro, Innerleithen Road, Peebles, EH45 8LX
Experience a fun, cultural, foodie, city break in Manchester this Festive season
Having visiting Manchester a few years ago, I planned another trip recently to find out what’s on, where to go and what to see during the festive season. Instead of a seasonal sleigh, I had a smooth, comfortable journey on a brand new Nova Tranpennine Express electric train from Edinburgh. There are five carriages, with 264 seats in standard class, 22 in first class, complimentary wifi and a power socket at every seat. Trolley service for refreshments and snacks, and storage for 4 bicycles. The Nova 2 trains run between Edinburgh and Manchester Airport so the ideal route if planning to jet off somewhere exotic.
As I headed south to Manchester, meanwhile my sister, June, was speeding north from London Euston on an Aviva train: the itinerary for our Christmas shopping and cultural city break began with perfect synchronicity, the two trains arriving on time, just four minutes apart at 1.23pm and 1.27pm respectively.
Manchester’s Christmas Markets have been attracting thousands of visitors to the city centre every year since 1998 to add a sparkle to the winter chill. Staying at the Mercure hotel was a great central location on Portland Street, Piccadilly Gardens, which has been transformed into the ‘Winter Gardens’. This is a pop up village of Christmas market stalls and log cabin bars such as Apres Ski & Off Piste where you can warm up with an Alpine Ale, mulled wine, prosecco, cider, Nordic Glogg, Hot toddy and a Bailey’s coffee.
The markets are also located across St Ann’s Square, Exchange Square, New Cathedral Street, King Street, Market Street and Cathedral Gardens which will entice the skaters to the ice rink. A central stage with a series of live music events will entertain the crowds. Sip Gluhwein and sample apple strudel around the traditional German stalls, and, of course, Bratwurst – perhaps best to share the half a metre sausage!
Dine around the world from Little Spain – paella, chorizo rolls, patatas bravas and hot sangria to Mexico Joes Ltd – Chicken flatbread, falafel, and halloumi fries. Eat Greek – halloumi fries, pitta bread, Elsie Mays for warm brownies and milkshakes. French, Sicilian and Dutch dishes too. An American feast at Triple B -Pastrami Burger and a huge Turkey Reuben bagel.
The best of British at Porkys of Yarm serving Hot roast pork rolls, Hydes beers, local cider, English wines and Clowbecks for Cumberland sausage, bubble & squeak, tatties, mulled wine and lager. Porky Pig Yorkshire puddings wraps. Battered pigs in blankets. For vegetarians and vegans, Panc is a plant-based stall offers meat free sausages, burgers, fried chick’n and more.
And of course, the Markets are the place to buy innovative gifts galore – from chocolates and cheese, to toys and games, arts and crafts, soaps, clothing, socks, hats, gloves, leather bags and wallets, jewellery.
The Markets are open until Wednesday December 22, 10am to 9pm daily with some stalls continuing around the Winter and Cathedral Gardens into the New Year.
A night at the theatre to see the musical, Waitress at the Opera House, originally The New Theatre, which opened on Boxing Day, 1912, then renamed the Opera House in 1920. It was a cinema in WW2, then a bingo hall before launched as a theatre again in 1984, renowned for touring musicals such as Barnum and Phantom of the Opera. Waitress is a comedy drama set in an American diner and after the ten day run in Manchester, it’s now on tour around the country so do catch this heart-warming, feminist, feel good show if you can.
The pantomime at the Opera House this year is Aladdin, starring Alexandra Burke, with flying carpets, a genie, an evil sorcerer, magical effects, song and dance.
Warmly recommended for a pre-post theatre lunch or supper is Bill’s Spinningfields which is perfectly located a two minute walk away from the Opera House.
‘Our passion for great food, cooked with care in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere. Whether with friends, family or an intimate dinner for two, from breakfast to bedtime and everything in between.’
Bill’s started 20 years ago, when Bill Collison opened his Greengrocer’s shop in Lewes, East Sussex and soon added a café, a concept for seasonal local food which has gradually grown into a collection of restaurants across the UK.
The modern, stylish menu changes seasonally – quality, gastropub, homely food with generous portions and is very vegetarian-vegan friendly. I selected crispy calamari, perfect finger food, dipping the rings into the creamy aioli. Then a veggie burger, Halloumi, avocado and roasted peppers, with sweet potato fries. My sister nibbled a few olives to start and then enjoyed a real, juicy meat burger, cooked to her liking, with rosemary fries (we declined the bun to reduce the calories). With our meal we sipped one of the house wines, the South African, Journey’s End Chardonnay – deliciously crisp and dry.
This Christmas season, with the witty Wizard of Oz theme, There’s No Place Like Bill’s, you will be tempted by the enticing seasonal food and cocktail menu such as Pigs-in-blankets, Christmas Truffle Cheese Fondue Burger, Boxing Day curry, Truffalo sprouts and for dessert, sugar-sprinkled Snow Nuts or Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree, a red berry cheesecake with chocolate tree, stars and baubles.
Time for party cocktails: Gin-gle Bells (Whitley Neill Raspberry Gin, Chambord, fresh pineapple), Passion Fruit Spritz and the Strawberry Margarita.
After the theatre, it was back to the Mercure hotel for a nightcap at the Level 3 Lounge Bar overlooking the bright lights of the Christmas market. The ‘seasonal’ cocktail list includes a Summer Mojito (not quite right for a chilly winter night!), and, disappointing that there was no Campari in stock for the Negroni. I chose a classic Gin Martini (but no olive garnish available), while June sipped a Nojito, a minty, fruity tipple without the rum.
Art lovers should visit the Contemporary 6 Gallery, 37 Princess Street, owned by Alex Reuben who selects a series of inspiring shows of paintings, modern prints, (Picasso, Kandinsky, Matisse), ceramics and sculpture. Throughout November is the eclectic artwork of Jim Moir (as seen on Sky TV, Celebrity Portrait and Landscape Artist), ranging from a flight of birds to quirky portraits.
For a marvellous day out for all ages, take a trip to the Trafford Centre, five miles from the city centre, and easy to get there by metrolink tram. This is very much like This is very much like an American shopping mall with designer and high street stores, not least a large branch of Selfridges, as well as a cinema, bowling alley, Game arena and Legoland. After browsing the shops or seeing a movie, time for refreshments, but signage needs improved as where to eat and drink is difficult to find. The Orient is designed around the replica of a pool deck on a classic ocean liner featuring numerous bars and bistros from All Bar One to Zizzi. A huge marble staircase modelled on the Titanic leads to the Great Hall and features the largest chandelier in the world.
Drink, eat and stay at the Kimpton Clocktower which was named recently in the Sunday Times as one of the best 100 hotels in the UK. Founded in San Francisco in 1981, the cool, quirky Kimpton brand focuses on art, wellness, modern cuisine and playful style while reflecting the heritage of each destination.
The majestic Victorian red brick and terracotta building was initially the The Refuge Assurance Company (1890), which opened as the hotel on 1st October 2020. In the lobby, a bronze horse sculpted by Sophie Dickens illustrates the turning circle for the former Hansom cabs and carriages; original features include ceramic tiles, stained glass and wooden staircases juxtaposed with contemporary furnishings.
Bold colourfully designed bedrooms and suites are draped in velvet with bespoke decor and artwork by Scottish company Timorous Beasties, while vinyl records of Manchester’s famous bands from the Stone Roses to Oasis can be played on a turntable. Guests can take use of the in room yoga mat, the complimentary tuck box and many bathrooms boast a classic roll top bathtub.
Relax over a drink or Afternoon tea in The Winter Garden, an interior glasshouse blossoming with plants and trees and wine and dine at The Refuge by Volta. The Refuge Bar and Dining Room is a vast but elegant space of interconnecting salons where on a Friday night the lounge area was buzzing with happy drinkers and around the corner, the fabulous Restaurant with well designed, comfy banquette seating and half moon booths.
An innovative menu of Soul Food for sharing is neatly divided into Meat, Seafood, On the Side and Vegetables, inspired around the global travels by the DJ -Restaurateurs, Justin Crawford and Luke Cowdrey.
First of all it’s time for finely crafted cocktails – the Drinks list is most enticing with a celebration of gin and modern twists on the classics. Like a revamped French 75, is ‘Glamour of Manchester’:– Malfy rose gin, lemon, hibiscus syrup, Champagne. There’s an innovative selection of spirits especially speciality gins for the perfect serve such as Aviation, Gin Mare, Malfy Rosa, Monkey 47 and Ramsbury Single Estate Gin.
My Gin Martini was a masterclass of the art which hit the spot with lip smacking delight. Across the table, June selected The Queen’s Peach – Spiced rum, peach, lime, mint with a splash of prosecco – for a refreshing taste of the Caribbean.
Advised to select four to five dishes for two, we chose the ras-el-hanout scented chicken, salt cod croquettes with tartare aioli, tenderstem broccoli, chargrilled cauliflower and chickpea daal, for an eclectic Middle Eastern, Asia and Spanish culinary journey. The vegetables were perfectly cooked almost al dente and the creamy daal in coconut milk was mixed with apricots and dates. For dessert, a sticky toffee pudding was the perfect finale to a superlative meal. Hospitality by Jake and James was exemplary.
As well as sipping a delicious Sartori Pinot Grigio, the wine list tours the world to France, Spain, South Africa, Australia and Lebanon. With DJs in charge of the ambience, you can expect a lively vibe with a soothing, sassy mix of jazz, swing, funk, soul and house.
Experience the magic of Manchester this Christmas at the Kimpton Clocktower. Treat yourself to a stay in one of the gorgeously styled rooms or suites and enjoy a three course Christmas Day lunch with a glass of fizz and festive snacks in The Refuge, breakfast each day is included and chill out for a leisurely 3pm checkout on departure.
Hope this all whets your appetite to plan a magical, cultural and shopping trip to Manchester soon.
Links to help you research your visit.