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Citrus-scented with the tang of a salt-sea breeze, Fidra Gin is a summer day on the beach distilled in a bottle.

The natural beauty of Scottish seascapes inspires visitors, artists and gin makers

The glorious Gin Craze has no sign of slowing down with a fine flourish of Artisan gins across Scotland to capture a sense of the wild landscape. Speciality, small batch distilleries now pepper the Hebridean islands – Barra, Isle of Harris, Colonsay  – and all around the coastline, from Seven Crofts, Ullapool over to Rock Rose, Caithness and south to Fidra Gin, East Lothian.

The tiny, tranquil island of Fidra, off the coast in East Lothian

The founders of Fidra Gin are two friends, Emma Bouglet and Jo Brydie who brought together their respective experience in investment banking, corporate hospitality and as business entrepreneurs.  Sharing a passion for gin they were motivated by the story of three women who craft Lussa Gin on the island of Jura. At  the Scottish Gin Awards 2017, they met Walter Mickelthwait of Inshriach Distillery who offered expert advice and assistance.  And with this perfect nspiration, “our gin dream was born!”

Emma and Jo at the Scottish Gin Festival 2017, where they were inspired by expert distiller, Walter Mickelthwait, to begin their dream journey to “Fidra”

 

After purchasing a 5 litre still called Sadie, the most important aspect was to use locally grown ingredients sourced from sand dunes and hedgerows along the East Lothian seashore.  After careful experimentation in Emma’s kitchen to select the best blend of botanicals, Fidra Gin was launched in September 2018.

The name Fidra is taken from a tiny uninhabited islet – a puffin and seabird sanctuary –  just offshore from Yellowcraig Beach, near North Berwick.   An ideal location as the seashore along here has a colourful spiritual history!

Gullane, Aberlady Sands, Dirleton Links, Canty Bay and south to Eyemouth was a gold coast in the early 19th century, where smugglers raided and wrecked ships for barrels of Dutch Gin and French brandy. Imported food and drink (salt, tea, coffee, chocolate, currants, sugar) was highly taxed and the challenge was to escape the exciseman with a cargo of valuable contraband.

As a child, Robert Louis Stevenson played pirate and smuggling games, hiding in caves and coves along the sandy beach at North Berwick.

He later recalled his summer holidays here an essay: “a genial smell of seaweed, two sandy bays, a file of grey islets .. a wilderness of hiding holes alive with popping rabbits and soaring gulls.” ‘The Lantern Bearers’, RLS, 1888.

The iconic Stevenson Lighthouse on the grey islet of Fidra

Fidra lighthouse was built in 1885 to the designs of his father Thomas and his cousin, David Alan Stevenson – Robert visited the island to observe its construction.

This was during the time when he was writing his famous seafaring adventure story, “Treasure Island” about pirates, buccaneers and buried gold. The map of his fictional Skeleton Island has a similar horseshoe shape to Fidra with its inlets and rocky bays.

Original map of Skeleton Island in ‘Treasure Island’ by RLS

Most imaginatively, the vintage illustration of the island on Fidra Gin labels is like an old treasure map too, featuring the Lighthouse and ancient ruins of Castle Tarbert & St. Nicholas Chapel. This evocative Label was designed by John Smart of Collaborate Creative which won the silver medal at the 2019 Harpers Design Awards.

The tall, slender style of the glass bottle also celebrates the shape of the Stevenson lighthouse, with a charming gift tag around the neck to explain the story behind the name of this Coastal Scottish Gin.

Fidra Gin is made in small batches using six key ingredients – juniper, elderflower, lemon thyme and thyme, (these two types of thyme are grown in Jo’s garden and Archerfield Walled Garden) as well as locally foraged sea buckthorn and rosehip. The task of extracting and infusing the selected essential oils, floral, herbal and citrus flavours is a creative, technical process  – with perhaps a touch of magical alchemy!.

Walter Mickelthwait, expert gin maker at Inshriach Distillery, Aviemore

While currently crafted under the expert guidance of Walter Mickelthwait at Inshriach Distillery, Aviemore, Emma and Jo have secured premises with plans underway to make and bottle Fidra Gin at their own distillery in East Lothian.

Just a year after its launch, in September 2019 Fidra received a Highly Commended medal in the best London Dry Gin category – voted 5th out of 45 finalists –  at the Scottish Gin Awards.

Fidra Gin – a Scottish Coastal Gin created from East Lothian seashore botanicals

So let’s get going to sample, test and taste this award winning Gin.

On the nose the aroma is juniper-rich with a fresh, earthy-pine fragrance; on first sip, the initial mellow sweetness, from the elderflower and rosehip, gives way to a subtle salty tang which is cool, crisp and so refreshing.

Sea Buckthorn is a medicinal plant high in Vitamin C, also known as Seaberries; the fruit has the aroma of pineapple and is now a fashionable ingredient in gourmet dishes as seen recently on Masterchef.  As a key ingredient of Fidra Gin these tart berries, foraged along the sand-dunes, bring an aromatic, citrus flavour with a whiff of the salt sea breeze.

For a G&T, Jo and Emma suggest keeping it simple, just ice and a slice of lemon with a premium tonic; a garnish of a sprig of lemon thyme will add colour and further zingy freshness.

G&T with ice, slice and lemon thyme

An ideal choice would be Fever Tree Mediterranean Rosemary and Lemon Thyme Tonic which has less quinine and lighter in flavour.  The taste of Italian sunshine.!

13th May is World Cocktail Day so I have enjoyed trying Fidra Gin in a selection of my favourite classic cocktails.   I started with a Gin Martini – not quite as dry as Noel Coward insisted: “a perfect Martini should be made by filling a glass with gin, then waving it in the general direction of Italy.”

Other connoisseurs prefer to swirl a little vermouth around the glass and then discard before adding the pure, ice cold gin.  According to the eminent Bar tender, Salvatore Calabrese, the recipe is thus: 80 ml Gin with 1 – 2 drops of Extra Vermouth.  A little strong perhaps?

This is the recipe I sampled: 50 ml, Fidra Gin, 15 ml Dry Vermouth into a mixing jug filled with ice. Stir (do not shake) and strain into a cocktail glass and then a twist of lemon peel.  An olive or two would also suit Fidra to draw out the soft salty flavour.

A classic Gin Martini with a twist of lemon or garnished with olives

Vermouth is a fortified wine infused with herbs, roots, bark and flowers and beautifully enhances the fragrant characteristics of Fidra Gin.  This creates a marvellous Martini, the aromatic wine just taking the edge off the sharp strength of neat spirit, with a smooth bitter-sweet after-taste.

Fidra Gin has a carefully crafted, complex botanical balance blending perfumed, floral, citrus and salty notes. This gives the flexibility on how you enjoy it – either as a long, cold drink with ice and tonic, or letting the crystal clear spirit sing, almost solo, in a Martini.

As a regular traveller with Silversea cruises, a speciality cocktail was invented to celebrate the launch of a new ship in 2010, Silver Spirit – and remains a popular favourite tipple on board.  Instead of Plymouth Gin in the original recipe, try this for a marriage made in heaven.

Silver Spirit Cocktail

60 ml Fidra Gin

60 ml St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur

40 ml  New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc wine

15 ml Lime juice

Add all the ingredients in a Cocktail Shaker filled with ice and thoroughly mix and pour into a glass with a wedge of lime.

St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur – for a Silver Spirit or add to a G&T

St. Germain is the world’s first artisanal French liqueur, made with 1,000 fresh, wild, handpicked elderflower blossoms in every bottle.  This delicate sweet flavour is reminiscent of peach, pear, citrus and a hint of honeysuckle.  New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is a distinctively crisp wine with notes of grapefruit, gooseberry and cut grass.

A Silver Spirit cocktail perfectly complements Fidra Gin – simply divine.  Alternatively, add a little St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur to a G&T to draw out the floral flavour.

Emma and Jo have certainly been on an exciting adventure around East Lothian, immersing themselves in the natural and literary heritage of Fidra Island.

“ The dens and sheltered hollows redolent of thyme  .. the air at the cliff’s edge brisk and clean and pungent of the sea.”  Robert Louis Stevenson

His childhood memory of the East Lothian seashore could equally describe the fresh outdoor aroma and taste of Fidra Gin.  He would likely serve it neat, on the rocks. Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of Gin!

Fidra Gin with the bright flash of the lamp shining from Fidra Lighthouse

Whenever I smell salt water, I know that I am not far from one of the works of my ancestors,’ wrote Stevenson in 1880. ‘When the lights come out at sundown along the shores of Scotland, I am proud to think they burn more brightly for the genius of my father!’

Fidra is a Scottish coastal gin which artistically embraces the stunning seascape by distilling the essence of local herbs, flowers and salt sea breeze – like a summer day on the beach in a bottle.

Cheers!

For more details and where to buy Fidra Ginwww.fidragin.com

Instagram: @fidragin   

Facebook: Fidra Gin

Stop Press: During the Covid-19 lockdown, local home deliveries in East Lothian have been transported by bicycle and motorbike – a welcome gesture when bars and pubs are currently closed.  When possible, a future plan is to use this 1970s Ukrainian Ural Motorbike & Sidecar for your supply of Fidra Gin.

Coming your way soon: Fidra Gin delivered to your door …on a vintage motorbike!

Scotland’s seafaring life captured in evocative, expressionist artwork by John Bellany @ The Open Eye Gallery, Edinburgh

During May 2020 the Open Eye Gallery is showing an enchanting retrospective to reflect John Bellany’s celebration of Scotland in his art through his enduring passion to explore life and work on the edge of the sea.

This environment was engrained into his blood having been born into a family of fishermen and boat builders in Port Seton, East Lothian.

Guide Me

It was through his childhood observation of this close-knit, deeply religious community where he found his artistic voice.

Eyemouth was where he began to draw boats as a young boy and as he later recalled.. ”the hustle and bustle of activity, that was the core of my life. I still think it’s one of the most beautiful places in the world. ”

Eyemouth Harbour

He returned here again and again – such as to sketch this scene of a huddle of fishing boats, as a student at Edinburgh College of Art.

Overlooking Eyemouth harbour is the 18th century Gunsgreen House built by a local Tea smuggler John Nisbet. His grandmother was born here and Bellany was guest of honour in 2010 when Gunsgreen opened as a museum, where a few of his local maritime paintings are given pride of place.

Gunsgreen House

Boats, fish and seabirds dominate his art, boldly illustrated in a dramatic expressionist, surreal style.

While at first glance By the Sea is a simple, colourful composition of yachts on the river, a large seagull beside a a flush cheeked woman in a headscarf, study the symbolic detail: a crucifix around her neck, a church and a boat yard on the shore. This encapsulates the hard working outdoor lives of those who worked in these fishing ports.

By the Sea

As a boy John helped with gutting fish and smoking finnan haddock, images of which which lingered in his mind.  Here in Sea Offering  the fishhead, skinned fishbones beside a skeletal figure holding a sandglass timer – an alternative grim reaper.

Sea Offering

By mythologising the fishermen’s world in his art, the subject of mortality is a recurring theme to reflect the Calvinist fear of death and the uncertain safe return after going out to sea.

Women are also a vivacious vital element in his paintings described as fisherlass, virgin, bride, seawife, maiden or diva – a constant muse.

Listening to the Sea

In Listening to the Sea this glamorous lady is dressed in black evening gloves, cigarette between her lips, listens to the waves in her conch shell. Her gaze is sensual and seductive – is she listening to the call of her lover.?

A close study of Sea Maiden reveals that her head is wrapped with an oily blue-scaled fish with its gleaming eye and tail, to complement her long red pig-tailed hair.  Sensual, soulful eyes are such an iconic characteristic of all Bellany’s serene portraits of beguiling women.

Sea Maiden

And here’s a joyous, rich red Amaryllis to brighten our days at home – through the window, a charming tranquil scene of a fishing port.

Amaryllis

As an art student he visited a local bar patronised by Hugh MacDiarmid who advised him that in order to be true to others he must first be true to yourself.  Impressed that MacDiarmid wrote in Scots,”  Bellany knew how to be distinctive: ‘I’m going to paint in Scots.’

This is an evocative retrospective to showcase John Bellany’s mesmerising, mythical vision of Scottish seafaring life, culture and heritage. The son of a fisherman, a child of the sea, his art is true to that inheritance which inspires and enriches the imagination.

As an avid admirer of his captivating portraits and seascapes, I am fortunate to view a couple of Bellany’s wonderful, wild women of the sea, everyday at home.

Open Eye Gallery

John Bellany  –  May 2020

https://www.openeyegallery.co.uk/exhibitions/john-bellany-scotland

Woman of the Sea – a beguiling Bellany portrait in my own home gallery

 

Au Bord de la Mer – a serene seashore scene of a woman with a lobster

A Wild, Winter Voyage around the Hebrides is captured in wind-blown, salt-sprayed seascapes by Ross Ryan: “Batten down the Hatches” at the Scottish Gallery, Edinburgh.

Shipping Map from The Logbook, (Vol 2) by Ross Ryan

Shannon, Fastnet, Rockall, Malin, Bailey, Fairisle. …: the solemn, somnolent reading of the Shipping Forecast broadcast each night on BBC Radio 4, may sound like a poetic lullaby if safely at home, but an essential warning of impending gales for seafaring folk.

The map of the Shipping Forecast is the starting point of Ross Ryan’s The Logbook (Vol 2) which charts his recent intrepid expedition on board MV Sgarbh, a vintage, 40-foot, wooden fishing boat.

As both an artist and yachtmaster, in 2017 Ryan set off from Crinan on a solo painting trip, the result of which was an exhibition, “The Logbook, A Solo Winter Voyage”  at the Scottish Gallery in May 2018.

Inspired by this challenging experience, Ryan set off again on MV Sgarbh to explore Mull, Barra, Tiree, Islay and Jura over the recent winter season on his travelling Studio to compile an exhilarating range of work entitled “Batten down the Hatches.”

“This new collection of paintings is from two years of chasing gales, sailing to offshore lighthouses and discovering the people and their islands. As the world has also temporarily battened down the hatches, I hope this exhibition is a reminder of the beautiful seascapes of the West Coast that await for us”. Ross Ryan, 2020

For over 150 years, Robert Stevenson, his sons and grandsons, built the lighthouses around Scotland’s coastline from Bell Rock to Vaternish.  Designed by Thomas Stevenson, Dubh Artach Lighthouse (completed 1872), stands on a basalt rock 18 miles west of Colonsay and 15 miles South West of Iona.

From The Logbook (Vol 2 ), Ross Ryan

“With the swell rolling us excessively, anchoring was out the question, as was making a landing.   Soon it became apparent the only way to keep her steady was to steam slowly into the swell.  The painting got a drenching as we passed through the Corryvrekan whirlpool. What was lost in paint was gained in an authenticating layer of salt. “

Dubh Artach Lighthouse, 50 lonely miles from Crinan

This misty, murky image – oil and pastel on board – perfectly illustrates the remote location of this majestic monument  rising from the rough, rolling Atlantic.   The shimmering clouds and frothing waves is most atmospheric and certainly authentic: you can almost feel the chilling, salt-sea spray engrained in the oil paint.

Stevenson Light, Dubh Artach

Dubh Artach translates as black rock, or indeed, black death due to the numerous ships wrecked on the fearsome Torran Reef.  Robert Louis Stevenson wrote about a memorable boat trip to see his father’s great construction which saved so many souls.

A certain black rock stood environed by the Atlantic rollers, the outpost of the Torran reefs. Here was a tower, star lighted for the conduct of seamen. No other life was there but that of seabirds and of the sea itself …that .. growled … roared and spouted on the rock.  “Memories of an Islet” RLS (1887)

A poetic description of the same scene recently observed by Ross Ryan for this semi- abstract sketch, First Flash, Dubh Artach: a dot of a star clearly shines on the horizon with a peachy glow of a dying sun below a threatening sky.   With crafted layers and shades of pastel on paper, this is a stunning composition.

First Flash, Dubh Artach Lighthouse

Scotland’s tallest lighthouse is Skerryvore, (Alan Stevenson,1844) on a treacherous reef of rocks, 11 miles from Tiree.

Stevenson Light, Skerryvore

The bold, brash brushstrokes sweep a swirl of billowing cloud over the choppy sea, a place blessed with a mild sunny climate but strong gales, perfect for windsurfing.

Hurricane Force, Tiree

This has an exquisite Turner-esque quality focusing on the same maritime motif – the wave. Here is the visible power of churning, crashing waves in luminous detail.

While the pioneering Impressionist artists painted “en plein air” to embrace the landscape up close and personal, Ross Ryan immerses himself even more in the heart of the action.  The idyllic wee island of Vatersay is the most southerly in the Outer Hebrides, renowned for its sublime beaches and unspoilt natural habitat.  Braving the weather, the simple black splashes of rain clouds are so realistic.

Large Seas, Traigh Varlish, Vatersay

From The Logbook (Vol 2) Ross Ryan

“During the winter I painted from the shore, recording the sea in all her anger. Here is a force that could move a beach overnight and flick rocks like unwanted peas.”

On the North East coastline, Joan Eardley was also mesmerised by the vast sea and sky, setting up her easel on the beach at Catterline to express the energy and beauty of a ferocious storm.

Joan Eardley on Catterline beach

On this voyage, Ryan followed in the wake of the Scottish Colourists to the island of Iona.  Cadell first visited Iona in 1912 and then together with Peploe, this became their annual summer pilgrimage.

With a warm colour palette, these scenes portray the pure white sand, lapping waves and soft light of this timeless spiritual place.

Departing Light, North End, Iona

There is the distinctive classic artistic style of the Colourists here in The Sound of Iona, with sculptured shapes and tonal light in a precise pattern.

Sound of Iona from the Gordon’s

Islay, “Queen of the Hebrides,” is renowned for its distinctive smoky-peat whisky and Lagavulin Distillery is located on the edge of a bay in the south of the island.  An imaginative flurry of haphazard scratch marks denote the cloud-spattered sky on this grey day.

Sgarbh ghosting by Lagavulin

Time for a dram. Lagavulin 16 year old malt is described as ‘Lapsang Souchong tea, pipe tobacco, fishboxes, kippers and hint of kelp but always sweet’.

Sending a “Message in a Bottle”  is an ancient tradition. Ryan’s own project has taken him on a magical mystery tour to Tiree and Coll to paint the spot where his bottles washed ashore and meet the treasure hunters.

The scene where his bottle was found by Andrew

With delicate detail and fine perspective, the calm tranquility of Red Rock Beach.

Andrew’s Bottle, Red Rock Beach, Coll

By enduring the harshest of environments, Ross Ryan’s collection of artwork, photographs and Logbook creates such a vividly illustrated narrative of his seafaring adventures.

“Batten down the Hatches” is a most timely subject – 2020 is the “Year of Coasts & Waters” by Visit Scotland.  Take a virtual island-hopping voyage around the Hebrides at the Scottish Gallery and be inspired.

The Scottish Gallery

Batten down the Hatches’ – 29 April to 30 May, 2020

View the exhibition on line:

https://scottish-gallery.co.uk/exhibitions/batten-down-the-hatches

For further information on images, film footage, Ross Ryan’s travel blog and Logbook Catalogue, please contact the gallery by email:

mail@scottish-gallery.co.uk

While the gallery is closed, a selected painting from this exhibition is placed on an easel, changed by request, to view through the window.

The May exhibition also includes “My Border Landscapes” by Sir William Gillies and a tribute to the jewellery maker, Wendy Ramshaw.

https://scottish-gallery.co.uk/exhibitions

Advancing squall, Iona, (oil and pastel on paper)

“Water of Life”: a modernist, majestic, painterly view of Scotchland by Euan McGregor at the Doubtfire Gallery, Edinburgh

Doubtfire Gallery, Edinburgh, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary, will soon have a new addresss in Stockbridge.  Until the gallery can open to the public, their Spring exhibition, Water of Life by Euan McGregor, PAI, has now been unveiled and available to view on line.

Euan McGregor graduated with a BA (Hons) degree in Printmaking at Glasgow School of Art in 1998. Awarded the Royal Glasgow Institute Travelling Scholarship he spent six months exploring and painting in Catalonia.  Specialising now in landscape painting and mixed media work, he lives in West Kilbride on the Ayrshire coast.

Scotch Whisky distilleries often featuring an image of a moorland grouse or Highland stag on their bottles to reflect our natural wilderness, the origin of uisge beatha, Water of Life.

“The proper drinking of Scotch whisky is more than indulgence: it is a toast to civilization, a tribute to the continuity of culture to use the resources of nature to refresh mind and body.” – David Daiches, author of “Scotch Whisky: its past and present”

Inspired by the malt whisky industry, Euan McGregor has toured Scotland, from Islay to Orkney, Moray to Wick, to visit a diverse range of Distilleries to capture their landscape setting from coastline to countryside.

I love the fact that these industrial-sized buildings often inhabit the wildest of places, so there’s a contradiction of sorts, but they work well together, especially as the product is so synonymous with its geography.” Euan McGregor

The whisky map has six regions which are absolutely key to the characteristic aroma, taste and style of Scotch – Highland, Speyside, Campbeltown, Lowland, Islands, Islay.

Islay whisky is especially distinctive due to the earthy peat used to dry the malt which creates a smooth smoky flavour. Bowmore is a quaint, quiet town on Loch Indaal, Islay, with its renowned Distillery founded in 1779 beside the harbour.

Euan McGregor is fascinated by the historic signage which guided the puffer cargo boats safely to port – “They are like proud beacons giving clarity to ships and tourists alike”.

Bowmore Day

This is a striking composition, (acrylic on board), with the giant letters highlighted in black on the white washed walls.  The tall chimney stretching up to the blue sky is like a lighthouse to warn skippers and sailors of the rocky seashore.

McGregor has skilfully ‘sketched’ the architectural structure of the huddled group of buildings beside the beach and lapping waves. While apparently simple, there’s such a tangible atmosphere, you can almost catch a whiff of the salt sea air.

A couple of years ago, I boarded a 12 passenger boat for a voyage to the Southern Hebrides for an island hopping adventure.  Islay, the ‘Queen of the Hebrides’  has eight whisky distilleries with the annual Feis Ile, Festival of Music and Malt, attracting over 3,000 international whisky loving visitors.

Bowmore was certainly a stunning sight as the Glen Etive sailed across Loch Indall.

Approaching Bowmore by boat

Oloroso sherry casks provide a fruity sweetness during the maturing process:  Bowmore 12 year old is described as a blend of vanilla, bergamot, perfumed smoke, sea spray and lemon zest, while the Black Rock Malt has the rich flavour of toasted fudge, cinnamon and marmalade.

Next stop is Caol Ila distillery (1846) at Port Askaig with views across the Caol Ila (Sound of Islay) to the island of Jura.

Caol Ila

Again a strong illustration emphasising the quiet location on the seashore: sharply geometric in design – white warehouse, a blue block of sea shimmering in the sunlight and the square flatness of the cliff behind.

A tasting note for Caol Ila: “ … heather and coffee notes as well as hint of brine on the nose like smoked fish or cockles in butter”.

On the south coast of the island is Lagavulin which officially dates from 1816, although records show illicit distillation here since 1742.  Moving away from a realistic representation, Lagavulin Detached is a cool, crafted fragmented illustration, extracting the oblong, oval and triangles of chimney, stillhouse, hill, sea, sky, like pieces of a jigsaw.

Lagavulin Detached

Akin to printmaking, this has an abstract, layered effect of space, shape and texture, interlocked with a delicate palette.  

“The buildings themselves are industrial cathedrals with specific shapes integral to the whisky-making process.”  Euan McGregor

And if you fancy a dram of Lagavulin 16 year old, expect a blend of figs, sherry, peat smoke, Lapsang Souchong with a long spicy finish.

On the island of Orkney, Scapa distillery (1884) stands beside a natural harbour, Scapa Flow (Old Norse for ‘bay of the long isthmus’).  Scapa Clouds is a finely balanced composition, with such subtle shades of blues, green, grey, brown, placing the Distillery within the environment and weather under a threatening sky.

Scapa Clouds

A modern image of a majestic monument linking the past to present day with restful stillness.  Scapa Skiren malt whisky offers a blend of “honey, fresh cream, apple, anise, crushed nuts, juicy pear and lemon peel.”

Travel on to Caithness to visit the Old Pulteney distillery, Wick in the north east corner of Scotland.  Like Edward Hopper’s American landscapes, the focus here is on solitary buildings, closed doors and an empty road devoid of people and daily working life.

Old Pulteney, Wick

With such precision of angles and purity of colour, this tranquil scene has a filmic quality with sharp shafts of light and shadow.

The Speyside region stretches along the River Spey in Moray, Badenoch and Strathspey.  Glenlivet was founded in 1824, operating almost continuously since then to become the highest selling single malt whisky in the United States and the second largest selling brand globally.

Glenlivet

This semi-abstract illustration has a stark winter mood with its ice-cold, blueish-white sheen.  The minimalist architectural design is like a surreal sculpture amidst the surrounding dramatic environment.  Glenlivet 12 year old offers a smooth texture and sweet flavour of vanilla custard, honey, banana, pineapple, apples and a little cinnamon.

Visit a few more distilleries too around this captivating exhibition, as well as land and seascapes from Gardenstown to St. Abbs with masterly perspective.

Reminiscent of those vintage pre-war British Rail posters to entice people to take a trip to cities and seaside, McGregor has a modernist painterly, aesthetic style: poignant, romantic, scenic views are graphically distilled to create a timeless sense of place.

This is about heritage and the haunting legacy of the craftsmanship by the masters of malt over the centuries.  Pour a glass of your favourite dram to sip slowly as you savour an evocative journey around Scotchland from rural glen to the edge of the sea.

Doubtfire Gallery 

“Water of Life” by Euan McGregor – 4th April to 6th June 2020

View on line:  http://www.doubtfiregallery.com

email: art@doubtfiregallery.com

tel. 07902 307147

New Address – opening soon

Doubtfire Gallery and Frame Creative Design studio

28 North West Circus Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6TP

St. Abbs

 

 

Viewpoints: Languid, luminous, lush landscapes of Scotland, Wales and Cornwall at the&Gallery, Edinburgh

As the British Isles unite together during this global crisis, the& Gallery, Edinburgh has brought together three artists from Scotland, Wales and England, who complement each other with vivid expressions of their personal sense of place.

Along with Brittany, Isle of Man and Ireland, these home nations share the ancient traditions of Celtic culture, heritage and language.  As abstract landscape painters, Anna Somerville, Elfyn Lewis and David Mankin celebrate the natural outdoor world around them with inspirational vision.

Anna Somerville graduated from the Edinburgh College of Art in 2000, winning the Elizabeth Blackadder & John Houston Travel Award, which set her off on a very successful career. At her studio at Summerhall, Edinburgh, she works in mixed media – spray paint, ink, graphite, oil pastel – on paper, linen or canvas, and you can see, at a glance, the layering technique of colour with mesmerising effect.

Aqua Coast Scape, Anna Somerville

Anna is constantly drawn to the seashore, such as Aqua Coast Scape, focussing on the distant horizon, the expanse of water beneath a cloudy sky, a slither of a sand dune and rocks. The streaking lines and layers blend various hues of colour together to create a marvellous mishmash of turquoise, emerald, orange, coral, pink, plum and damson.

With a bold use of colour and brash brushstrokes, there are occasional drips of paint adding texture and atmosphere, depicting perhaps, an approaching rainstorm. She describes her approach as instinctual, drawing from emotions rather than exploring any particular theme or narrative.

Wiinter Sunset, Anna Somerville

Around the gallery, there are also gloriously bright visions from dawn to dusk capturing the swiftly changing light as the sun slowly rises or quietly fades away.

Anna Somerville takes you on a journey to view tranquil scenes of mountains, meadows and lakes where you feel that you are there, in the open air, feeling the breeze with a scent of salty sea.

Teal Beach Scape, Anna Somerville

Elfyn Lewis grew up in Porthmadog, North Wales and now works in Cardiff,  winning  numerous awards including being named prestigious Welsh Artist of the Year 2010.

He likes to experiment and challenge his approach and technique. “Surfaces are layered with paint that overflows, dripping… until the upper layer explodes and transforms from a volcanic creation into a vivid landscape.”

Amdiffyn, Elfyn Lewis

Working with acrylic on board or canvas, these are certainly bold expressions of colour and light to portray a sense of place with fractured, fragmented structure: Amdiffyn, with its broad brush stroke streaks, is akin to viewing fabric fibres through a microscope.

This is such inventive crafted artwork, deconstructing the vision of a place down to its elements of materials and fluidity, such as Llangar with its swirling movement and shimmering light.

Llangar, Elfyn Lewis

There is a dazzling use of colour here, smoothed and pared down to present a surreal image. Arwain, for instance, is reminiscent of a glowing sunset above a dark indigo sea, yet viewed through a partially obscured frosty window.

Arwain, Elfyn Lewis

More realistic views too such as a diptych, Syrthio Mewn Cariad, which appears to be a craggy mountain as seen in the whiteout of winter and also in the green days of summer.

David Mankin lives in the far west corner of Cornwall where daily walks along the coast inspires his almost pure abstract land and seascapes.  The natural world presents an ever-changing palette, tone and texture when expressing the sea-tide, clouds, sand, rocks, grass.

Sea-distant Afternoon, David Mankin

Sea-Distant Afternoon is such an evocative dreamlike image – you can imagine a warm summer day at the beach, the glare of the sun, sandcastles, the lapping of waves on the shore.

Several other cool and composed seascapes with soft subtle shades of azur, buttermilk and ochre.  David is like a geologist in his manner of presenting the lines, space and shape of the coastal terrain.  He describes his work as “ an energetic process of destruction and excavation, which mirrors the acts of nature on the landscape.  I explore surface, colour, texture to form images which express my experiences in the Cornish landscape.”

Timeless Land, David Mankin

Like a patchwork quilt, Timeless Land reflects farm field, woodland and cloudy sky in geometric blocks, with a series of what could be tractor marks, animal tracks and foot prints, the remnants of life and nature.  The purity of cool colour and precise shapes creates a serene scene where sea meets the land in Invisible Shores.

Invisible Shores, David Mankin

This is just a quick whizz around the current Viewpoints exhibition at The & Gallery – so do take a longer browse around all these coolly composed, luminous, languid landscapes. This artwork will brighten your day …and would bring a splash of colour and quiet reflection to your home.

Home is where the Art is.

Viewpoints is on show at The& Gallery until 15 April, 2020

See the exhibition on line at the Virtual Gallery

http://www.andgallery.co.uk/virtual-gallery/

http://www.andgallery.co.uk  – artwork images

info@andgallery.co.uk

Syrthio Mewn Cariad, (Diptych), Elfyn Lewis


 

Vividly colourful, visual memories of the wider world by three artists at the Open Eye Gallery – with lovely wee pictures & jazzy jewellery too.

“Remember that art is good for the soul in these troubled times”

This is the message from the warm and welcoming Open Eye Gallery, Edinburgh this week. It may have temporarily closed its doors but their current March exhibition is easily viewed on line.

More than just interior decor or bringing a splash of colour, the art we choose to hang on our walls, to view again and again every day, evokes a personal emotion and inspires our imagination.  Art breathes life into a home.  Art tells a story.

“….thousands of memories, of smells, of places, of little things that happened to us and which came back, unexpectedly, to remind us who we are.…. O Botswana, my country, my place.” From “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.” Alexander McCall Smith

Diane Rendle (right) and Helen Freeman – paintings & poetry to illustrate East African life and culture

Diane Rendle was born and raised in East Africa and then lived in Botswana, where she was immersed in the culture, language and heritage of the people.  Like McCall Smith’s comical novels about Madame Precious Ramotswe,  “Voices carried on the Wind” presents an enlightening view of the community – especially bold, beautiful women – in this lush natural environment.

Diane’s stunningly crafted, visual memories of people and place are complemented by charming poetic proverbs by Helen Freeman to tell a story about  the life and experences of the characters.  In the jungle, birds and animals rule the roost as wild cats glide gracefully through the bush.

You Never Know what you will Encounter, Diane Rendle

“You Never Know What You Will Encounter” – Helen Freeman

When the leopard whispers to the woman, he says,  “There’s a hurricane coming, wrap up, hunker down, hide yourself.”

She says, “But I’m strong enough” … and unwinds her Kanga.

The titles of Rendle’s richly-patterned images are translated into colloquial words of wisdom, both humorous and heart-warming.

Don’t Carry the World, Diane Rendle

“Burden Bearer – Don’t Carry the World on your Head” – Helen Freeman

“People like me hide beneath layers, and sacks and tins and bowls and packs they need not carry …..and some they definitely shouldn’t.

The Sun Never Goes Down without some Happenings, Diane Rendle

 “The Sun Never Goes Down Without Some Happenings” – Helen Freeman

”Sedge grass purrs, crickets trill and whistle, the track meanders through shrubs and knolls,

 Under sundown’s saffron shade,  and he’s nearly home. Twilight percolates”. 

This enchanting artistic collaboration between Diane and Helen is akin to Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book,” the illustrated stories of India he wrote for his young daughter.  Likewise, these magical pictures and poetry should be published as an allegorical collection of tales set in East Africa.

Travel Tales from Italy and Scotland, Africa and India, “Themes Old and New” from Charles MacQueen who creates luminous, mixed media paintings as a brief snapshot of a moment in time and place. Like a photographer’s zoom lens, these are intimate, close-up images focussing on texture, colour and light.

Having visited the hill top Medieval town of Spoleto, Umbria myself many times, it is wonderful to ‘re-visit’ the Duomo in the central Piazza.

The Duomo, Spoleto, Umbria

Here are several images to reflect the ancient stone arches and stained glass windows which preserve the dark, cool, mystical silence inside:  so atmopheric in these shimmering, vivid colours of crimson, coral, gold and turquoise.

Church, Spoleto, Charles MacQueen

Instead of realistic representations, MacQueen is playful in creating abstract compositions such as a collage of fishing nets and lobster pots spotted on Scottish piers.

Dawn Anstruther, Charles MacQueen

As he explains Usually as with recent trips to Tunisia and Morocco it takes between six months to a year to digest the experiences.”  All the senses are stimulated – the colour and scent of saffron and ginger in a Moroccan souk.

Spice, Casablanca, Charles MacQueen

Sheila McInnes is also a keen observer of the natural world, the tranquil beauty of rolling hills, lochs, rivers, woodland and birds which “Greet the Sky.”

Greet the Sky, Sheila McInnes

With light hearted wit, these are scenes from everyday life, as she says, ‘a mixture of the naïve, the personal, and the sophisticated.’

Summer Isles, Sheila McInnes

Reminiscent of a child’s story book, here are soaring seagulls, wide eyed owls and adorable dogs to make you smile.

Old Sea Dog, Sheila McInnes

Women are always happy with new jewellery to wear! Bronwen Gwillim crafts bright and colourful ear-rings, necklaces and bangles from waste plastic, flint stones and found objects during walks along the beach in Wales.

“I make wearable, sculptural jewellery from recycled materials. Mimicking the effects of the sea, I work their surfaces till they feel natural in the hand, like a treasured pebble.”

Orange bangle, Bronwen Gwilim

Pairs of ear-rings come in mismatched size, inspired by natural shapes of pebbles.  This jewelllery is tactile to touch, delightful to the eye …and so reasonable for such unique, creatively crafted accessories.

Colourful accessories from beachcombing objects

Affordable art too with a choice of  “On a Small Scale” miniature masterpieces by many of the gallery’s established artists and young talent – wee landscapes, abstracts, prints and portraits.

On a Small Scale – wee pictures for a wee price

A fine selection of small Still Life artwork – ideal to brighten up the home from the kitchen to the lounge.

Oil and Greens, Simon Lawrie

Poppies, Douglas Davies

Browse through the Open Eye Gallery on line to be inspired and enriched by this collection of contemporary art, crafts and jewellery from the March exhibition.

Watch this space to find out about next month’s new showcase of art and artists to brighten our spirits and homes as we spring forward into April.

The Open Eye Gallery, 34 Abercomby Place, Edinburgh EH3 6QE

View the March exhibition on line – http://www.openeyegallery.co.uk

Email – mail@openeyegallery.co.uk

Michelle Mackie – Spring Collection 2020 @ Robertson Fine Art, Edinburgh – a stunning, sensual. dreamlike vision of womanhood

The title of this exhibition may imply that this is a fashion show with a cool, composed catwalk of this year’s stylish frocks and accessories as we Spring forward out of the winter.

As a fine art photographer, Michelle Mackie (also known as Dolly through her social media followers), presents a series of glamorous glossy fashion shots on location – but these painterly portraits reveal an underlying narrative,  as she explains, “recreating forgotten joys, the magic of fairytales, memories, dreams in an art form that evokes powerful emotions”.

This is an astute observation of the social and cultural role of women, from feminine beauty to the fantasy and fear of sexual expression. A sense of freedom is depicted through the flight of birds and fluttering butterflies.

“Tis just like a summer bird-cage in a garden:

The birds that are without despair to get in,

And the birds that are within despair and are,

In a consumption of fear they shall never get out”

John Webster

Entrapment II, Michelle Mackie

The traditional notion of housewives is of being kept inside, a domestic goddess like a bird in a cage. (Fascinating fact –  girls as “birds” is not just modern slang – from 1300, the term “burde” referred to a young maiden).

In “Entrapment II”  the partially nude model draped in a shimmering mauve chiffon sarong,  wears the birdcage as a hat.  It’s an ironic and ambiguous message –  is she really trapped and can only fantasise about escape, to fly away like a butterfly.?

Other women are also seen in a controlled situation:  “Pulled in All Directions” is dramatically explicit, the girl’s arms spread out like a crucifix and pegged on a washing line.

Being Pulled in all Directions, Michelle Mackie

With filmic quality, it’s a disturbing image in terms of being unwillingly tied down, but it’s also a provocative pose akin to handcuffs, – think: bondage scenes from “50 Shades of Grey.”

“I wonder if one day that,
You’ll say that, you care
If you say you love me madly,
I’ll gladly, be there
Like a puppet on a string ..”

In her bare feet, Sandie Shaw danced across the stage to win Eurovision 1967 with this bouncy song.  It comes to mind when viewing “Puppet II” (shown above in the poster) and “Puppet” (below), where a girl is joyfully hopping in the long grass, her hair blowing in the wind – like an angel searching for her wings.

Puppet, Michelle Mackie

This is a dazzling and dynamic exhibition of work by Michelle, a self taught photographer and digital artist.  Focusing her eye through the lens of her camera, she has the unique vision of a film director and the razor-sharp imagination of a storyteller.

These “portraits” involve a time consuming, innovative, creative process. Finding the locations, selecting models, sourcing props and costumes, it’s like movie making, directing theatre or a ballet – the scene setting, lighting, characters, atmosphere and dramatic mood to imagine a surreal, fantasy world.  Every element is photographed separately and digitally added, layer by layer, followed by meticulous enhancement of colour and texture, just like an artist with a paintbrush and oils.

“Shedding Masks” would make a most effective illustration for the Sunday Times “Style” magazine or Vogue.

Shedding Masks, Michelle Mackie

The juxtaposition of the glamorous crimson ballgown against the bleak, winter landscape is a brilliant composition.  But this is not just a fashion shot – who is this vulnerable girl, shivering in the cold,  holding a mask to her face – several masks – which hide her true, emotional self.

There is a recurring theme Michelle calls Dark Beauty to show how women share experiences of betrayal or a sense of lurking danger, wandering alone in isolated places.  “Red Light” is an amazing portrayal – a delicously decadent, light-hearted take on Little Red Riding Hood, fleeing from the prowling wolves in the forest.

“I’m forever daydreaming, and I get to create some of what goes on in my busy little head for all to see”  Michelle Mackie

The narrative behind the art here could have been presented as a bold, brash rant on gender inequality, patriarchy, misogyny, #MeToo, et al.

Instead this is a literary, witty, intelligent and deeply personal, feminist-feminine view of women’s lives today and thin line between sexual objectification and the freedom of sexual empowerment.

Just like beauty, our concept of truth and meaning is in the eye of the beholder so do visit Roberston Fine Art soon (or check out the website) to view these and many more stunning, sensual and utterly unique artwork in the Spring Collection by Michelle Mackie.

Robertson Fine Art

100 Hanover St, Edinburgh EH2 1DR

 www.robertsonfineart.com

 edinburgh@robertsonfineart.com

 Tel.  0131 285 0695

Cleansing Souls, Michelle Mackie

ART FAIR: an eclectic showcase of paintings, photographs and sculpture at the Dundas Street Gallery, Edinburgh

Art Fair @ Dundas Street Gallery – The Robertson Collection

Since the mid 1970s, Malcolm and Lindsay Robertson, two of Scotland’s leading internationally renowned artists, specialising in Sculpture and Photography, have been collecting the work of their contemporaries.

Well presented around the spacious Dundas Street Gallery is their selection of paintings by many Scottish artists including John Lowrie Morrison, Pam Carter, Peter Howson, George Birrell, Ian McWhinnie, the Spanish Surrealist, Salvador Dali with photographs by John Sexton and Ansel Adams.

The vibrantly colourful landscapes by Jolomo (John Lowrie Morrison, OBE), are recognised, and purchased by art lovers worldwide, with visitors often taking one of his iconic scenes of a white washed croft or loch view back home.  Among those buyers are Sting, Madonna, Simon Le Bon, Sophia Loren and Rick Stein.

Vibrant landscapes of the Highlands and Islands by Jolomo and Pam Carter

Here there are expressionist paintings capturing remote places around the Highlands such as charming village of Tayvallich, Argyll (where he lives), Ben More, the pyramid shaped mountain near Crianlarich, and Grogport, a tiny Hamlet on the Kintyre coast overlooking the Isle of Arran.

Captivated by the natural beauty of the Scottish islands, Pam Carter takes you on a magical journey to her favourite places in Skye and Barra. In the gallery is a stunning painting, Eoligarry Bay, with its Carbibbean-styled white sand beach.  Also a fine view of Stein, a crofting township on Loch Bay, Waternish, Skye, a place to spot fabulous sunsets.

Seascapes, Barra & Skye, (Pam Carter), Flowing Wave sculpture, (Malcolm Robertson)

Between 1946 and 1958, the United States conducted 23 nuclear tests at the Micronesian atoll, Bikini. These experimental explosions on the atoll of Bikini inspired Dali to paint the Three Sphinxes of Bikini (1947). The original painting is in a Japanese museum but here you can purchase a signed print of this powerful image: a head, representing humanity, a tree for nature and mushroom cloud a symbol for destruction.

Three Sphinxes of Bikini, Salvador Dali (1947)

As well as these and other artists, the exhibition showcases the extraordinary work by the two brothers, Lindsay and Malcolm Robertson.

Lindsay Robertson has been a professional photographer since 1971, and his portfolio of black and white landscapes has been used in calendars and international advertising campaigns.  Having visited the George Eastman Museum of photography in New York, he as given the unique opportunity to bring the Ansel Adams collection to The City Arts Centre, Edinburgh in 2008. The showcase of Adams’ legendary landscapes was complemented with images by Lindsay, ‘Caledonia to California’ covering John Muir’s journey from Scotland to America.

White Rhino, Lindsay Robertson

A most innovative project is his stunning series of animal portraits, entitled Endangered.  Just as a fashion photographer will snap a model in various poses in a Studio, here is a quirky line up of majestic animals – Giraffe, White Rhino, Elephant, Horse.  Far removed from their natural wild habitat here they are seen in close up, in the shadowy light of a Studio, expressing their beauty, strength and vulnerability.

Starbucks, Zulu, Elephant – ‘Endangered’ photographic series, (Lindsay Robertson)

The starkness and scale of the background places the animals within an environment which seems surreal… thus inspiring us to study and appreciate the detail, textures and character.”  Lindsay Roberston

On a childhood family holiday to Yosemite National Park, Ansel Adams began his lifelong fascination with America’s wilderness. He is, says Robertson, arguably the most revered lanscape photographer in the world.

Yosemite National Park, (Ansel Adams)

At the Dundas Street Gallery is his B&W print, Castle Rock, Summit Road, above Saratoga.

Castle Rock, Summit Road above Saratoga, (Ansel Adams)

Malcolm Robertson studied sculpture at Glasgow School of Art and then took on a most important architectural role as Town Artist in Glenrothes, designing and producing site-specific sculpture and murals creating an artistic urban environment.

Malcolm is now based in both Scotland and Florida, receiving private and public commissions for large scale works. His Public art can be seen around the world, from Stornoway to India, such as ‘Oor Wullie’ in Dundee, and ‘Vortex’ World Rowing Championships, Sarasota.

Crescendo #1 & #2, stainless steel sculptures (Malcolm Robertson)

As part of this exhibition, there are maquette models and smaller sculptures, such as Flowing Wave, a sweeping curve in shining stainless steel and Eternal Connection, a most impressive design like a figure of eight “knot” carved in bronze.

The Robertson Collection of Fine Art is certainly eclectic and inspiring.  Take a visit to the exhibition soon.

ART FAIR

January 30th – February 6th 2020

Opening hours 10am – 8pm (Happy hour from 5pm -6pm)

Dundas Street Gallery

6 Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6HZ

The Robertson Fine Art Collection for sale at Dundas Street Gallery

More information about Malcolm and Lindsay Robertson:

https://www.malcolmrobertson.com/art-fair

https://www.lindsayrobertson.com

 

 

Seven Crofts Gin – a wild, fresh-air distillation of Highland Loch and Landscape in a bottle

In a wide bay on Loch Broom, the charming, white washed village of Ullapool in Wester Ross, was established in 1788 by the British Fishing Society with a settlement of just seven houses. It soon developed as a thriving herring port and in the 1970s, became the base for a fleet of Russian “Klondykers”, factory ships to process and transport tons of mackerel back home.

Those original seven crofts and the wild scenic beauty around Ullapool were the inspiration behind the name of a new Scottish Gin created, curated and produced by the Highland Liquor Company.  Their logo brilliantly captures, in just a quick caricature, the waves of the loch, the town and rugged hills all around.

This gin has been five years in the planning, development, testing and tasting by the owners Helen Chalmers and Robert Hicks and their spirited team.  It was a challenging period of experimentation, trial and error with no less than 96 separate combinations before they selected their final unique recipe for Seven Crofts Dry Gin.

Seven Crofts is composed, not surprisingly,of a seven key botanicals – juniper, pink peppercorns, angelica root, coriander seeds, cubeb berries, cardamom, fresh lemon peel.

A few usual suspects in the ingredients, but two distinctively different spices here. Cubeb berries are from Indonesia and so often called Java Pepper, tasting like allspice with a trace of nutmeg. In gin, cubeb gives an aromatic pepperiness with pine and floral notes.

Cardamom is native to Southeast Asia and Guatemala, one of the most expensive spices, along with vanilla and saffron, and when used as a botanical in gin, it adds a grassy, grapefruit aroma.

Ben Thompson, Head Distiller of Seven Crofts Gin, Highland Liquor Company

This handcrafted small batch Gin is produced in twin copper stills named Little Ella and Little Ruthie, where Ben Thomson in charge of the fine art of Distillation. The Botanicals and grain spirit are heated over open flames and condensed using pure Highland water to release the full fragrance, flavour and character.  Then its’s time to wait patiently, as the gin is allowed to mature slowly before bottling.

The bottle and label design by D8 in Glasgow was inspired by old traditional Genever bottles.  The glass reflects the watery shimmer and soft pine green of the loch and landscape; its tall, slender shape is attractive to look at, comfortable to hold. This elegant and timeless style has been picked for the Top 10 Spirits Artwork and Bottle Design in the World.

So let’s sample a glass of Seven Crofts Gin: first I experienced the aroma by breathing in the fresh, aromatic, earthy, woody fragrant scent on the nose.

I then added a few cubes of ice, a good splash Fevertree Tonic, a slice of orange and zest of the peel. The rich blend of botanicals is certainly complex presenting a spicy, smoky, almost salty, taste, cut through with the sweeter citrus tones of lemon peel and orange garnish.

What the experts say:

Nose: Rich, round aromatic notes of juniper, pepper with a noticeable hint of ripe plum

Taste: Opulent notes of perfumed forest fruit and a suggestion of woodland. The juniper is assertive with spicy hints of coriander and pink pepper and a long, warm finish.

Finish: A fresh, clean G&T with balanced and elegant yet distinctive flavours of juniper, pepper, orchard fruit and a poised, spicy finish.

The Perfect Serve: Serve in a straight glass with lots of ice, a good quality tonic (1 part gin to 2 parts tonic) and garnished with a slice of orange.

Seven Crofts Gin, with its aromatic fragrance, is also perfect in a range of classic Cocktails.  Who can resist a Martini?   Simple but so sophisticated.

The classy, classic Gin Martini, stirred not shaken with twist of lemon or an olive

Gin Martini

8 cl Seven Crofts Gin (ice cold)

A tbsp Extra Dry Vermouth

Stir together in a chilled Cocktail glass – the classic method.

(or alternatively add ingredients with ice in a Shaker, then strain into the glass).

Garnish with a twist of lemon peel or an olive as preferred.

It is believed that Her Majesty the Queen is partial to a Zaza, a variation of a Martini with Dubononet, the French fortified wine with herbs, spices and quinine. Its spicy, fruity taste would blend well with Seven Crofts.

Named after a 1915 silent movie based on a French play about a cabaret singer, this is one of my favourite apertifs, which hits the spot with the kick of gin given a smooth, mellow fruity flavour.

The Zaza

6cl Seven Crofts Gin

6cl Dubonnet Red

Dash of Aromatic bitters (optional)

Shake the ingredients together with ice and strain into a Martini glass and add a twist of orange.

The Zaza – the Royal Tipple

The Negroni is the ultimate Italian cocktail invented by Count Camillo Negroni at the Caffè Casoni bar in Florence in 1919. Seductively crimson red, bittersweet and perfectly refreshing. Fashionable for 100 years.

Negroni

2.5 or 3 cl Seven Crofts Gin
2.5 or 3 cl Campari
2.5 or 3 cl Sweet Vermouth

Stir or shake up three ingredients with very cold ice until blended. Strain into a tumbler over a large ice block and garnish with a twist or slice of lemon or orange.

Negroni – elegantly refreshing since 1919

Although only launched in 2019, Seven Crofts has already been selected by Buyers and Bars across the world including Nauticus, Edinburgh, The Savoy, London, Michael Caine’s Lympstone Manor and sipped from New York City to Singapore

Ullapool is located on the ever popular North Coast 500 – Scotland’s equivalent to Route 66 – and offers the great escape to explore the area with its majestic scenery, cosy pubs, freshest seafood, from crate to plate, Music Festivals, fishing heritage, outdoor adventures, hill climbing, wildlife, boat and ferry trips.

What could be a better destination to experience the distinctive taste of Seven Crofts Gin, its birthplace: the essence of Highland loch and landscape encapsulated -artistically distilled –  in a green bottle.  Cheers!

https://www.highlandliquorcompany.com/seven-crofts

The majestic setting of Ullapool on the banks of Loch Broom

BE Together at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay ’19: a welcome handshake across the seas to bring in the New Year

Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Festival is on the essential bucket list as compiled by Patricia Shultz in her book, “1,000 Places to See Before You Die.”  Also selected by Discovery Channel as one of the Top 25 World Travel Experiences.

The origin for the word “Hogmanay” is from the early 17th century, perhaps from “hoguinané,” Norman French meaning “last day of the year” or “New Year’s gift”.

Up until 27 years ago, Hogmany celebrations on 31st December in Edinburgh was a small, local celebration for city residents and perhaps a few visitors, which took place around the Tron Kirk on the Royal Mile.

Auld Lang Syne sing song at Hogmanay on the High Street, 1964

In 1993, the first organised Hogmanay Party on Princes Street ended with dazzling fireworks at midnight set off from the Castle.  The popularity grew and on 31st December, 1996, a crowd of 400,000 revellers broke the Guinness Book of Records for the largest Street Party in the world.

To ensure safety the following year, Princes Street was closed off for a restricted number of 100,000 ticket holders as part of a four day Festival to celebrate New Year.  Since then, Edinburgh has shown the world how to party as the Home of Hogmanay.

The Winter Festival season begins in mid-November when the city sparkles with Christmas spirit around the Markets, Fairground rides, theatre, music and entertainment for all ages.

Edinburgh’s Winter Festivals welcome visitors from before Christmas to New Year

The Hogmanay Festival has changed over the years, and I do miss the wonderful The Night Afore Fiesta, 30th December, a fabulous, free, family friendly event, (George Street or Royal Mile): giant giraffe puppets, a parade of elephants, Macbeth on stilts, musicians, crazy Spanish hair-dressers. This magical style of entertainment is now incorporated into the Street Party on the 31st.

Hogmanay ‘19 presented a three day programme of exhilarating events to bring people from far and wide across the globe to BE Together to celebrate the start of 2020.

The Festival kicked off on the evening of 30th December for the annual Torchlight procession when 12,000 torch-bearers, accompanied by the skirl of the Pipes and beat of the drums, set off to march from various starting points around the Old Town to Holyrood Park.

Torchlight Procession with pipers and drummers down the Canongate

The pattern of Torches spread out in Holyrood Park displayed an image of two people shaking hands.  Magical.!

Torchbearers create the design of a Handshake

For Clubbers, there was also late night music and dancing at Symphonic Ibiza, with live orchestra and DJ sounds, to get into party mood.

A diverse range of music, whatever your taste, was on offer on Hogmany, 31st December: a classic concert by candelight at St. Giles Cathedral, as well as the rousing Jazz from Ronnie’s Scott’s Big Band featuring a performance by singer Lianne Carrol.

Families with young children were not forgotten either, with a special Bairns Afore show in the late afternoon with music, comedy and fireworks in Princes Street Gardens.

Bairns Afore – the children’s own Firework party

The highlight of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay as always was the Johnnie Walker Street Party when a sell out crowd of 75,000 ticket holders gathered in the pedestrianised area around the city centre.

Picto Facto –  a zany group of Street Entertainers march along Princes Street

With a nod to Rio, it’s Carnival Time with a glittering, glamorous parade of giant puppets, dancers, fire throwers and jugglers to entertain the crowds.

Campagnie Remue Menage – a herd of Festive Reindeer parade up the Mound

PyroCeltica present a fiery, flaming circus performance

Live music stages all around the central party zone featuring a colourful line up of singers and bands including Marc Almond, Idlewild, The Snuts, Rudimental DJ, Arielle Free and the Mac Twins.  If you fancy a Hogmany Highland Fling, you could also book a ticket for the outdoor Ceilidh, traditional Scottish country dances, jigs and reels to keep you warm in the cold night air.

Get your dancing shoes on at The Ceilidh under the Castle

The Concert in the Gardens welcomed an international star, the Grammy and Oscar Award winner, Mark Ronson, who played a rousing round up of hits, with a guest appearance from Daniel Merriweather.  At Midnight, Ronson’s music soundtrack accompanied the brilliant blast of fireworks – an amazing eight minute display – set off from the Castle, which could be seen for miles around.

A majestic display of Fireworks light up the night sky at midnight to welcome 2020.

For those with the stamina, you could dance the night away at the After-Party till the wee sma’ hours of the morning.

The Loony Dook is a well established tradition (running since 1986), on the first of the day of the year, when brave souls take a refreshing (freezing!), dip in the Firth of Forth at South Queensferry.  With a crowd of spectatators watching the action, on 1st January 2019, 1,100 people, many in Fancy Dress, took the plunge – with £1 from the ticket price goes to the RNLI.  Over the Festival, £42,500 was raised to support community, social and health charities.

Loony Dook, South Queensferry – brave swimmers take a chilly dip on 1st January

With so many international visitors travelling to Scotland for New Year, it’s important that the Festival offers a taste of Scottish culture and cuisine. On 1st January, 2016, Scot:Lands was a brilliantly curated tour around city churches and pop up theatres, with performers from across Scotland showcasing poetry, music and film, complemented by a feast of regional food and drink from the Borders to Orkney.

This year, the renowned singer and musician Eddi Reader and her Band gave an early evening concert. The intimate space of the McEwan Hall, with bar drinks on offer created a casual Cabaret ambience.  With entertaining stories along the way, it was a seamless blend of pop songs, folk tunes and bluesy numbers from Elvis to Edith Piaf, from Rabbie Burns to Eddi’s award winning smash hits, “Fairground Attraction” and “Perfect.”  With a foot-tapping, jazzy beat, this was the perfect cool, Celtic heart-warming Gig to kick start 2020.

Eddi Reader & her Band: cool Celtic music and song

An estimated 180,000 visitors attended the Hogmanay Festival travelling to Scotland from 87 countries including Argentina, Australia, Bermuda, Brazil, China, Croatia, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, India, Ireland, Japan, Kenya, Latvia, Malaysia, Mexico, Nepal, New Zealand, Panama, Peru, Portugal, Singapore, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, USA and Vietnam.  After the midnight moment, revellers were offered a complimentary Johnnie Walker Cocktail.  Slainte Mhath!

Glamorous guests celebrate in style at the Johnny Walker Street Party

Thousands more watched the whole show from across the globe – USA, Italy, Canada, West Africa, Sweden, Australia and UK via the first ever live stream of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay to capture the atmosphere.

 “What a fantastic night! Tonight Edinburgh overwhelmingly celebrated a togetherness of Edinburgh people and visitors, showing to the world the true spirit of Scotland.  We thank the many people who worked together to make tonight the best ever Hogmanay.”   Charlie Wood and Ed Bartlam, directors of Underbelly, producers of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay.

A fantastic night for these party goers too!

 I’m an Edinburgh resident and it was my first time at the Street Party. One of the best night’s of my life.  

 Edinburgh you are amazing!! Thanks for a great few days

 Thank you Edinburgh – absolutely amazing

 What an unforgettable experience. Thank you Edinburgh

 Fan bloody tastic.

 Where, when, how can I get tickets for 2020?

 If you fancy joining the Party in December this year, Underbelly has just put a limited number of Street Party tickets for Edinburgh’s Hogmanay ’20 on sale at an early bird rate £20.50 + £1.00 booking fee.

https://www.edinburghshogmanay.com/

Read all about Edinburgh’s Christmas:

https://smartleisureguide.wordpress.com/2020/01/06/edinburghs-christmas-2019-market-stalls-fairground-fun-festive-foodie-feasts-at-this-cool-winter-festival/

Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Festival – Christmas Market, Big Wheel and Fireworks.