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Artistic Licence: Still Life paintings by Ian Mastin present a banquet of fruit, cheese, brandy and wine with classic style.

This most inspiring exhibition of Still Life paintings opened on Saturday 3rd April, 2021 at “Art on Cairncross”, Maleny, Queensland, Australia.

The good news is that the artwork is also now available as an online exhibition in the UK, through select galleries such as The Torrance Gallery, Ian Mastin’s exclusive agent in Edinburgh.

The concept of a physical exhibition in Australia accompanied simultaneously by the same exhibition online in the UK was not something I’d ever have considered pre-COVID – an experimental endeavour.”

Ian Mastin

Ian Mastin was born in England before his family later emigrated to Australia. With no formal training, he enjoyed sketching for recreation, and when living in Scotland for over a decade, he began to study artistic technique and styles, and is now a full time, professional artist, based in Queensland.

Known in French as Nature Morte, Still Life paintings are a stylised arrangement of objects on a table, such as fruit, flowers, glassware and textiles. 

It really is extraordinary to compare Mastin’s exceptional natural talent and skill with the 16th and 17th century Dutch and Flemish Masters. Their subjects ranged from flowers, human skulls and candles to depict Memento Mori, the fleeting nature of life, to simple breakfast dishes and lavish Baroque displays of fruit, wine goblets and books to illustrate culture and wealth.

A superb example is ‘Still Life with Cheese’ by Floris van Dyck, an elaborate feast of grapes, apples, nuts and wine.

Still Life with Cheese, Floris van Dyck (1615)

From this Golden Age, fast forward to see how these domestic scenes were modelled and modernised by such Impressionist artists as Cezanne, Gauguin, Manet, Van Gogh and Valadon. 

Bring a brioche, I want to see you paint one: Still Life is the touchstone of painting.” Edouard Manet.

Still Life with Brioche and lemon, Edourd Manet (1873)

Paul Cezanne seemed to be fascinated by orchard fruits especially apples of all shapes and sizes which were the star subject for numerous paintings.

Apples, Paul Cezanne, (1878)

” I am captivated by the deep roots of the past .. the relationship between inanimate objects and our origins .. a simple relic of some antiquity immediately stirs within a hunger to connect with its provenance.”

Ian Mastin

Let’s take a look around the ‘Artistic Licence’ exhibition of contemporary Still Life acrylic paintings:

Bread, Wine and Cheese, Ian Mastin

Bread, Wine and Cheese

You could be forgiven for assuming this softly lit composition was painted around 1620 …..not 2020.  Here the dark varnished, cracked old wooden table is set for a meal: the delicately, draped fold of a linen napkin, the glistening glass of white wine, a scatter of crumbly cheese and crusty bread, all finely crafted with such intimate precision.

Still Life with Pears and Grapes, Ian Mastin

Still Life with Pears and Grapes

It may appear a more simplified display, but this has exceptional photographic quality. Look at the surface of the splintered table, the purple-black skin of the grapes with sharp stalks and shapely pears with tiny nicks in the skin. All so aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

Spoilt for Choice  

Following the recurring theme of Paul Cezanne, here too is a fine collection of crisp, shiny, polished apples – perhaps Gala, Granny Smith, McIntosh, Pink Lady et al. – in contrast to the gnarled timber grains of the table.

Spoilt for Choice, Ian Mastin

“I always love painting fruits and never tire of the subtleties and richness of their colours and textures. I’m also drawn to the bonhomie evoked by images of good wine and food. I never need much encouraging to go searching for a succulent cheese to complement a classic burgundy – used purely for artistic purposes, needless to say.”

Ian Mastin

Moulin des Carruades 1977, Ian Mastin

Moulin des Carruades 1977 

A meticulously detailed and most appetising Study of wine, bread and cheese as similarly depicted by the Dutch Masters. You could view this for hours and still find hidden facets in the tactile textures. First the dusty sheen on this vintage wine bottle, as if just retrieved from the cellar, the ripe, melting Camembert in greaseproof paper with freshly baked bread.  Note too, the hinged metal lock on this antique chest.

Moulin Des Carruades from Domaine Barons de Rothschild: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc – “Rich fruit, blackcurrant, tobacco, cedar, oak, well-balanced.”

Chateau d’Angluet Margaux,

Chateau d’Angluet Margaux

The wine estate, Château Angludet has belonged to the Sichel family for six generations so this represents a real sense of heritage: the dark green bottle with its intricately sketched label and the reflection of glinting sunlight. Uncorked, it’s ready to serve with grapes and slice of cheese. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, & Petit Verdot, this vintage 2006 Bordeaux is described as deep red with black tints, ripe and elegant.  

Age Before Beauty, Ian Mastin

Age Before Beauty

This may certainly appeal to those in Scotland and worldwide who relish a dram of these fine Single Malt Scotch Whiskies from the Speyside and Highland regions. The fisherman’s rod and basket create a dramatic setting, to illustrate a day out on the River Dee, Aberdeenshire or, indeed, Baroon Pocket Dam, Queensland. Slainte Mhath!

Still Life paintings provided the best opportunity for the pioneering 16th century artists to show off their painterly skills.

With artistic licence and photo-realism accuracy, as a modern master of the genre, Ian Mastin demonstrates such delicate beauty and classic style in these exquisite compositions. Whether a bowl of cherries, a carafe of port or a pile of antiquarian books, this is an artist with a dedicated passion for perfecting this iconic, timeless tradition.  

Artistic Licence – a showcase of Still Life paintings by Ian Mastin

3 – 25th April, 2021

Maleny, Queensland: Art on Cairncross’ – if you live locally, visit the gallery.

Edinburgh: available online at The Torrance Gallery

View the exhibition here:

https://www.torrancegallery.co.uk/ian-mastin-artistic-licence

Prices include P&P, insurance, tracked shipping and UK customs duty.
 

Browse the E-catalogue:

The Beautiful Planet Store @ the Biscuit Factory: local, ethical food, drink and home essentials for a zero waste, Brave New World.

In a world that is rightly concerned about climate change and the atmosphere, to be so neglectful of our oceans is deeply troubling. Having woken up to this living disaster… it’s not too late to turn things around.”

 Pawel Ferguson, The Beautiful Planet Company Scotland

Crawford’s Biscuits, vintage advertisement

The former 1940s Crawford’s Bakery just off Bonnington Road, Edinburgh has been transformed in recent years into the aptly named Biscuit Factory, a multi-functional Events venue and community hub for arts, lifestyle, food, drink and Edinburgh Gin businesses.

The Biscuit Factory – Events venue, Community cafe, bar, food & drink businesses

The concept is reminiscent of the historic manufacturing districts of downtown NYC, now transformed into fashionable galleries and nightclubs.  The pioneering spirit behind this was perhaps Andy Warhol’s Factory, 231 E. 47th St. on the fourth floor of the 1887 Cold Storage Warehouse, the studio for the creation of his iconic Pop Art from Marilyn to Campbell’s Soup.  

In similar vein, just launched on 27 March 2021, in a large warehouse space at the Biscuit Factory, is the innovative Beautiful Planet Store: quality food, drink and household essentials, based on a policy of less-waste – if not zero-waste, sustainable, ethical products. 

According to the Vegetarian Cities Index 2021, Edinburgh has the most vegetarian-friendly restaurants per population in the world, (followed by Munich and Ubud), based on affordability and availability, the price of fruit, vegetables and plant-based protein foods; take-away/home-delivery, (especially when restaurants were closed during the pandemic lockdown); Events and Festivals. (Link to Survey below*)

Pawel Ferguson follows a Vegan diet and is a keen cook, with a background in the hospitality and retail industries.  In collaboration and with great encouragement from his partner Peter Ferguson, The Beautiful Planet Store is a plastic and package-free, eco-friendly environment, with imaginative, entrepreneurial vision. 

Pawel and Peter Ferguson (with Daphne the dog!)

The attractive layout retains the shabby chic, industrial heritage with quirky style. Around the walls and island centre are long wooden tables made from old scaffolding planks. Instead of bright strip lighting from the high ceiling, strings of small, energy-saving bulbs are looped between the pillars.

Pawel and Peter work with local, Scottish and independent suppliers and producers to source all your favourite essential ingredients for the store cupboard – organic vegan/vegetarian food and drink for breakfast, lunch and supper. 

Let’s take a look around this enticing Store with its rows of huge glass jars and giant containers filled with flours, rice, gluten free Porridge oats, Muesli, nuts, seeds, colourful fragrant spices, as well as beans and pulses for cook up delicious soups, stews and curries.

As you will see in these images, everything is clearly labelled, handwritten in chalk with calligraphic artistry.

Purchase here or bring your own containers and bottles for grains, cereals and oils etc. and fill a traditional brown paper bag with nuts, seeds and Brazilian coffee beans.

Santu Coffee Beans, from Brazil – roasted at the Biscuit Factory

Santu coffee is actually roasted next door to the Beautiful Planet Store at the Biscuit Factory. All coffees are from Espirito Santo, Brazil, a mountainous region of protected Atlantic Forest, making it the most biodiverse place on earth. Having sampled Santu freshly ground coffee, it has a strong aroma with a mellow, smoky flavour.

A range of quality loose leaf and tea bags from the renowned Edinburgh company, Eteaket and also healthy drinks, organic soya, fruit juices and cordials.  Snacks too with a range of nuts and Just Crisps – Sea Salted Parsnip and Potato crisps, have a delicious, natural flavour – made by an independent farmer. 

Drinks, sauces, condiments and spicy foods galore

On open days at the Store, there might be Pear & Ginger Scones, Chocolate brownies, or other cakes on offer freshly baked by Pawel.  A selection of organic chocolate and vegan sweets available too. 

Stock up the bathroom with floral scented handmade soaps and cosmetics from Deeside Lavender, Aberdeenshire and for the kitchen, Bio Laundry liquids which are both kind to your clothes and the planet.

Handmade soaps and toiletries

Your doggy friends are also looked after with Pawel’s home-made, nutritious ‘Peanut butter and Sweet potato’ bone- shaped biscuits. Chewable toys too – Terry the Turnip has a suede covering filled with natural jute fibres, which is tough and long lasting. Shoppers can bring their dog to the store and leave in a cordoned off den, rather than leave, tied up, outside the Biscuit Factory. 

Home-made Peanut Butter dog biscuits

“We have not reinvented the wheel – just offer our own approach and style on the supply of zero waste shopping – online, by delivery or collection. Beautiful Planet offers a happy and welcoming shop and we cannot wait to meet all our customers.”

Pawel Ferguson

The philosophy behind this truly inspirational Store is all about creating a genuine artisan, rustic and Indy business, focussed on an eco-friendly, healthy lifestyle and protecting our beautiful, natural world.  

David Attenborough would, no doubt, be most impressed!

The Beautiful Planet Company Scotland,

Biscuit Factory, 4-6 Anderson Place, Edinburgh, EH6 5NP 

www.beautifulplanet.store 

Order on line for next day home delivery: Monday to Saturday – Farr Out Cargo Bicycles (radius, 5 km).

Farr Out Deliveries, Edinburgh, supports ethical local businesses and individuals to provide a responsible, sustainable bicycle courier service for the local community.

Farr Out Cargo Bicycle Couriers, Edinburgh

Click & Collect and Walk In shoppers: Store Opening Hours: Monday, Friday and Saturday 10am – 5pm

Email: info@beautifulplanet.store

Additional pop up Open Days will be announced regularly on social media:  Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/beautifulplanetstore   Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/beautifulplanetstore/

Photographs illustrating the Beautiful Planet Store by Fiona Dawson and Marta Zdrójkowska 

*The Vegetarian City Index 2021:

https://www.nestpick.com/vegetarian-cities-index/

Summertime at the Biscuit Factory

When hospitality venues can open up again soon, The Biscuit Factory will welcome visitors to a pop up café called the Biscuit Box serving goods made inhouse including Santu Coffee and The Bearded Baker, with cakes from Mrs Macs Bakery, Linlithgow. Cocktails and pop up street food outside, sharing platters and Gin garden from the Old Poison Bar – everything on offer produced within the community.

Enjoy a leisurely drink and good food at the Biscuit Factory – then visit the Beautiful Planet Store too!.

The seafaring, entrepreneurial story of ACTIPH Alkaline Ionised water for supercharged energy and good health.

“It’s not just the thrill of adventure but exploration; being the first to achieve something,” Jamie Douglas-Hamilton

This is an incredible tale of sportsmanship, endeavour and innovation.  It begins in 2014, when Jamie Douglas-Hamilton joined a team of eight men taking on the epic challenge of rowing 4,200 miles from Australia to Africa across the Indian Ocean, in aid of the charity, Save the Elephants.

Rowing across the Indian Ocean: 11 August 2014, arriving in the Seychelles

The crew battled the ocean’s currents, high waves, storms, hit by a hurricane, and a collision with a whale, on the two and a half month trip. Rowing to a strict routine of short, sharp shifts, it was hard physical work, burning around 10,000 calories and drinking a dozen litres of water each day.

The eureka moment came when one member of the crew added some salt water to his drinking water (desalinated water), which had a positive effect on his fitness especially the tough night shifts. Encouraged by this, they all mixed fresh and salt water which increased energy levels and reduced a recurring problem of hallucinations.

Jamie Douglas-Hamilton, world class rower and business entrepreneur

 “As a result, we broke two Guinness World Records: one for the fastest crossing and one for the longest crossing of the Indian Ocean. I don’t think that was because of how fit we were; I think it was because of what we drank.” Jamie Douglas-Hamilton

After realising that fresh water mixed with salt water is more hydrating than fresh water alone, Jamie started to research the choice of bottled water finding only spring, mineral and sparkling on offer in Britain.

After securing more than £1 million through crowdfunding, ACTIPH Water, a Scottish company, was launched in 2017 and is the first alkaline ionised water produced and bottled in the UK.

The sea water was the inspiration, but Actiph is based on natural spring water from Wenlock in Shropshire, with a formula of electrolytes and minerals, removing elements of acidity for a smooth taste.  Ionised water is proven in clinical trials to hydrate the body faster than ordinary water and as an anti-inflammatory, benefits digestive ailments.

ACTIPH Water is not just for elite athletes and super sporty, active people – it’s a health and beauty product!

Drinking Actiph alkaline water means that you are not only getting the moisture-boosting benefits of water, but maximum hydration from the electrolytes and minerals, which are essential for good health and glowing skin. Researchers have found that alkaline water provides better hydration than neutral PH water – so it’s well worth finding out what all the fuss is about.” Dr. Naomi Newman-Beinart, Nutritionist and a Specialist in Health Psychology

Dr. Naomi Newman-Beinart – a water drinking advocate and health advisor for Actiph

The pH scale goes from 0-14, with 7 being neutral. Drinks like Coca-Cola are around 2pH, which is highly acidic while Actiph is bottled at 9.8pH. Free from sugar, sweeteners, caffeine or calories, the ingredients are Wenlock Spring Water, Magnesium Sulphate, Sodium Carbonate, Potassium Bicarbonate.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have stocked my fridge with bottles of ACTIPH to ensure there’s ice-cold water to sip when I return from a brisk jog around the park.   Not knowing what an ionised, mineral-rich water would taste like, I wondered if it would be like Badoit, with its slightly unpleasant, salty flavour. Fortunately not –  the label states there is 0% salt. 

Expect a pure, clean tasting, refreshing, thirst-quenching, supercharged spring water – and it has done wonders to my complexion too. This is a most innovative, nutritious, energising drink for all round good health and hydrated skin.

After the successful launch of ACTIPH as a global, healthy lifestyle brand, the aim is to be a top player in the USA, Europe, Middle East and Asia. Stocked already by over 6,000 retailers and exported to 15 countries, the aim is to increase sales further over the next year or two.

Having successfully rowed across the Indian Ocean, what was the next challenge for the adventurous, super-fit Jamie.?

Feared by mariners and eminent explorers for centuries, the Drake Passage (named after Sir Francis Drake), is the stretch of water where the Atlantic, Pacific and Southern Oceans meet in a turbulent, terrifying sea.

In December, 2019, in a pioneering attempt to be the first Scotsman to row across Drakes Passage, Jamie joined an international crew of six led by Icelandic explorer Fiann Paul, to cross the 650-mile route from Cape Horn to the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica.

A feat of endurance rowing across Drakes Passage to Antarctica

During this daring, dangerous 12 day expedition, the men faced freezing temperatures and 50 foot waves, as they battled to row against relentless strong currents and force six crosswinds.  Their incredible feat of endurance and survival established five Guinness World Records and was described as “one of the most impressive adventures ever undertaken.

This epic voyage was captured on film for a documentary, The Impossible Row, screened on the Discovery Channel.

It’s clearly reminiscent of the heroic journey in 1916 when Ernest Shackleton and five men set off in a small lifeboat to South Georgia on a mission to arrange the rescue of the Endurance crew left stranded on Elephant Island.

Launching the James Caird lifeboat for the voyage from Elephant Island to South Georgia, 1916 (Frank Hurley)

Mr Douglas-Hamilton is certainly a high achiever from pioneering sportsman to business excellence; for the creation of Actiph alkaline ionised water, he was named Start-Up Entrepreneur of the Year, 2018, and then Food and Drink Entrepreneur of the Year at the Great British Entrepreneur Awards, 2020.

ACTIPH water is widely available at health stores and all leading supermarkets

For more information and to purchase on line: https://actiph.shop/

Watch the Documentary: “The Impossible Row”

https://www.discoveryplus.co.uk/show/the-impossible-row

Add this supercharged Spring water to your daily diet for improved energy and good health

The GlenDronach Original 12 year old Single Malt Scotch – ‘Coorie in’ with a warming dram this winter.

It’s February and with chill winds, rain and snow around the British Isles, the time of year as the Scots say, to ‘coorie in’.  Coorie, traditionally ‘to cower’, is such an evocative word meaning to cuddle up and snuggle in, the Scottish equivalent of the Danish Hygge.

“Coorie in” with a warming Dram

Just picture the scene, wrapped in a woolly jumper or tartan rug, curled up on the sofa in front of a log fire. Coorie is about embracing all things Scottish to find a sense of warmth and happiness. This is the timely message from GlenDronach distillery – ‘Coorie in’ with a dram for a relaxing evening or leisurely weekend at home.

GlenDronach Highland Single Malt Scotch whisky – as cosy as a tartan rug.

First the release of its rich aroma and then the first sip of the smooth golden liquid slipping down the throat, there’s nothing like the a dram of Scotch whisky for the ultimate Winter Warmer.

So let’s take a closer look at The GlenDronach Distillery and sample their 12 year old Highland single malt.

200 years of whisky making tradition and heritage

GlenDronach means ‘valley of the brambles’ in Scots Gaelic. Amidst the hills of the Eastern Highlands, in the fertile landscape of the Forgue valley, The GlenDronach is one of the oldest licensed distilleries, founded in 1826 by James Allardice, an early pioneer of sherry cask maturation. Spanish Sherry was a popular import into Scotland in the 19th Century and Allardice discovered that these casks were the perfect marriage to craft his distinctive Highland spirit.  

The Parliament of Rooks which has long protected the Highland Distillery.

This heritage has been preserved by a wonderful legend: a parliament of rooks roosting here has been the guardians of the distillery secrets for nearly two hundred years – it is believed that as long as the rooks remain, it will be good for the whisky. 

Today GlenDronach Distillery maintains the old fashioned, handcrafted techniques as part of the slow, time consuming journey from the germination of the barley to the careful distillation process through the copper pot stills.

The giant copper stills

Then the distilled liquor is transferred to the sherry casks and left to mature over many years in the warehouses. Nearly 70% of the flavour in whisky is derived from the cask so the wood itself is an essential ingredient.

All the distillery’s sherry casks are Spanish oak wood from trees in Galicia which is toasted over log fires which unlocks the alchemy of oak wood, before the casks are filled with Pedro Ximénez or Oloroso sherry from Andalucía.

Heritage and Tradition since the days of James Allarcice in 1826

Sherry casks have been a natural, traditional process for centuries, and Spanish oak is still very important for the crafting of The GlenDronach Whiskies.

The Spanish Oak Sherry casks lined up in the Warehouse

 “I still believe single malt Scotch is the most complex spirit in the world —my goal is to create this balanced character; for the GlenDronach, I want something with finesse and elegance but that’s also weighty and robust. It’s about having those layers and the tension between fine and deeper notes. Dr Rachel Barrie, Master Blender

Dr. Rachel Barrie, Master Blender

The GlenDronach Original, Aged 12 Years  

What The GlenDronach Distillery team say:

Appearance: Deep, amber-red gold. 

Nose:  Sweet, vanilla with hints of ginger and spicy mulled wine

Palate: Creamy, silky-smooth, warm oak and sherry sweetness, raisins, soft fruit.

Finish: Long, full and firm, slightly nutty and dry.

First, it’s interesting to research the original characteristics of the Spanish sherries, which will influence the overall aroma, flavour and texture.

Pedro Ximénez sherry: Intense sweet dried fruit aromas of raisins, fig, prunes and dates; orange peel, coconut, nuts, treacle, vanilla, as well as leather and tobacco.

Oloroso sherry: Rich roasted coffee with notes of chocolate, brazil nuts, almonds, muscovado sugar with a bone dry finish. 

A sherry with a blend of Oloroso with PX has been described as “the aroma of old navy rum; take a sip and it explodes with raisins, molasses, salted caramel and a finish of walnuts”

The GlenDronach single malt, having been soaked for 12 years in these Spanish sherry casks is sure to offer a similar symphony of flavours. Time to pour a dram, savour and sip in leisurely contemplation.

An enticing glass of this shimmering, amber-red Scotch Whisky

Nose:  An intriguing, aromatic blend of rich fruit cake and dusty wood.

Palate:  Approachable, gentle flavours of dried fruits, toffee, cinnamon, ginger, walnuts, orange peel.  Balance is the thing it pulls off well, neither too sweet nor too rich, with enough complexity to keep it interesting.

Finish:  Warm, spicy and velvety smooth with a soft, pleasant whiff of wood smoke.

This GlenDronach Highland Single Malt, with its sherry wine, citrus and spicy flavours, is ideal to mix in classic Cocktails.

The classic Old Fashioned with a large sphere of ice

Old Fashioned

It’s said that this is the world’s most popular whisky cocktail and the recipe is very simple: 

50ml GlenDronach 12 Year Old, Brown sugar, Dash of bitters, orange peel.

Pour ingredients over ice and stir with a bar spoon. Strain into a chilled glass with ice, garnish with orange peel. 

The rich, smooth and silky taste is equal to its ‘reputation’ as a drink for the macho-man who is perhaps also, rich, smooth and silky.

Highland Martini – the clear gin painted with a soft golden glow

Highland Martini

A Smoky Martini would usually be created with a strongly peated, smoky whisky. Instead, replace the vermouth in a classic dry Gin Martini with this Highland single malt for something tantalisingly different.  The late Sean Connery (aka James Bond) would no doubt approve.

60ml Gin, 7.5ml GlenDronach single malt whisky

Add both ingredients to a mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir, and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Alternatively, turn this into a Burnt Martini by combining 60ml gin, 7.5ml Scotch whisky and 15ml dry vermouth.

The Rob Roy – theatrically staged with tartan, tweed and an ancient sword!

Rob Roy

As a Scottish twist on the Manhattan, the Rob Roy was created around 1894 at the Waldorf Astoria, New York, inspired by an operetta, “Rob Roy,” staged at the nearby Herald Square Theatre. The story is based on Scottish folk hero, Rob Roy MacGregor. 

50 ml GlenDronach Single Malt, 20 ml Sweet Rosso Vermouth, dash Angostura Bitters

Stir ingredients over ice in a mixing glass and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with maraschino cherry and serve straight up.  

The art of Whisky tasting is always an individual experience and we may all detect remarkably different aromas, tastes and flavours; here, a few dram drinkers describe their personal views of The GlenDronach 12 year old:

Complex and intriguing.  Rich caramel, hint of nuts, malted barley, nutty, oak smoke and spicy.

The nose offers aromas of stewed fruits, rhubarb and bramble jam crushed hazel nut, brown sugar and a faint charcoal smokiness. Richly flavoured with sherry fruitiness. A classic warming dram.  

An absolute whopper of a sherry-finish whisky. Beautiful fragrance, rich flavour with wonderful smoothness.

This GlenDronach 12 year old Single Malt is clearly an all round winner with both whisky lovers and the experts.  It has been awarded numerous Gold medals at the International Wine & Spirits Competition and at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition over recent years.

Dr. Rachel Barrie being presented with the Whisky Magazine Hall of Fame honour, 2018

Dr. Rachel Barrie joined the Brown-Forman family in March 2017 as Master Blender for The GlenDronach, BenRiach and Glenglassaugh distilleries and the following year, she was inducted into The Whisky Magazine’s Hall of Fame. This is the highest accolade The Whisky Magazine can bestow, honouring individuals who have made a lasting contribution to the whisky world.

Find out more about The GlenDronach Distillery on the website, with the range of whisky expressions & vintages, and where to buy:

https://www.glendronachdistillery.com/en-gb/our-whisky/

For a simple supper or celebratory dinner, choose Cheese from Paxton & Whitfield with hampers and gifts galore.

The enticing Cheese trolley with a glass of port

Savoury or Sweet that is the question. At the end of a delicious dinner, do you prefer to indulge in a rich dessert or order the Cheese board.?

Here it is, on the back of the menu.
How, instead of a pudding, an extra fiver
will buy you the choice of the Cheese Room.
It shines in the corner, a treasury,
the moony glow of the cheeses walled round
with glass. As soon as she sees it, she’s lost.

From ‘The Cheese Room’, Judy Brown

The fromage-loving French very wisely first sample the Brie and Comté, before finishing with, perhaps, Tarte Tatin or Mousse au Chocolat.

It is often assumed that women, in particular, are addicted to chocolate but, no, many of us would prefer a gift of the finest cheese for birthdays, Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter. 

Whatever the occasion or just a weekend treat, this is just the time to enjoy quality food and drink at home: plan a wine & cheese party, family supper or celebratory dinner party. Instead of throwing a block of polythene-wrapped mousetrap cheddar into your supermarket basket, take a virtual trip to Paxton & Whitfield, Britain’s leading cheesemonger for over 200 years, sourcing and maturing exceptional cheeses.

Before describing my tasty feast of three Scottish cheeses, let’s look back at the inspirational story behind the founding of Paxton & Whitfield and its heritage. 

The original idea began in 1742 when Stephen Cullum set up a cheese stall in Aldwych market, before his son Sam moved the business to premises near Jermyn Street – where there is still a shop today. He also took on two new partners – Harry Paxton and Charles Whitfield, whose names would formally establish the company in 1797. Its reputation was sealed in 1850 when it received the Royal Warrant as cheesemonger to HM Queen Victoria.

Paxton & Whitfield – the renowned cheesemonger since 1797

Paxton’s has always been a market leader, working with British Artisan cheesemakers and importing the best from Europe, and as Winston Churchill once observed “a gentleman only buys his cheese at Paxton & Whitfield“. Today, the company maintains Royal Warrants from Her Majesty The Queen and HRH The Prince of Wales.

Jermyn Street, London – home to tailors, designer fashion and Paxton & Whitfield

So now it’s time to share my experience of tasting and testing three Artisan cheeses from different geographical regions of Scotland. The large cardboard box of cheese was kept fresh and insulated with an ice pack and wool blanket, the overnight delivery ensuring a swift arrival.

Paxton & Whitfield – Scottish cheese for Burns Night in January

 Paxton’s compiled this delicious selection to sample on a tour from the Western Isles to the Moray Firth and Royal Deeside.

Tobermory, Isle of Mull

Isle of Mull Farmhouse

As part of the Inner Hebrides, a short ferry ride from Oban, is the Isle of Mull where in 1979, Jeff and Chris Reade followed their dream, moving with their four boys from Somerset to take over Sgriob-ruadh Farm, near the colourful, waterfront town of Tobermory.  The only dairy farm on the island, the Reade family continues to run this successful family business.

The mixed dairy herd at Sgriob-ruadh Farm, Isle of Mull

All of the cheese is made with unpasteurised milk from their herd of mainly Friesian, and also Ayrshire, Jersey and Brown Swiss cows, fed on grass and whisky grain husks, called Draff, from the Tobermory Distillery.

Every morning, the fresh milk is taken directly from the milking parlour to the cheese-making vat. As the cheese is unpasteurised it takes on the character of the seasons and in winter, it’s almost white in colour with an occasional blue vein as a mark of maturity.

Isle of Mull Farmhouse cheddar

The traditional Farmhouse cheddar has been handcrafted here for over forty years, most recently winning Gold Awards for Artisan Cheese and Best Scottish cheese.

Taste Test: Richly smooth with a slightly crumbly texture, super creamy with a tangy, salty taste and you may detect a soft boozy note too.!  

Isle of Mull Farmhouse cheddar and Hebridean Blue

Serve with your preference for crisp crackers, light, thin water biscuits, or traditional oatcakes.  The traditional accompaniment of a savoury relish would be ideal, grapes and quince jam. For a heartier meal, grill a slab on wholemeal toast and serve with sweet onion chutney, and on the side, a Stout or even better, a dram of Tobermory single malt.

Clava Brie 

Connage Highland Dairy is also on a family-run farm in Ardersier, Inverness, founded by Hamish Clark and today run by his two sons, Callum and Cameron and their wives. They have an organic dairy herd of 140 cows, mainly Holstein Friesian with some Jersey crosses and Norwegian Reds which graze on clover pastures along the shore of the Moray Firth.

Connage Farm – a tranuil sunny setting on the Moray Firth

Brie is the most famous French cheese, renowned as “The King of Cheeses,” named after the region where it was originally created – Brie De Meaux AOC was first created in the Middle Ages by the monks of the Priory of Rueil en Brie.  

The legendary French ‘King of Cheese’

For their award-winning Clava Brie, the Connage cheesemakers ladle the very delicate curd by hand into moulds and mature in a temperature controlled store. The cheese then develops a soft white rind before being individually hand wrapped. This is organic and suitable for vegetarians.

Clava Brie

Taste Test: This magnolia-tinted wedge just looks so artistic, with its smooth white rind, and then sample the earthy, mushroom flavour. This is a distinctive, finely crafted delicacy.

Brie is at its classic best when ripe, creamy and buttery, served with crackers or crusty bread, especially a French Baguette.  This cheese is well complemented with walnuts, honey and Plum chutney, to enhance the sweetness, and a glass of fine wine – a crisp, dry Sauvignon Blanc or a soft Pinot Noir.

Auld Reekie 

The Cambus O’May Cheese Company is located near charming village of Ballater in Royal Deeside.  A sixth generation cheesemaker, Alex Reid makes Scottish, artisanal cheese using the traditional crafts passed down from his grandmother.

The scenic landscape of Royal Deeside, Aberdeenshire

Our recipes haven’t changed in over 50 years nor has the way we make our cheese. Pure, unadulterated, unpasteurised goodness. Made with love to be consumed with passion.” Alex Reid

Cambus O’May Artisan cheese based on long established family tradition

Auld Reekie is inspired by the local smoking methods for speciality smoked venison and salmon in Royal Deeside. This handmade cheese is lightly smoked over whisky barrel shavings which give the creamery an aromatic whisky distillery atmosphere.

The name is taken from the old slang term for Edinburgh due to chimney smoke, and where by 1777 there were 400 illicit distilleries, producing a thick smog which blackened the grand sandstone buildings.

This two day, cow’s milk curd is carefully developed to combine the flavours and textures of traditional cheddar-like cheese with a delicate wood and whisky finish. 

Taste Test:  This is hard, amber-coloured with a crumbly texture. The aroma ‘reeks’ with a pungent smokiness, while the flavour is more mellow, richly creamy with an underlying hint of earthy peat from the whisky-scented wood.  

A good partnership for this fragrant cheese would be a fruit chutney, such as fig or plum & apple.  And to drink?  The local Royal Lochnagar Distillery is on the River Dee near Balmoral Castle – their 12 year old single malt offers notes of soft smoke, hay, oak and gingerbread. Alternatively, what could be more appropriate than the punchy blended malt from Islay, Auld Reekie, richly peaty, with spices and fruity sweetness.  

If this has whetted your appetite, take a look at the range of cheese on offer at Paxton & Whitfield; there are two London stores, but it’s so easy to browse and buy on line for home delivery.  The colourfully illustrated website is user friendly with a clear menu for Cheese Boards, Hampers, Gifts, Drinks, (Port, wine, beers), seasonal events and celebratory diary dates.

A specially designed gift set for Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day purchases include free UK* delivery on all orders over £40. Choose from the exclusive selection of cheese for your date night at home or a special romantic gift.  

https://www.paxtonandwhitfield.co.uk/shop/valentines-cheese-gifts

The finest English and French, heart-shaped, artisan cheeses including limited edition truffled Coeur de Neufchâtel, with chutneys and crackers, offers a restaurant-quality Valentine’s cheese board delivered to your door.  

The exclusive, heart-shaped Truffled Coeur de Neufchâtel

Coeur de Neufchâtel is one of Normandy’s oldest cheeses, it’s said that milk maids would present these love tokens to knights heading off to fight in the 100 years war.

Review from March 2020:  “I bought the Valentine’s cheese box for my partner. The cheeses were of exceptional quality and married perfectly with the charcoal crackers and the sweetness of the fig chutney. 5 stars.”

And with Easter on the horizon, instead of chocolate eggs, why not enjoy a platter of cheese for a savoury treat. ?

For all information, range of cheese, hampers, gift boxes, drinks and on line purchase:

https://www.paxtonandwhitfield.co.uk/

https://www.paxtonandwhitfield.co.uk/shop/other-fine-foods

Paxton & Whitfield supplies Artisan cheeses and fine food products to Selfridges; Harvey Nichols and Harrods, as well as leading restaurants and hotels including several Michelin-starred establishments.

Paxton & Whitfield – cheese hampers and gifts galore

Ben Lomond Scottish Gin infused with wild berries creates refreshing, floral- scented, juicy-fruity, pink cocktails.

Ben Lomond towering over Loch Lomond

Ben Lomond, the majestic Munro which dominates the dramatic beauty of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, was the inspiration behind the award-winning Ben Lomond Scottish Gin, launched in 2019. 

Following this success, the distillers were keen to explore the Loch Lomond region further and challenge their creativity to produce two deliciously distinctive, premium gins, infused with Blackberry & Gooseberry and Raspberry & Elderflower. 

For the purist G&T lover who might assume that tinkering with the cool, classic taste of Dry London gin, is a modern fad, in fact, flavoured, fruit-based gins are nothing new at all.

Sloe gin – the original berry gin from the 17th century

Berries from the Blackthorn bush to make home-made Sloe Gin was a country custom from the 17th century, and this ruby-red, sweet liqueur was served in London taverns as a poor man’s Port.  A century later, Pink gin was created with a few drops of Angostura bitters, (invented in the 1820s as a cure for stomach ailments and seasickness), which soon becoming a popular cocktail. 

Spain is home to the biggest gin market in the world and in 2014 the Puerto de Indias distillery, Andalucia, launched their Sevillian Strawberry gin, an immediate best seller which created a new category and sparked the thirst for pink drinks.

Puerto de Indias, Sevillian Strawberry Gin

As the gin craze continues to blossom today worldwide, the trend is for innovative flavours such as Sicilian lemon, red wine grapes, rhubarb, ginger, chocolate et. al. and less alcoholic, sweet gin liqueurs. 

The Ben Lomond distillery team therefore very wisely decided to work with a local forager, Mark Williams from Galloway Wild Foods, to discover a harvest of botanicals, sweet berries and aromatic flowers growing around the hills and woodland of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park.

The wild natural beauty of Loch Lomond

After careful blending and crafting, in June 2020, they launched the Raspberry & Elderflower and Blackberry & Gooseberry Gins, both infused with berry essences and a touch of sugar, richly imbued with the base spirit of the Ben Lomond Dry London Gin.

The recipe for this fine Scottish Gin includes the essential Juniper and ten other herbal, spicy and floral botanicals such as rose petals and orris root, as well as hand-picked blackcurrants and local rowan berries. This combines perfectly with the blackberries, gooseberries and raspberries for a luscious ripe, fruity taste of summer and autumn.

Raspberry & Elderflower-infused Scottish Gin

The Gin Masters, The Spirits Business 2020: Gold Medal

Regarded as a gift from the Earth Mother, the Elder tree is a symbol of regeneration, believed to ward off witches – hence, Harry Potter’s coveted Elder Wand.  

The delicate frothy Elderflower blossom

White Elderflower blossom has been used widely in recent years to make wine, cordials, St. Germain Liqueur and as an ideal addition to gin.  With a subtle flavour of honey/vanilla/jasmine/pear, it perfectly complements the tart sweetness of raspberry. 

Around the neck of the bottle is a lovely, colourful gift tag: – “A vibrant yet balanced gin that can be enjoyed on its own or as part of your favourite tipple.”

First, the aroma – a soft floral rose perfume with a lingering hint of vanilla and raspberry. 

I then poured a generous 50 ml measure into a chunky rocks glass containing a large 2 inch iceberg. (large ice cubes look attractive, as used by professional bar tenders and they melt slowly).

The taste test: As this is a 38% ABV gin, perhaps it is not surprising that the warming, woody Juniper comes to the fore with a sharp kick. Then taste the fruity sweetness of the summer berry and citrus flavour.  Sipped over ice it’s simply delicious – this is not a gin to drown in Tonic water.

A signature Cocktail created by Ben Lomond Distillers is the Lomond Negroni, as a Scottish take on the Italian classic.

35 ml Raspberry & Elderflower Gin

10 ml Sweet Vermouth

10ml Aperol.

If you prefer, switch the Aperol for the richer, stronger Campari, stirring all the ingredients over ice and add a garnish of orange and raspberry.  The smooth, sweet Vermouth and bitter orange-rhubarb flavour of the Campari blends so well with this Raspberry Gin. 

Lomond Negroni

For a lighter drink, mix this gin to lemonade and/or Sparkling wine as a Spritz for a refreshing thirst-quencher on a summer’s day.  

Crème de Cassis, the blackcurrant liqueur from Dijon is famously used in the pre-prandial tipple, Kir, – just a little is added to a flute of white wine, or with champagne for a Kir Royale. Likewise, a few dashes of the Raspberry and Elderflower Gin to ice cold Prosecco or Cava creates a stylish pink aperitif with a garnish of fresh raspberries.

Kir Royale

Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue

Blackberry Picking Seamus Heaney

Ben Lomond Blackberry & Gooseberry-infused Scottish Gin

The Gin Masters, The Spirits Business, 2020: Silver Medal

As the Ben Lomond London Dry gin features blackcurrants, rowan berries and orange peel as key ingredients, the addition of blackberry and gooseberry further enhances the rich, ripe bittersweet and citrus tang of blended fruits.

First the aroma: a woodland piney tone is evident, which opens up to be more vegetal, with juicy black / red fruits, a hint of jam, nothing that is obviously tart.

Now the first taste: “cleaner” than on the nose from the spicy coriander with more forest in the wild fruit flavour than sweet blackberry jam.

Again, as well as a long drink with tonic, it is personally recommended to serve this gin neat over a large ice cube, to fully appreciate this well balanced, elegantly smooth, Juniper-rich gin.  

As many chefs will concur, gooseberries are the perfect partner for mackerel as the sweet acidity of the tangy berries cuts through the smoky saltiness of this oily fish.

The French for gooseberry is groseille à maquereau, (literally currant with mackerel), which gives a Gallic seal of approval to serve smoked mackerel with gooseberries.

Grilled mackerel with gooseberries and cucumber

The Inverawe Smokehouse also suggests a gooseberry and ginger sauce to accompany their fine smoked salmon.

Why not rustle up these fabulous canapés – Blinis with a slither of Smoked Salmon, topped with crème fraiche and caviar, and nibble with an ice cold shot of Blackberry & Gooseberry-infused Gin. Simply divine.!

Smoked Salmon Blinis with crème fraiche and caviar

Ben Lomond Distillers have been experimentin with these fruity gins and crafted this enticing twist on a Bramble Cocktail.

The Bramble was created by the legendary Dick Bradsell in the 1980s at Fred’s Club, Soho, a concoction of dry gin, lemon juice, sugar syrup and Crème de Mûre, (blackberry liqueur), which gives a deep, fruity and sweet taste. One of the most iconic gin drinks of the modern age.

The Blackberry & Gooseberry Gin would be the perfect alternative to combine the gin and Crème de Mûre in a Bramble.

Bramble Cocktail

And this Loch Lomond version of the French 75, is renamed the Alba 75.

30ml Blackberry & Gooseberry Gin
10ml Lime Juice
10ml Sugar Syrup
1 dash of Ginger Spice
Top with Sparkling Wine

Add the gin, lime juice, sugar syrup and ginger to a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Pour into a flute glass and top with sparkling wine. Garnish with a twist of lime.

Alba 75

These Ben Lomond floral-scented, jammy, juicy Berry-infused Gins are so versatile, whether just with ice, splash in a sparkling mixer or shake up in your favourite cocktail.

More information on the full range of Ben Lomond gins, with further Cocktail recipes and online shop:  

Ben Lomond Scottish Gin, Raspberry & Elderflower, and Blackberry & Goosberry

https://www.benlomondgin.com/our-gins/

https://www.benlomondgin.com/our-gins/raspberry-elderflower-gin/

https://www.benlomondgin.com/our-gins/blackberry-gooseberry-gin/

Lies to Tell by Marion Todd – D.I. Clare Mackay is back for another crime-busting, thrilling, twisting rollercoaster ride.

Marion Todd is a full-time crime novelist based in North-east Fife, overlooking the River Tay, but like many aspiring, talented writers – including J.K. Rowling – it has been a long road to success.  She first studied music with the Open University and worked as a piano teacher, accompanist and a hotel lounge pianist. After a busy family life, (married to a Detective with Police Scotland), bringing up three children, she then had time to write short stories for magazines and was shortlisted for a Scottish Arts Council Award.

Marion Todd, creator of the DI Clare Mackay crime novels

With a life long love of the crime genre, since reading Agatha Christie in her youth, she then created a feisty character, Detective Inspector Clare Mackay as the star of her debut thriller, “See Them Run” published in 2019.

On the night of a wedding celebration, one guest meets a grisly end when he’s killed in a hit-and-run.  Set in St. Andrews, the ancient University town and international home of Golf, DI Clare Mackay is on the hunt for a cold, systematic, serial killer.

All the ingredients of a cracking crime novel: a strong female lead, a vivid sense of place, a rising body count and a twist you don’t see coming … A welcome addition to the Tartan Noir genre’ Claire Macleary, author of ‘Cross Purpose.’

Fairmont Golf Resort, St. Andrews – as featured in “See Them Run”

An immediate smash hit, “See Them Run” was nominated for the Bloody Scotland Scottish Crime debut of the Year, 2020.  

Canelo commissioned Todd for a three book deal and so DI Mackay was back again in the second novel, “In Plain Sight.” When a baby girl is snatched from the crowd of spectators at a fun run on West Sands beach, the local police have a major investigation on their hands. Which of the residents of St Andrews is hiding something – and why?

And most recently published is the third thriller in the series, “Lies to Tell.”

LIES TO TELL by Marion Todd

If you have not yet read the first two in the series, like me, no problem at all as this is a stand-alone novel and it’s easy to pick up important elements of the backstory.

The charming old seaside town of St. Andrews, Fife

Early one morning DI Clare Mackay receives a message from her boss DCI Alastair Gibson telling her to accompany him on a secret mission to meet Gayle Crichton, an ethical hacker who is to investigate a serious security breach inside Police Scotland. However, Clare must conceal Gayle’s true identity and undercover work from her team at the St. Andrews station. 

Meanwhile, DI Mackay is dealing with a key witness under police protection in a Safe House before an important Court case, and the report of a missing university student. The action takes place over a short time frame, 15th to 24th May, so expect a pacey, tense and dramatic narrative.

Getting to grips with the full rounded personality of realistic characters is essential to grab the reader’s attention.  Within the first couple of pages, we learn that Clare lives alone with her dog, Benjy, at Daisy Cottage, with its wildly overgrown garden.  At work, she wants to prove she is a competent, ambitious detective, as good as her male, macho counterparts, and dresses smartly for the professional image.

Todd has an easy, free flowing style of storytelling, with vivid descriptions such as this picture of DCI Alastair Gibson:

“ The DCI, dressed to impress in a fine dark grey suit … Giorgio Armani. His tie was knotted tightly at the neck and his shirt cuffs were held by a pair of plain silver cufflinks.”

The location setting too is vitally important for a realistic sense of place – whether Rankin’s Edinburgh or Dexter’s Oxford.

Market Street, St. Andrews with its old cobbles and fountain

“ The Safe House was a two bedroomed flat in busy Market Street, above a shop selling what Clare called, tartan tat for tourists.  The street was cobbled with a dried up fountain . .. busy with mums wheeling pushchairs and red gowned students going between lectures.”

The familiar sight of red gowned University students

As Mackay tries to navigate the increasingly complex, convoluting maze of criminal cases, the underlying theme is all about secrets, lies and whom she can trust. As the pressure builds up, we can see her strong minded, feisty nature focussed on the job.

But we also see the softer, feminine side, as she misses her partner Geoffrey who has moved to Boston, and her new singleton lifestyle is now akin to Bridget Jones: “She opened the fridge – a Cottage pie from M&S stood alone on the shelf .. and she took a bottle of red from the wine rack, pouring herself a large glass.” 

Footloose and fancy free, enjoying many a glass of vino and Prosecco, we soon follow her tentative steps through text messages to the temptation of a closer relationship with a senior officer.  Romantic encounters aside, the heart of this gripping, gritty plot line, is a murky mire of dangerous liaisons involving scams, money laundering, abduction and a gruesome murder.   

Clare is a tough cop, (a former armed response officer), but she is also vulnerable, emotional woman, which is well portrayed. As she confides DS Chris West, “I don’t know who I can trust” …. “The strain of the past week, she felt as if it was all coming crashing down on her.”

With so many unexpected, terrifying twists, the reader is taken on a rollercoaster ride until the clever, cliff hanger ending which indicates a tricky romantic entanglement for Clare to solve.

As a genuine, believable, leading lady, DI Clare Mackay could easily follow DI Rebus in Edinburgh, and DI Perez & DS Macintosh on Shetland to the small screen, amidst the atmospheric setting and wild seascapes around St. Andrews in the Kingdom of Fife.

https://www.canelo.co/authors/marion-todd/

https://www.canelo.co/books/lies-tell/

​In September 2020, independent publisher Canelo launched a new crime fiction imprint, Canelo Crime.  

I remain convinced that crime fiction offers the most exciting combination of thrills, deceit and cleverness. The best of the genre will emotionally invest its reader, and give hope that good can overcome evil, (though only with a brilliant sleuth or fearless hero in charge). We have been proud of the recognition that Marion Todd received a nomination for the Bloody Scotland, Scottish Crime Debut of the Year, 2020. Marion’s ongoing DI Clare Mackay series has quickly been established as a favourite with crime fiction fans. Keep an eye on our website for forthcoming news about Marion’s new novel, ‘What They Knew’.

Louise Cullen Publishing Director
CANELO | CANELO CRIME

 “What They Knew” by Marion Todd is to be published on 11 February 2021 by Canelo Crime.  The New Year starts with a death ...

Misty Isle Gin – pure and refreshing like a splash of sea spray on the Isle of Skye.

It’s a fact – over 70% of the gin consumed in the UK is produced in Scotland, where distillers have perfected the art and craft of the spirit.  The Scottish islands in particular are renowned for fine, artisan gins – Orkney, Shetland, Harris, North Uist, Barra, Tiree, Colonsay, Jura, Islay, Mull and the Isle of Skye.

The majestic landscape of the Isle of Skye

Skye is a magical, mystical place, enticing visitors from across the planet to embrace its ancient cultural heritage, outdoor sporting adventures and wild scenic beauty.  

Sing me a song of a lad that is gone,
Say, could that lad be I?
Merry of soul, he sailed on a day
Over the sea to Skye.

Billow and breeze, islands and seas,
Mountains of rain and sun
.

Robert Louis Stevenson

Thomas and Alistair Wilson are local lads with a life-long passion for the “Misty Isle” which sparked the idea to launch the first Gin distillery on the island and capture a spiritual essence of the place in a bottle.

Alistair has a professional background in the hospitality industry, hotels, bars and restaurants around Scotland while Thomas has served in the Parachute Regiment and is a retained fireman.  Ready for an exciting new challenge, they decided to join forces to create their own speciality Skye gin, selecting the key botanicals, foraging juniper berries and experimenting with recipes. Another key ingredient is sourced near the distillery at Portree – the crystal clear, spring water from the Storr Lochs. 

The Wilson Brothers foraging for island botanicals

Misty Isle Gin was launched in early February 2017, with exceptional success: Gold Medal and Distilled Gin of the Year, Scottish Gin Awards, 2018, Silver, World Gin Awards and Gold, London Spirits Competition.

“Provenance is everything – that abiding sense of belonging and community. Over time, we have perfected our recipe; a marriage of waters from the Storr Lochs and the right balance of the finest botanicals. It has taken patience and judgement, but some things cannot be rushed”. Thomas and Alistair Wilson

This the first gin to be produced on the Isle of Skye and a completely home-grown product, created, distilled and bottled in Portree. The name Gin itself is derived from the Dutch jenever which means Juniper, providing the essential earthy, pine notes. 

Juniper berries – hand-foraged from various wild locations around Skye, slowly distilled in traditional gas-fired copper pot stills for approximately 8 hours, then vapour infused with the other ten botanicals:

Coriander seeds – the second most used botanical after juniper. Once distilled it has a complex flavour once distilled, all at once citrusy, nutty and a little spicy.

Grains of Paradise – an exotic, aromatic spice from West Africa bring a complex mix of cardamom, coriander, ginger with a hint of citrus. These tiny seeds have medicinal qualities and are an Aphrodisiac.

Orris root –  the root of the Iris flower, giving a floral, parma violet aroma with sweet and woody flavours. Ancient Greeks and Ancient Romans used Orris in perfumery – Channel No. 5 is thought to contain a high proportion of Orris Root.

Liquorice root – a sweet, woody botanical that has been used as a sugar alternative for centuries.

Black cubebs – an Indonesian plant; the fruits are gathered before they ripen and left to dry. similar in appearance and taste to black pepper, Cubeb berries are often paired with juniper in gin giving a soft floral, lavender aroma combined with a cracked pepper taste.

Lemon peel – the peel is dried before infusion and distillation and contributes a fresh, tart, crisp, citrus notes.

Cassia bark –  similar to cinnamon with a sweeter taste and warming, earthy spiciness.

There is also one other top secret ingredient from the Isle of Skye.!

Misty Isle Gin is described by its creators as “ Juniper heavy but not too floral with earthy undertones, a hint of spice, with subtle flavours of citrus and a refreshing aftertaste.” The suggested serve is with a Scottish or premium tonic water, garnished with a twist of fresh orange peel.

Before even tasting the Misty Isle gin, first admire the stunning design of the glass bottle, its thick curved, craggy, jagged shape – so comfortable to hold –  appears to have been carved out of an ice-covered mountain.

Spectacular viewpoint for the Old Man of Storr

This represents the Old Man of Storr and the majestic mountain range of the Cuillins is artistically illustrated on the label. The copper foil reflects the gin stills and each bottle of Misty Isle is unique with its own different twisted top.

The neat gin taste test

Aroma:  A mellow floral and rich earthy scent   

Palate:  A spicy kick balanced by sweet citrus notes with a delicate salty tang.

Finish:  Beautifully, intensely smooth with lingering, woodland pine aftertaste.

The G&T taste test

Pour 50 ml of Misty Isle and a good splash of Walter Gregor Scottish gin, (hand crafted on Manse Farm, Aberdeenshire), over a large block of ice and add a twist of orange peel.  This pure, clear Gin from Skye is perfectly complemented by the lightly sparkling Scottish Tonic created from natural citrus flavours, quinine and Highland spring water.  Be sure not to drown the gin with tonic, to allow the peppery spice and rich juniper flavour to shine, while the orange draws out the bittersweet citrus.   

This ice cold G&T is so refreshing – which can be poetically described as akin to a bracing mountain trek or beach walk in the salty air.!   

Misty Isle Gin is clearly of superlative quality based on the fact that it is imbued with the provenance of local Juniper berries and pure Scottish loch water. One slow, smooth sip conjures up the wild, natural landscape of Skye from glacier mountain to woodland and seashore.

“Holidayed many times on Skye and wanted something to remind me of the island. Served with Fevertree Mediterranean tonic & orange and loved it – so refreshing!”  (on line review)

The dramatic panorama overlooking Loch Coruisk, Isle of Skye

As a lover of a dry Gin Martini, the next test was this classic cocktail: 50 ml Misty Isle with 15 ml Vermouth, stirred gently over a large ice cube, strain into a glass and garnish with an olive or two.

Vermouth is a fortified wine with a blend of spices, herbs, roots and fruit, such as cinnamon, citrus peel, cardamom, chamomile, coriander, juniper and ginger, so the ideal partner for Misty Isle gin. 

Again it’s the smooth texture which is predominant with the subtle, soft complexity of floral, herbal and spicy flavours – overall it is cool, crisp and delicately dry, with the olive enhancing the salinity.  Alternatively, the zest of lemon would draw out the citrus tang.

Misty Isle Gin for the perfect classic, dry Martini

In just three years, the Wilson brothers have planned, launched and developed the Isle of Skye Distillers into a very successful, independent family business.  They have created a few different gins such as the new Misty Isle Old Tom Pink Gin with raspberries and blackcurrants grown in the distillery garden.  

Tommy’s Gin was crafted in memory of their late father, Tommy Wilson, who served in the Suez invasion with the British Army.  Also seasonal Christmas and Halloween gins and Misty Isle vodka.

In Portree, you can visit the Distillery Shop and book a session at the Gin School to experience hands-on tuition to distil your own bottle on a miniature copper still, and learn all about Misty Isle spirits.

The attractive, illustrated website gives an inspiring travel guide to Skye which will entice you to visit, with all information on Misty Isle products, Where to Buy and an online Shop.

https://www.isleofskyedistillers.com

Misty Isle Gin, hand crafted, distilled and bottled on Skye

‘The Story of Scottish Art’ by Lachlan Goudie – 5000 years of creative spirit and imagination.

Lachlan Goudie certainly knows how to communicate with vicacious exuberance as an artist, broadcaster and writer.  This lavishly illustrated survey is a fascinating journey from Pagan crafts to Portraiture and Pop Art, to show how the colourful imagination of Scottish artists became a creative influence worldwide.

With 42 chapters across four distinctive Parts, there is a clear road map to follow, or dip into the historical and artistic era of interest. 

Kilmartin Glen, Achnabreck Rock Art

Let’s start at the very beginning, as they say, 3,000 BC at Kilmartin Glen, Kintyre where you can see ancient stone Cup and Ring carvings and Standing stones across this Neolithic landscape. Similar stone circles and objects are found on Orkney. Here in 2009, on the Isle of Westray a tiny, sandstone figure of a woman was found buried in the sand: “with disarming simplicity, the artist engraved a nose, two pinpricks for eyes, transforming the pebble into an icon of Neolithic civilisation.  … the earliest carving of a human figure ever found in Scotland.”

The Westray Wife, (3,800-2,500 BC)

The Westray Wife” is almost Picasso-esque in its simple, naïve, deconstructed form.  Archaeological sites have sourced other bone craftwork and pottery, leading to the Bronze Age and the creation of tools for elaborate brooches and jewellery.

Columba arrived on Iona, from Ireland, in 563, “an isle of big skies and turquoise tides,”  a place of peace and spirituality; from early Celtic crosses and the decorative Abbey, artists have always been enticed to visit Iona for generations, to capture its natural beauty.

Stone sculpture relief of a Biblical scene at Iona Abbey

It is believed that the Book of Kells, the 9th century illuminated manuscripts of four Latin gospels was created by the monks at Columba’s Monastery, Iona – “a masterpiece of Christian art .. a work of transcendental beauty.” 

The Book of Kells (9th century)

Ancient Pictish craftsmanship is preserved around Aberlemno, Angus, with around 250 sandstone monoliths carved with symbols, crosses, figures, horses and a hunting scene.  This is also the subject of the elaborately carved St. Andrews Sarcophagus, (8th – 9th century), featuring a hawk, two lions, a ram and a dog. 

The St. Andrews Sarcophagus, 8th – 9th Century

The Vikings arrived in the late 8th century, “to colonise the isles, Orkney .. and across the Hebrides.” A treasure trove of Viking sculptures was unearthed at Uig, Isle of Lewis in 1831, a set of 93 figures carved from Greenland walrus ivory and whales teeth – the Lewis Chessmen. It is thought they were made in Trondheim (1150-1175), and brought to Lewis by a merchant on route to Ireland, but buried in the sand for centuries. 

The Lewis Chessmen, (Norwegian, 12th century)

As Goudie wittily describes these delicately engraved sculptures: “The figures resemble cartoon characters. .. the wild stare of the king, the bishops’ faces bursting with bug-eyed horror .”

Trade with the Low Countries brought “cargoes of exquisitely carved furnishings and Netherlandish paintings.”  This led to the commission of Hugo Van der Goes, a celebrated artist in Bruges to paint a new Alterpiece for the Collegiate Church of the Holy Trinity, Edinburgh.

The Alterpiece, Collegiate Church of the Holy Trinity, Edinburgh, Hugo Van Der Goes (1478)

The marriage of James V and Madeline, the daughter of Francis 1 of France led to Royal patronage of the Arts to promote a Renaissance of decorative sculpture and classical painting.

Fast forward to the Union of the Crowns with James VI/1 of Great Britain. His son, Charles 1 was an art collector and commissioned portraits by Van Dyck and Rubens. But George Jamesone from Aberdeen would soon be hailed Scotland’s Van Dyck. To celebrate the Scottish coronation of Charles I, Jamesone painted 109 portraits of the Royal family tree and the King himself with great success. 

This encouraged 19 year old Michael Wright to travel from London to Edinburgh to be George’s apprentice, before studying in Rome,“ an unrivalled boot-camp where he acquired technical expertise.”

Charles II by (John) Michael Wright (1660-70)

Charles II was now on the throne and (John) Michael Wright was selected to paint the portrait., a fashionably glamorous portrayal of “a curly-wigged young man with a raised eyebrow and a spiv moustache.”

There is a marvellous narrative about the 22 year old Allan Ramsay on a Grand Tour of Europe in 1736, an early ‘backpacker’, cultural adventure through France and Italy.  In the early 1990s, when Goudie was an art student, he “emulated Ramsay’s pilgrimage and spent a year in Rome painting and drawing. An overwhelming experience”.

Margaret Lindsay, the Artist’s wife, Allan Ramsay (1758-60)

Ramsay became an eminent portrait artist with “delicate style of brushwork and soft colour palette”, as well as a leading philosopher, central to the intellectual aims of the Scottish Enlightenment.

Henry Raeburn was advised by Sir Joshua Reynolds to study in Italy, before returning home to Edinburgh to set up his studio, painting romanticised, theatrical portraits to great effect. 

The Reverend Robert Walker skating on Duddingston Loch, Sir Henry Raeburn (1795)

Moving into the 19th century, the popularity of  Landscapes soon took centre stage through Nasmyth, Wilkie and Landseer – “The Monarch of the Glen”, an iconic vision of the majestic wilderness of the Highlands.   

“A new generation of truculent art students” would soon shake off tradition.  The Glasgow Boys, were a group of artists (Guthrie, Walton, Paterson, Macgregor et al), who were keen to paint en plein air, depicting farming life around Berwickshire, Scottish Borders in the manner of the French Impressionists.

To Pastures New, James Guthrie (1883)

John Lavery went to Paris to be at the heart of this blossoming avant-garde art scene, painting “sun dappled” rowing boats on the river at Grez. Fascinating too to read about the feisty Glasgow College of Art student Bessie Nicol, who went off to Paris in 1892 to study Life Drawing at Academie Colarossi by day, and observe the decadent Bohemian society by night.

The French Girl, Bessie MacNicol (1895)

A cacophony of creative styles was now embracing the work of Scottish artists. Floral images and geometric lines were interlinked for the architectural designs of Charles Rennie McIntosh, whose modern, minimalist interior décor, created “the greatest genius … a giant of the age rivalling Frank Lloyd Wright and Antoni Gaudi.”

Hill House, Charles Rennie McIntosh (1902-4)
The Blue Hat, Closerie des Lilas, JD Fergusson (1909)

The exuberant portraits and nudes by J. D Fergusson, elegant studies of Edinburgh ladies by Francis Cadell, Samuel Peploe’s exquisitely crafted Still Life paintings and Cezanne-styled landscapes from George Hunter, would soon lead to the collective term, The Scottish Colourists,

The Black Bottle, Samuel Peploe (1905)

From an early struggle to entice dealers, the Colourists’ distinctive, timeless work continue to be a regular highlight at auction house sales today.  Cadell and Peploe frequently visited Iona to paint tranquil seascapes.

Ben More from Iona, Francis Cadell (1913)

Then, a fairly brisk sprint through the leading Scottish artists of the 20th century, picking out William McCance, with his bold Cubist form, and the partnership of the two Roberts – McBride and Colquhoun “celebrated as the most pioneering British Artist of his day.  Francis Bacon said that he had learnt virtually everything from Colquhoun.”

Woman with Still Life, Robert Colquhoun (1958)

The era of Abstract Expressionism would soon be the focus with bold, brash canvases by William Gear and Wilhelmina Barns-Graham.   Read all about the rock ‘n roll life and times of Alan Davie, whose love of jazz and sports cars informed his improvised, energetic compositions. Peggy Guggenheim bought one at a Venice gallery thinking it was by Jackson Pollock – who, in fact, would later attend a private view of Alan Davies’s work in New York, bringing the two artists together.

Mad May Day, Alan Davie (1960)

Move aside Andy Warhol – Eduardo Paolozzi is widely viewed as the Father of Pop Art with his collages of cartoons, food and Coca Cola adverts. “Imagery of popular culture repackaged as art.” This is ‘Meet the People’ (1948) from the series Bunk.

There’s a quick, comprehensive scamper through the careers of Joan Eardley (quirky street kids and dramatic stormy skies) and John Bellany, renowned for his allegorical studies of fishing boats and wild, red haired women of the sea. 

The chapter, ‘The Shock of the New ‘ features a handpicked selection of distinguished. diverse artists – the author’s late father, Alexander Goudie and contemporary work by Bruce McLean and John Byrne.  

Alison Watt came to prominence while still at the GSA, when she won the John Player Portrait Award in 1987 and soon commissioned to paint a charming portrait of the Queen Mother, complete with Watt’s emblematic tea cup.

The Queen Mother, Alison Watt (1989)

Since then, her exemplary, cool, crisply paintings have moved from the figurative to large, meditative studies of draping, flowing fabric. Over recent years, many graduates of Glasgow School of Art have received prestigious awards including Turner Prize winners and nominees – Christine Borland, Martin Creed, Karla Black, Richard Wright.

Lachlan Goudie writes with a flowing, poetic prose to take the reader on a most inspirational, time travelling, artistic journey through the nation’s cultural heritage. With a passion and talent for art as a birthright, he has followed and been inspired by Hebridean seascapes, beloved by the Scottish Colourists, over a century ago.

The Sands of Iona, Lachlan Goudie

The art of Scotland has its own particular accent … in an international trade of inspiration and global creativity. ” Lachlan Goudie

‘The Story of Scottish Art’ by Lachlan Goudie is published by Thames & Hudson – RRP £29.95.

ISBN: 978–500-23961-2

Scottish Ballet present “The Secret Theatre,” a fantastical, sparkling, Festive Fizz of a Christmas movie.

Every year, Scottish Ballet kickstarts Christmas entertainment, staging sixty- eight performances of a Festive ballet around six cities from early December to February. Sadly, it has now been nine months since all theatres closed and to reflect the company’s artistic commitment for creativity and performance, the Artistic Director, Christopher Hampson decided that the Show must go on. 

The world premiere of Scottish Ballet’s first, full-length, feature film “The Secret Theatre”  can be viewed in the comfort and safety of your own home from Monday 21st December.

The enchanting story is about a little boy, Leo, who embarks on a fantastical adventure as he kicks his football along a city street until it hits an old door, which opens with a screech; like Alice falling down the rabbit hole, he steps inside the auditorium of a grand, Victorian theatre, its rows of plush red seats left empty and in darkness.

Leo sneaks inside the closed theatre, (Leo Tetteh)

The curtain opens and he ventures backstage, where suddenly, amidst a clutter of costumes and props, a cast of clowns, acrobats and colourful characters from The Nutcracker and The Snow Queen, spring into life.

They are the forgotten, dusty ghosts of Christmas past. hidden in the wings of this secret Theatre.

The Ringmaster and the circus of clowns, strongman and dancers

Jumping out of a wicker basket is Lexi, (aka, the Summer Princess in The Snow Queen) who guides Leo into a magical mash-up of fairy tales, featuring the Sugar Plum Fairy, Nutcracker Prince, Snow wolves, Jack Frosts and dazzling white Snowflakes.

Lexi (Alice Kawalek) and Leo (Leo Tetteh)

Leo is spellbound, his wide eyes full of joy and wonder, as we follow his rollercoaster ride through snapshot scenes, moving swiftly between the Circus, Roma camp, Ice Kingdom and a glamorous, glittering Christmas Eve party.

A lively Roma Dance by Mazelda (Grace Horler)

The graceful, playful choreography by Christopher Hampson and Peter Darrell, flows together seamlessly, linking the scores of Rimsky-Korsakov and Tchaikovsky – the glorious, romantic music recorded live by the Scottish Ballet Orchestra. 

A flurry of dazzling white Snowflakes in “The Snow Queen”

Instead of simply filming a staged production, The Secret Theatre is a genuine work of cinematography. set in outdoor locations, the Tramway, & the King’s Theatres in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Creative camera work and special effects too – disappearing dancers, flying white drapes and a magic carpet with Disneyesque wizardry.

Nutcracker Prince (Jerome Anthony Barnes) and Sugar Plum Fairy, (Sophie Martin)

The spectacle is captured through the intimacy of camera lens, observing every swirling step and pirouetting pas de deux, with all the fabulous, glittering costumes, in such fine detail.  

The icy gaze of the Snow Queen, (Catherine Devernay)

The superlative performances are all the more dramatic due to the stunning close ups, such as The Snow Queen, with her ice-blue lips and the prancing peacock of a Ringmaster in his feathered top hat. 

The enigmatic Ringmaster, (Bruno Micchiardi)

This is pure theatre on screen, blending two classical Fairytale ballets with fantastical Narnia and Toy Story– style vision and childlike imagination, all the way to the last magical, tearjerker moment.   

While nothing beats seeing Scottish Ballet live on stage, their heart-warming movie is the essential, sparkling Festive treat for 2020 which will appeal to all ages.  Book your free tickets now.!

The World premiere of The Secret Theatre is screened on Monday 21 December at 6pm.

Tickets are free and must be booked in advance on the website: 21st December to 24th December, 2020.

https://www.scottishballet.co.uk/event/the-secret-theatre

Performance duration: one hour.

Donations are welcome to support Scottish Ballet and local theatres. There is an accompanying programme, as well as a series of talks and workshops.

Production Credits

Created by the CEO/Artistic Director of Scottish Ballet, Christopher Hampson and Lez Brotherston

Co-screen directors: Jessica Wright and Morgann Runacre-Temple.

Choreographers: Christopher Hampson and Peter Darrell

Designer: Lez Brotherston

Writer: Sam Brown

Producer: Beth Allan, Forest of Black

Director of Photography: David Liddell