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Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve – the famous Scotch Whisky is jazzed up with a taste of tropical sunshine, spirit and soul.

The Glenlivet Scotch Whisky Company is part of the Pernod Ricard global drinks portfolio, producing 21 million litres of spirit each year, and one of, if not the best selling single malt whisky in the United States. The Glenlivet 18 year old, for instance, has won numerous awards, winning five double golds at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.  

With the tagline, “Original by tradition” The Glenlivet has always been innovative to keep up to date with popular trends. Now their first Single Malt to be finished in rum barrels brings the sunny spirit of the Spice islands in the West Indies to the Scottish Highlands with the launch of The Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve.

My biggest challenge at The Glenlivet has always been ..consistency of style.. It’s important for us not to become complacent, and to ensure The Glenlivet stands the test of time in quality and in depth of range.”  Alan Winchester, Master Distiller

“The Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve is looking to extend that summer feeling, another example of us setting new standards, this time by turning the typical into the tropical.’  Marnie Corrigan, Brand Director, Whiskies, Pernod Ricard UK.

Described as offering a sweet, citrus, fruity and caramel taste, it can be enjoyed neat, on the rocks or in a selection of cocktails such as the signature Caribbean-inspired tipple, Tartan Tiki.

Before we sample this inspiring new Single Malt Whisky, let’s go back to the start of the journey almost two hundred years ago.

The Glenlivet Distillery, Speyside

A remote Scottish glen in Speyside, through which the River Livet flows, surrounded by hills and fresh water springs, was where George Smith learnt the craft of distilling spirits, creating a characteristic, delicately balanced, malt whisky.

In August 1822, King George IV arrived in Scotland for a state visit and asked to try this fine, yet illicit, whisky. Glenlivet soon became the byword for the best in whisky, and 1824 George Smith was granted the first legal licence to produce the official Glenlivet whisky.

George Smith, the innovative founder of The Glenlivet, 1824

Unfortunately, local whisky makers wanted to destroy this successful business with Royal and aristocratic patronage, such that Smith had to carry a pair of pistols to warn off smugglers to protect his treasure of precious golden spirit.

 By 1852, the novelist Charles Dickens was a rich man with an astute taste for good things in life; he wrote a letter to a friend recommending the “rare old Glenlivet” as a fine single malt whisky, which was above his great expectations!.

Glenlivet 12 year old with Dickens’ letter on the label

The distillery remained in family hands over the generations, taken over by the founder’s great nephew, Captain Bill Smith Grant in 1921, having to deal with severe loss of sales during the Prohibition era.  To woo American drinkers back after its repeal, he forged a partnership with the Pullman Train company which served miniature bottles of Glenlivet whisky – spreading the word and the taste across the United States.

Drinks served in the Buffet Car – America train travel in the early 20th century

1950 – The Glenlivet is now the most popular Scotch whisky sold in the USA and through increased global travel, it’s promoted worldwide.

2015 – Master Distiller, Alan Winchester, creates a speciality single malt, the Founders Reserve, to capture the original smooth, fruity taste. 

Scotch Whisky regional map

Whisky can be matured or finished in various types of casks and barrels –  wood, wine, port, sherry, madeira, beer and rum.  Rum casks, known as a Butt or Puncheon, is not a new idea, especially for Irish and US whiskey-makers.

2020 –  The launch of the new Caribbean Reserve, carefully crafted by finishing their fine Speyside single malt in oak puncheons to take on the flavour of Caribbean rum. 

What Glenlivet say:

Nose: Sweet notes of pear and red apple meet a fabulous tropical twist of ripe bananas in syrup. Palate: Rich caramel toffee notes, followed by mandarin orange, vanilla and melon, well balanced and smooth. Finish: Citrusy and delicate.

The first test for this pure amber liquid is the aroma of sweet, tropical fruit, and then a sip to detect a complex array of honey, orange, apricot, coconut, ginger and subtle spicy rum flavours. Expect a lingering, slow finish which is distinctly smoky – warming, bonfire wood smoke to my palate – with hints of cinnamon, nutmeg, baked banana and overall, it’s so rich and smooth.  

Whisky nosers, as they called themselves, eschewed what they saw as the pretentiousness of wine vocabulary. While oenophiles resorted to recondite adjectives, whisky nosers spoke the language of everyday life, detecting hints of stale seaweed, or even diesel fuel.
Alexander McCall Smith,  The Sunday Philosophy Club

As well as sipped neat or on the rocks, this rich, rum soaked whisky is an ideal partner in various rum and whisky cocktails such as a Mai Tai, Rob Roy, Whisky Sour and an Old Fashioned.

The Mai Tai was created in 1944 by Victor Bergeron at his bar, Trader Vic’s, Emeryville, California, inspired by the ancient Tiki culture and paradise island life of French Polynesia.  When his cocktail of dark Jamaican rum, fresh lime juice, a dash of orange Curação, French Orgeat (almond) syrup, was given to a friend from Tahiti, the response was “Mai tai, roa ae” which means “Out of this world, the best.”

Trader Vic’s original Tiki Cockail, the Mai Tai

Mai Tai  – with Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve instead of Rum.

50 ml Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve, 25 ml Triple sec, (or Cointreau), 25 ml lime juice, 15 ml Orgeat or Orange syrup.

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice, shake briskly then strain into a Highball glass with ice cubes. Garnish with lime and mint.

Caribbean Reserve Mai Tai cocktails

The delicious sharp, tart taste of orange and lime blends perfectly with the spicy, citrus notes of the whisky and certainly hits the spot.   Just like when sipping a Margarita, I am transported on a trip to Mexico – with this Scottish Mai Tai, catch the tantalising taste of South Sea island sunshine.

Rob Roy  – created in 1894 by a bartender at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, New York City.

Rob Roy recipe

Switch your usual Scotch for Caribbean Reserve which blends so well with the spicy-herbal Vermouth and the aromatic flavour of the Bitters.

50ml Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve, 30ml Sweet Vermouth, (e.g. Dubonnet), 1 – 2 dashes of Angostura Bitters; Pour all ingredients into a shaker with ice, strain into a coupe and garnish with a twist of orange. (Maraschino cherries are traditional but the orange adds extra zest).

The Roy Roy Scotch whisky cocktail – popular since 1894

These are adapted from two classic Bourbon cocktails:

Whisky Sour  

50ml Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve, 25ml lemon juice, 15 ml sugar syrup, 2 dashes Angostura bitters,  ½ fresh egg white.  Shake up with lots of ice, strain into a glass with ice; add zest of lemon and garnish with orange slice.

Old Fashioned

50ml Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve, a dash of Angostura bitters, 1 white sugar cube.   Mix the sugar and bitters in a tumbler glass until the sugar dissolves.  Stir in the whisky and add a large ice cube. Garnish with slice of orange and maraschino cherry.

Old Fashioned

The cocktail inspired its eponymous Old Fashioned glass and Cole Porter celebrated it in this bittersweet song.

Make it Another Old Fashioned, Please

Since I went on the wagon, I’m certain drink is a major crime
For when you lay off the liquor, you feel so much slicker
Well that is, most of the time.
But there are moments, sooner or later
When it’s tough, I got to say, love to say, Waiter

Make it another old-fashioned, please
Make it another, double, old-fashioned, please

The Glenlivet has also invented their own tropical cocktail – Tartan Tiki  

Tartan Tiki – the Glenlivet Tropical island-style cocktail

50ml The Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve, 25ml Pineapple Juice, 2 Dashes of Angostura Bitters Stir these together over ice in a tall glass and top with Peach Sparkling Water.

The recipe creates an ice cold, fruity Whisky “Rum Punch” – more suitable perhaps for hot summer days …. but this is the idea, to bring back the chill-out, Caribbean mood, spirit and soul during the winter and Festive season.

The good news is that the Tartan Tiki cocktail kit has just been launched so that you can easily shake this up at home: The hamper includes 70cl bottle of The Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve, two bottles of sparkling water, Angostura Bitters, pineapple juice and an orange for the garnish. (6 – 8 serves).

Create at Home – The Tartan Tiki Cocktail kit

Tasting and testing, sipping and sampling The Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve in so many different ways, shows how flexible this jazzed up Single Malt proves to be.  Sip a dram poured over a large cube of ice, shake up one of these revamped, classic cocktails above or the tropical Tartan Tiki.

Another seasonal suggestion, instead of the usual Rum, a Caribbean Reserve Hot Toddy would be the perfect, sweet, spicy, smoky winter warmer.

Slainte Mhath!

Where to buy:

The Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve is available for purchase at Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Amazon and Co-op. RRP £38.59. 

Browse the website and shop on line.

The Caribbean Reserve Tartan Tiki Cocktail kit, RRP £49.50.

The Glenlivet Distillery, a painting by Euan McGregor

Fallen Brewing Company, Kippen, Stirlingshire – all aboard for an inspiring, thirst-quenching train journey.

It’s like a 21st century version of The Railway Children – an inspiring tale of an entrepreneurial young couple with an adventurous spirit – and a love of trains and beer – to live the dream.

Kippen Railway Station, 1856 – 1934

First opened in 1856, the Kippen Railway Station, at the foot of the Fintry hills in Stirlingshire, was one of busiest stations on the Forth & Clyde Line due to local industries, until it closed in 1934.   Paul and Karen Fallen purchased the former Victorian station in 2012, spending a year transforming the heritage site into their home and business, Fallen Brewing. (Fallen is pronounced “Phalin”)

The Old Engine Shed was renovated into the Mash Tun and they began brewing in April 2014. 

Fallen Brewing Company, Kippen

The Station setting, rich in character and history, is reflected in their traditional brewing methods with a modern twist, based on carefully picked ingredients such as hibiscus, raspberry, peach, coffee, cacao, passionfruit, lime to create a refreshing range of craft ales and stouts.

Many of the names of each beer are cleverly inspired by the world of trains – Platform C, Local Motive, Switch and Chew Chew or local places as in the rather witty, Stirliner Weisse.

Fallen Brewery has recently rebranded the beer cans, working with Union Creative for a series of charming designs. Now packaged in fabulous, fun rainbow colours, they are illustrated with unique labels based on original pen and ink drawings by Dr. Zain Kapasi, a GP in East Lothian, a keen artist and photographer.

Fallen Brewery at Kippen Station – drawing by Dr. Zain Kapasi

The railway-themed, decorative artwork on each branded beer can, tell the story of Fallen Brewery: the hills and rural landscape around the old Kippen Station, with cute wee trains chugging along the scenic route from Glasgow to Stirling and Edinburgh.

The Glasgow-Stirling-Edinburgh train route, drawing by Dr. Zain Kapasi

Zain’s illustrations were exactly what the coloured designs needed. They add texture, interest and provenance to the cans.”  Fallen Brewery team

Dr Kapasi is inspired by this project and would love to write and illustrate his own children’s books.  A Scottish version of Thomas the Tank Engine would be brillliant – and likely to be very popular.  Kids love Choo Choo train sets. Just imagine, picture books, toys, T shirts, TV series – (and, of course, Fallen Chew Chew Beer for the adults!).

The Fallen craft beers are made using only pure, soft Scottish mountain water and the best hops and malts from around the world.  So, let’s start tasting a few of the Regulars.

Odyssey –  4.1%

This is Fallen’s best-seller, a revamped version of a traditional Bohemian Pilsner.  – described by Paul as “a blonde beer with a fruity aroma and slightly spicy, citrus and stone-fruit flavour.”

Verdict:  A classic America Blonde, good frothy head, light gold colour, with a fragrant, fruity, herbal scent; Fresh peach, lightly hoppy bittersweet taste, refreshingly smooth.  This is a seriously quality, moreish pale ale.

Switch  – 4.8%

A smooth base of pale malts and oats yield a soft, pillowy texture. The delicate bitterness allows tropical fruits to take centre-stage in this juicy, hazy and refreshing pale ale.

Verdict: A delicate, golden IPA.  On the nose, sweet mango and watermelon, developing into a luscious taste of the Caribbean sunshine. The initial sour notes are quickly mellowed by the juicy fruitiness, a touch of spice and lingering dry malt flavour.

Local Motive –  3.9%

First brewed for our local, The Cross Keys in Kippen, a classic, balanced, easy-drinking session style modernised with Mosaic dry hops.”

Verdict: Pale amber colour with lively carbonation, a rich hoppy, sweet fruit perfumed aroma. A finely textured flavour blending mango, apricot and tart tang of grapefruit with an earthy pine bitterness.

Stirliner Weisse – 4.5%

Our interpretation of a Berliner Weisse … flavours of citrus, peach and passionfruit for a sherbet explosion and lasting refreshment.”

Verdict: Pour a glass of this effervescent golden liquor with a thick white head. Soft tropical fruit aroma before the first sip gives a mouthfeel of sharp, sherbety fizz, layered with bitter hops.  Complex tart and tangy flavours create a rich, fresh tasting beer.  

As one fan has described Stirliner Weisse “Hugely refreshing and drinkable stuff. Glad I bought two cans.”

Chew Chew, Salted Caramel Milk Stout – 6%

A sweet, briney, chewy beer brewed with dark Belgian candi syrup, lactose and sea salt. ..a decadent and satisfying beer.”

Verdict: A strong coffee colour with a creamy head and then be prepared for a whiff of sweet caramel and chocolate. Take a slow sip of this richly textured milky, malty Mocha of a beer with undertones of fudge, chocolate brownies and hint of roasted hazelenuts.  Yes, delicously decadent.

Despite being brewed with dark Belgian candi syrup, it’s not overly sweet, the sugary, toffee taste is well balanced by a sprinkle of Hebridean sea salt in the caramel flavour.  A good, solid stout with a bold, boozy punch which would pair well with a platter of oysters.

Chew Chew Stout would pair well with succulent, salty oysters

The experts at Fallen recommend the perfect partner to a Chew Chew – a lightly-peated whisky.  Detective Inspector Rebus, partial to a smoky Laphroaig with a beer chaser, is sure to approve.

Rebus took a long swallow of beer. Having nursed his pint while Rebus downed two double whiskies and two beers, Grant was dismayed to find another half poured into his glass as soon as there was room for it.” 

The Falls, Ian Rankin

The innovative, award winning team at Fallen Brewing Company

Fallen Brewing is all about eco-friendly sustainability – electricity from 100% renewable sources, the spent malt becomes cattle feed, hops are composted and the beer is vegan, unless stated otherwise.  

“We brew beers we want to drink ourselves and we only want to drink the best. The beers are unfiltered and unpasteurised and we source the best ingredients, fill all casks and kegs by hand, and (with) our own canning line, we have total control over the quality of every beer.”

Paul and Karen Fallen have certainly embarked on an adventurous journey on the fast track, inspired by and preserving the cultural and industrial rural heritage of the Kippen railway. In just six years, the brewery has won numerous awards for their distinctively different, hand crafted range of Scottish beers based on commitment, creativity and passion.

Hope this has whetted your thirst and if so ….

Full list of beers, stockists and the online shop, visit,

Land, Sea and Sky – majestic coastal paintings by Steven Hood at the Dundas Street, Gallery, Edinburgh

It is not only this sense of place but the uniqueness of experience at a specific moment in time.   These new paintings offer a kind of permanence to that experience, to what was observed and more importantly for what was felt. Steven Hood

Steven Hood painting En Plein Air

Steven Hood studied drawing and painting at the Edinburgh College of Art (1985-89) and has enjoyed a prestigious career with regular solo exhibitions at private galleries, and amongst numerous others, at the Society of Scottish Artists, Noble Grossart Award and the Royal Scottish Academy.

Living and working in the Edinburgh, the foreshore around Granton has been a favourite stomping ground since childhood.  With such a close affinity to the iconic views over Firth of Forth, here is a magnificent, moody seascape, ‘Haar over Cramond Island.’  

Haar over Cramond Island

For those who don’t know the word, Haar: noun – a cold sea mist off the North Sea. Just a vague glimpse of the distant island can be seen through a hazy light struggling to break through the mass of greyness.

Haar Enveloping Inchkeith Island

The fine perspective in ‘Haar Enveloping Inchkeith Island’ leads the eye from the grassy sandy cover, rocks and lapping waves to the slither of an island lost in the fog on the horizon. These two mesmerising scenes, enveloped in a semi opaque, soft light, convey the chilly, swirling haar, with such delicate atmospheric quality.

Following in the brushstrokes of the pioneering Impressionists, Monet, Cezanne, Van Gogh et al, Steven Hood likes to paint natural landscapes outside “en plein air,” for a personal, direct response to swiftly changing light and weather.

Evening Sky, Gamrie Bay

A recent trip to the Aberdeenshire coastline shows he is a master at capturing the movement and patterning of clouds. Like the artist, in “Evening Sky, Gamrie Bay,” near Gardenstown, we too stand on the beach under a wide shimmering sky in the rosy dusk.

Van Gogh was fascinated by wheat fields, painted again and again with cypress trees, reaper or birds.  Hood also depicts the glorious golden harvest, the tall stalks bent over in the sea breeze in “Cliff Top Wheat Fields, Aberdeenshire.”  The blocks of bold colour are most effective.

Clifftop Wheat Fields, Aberdeenshire

Observing the light over the seashore at the end of the day is very much a recurring theme, such as the ambient detail in “Setting Sun, the Mouth of the River Almond.” The dark waves and grey rain clouds contrast with a glimmer of pink rays casting a faint glint on the water.

Setting Sun, Mouth of River Almond

Most inspiring is a duet of sunsets, “snapped” quickly over a few minutes on 26th June, looking over to Fife.   This is all part of his aim to seize the likeness of a place at a specific moment, akin to a painterly photograph.

Setting Sun over Fife, 26th June

A large drop of sun lingered on the horizon and then dripped over and was gone, and the sky was brilliant over the spot where it had gone. 
― John Steinbeck, ‘The Grapes of Wrath’

After the Sunset, 26th June

Turner created hundreds of sketches and paintings of different weather conditions, especially clouds and rain such as “Beach, English coast” (1835).

Beach, English Coast c.1835-40 Joseph Mallord William Turner

With similar powerful abstract expression, “Rain Clouds over Inchkeith Island,” the slanting, lashing downfall dramatically evoked with a flurry of thick, brash, brushstrokes.

Rain Clouds over Inchkeith Island

Art is more than a visual response, and Steven Hood clearly conveys the enriching emotional experience, a real sense of place.

These paintings are even more powerful when viewed in the gallery and this is a great space to stand back and observe the wild natural beauty of the Scottish coastline. They recall so poignantly the sentiment of Masefield’s poem, “I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky.”

Land, Sea and Sky – Steven Hood

Saturday 10th October to Wednesday 14th October 2020 

10.30am – 5.30pm

Dundas Street Gallery. 6 Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6HZ 

Social distancing measures will allow for 6 people in the gallery at any given time. Masks must be worn and hand sanitiser will be provided. 

Visit the website to view the exhibition

Judith I. Bridgland showcases wild Scottish seascapes at the Grilli Gallery, Edinburgh

GRILLI GALLERY, 20a Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6HZ

A solo exhibition of paintings by Judith I. Bridgland

26th September to 22nd October, 2020

Mon, Tues, Thurs & Fri 11am to 4pm; Saturday 10.00am to 1.00pm  Closed Sunday & Wednesday

Tel: 0131 261 4264  –

Low Tide, North Berwick

Born in Australia, Judith I. Bridgland came to Scotland as a young child and later studied at University of Glasgow, graduating with a MA, (Honours) in History of Fine Art and English Literature.  She specialises in seascapes around the British Isles.

This exhibition takes tour around the coastline of Scotland, from East Lothian to Aberdeenshire, Sutherland to the Outer Hebrides.  The iconic pudding shape of the Bass Rock, North Berwick, takes centre stage in “Sun on the Sand,”  a stunning composition of sweeping stripes and layers to denote the wide sandy beach, seaweed, rockpools leading the eye to the distant bird colony island.

Sun on the Sand, North Berwick

“Two Figures on the Beach at Sunset,”  features a tiny dot of a couple who can just be seen at the edge of the breaking waves, under a coral-tinted sky. The flourish of thick brush strokes creates a wildly impressionistic perspective with vibrant colour and atmospheric energy.

Two Figures on the Beach

The Isle of Harris must be a favourite place for Bridgland, who has painted several different scenic views to capture its white sand beaches and wild natural environment.   This reminds me of an amazing story.

West Beach, Berneray, Outer Hebrides (photograph)

About ten years ago, to save the time and expense to send a media photographer to Kai Bae, Thailand Tourism simply googled images on line and ‘borrowed’ one of West Beach, Berneray instead. But the enticing promotional image was soon identified as taken in the Outer Hebrides.!

The natural “tropical” beauty around Harris is certainly an artist’s paradise.

Across to Luskentyre

Here is the lush, languid beauty of Luskentyre with its long, curving bay, undulating dunes etched with machair grasses, framed by the mountain peaks beyond.

In “Clouds over Luskentyre”  and “Grasses on the Beach”, you really feel that you are standing on the seashore with a whiff of salty sea air in a warm breeze.

Clouds over Luskentyre


Grasses on the Beach, Harris

It is fascinating to learn more about how Judith Bridgland starts the slow creative process for her landscapes:

“I start off by going to visit a location, taking a large set of photographs with two different cameras. I take hundreds and hundreds of photographs getting to understand the landscape, and seeing it in various lights and preferably at different times of the day. I will take shots of the same scene from multiple different angles, and also take samples of earth and sands to remind myself of colours.

I will return to the same place again and again, not to repeat scenes, to copy or replicate – this is an exercise in releasing yourself from merely recording the rhythm of the landscape, and experiment with texture, light and colour. It is a way of building on your understanding of a place, adding depth and pushing yourself in terms of technique.”

Observing the same seashores across the seasons and from dawn to dusk, must be inspirational and, at times, challenging to perfect the painting.  For a prime example of experimenting with texture, light and colour, the burst of a golden glow in “Sunrise in October” is a majestic seascape.   A tangible sense of movement in the lapping waves, flurry of clouds here …. and take a close look to the far eft hand side to spot what appears to be the glint of a lighthouse perched on a rock.

Sunrise, October

There is a mix of full scale paintings, oil on linen or board, as well as smaller studies in acrylic.  These will surely entice you to plan a Staycation trip around the Scottish seashore – perhaps an island hopping cruise around the Hebrides – for the great escape.   Around the gallery too are botanical studies, lovely vases of lilies and roses to brighten your home this winter.

White Lillies

The Tempest Brewing Company celebrates ten years of passion, innovation and creativity

The Tempest story reads like the plot of a jet setting, romantic movie!.

Gavin and Annika Meiklejohn first met, most appropriately, in a brewpub in Canada, and then set off travelling together in search of a dream. While based in New Zealand for a while, Gavin worked as a chef as well as taking up the challenge of home brewing in his garage.

We were making beer in New Zealand and my friends would come over from Scotland and ask why they couldn’t buy beer like this back home.”

This success kick started the idea for their own drinks business. In April 2010, they moved across the world to the Scottish Borders to set up The Tempest Brewing Company, a ten barrel brewery in a disused dairy in Kelso.

Within four years they were struggling to match production with demand and needed to develop the business with larger premises. The Tempest team moved across country to Tweedbank, near Melrose with space for improved facilities and a bottling line.

The non-stop Bottling Line, Tempest Brewing Company, Tweedbank

Developing a business against stiff competition from other craft beer makers needs entrepreneurial business skills, brand identity, imagination and creativity.

“Dry hopping, specialist malts and sourcing expensive New Zealand and American hop varieties. This was purely about making the best beer we could imagine, smoky beers, chilli beers, fruit beers… nothing was off limits. The line between creativity and gimmickry is a fine one.” 

The creative team with Gavin and Annika Meiklejohn

In Victorian Britain, a typical dish served in a Tavern was oysters accompanied by a strong dark beer – the original, cheap, fast food as Sam Weller remarks in Dickens’ novel,  The Pickwick Papers, “poverty and oysters always seem to go together.”  Having an “oyster stout” referred to eating oysters with a pint of Porter. Later on, someone had the idea to add oyster shells along with the barley and hops to enhance the flavour. Then, in 1929 an innovative brewer in New Zealand added the juicy, salty molluscs into the boiling beer wort and the true Oyster Stout was born.

Double Shuck Imperial Oyster Stout

Inspired by this classic beer, in 2015 Tempest created Double Shuck, Imperial Oyster Stout, made with 200 fresh Lindisfarne oysters. If this Stout is sipped with a platter of oysters, that would be a powerful aphrodisiac.!

The key to their success is innovation, launching topical, seasonal products with catchy names and colourful logos, such as Brave New World, Long White Cloud, Vermont Sessions, Cold Wave, Dios Mio! Lime Jalapeno, as well as enticing series, The IPA club, Discovery and Easy Rider packs of 24 cans.

For instance, Mexicake, a Chile and Chocolate Imperial Stout comes from a passion for Mexican culture and food to create a rich, boozy stout (11%ABV), infused with vanilla beans, cocoa, cinnamon, chipotle and mulato chillies.

The spicy Mexicake Stout inspired by a love of all things Mexican

The specialist, slow crafting of each distinctive ale, beer and stout is based on quality ingredients – their own strains of yeast, locally sourced malted barley and natural water. As their logo expresses it so well, “Designed and built in the Scottish Borders.”

Tempest Brewing Company has won numerous trade and business awards, including Scottish Brewery of the Year, (Scottish Beer Awards, 2016), and recently listed in RateBeer’s top 100 breweries in the world, a prestigious achievement.

Tempest Brewing Company – Awards galore + Scottish Brewery of the Year, 2016

And the latest news hot of the press is that Tempest Brewing Company is listed in the third edition of the World Atlas of Beer, 2020.  In a section under names to look out for, it is selected as one of the best new British breweries of the 21st century.  Compiled by Tim Webb & Stephen Beaumont, this is a definite, essential guide to global beers, (published by Mitchell Beazley).

Beer Atlas of the World, Webb & Beaumont, Mitchell Beazley


So it’s time to taste and test, sip and savour the three beers in the Fruit Series featuring Peach, Mango and Blueberry, to entice and tease the taste buds with their distinctively different styles, strength and flavour.

Mango Berliner – 4 % ABV

What Tempest say:  “Sunshine in a glass no matter the weather!   The perfect summer beer. We brew it with a lager fermentation to give it that crisp, refreshing drinkability, but jam pack it with plenty fresh mango and dry hops to give it a super fruity, zingy punch”.

The verdict:  Refreshing.  So, so refreshing; a somewhat tart and fruity weisse Berliner-style beer which one starts sipping and ends gulping.

It’s light, very easy drinking and packed with fresh mango. That mango is immediately evident on the zesty tropical nose, with just a little dry, grassy hops. In the mouth it’s also light and balanced with easy-going tartness and a hint of shortbread.

Some people might hope for a more bitter or more hoppy experience but that is not really what this style is about, and this is just what it should be, a really refreshing Summer beer.

Other drinkers are equally impressed:

Mango ice cream taste. Surprisingly yummy.

Floral and ripe tropical aromas, notes of mango, papaya.

Lots of exotic fruity mango sweetness in the aroma, Great Berliner Weiss!

Peach Sour – 4.5% ABV

What Tempest say:

You’ll want to use your good can opener on this tin of peaches. We’ve mellowed out the fresh acidity of the peach with creamy, delicate vanilla.”

The verdict: Another Summer in a can in the form of peaches and cream.

Again, a Berliner weisse style beer that is big on fruit, this time an initial tart peach balanced with a dollop of vanilla cream.

A surprisingly full mouthfeel leaves an acidic finish with lasting peach flavour. Easy drinking and refreshing, it will be down to palate as to whether the sourness wins out over the fruity Mango Berliner.

Blueberry Pastry Stout – 9% ABV

What Tempest say: “An outrageous blueberry stout, hot from the pastry section”.

The verdict: Even after a great meal there is probably always time for dessert; perhaps even second helpings. No surprise then that gastropubs favour their roasts and speciality burgers but also feature the perennial and ubiquitous Sticky Toffee Pudding.

When the Summer fades we can start to long for some “comfort” food and it’s time also for the zingy, fresh stone and citrus fruity and hoppy IPAs to give way to something a little richer, more indulgent – perhaps even decadent.

Step up Tempest Brewing Company’s Blueberry Pastry Stout bearing the legend “… the bluer the berry, the sweeter, the thicker, the roastier, the chocolatier, the boozier, the stout”.  Stouts of this kind should be the liquid equivalent of cake or pastry; over-the-top in terms sweet, distinctive and clearly identifiable flavour.

Tempest’s offering hits the spot with this big, intensely blueberry, deeply dark stout. On the nose, the fruity blueberry aroma is instantly there against a background of malty dark chocolate. Rich and thick with a creamy, velvety mouth feel, that sweet blueberry flavour is to the fore with just a little bitterness in the background. The finish is long and, just when you think it has stopped giving, the blueberries rush back in with a smooth and warming last bite.

The ABV. of 9.0% vol provides a big slice of booze – Just make sure that you have room for pudding.

This richly flavoured dark stout could work well paired with a hearty dish such as a spicy Chilli, a Beef and Ale Pie, or a juicy Burger.

A spicy Chilli, Steak pie, Burger perfectly paired with Tempest Stout

Nothing is so traditional as a Ploughman’s Lunch, so why not pair a Tempest beer or Stout with a mature Cheddar Cheese and crusty bread.  Highly recommended is the awards winning Cheddar Gorge Cheese, the only cheddar cheese actually made in the village of Cheddar, Somerset. (

This Blueberry Pastry Stout is a winner:

Sweet taste at first, very boozy, strong blueberry, bittersweet flavour with well-balanced hop in the finish. Exquisite.

Pours a deep mahogany black with a violet tint. Creamy pale tan head. Strong notes of Cassis  with dark chocolate, creamy vanilla and liquorice on the palate.  Cannot wait to try this at the next Tempest beer festival!

2010 – 2020  From a garage in Christchurch to a brewery in Tweedbank, Happy 10th birthday Tempest. Cheers! 

Tempest Brewing Company have hosted annual Springfest and Oktoberfest and continue to host regular Tempest Tap sessions at the Brewery.  Take a trip to Tweedbank in the stunning, tranquil Scottish Borders.

For all information on the range of beers, on line purchase, suppliers and events at the Brewery, see the website.

Address: 1&2, Block 11 Tweedbank Industrial Estate, Tweedbank  TD1 3RS

Telephone:  01896 759500

Tweedbank Station is just a six minute walk from the brewery, ideal for staff to commute and visitors travelling for brewery events and Festivals.

The re-launch of the Borders Railway in 2015 provides a vital transport link between Edinburgh and Tweedbank. Winner of the best new UK Tourism venture from the British Guild of Travel Writers, the route has brought much improved travel, tourism, social, economic, employment and environmental benefits to the Scottish Borders.

The Borders Railway campaign is now full speed ahead to extend the line to Hawick and Carlisle, which would be a further boost for Tempest Brewing Company.

The Borders Railway route through tranquil landscape from Edinburgh to Tweedbank

The Artists’ Pool showcase an imaginative response to Lockdown in “Times Like These” @ Dundas Street Gallery

The Artist’s Pool was established in 2004  with the intention of embracing the power of art to bring people together and support their creativity. Each member brings their unique personality and skill set to the pool – a mixture of cultures and experiences with an harmonious goal – to promote the positivity, connectivity and healing power of art.’

In their latest showcase, “Times Like These”, group of nine artists give a personal response to finding their lives turned upside down by lockdown.  When the rushing abruptly ceased, all routines fell out of the window and living in the present became the only option.  There’s little normal about the ’new normal’.

There is extraordinary creativity here, a fascinating sweep of varied genres from contemplative seascapes and updated versions of classic works, to colourful abstracts and Graphic Art.  Here is look around the work of four of the artists.

During World War 2,  morale-boosting notices encouraged the British people to “Keep Calm and Carry On”,  which has in recent years been endlessly adapted into humorous phrases such as “Save Water, Drink Champagne”.

The wartime slogan, “Keep Calm and Carry On”

At the start of lockdown in March 2020, the stark warning has been “Stay Home, Save Lives”.  This was the impetus for Adam Lucy to invent a series of Pop Art, public service announcements.

Artists’ Pool @ Dundas Street Gallery – featuring Adam Lucy’s poster on the right

” I would never have believed the extent of the disruption and turmoil the world would experience due to COVID-19.   A bundle of art and fashion magazines and a limited palette of acrylic paints I managed to grab from my studio, provided the materials for the work you see here”. Adam Lucy

There’s No Place Like Home, Adam Lucy

With reference to Dorothy’s dream in The Wizard of Oz, clicking her sparkly red shoes, “There’s No Place like Home” echoes BoJo’s plea to the nation on 23rd March.  This neatly-crafted collage of cut-out letters and pasted images, creates a witty and wise warning.

Likewise, in “You Have the Power” a God-like figure points his outstretched finger at Everyman/woman to adhere to the rules. Reminscent of Michaelangelo’s Creation of Adam, the meaning is about the spark of life and humanity.  These modern Keep Calm-style posters in the era of the global pandemic are effective, graphic illustrations to spread the word.

You Have the Power, Adam Lucy

Esperanza Gómez-Carrera also uses text in her artwork made from vintage books with imaginative vision. Her father’s family were in the bookbinder business,  and she grew up in a house filled with books.   With charming theatricality, she makes cut out, Intervened books, such as “Love Lyrics”, which features a tiny doll’s house-sized bride and groom at their wedding.

Love Lyrics, Esperanza Gómez-Carrera – a sculptured, Intervened book

 “ I work with sculptures, installations and performances” she explains. “For the most part, I enjoy exploring and re-interpreting everyday objects in humorous waysIt is always with a sense of respect that I give books a new chance at life and share a different message.”

Also on show are several atmopheric seascapes by Helen Campbell such as the dark, threatening rain clouds in “Evening Light.”  The fading glimmer of dusk shimmers on the rough waves, as the eye is drawn to the misty distant horizon.

Evening Light, Helen Campbell

The tiny figure, just visible to the left on the beach was apparently added at the last moment, to give perspective.  There is a real sense of isolation here, this lonely soul braving the elements.

During lockdown she spent a good deal of time embracing the natural world near her home in the New Forest.

 “ I learned birdcalls, studied the night sky, sat and watched the deer at dusk. I stopped and looked, slowly calming down and recalling why I love the changing seasons.  These paintings come from moments in my life when I was truly ‘there’ and remind me not to lose that connection so easily again.”   Helen Campbell

Against the Light, Helen Campbell

“Against the Light” is a mesmerising scene, where a bright, gold-flamed, surreal spectre stands staring out to sea, again denoting solitude away from humanity and society.  Some viewers may find a religious connotation in this haunting image.

Inspired by the work of the classic Masters, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Titian and Jacques Louis David, John Slavin has updated the narrative of historical, Biblical and legendary events for the present global crisis.

Belisarius Begging for Alms, John Slavin

As a homage to Jacques Louis David’s  original painting, “Belisarius Begging for Alms,” reflects the widespread situation of begging in city streets and metro stations today.  Slavin noticed that during the Pandemic, when the streets were deserted, homeless people in Edinburgh were given accommodation and financial support.

‘Babel Tower’ is his reimagination of Bruegel’s ‘The Great Tower of Babel’, 1563.

Babel Tower, John Slavin

 ‘I’m concerned with the fall of the tower, the aftermath of incommunicable shock and the silent nature of Babel.  What are the consequences of total collapse, …. that the state is compromised, as has been the case with covid-19.”

“Times Like These” is a thought-provoking and inspiring exhibition which reflects the artists’ personal emotions, experiences and vision of this brave new, socially distanced and disrupted world.

Dundas Street Gallery, 6 Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6HZ

21 – 29 August, 2020

For more information on The Artists’ Pool, this exhibition and the artists:

Times Like These exhibition by The Artists’ Pool @ Dundas Street Gallery

The Summer Exhibition at the Grilli Gallery, Edinburgh: a joyful expression of flowers, femininity, seashore and sunshine.

Summer Exhibition now open at the Grilli Gallery, Dundas Street

This is a most inspirational selection of paintings to celebrate summer with a relaxed sense of freedom. – which is just what we all need to experience at this time.

Marion Drummond, Joan Gillespie, David Smith and Muriel Barclay, who regularly show at the Grilli Gallery, bring together a well curated, complementary group of artists covering portraiture, still life, figurative work and landscapes.

As you step inside the gallery, the first painting on the left hand wall is a charming illustration of two young women, dressed in pretty sun-dresses and clinking their coupes of champagne; they appear to be sitting outside, smiling so intently at each other as if they have not met for a long while – indeed the title is Remember That.

Remember That, Muriel Barclay

Muriel Barclay is influenced by such artists as Manet, Degas, Matisse, as well as portrait photography by Testino, Lee Miller and Diane Arbus.  Like a fashion shot, such delightful detail here from the elegant clothes, loose strands of hair, soft pink blush on the girls’ cheeks and manicured crimson nails. Imagine the personal narrative of these friends or sisters, behind the astute observation of their genuine joy, capturing this moment, as if through the lens of a camera.

Dance Class at L’Opera, Edgar Degas (detail, 1872)

Like Edgar Degas, the romantic world of ballet is also dramatised by Barclay to reflect the classic style,  movement and energy.  Before Class shows a glimpse of the dedication and tireless training to ensure perfection in every step, poise and posture.

Before Class, Muriel Barclay

Their gleaming, glowing skin and stretched, taut muscles express the physical work-out at the Barre.  This is just one of a series illustrating dance and music performance, with a focus on graceful gestures from fingers to pointed feet, the quiet concentration of creativity.

Private Cello, Muriel Barclay

A sublime selection of floral paintings by the inimitable Marion Drummond, PAI, with blossoming roses and posies in porcelain jugs and glass vases.  Pink Roses is simply mesmerising, each thickly painted petal shimmers in shades of strawberries and cream, with the shaft of sunlight reflected in the glass jug.

Pink Roses, Marion Drummond, PAI

I  would probably describe myself as a representational artist and my focus is on light. My subject matter is always real and studied; number of petals of any flower observed.  I used to paint with a knife but now tend to work quickly with fingers and rags, I sculpt the paint, feeling my way and mixing on the board for speed and spontaneity.  I cannot feel anything like the same excitement when working with brushes.” Marion Drummond, PAI

A gentle palette of yellow and green is beautifully crafted in Narcissus, again with subtle luminosity, all part of her distinctive, masterly technique.

Narcissus, Marion Drummond, PAI

Happy Flowers is a stunningly realistic Still Life with lemon and orange to give perspective; such vivid colours and texture contrasting the lush green leaves with the fragility of soft petals.   These botanical paintings would certainly bring a virtual floral scent to your home year round.

Happy Flowers, Marion Drummond, PAI

Many years of hill walking, mountaineering and rock climbing in the Highlands has instilled David Smith, RSW, a passion for nature and outdoor life.  After travelling around with sketch pad in hand to paint en plein air, here are several land and seascapes from the Isle of Lewis to the South of France.

David Smith, RSW – painting “en plein air”

A charming image is of a Hebridean Fisherman, wrapped up in yellow oilskins beside the trawler on a pier, checks his bulging fishing net – you can almost smell the salt sea air.  Also most atmospheric is The North East Coast,  with its wild grass and seaweed covered shore line, a curving row of cottages, reminiscent of Joan Eardley’s beloved Catterline.

The North Sea Coast, David Smith, RSW

The theme of fishing is also used in meticulously crafted compositions, such as Mackerel and Fruit, juxtaposing a shiny green-scaled fish with a few purple plums on a carved wooden table.    All that’s missing is a recipe – oily fish and sweet juicy fruit would be so healthy and delicious.

Mackerel and Fruit, David Smith, RSW

Elsewhere, if you are a lover of seafood, a painting of a large red Lobster will make your mouth water.

From a turquoise-tinted Cote d’Azur, in Canal du Midi, Argens,  take a trip to another tranquil scene, Mountain Villages which has a more abstract structure, a patchwork of pointillist fields around a cluster of red tile rooftops. (see image below).

Joan Gillespie studied with Alberto Morrocco at Duncan of Jordanstone and then Sir Robin Philipson at the ECA, becoming inspired by the Scottish Colourists and the masters of Fauvism – Derain, Matisse and Cezanne.  She is renowned for her iconic portraits and floral studies with impressionist flair.

Yellow Tulips, Joan Gillespie

Take time to absorb the colour and decorative design in Yellow Tulips, a painterly block pattern with a touch of Peploe-esque vision of a decorative domestic scene; perfect colour palette and tonal harmony.

There is so much in these mere objects, flowers, leaves, jugs, what not – colours, form, relation. I can never see mystery coming to an end’. Samuel John Peploe, 1929  (1871-1935)

Still Life with Tulips, Samuel Peploe (c. 1930, Art Gallery and Museum, Kelvingrove, Glasgow)

Here too are Joan’s fresh-faced portraits defining the essence of modern femininity with an independent strength of character.

“In the Garden Room” illustrates the cool, calm pose of a young woman, simply defined, akin to a quickly drafted sketch with just a couple of lines to depict her brows, nose and eyes, sitting in quiet contemplation.

In the Garden Room, Joan Gillespie

Yet there is such depth of dramatic mood here, with the bold, black outline of her figure, clothes, chair and plants, a vivid blend of blue, pink, green, gold.  Is that a slight smile playing around her raspberry-red cupid bow lips.?   As if day dreaming, this is an evocative, serene composition.

Other beguiling figurative studies of women here too, reclining, resting, each lost in their own thoughts and solitude.   Little Nude is also a delicate, intimate scene, the model’s head hidden beneath a large black hat, and curled up in the foetal position, she seems to be hiding from the world.

Little Nude, Joan Gillespie

Vivacious colour, decorative detail and an enriching sense of imagination flow through these paintings of people and places, each with its own intriguing backround story. This is a joyful expression of sunshine and seashore, flowers and womanhood to celebrate the magic of Midsummer days.

Grilli Gallery

Summer Exhibition, 13 June to 18 July, 2020

20 a Dundas Street,  Edinburgh EH3 6HZ

Open at present by appointment only.  View the exhibition on line

The gallery will open from 29 June, with restrictions on visitor numbers for health and safety.  

Email:            Telephone: 07876 013 013

Diary dates: 

“Edinburgh Festival-time” Solo Exhibition

Jack Morrocco DA FRSA

25 July to 29 August 2020

Mountain Villages, David Smith, RSW

Highland Boundary Distillery: Wild Scottish Botanical Spirits & Liqueurs – for natural, refreshing, cool cocktails this summer.

Chapter 2

Strathmore Glen around Blairgowrie, with its loamy soil, long summer days and mild climate, is renowned for the best soft fruits in Scotland, if not the UK, especially raspberries.   This peaceful, lush landscape is home to Highland Boundary Distillery at Kirklandbank Farm, located, as its name suggests, on the geological fault line which runs north west from Stonehaven to the Isle of Arran.

The green, fertile landscape around Highland Boundary, near Alyth, Perthshire

The Distillery opened in 2016 by Dr. Marian Bruce and Simon Montador, and their ethically produced wild, Scottish spirits and liqueurs are intricately linked to their specialist conservation of this natural environment.

Around the Farm Distillery, they nurture indigenous trees, flourishing meadows and hedgerows as well as a wildlife pond with aqueous and wetland plants to attract dragonflies, newts and frogs.  In the apothecary garden, a collection of medicinal herbs, borage, sweet violet and rare species is central to their biodiversity, flora and fauna research.

After a couple of years of careful experimentation with foraged buds and botanicals, they launched Birch and Elderflower Wild Scottish Spirit  which was awarded Gold Medal at the San Francisco Spirits Competition, 2019.

The new Larch and Honeysuckle Wild Scottish Spirit

Recently launched is their Larch and Honeysuckle Wild Scottish Spirit and already a prestigious Double Gold medal winner at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2020.

Standing tall and slender, the European larch is unique because it is the only deciduous conifer in the country, and in folklore, said to have protective powers against evil spirits. In Spring, the larch flower is a small green bud often tinged with pink before ripening into bright green cones, turning gold in Autumn.

Flowering green and pink larch buds

The larch cones are picked in the local woodlands to be infused and macerated in grain spirit for several months to extract the oils and flavour.  Just a touch of honeysuckle essence is then added for the final distillation process.

The Honeysuckle

“I plucked a honeysuckle where the hedge on high is quick with thorn,

And climbing for the prize was torn, and by the thorns and by the wind,

The blossom that I took was thinn’d,  And yet I found it sweet and fair”.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

The exotic Honeysuckle beloved by honey bees and butterflies

In the language of flowers, honeysuckle – aka woodbine – is a symbol of good luck and devoted affection in love and marriage.  With antibiotic properties the infusion of flowers were traditionally used to treat coughs, headaches and food poisoning.

The Springtime cream trumpet-shaped petals slowly turn an exotic pink in Summer. At Highland Boundary they only pick a small sample of flowers as required, preserving the blooms for butterflies and bumblebees to extract pollen and nectar.

On the nose, the first whiff of Larch and Honeysuckle Wild Scottish Spirit is beautifully perfumed with a fragrant aroma of vanilla and rose blossom.  Sipped neat over ice, the taste is a complex balance of fresh pine and citrus fruits.  Larch buds in fact have a similar flavour to juniper berries, the key ingredient of gin.

Therefore, ideal to try with Tonic water such as the Walter Gregor range, crafted from herbs and botanicals in the garden of the eponymous 19th century Aberdeenshire minister and plantsman.

Walter Gregor Tonic Waters

The speciality Spiced Tonic with cinnamon, cloves and orange would be a fine mixer.   Alternatively, for a summer pink drink, Scottish Raspberry Tonic ….and add a few fresh raspberries too.

Walter Gregor Scottish Raspberry Tonic

Highland Boundary Wild Spirits offer a subtle botanical alternative to gin, vodka, rum and tequila in a diverse range of cocktails.

Wild Margarita

Tequila is dominated by smoked oak, vanilla, caramel and spices with similar characteristics to this aromatic Scottish spirit.

45 ml Larch and Honeysuckle Wild Spirit

15 ml Cointreau or Triple Sec

30 ml Lime Juice

Ice cubes

(Various Margarita recipes give different measurements for Tequila and Cointreau)

Add all ingredients into a cocktail shaker. Wet the rim of a glass with a wedge of lime and then dip into a saucer of salt.  Strain the cocktail and serve straight, (or on the rocks), with a slice of lime on the side.   The Cointreau and lime give a tart citrus flavour to the vanilla and spicy undertones of the Wild Spirit – a hint of Mexican sunshine in a glass.

A citrus and spicy Margarita – Mexican sunshine in a glass

As well as a Birch and Elderflower Liqueur, there’s also a Birch and Sloe Liqueur, damson pink in colour and bursting with hedgerow leafy freshness.

Birch and Sloe Liqueur

The Blackthorn is a hedgerow plant producing oval leaves, snow-white flowers and dark purple-blue Sloe berries between August and November.  The sloe is like a wild plum but too sour to eat as a fruit, and traditionally picked in Autumn to make homemade jam and jelly, wine and gin.

Blackthorn Plant with dark blue Sloe Berries in Autumn

Birch and Sloe Liqueur has oodles of forest fruit aroma – cherry, plum, blackberry – perfect for sipping with ice or in a flute topped with sparkling wine, Prosecco or Champagne, for a refreshing pink aperitif, like a Kir Royale.

There’s also a slight bittersweet aftertaste reminiscent of Campari.  You could therefore adapt the classic Italian cocktail with Birch and Sloe Liqueur and instead of Gin, try Birch and Elderflower Wild Spirit.

Classic, classy Negroni (with a Scottish twist)

Sloe Negroni

25 ml Sloe Liqueur (instead of Campari)

25 ml Gin ……or try Birch and Elderflower Wild Spirit

25ml Sweet Vermouth

Fill a glass three-quarters full with ice. Pour over the spirits. Stir gently until fully chilled. Garnish with an orange twist.


Highland Boundary has invented this fruity tipple in celebration of a natural woodland of trees, fruits and flowers in colourful harmony.

In a glass add some crushed ice and pour in the Birch and Sloe Liqueur together with the lemon juice and elderflower syrup.  Stir and add the soda water.  Drizzle over the Cherry liqueur at the end, add slice of lemon and serve.

Marian Bruce and Simon Montador are true inspirational entrepreneurs with such a magical, “spiritual” vision through the care of their local environment.

“Never has our reconnection to nature seemed more important and we’re delighted to make our second release botanical spirit.  We love to feature new and exciting flavours drawn from iconic Scottish plants around us in Perthshire and it’s a pleasure to create drinks that showcase the fantastic landscape. ” 

Highland Boundary Distillery

For information on the distillery, range of award winning Wild Scottish Spirits and Liqueurs, on line purchase, where to buy, serving suggestions and cocktail recipes.

See Chapter 1 for a review of Birch and Elderflower Wild Scottish Spirit and Liqueur.

The Balvenie Stories: ‘The Edge of Burnhead Wood’ 19-Year-Old – a legendary new single malt to savour this summer

The story starts with a sprig of heather …

Actually, it starts, like all stories, with inspiration. “Stories are the lifeblood of The Balvenie Distillery and are deeply embedded in all the work we do” says The Balvenie Malt Master, David C Stewart MBE.

The Balvenie Distillery, established 1893

This particular chapter in the history of the distillery is marked by release of The Edge of Burnhead Wood 19-Year-Old, the latest expression to join its celebrated The Balvenie Stories range.

It’s a story that “captures the majestic Speyside landscape and the inventive essence of The Balvenie’s loyal and determined craftspeople.”

The history of whisky making in Dufftown, in the ancient parish of Mortlach, Moray is long and celebrated. Situated on the river Fiddich and with relatively mild, damp winters and cool, cloudy summers the town would go on to produce more malt than any other in Scotland and become “The Whisky Capital of the World”.

The town was founded in 1817 by James Duff, 4th Earl of Fife to give employment to soldiers returning from the Napoleonic wars.

James Duff, 4th Earl of Fife

The Clan family of William Grant had been in the area even longer, and he had over 20 years’ experience in the whisky industry before establishing the Glenfiddich Distillery there in 1887.  Success would see him develop The Balvenie Distillery in a nearby converted mansion in May of 1893 using second-hand “seasoned” stills, known to be capable of producing good whisky.

Balvenie would be a sister to Glenfiddich but came to be known as more “craft” and esoteric, experimenting and producing limited editions, but all of undisputed quality: rich, luxuriously smooth and underpinned by the distinctively honeyed character.

The distillery is only one of a handful with its own malting floor and the only to carry out all the “Five Rare Crafts” on-site. It still grows its own barley, uses traditional floor maltings and keeps both coppersmiths and coppers on site, making The Balvenie the most handcrafted of single malts.

The distillery “remains true to the techniques and stories passed down by its craftsmen from generation to generation, while also looking forward by exploring new techniques, flavours and marriages to develop unique and original Balvenie expressions.”

The Balvenie Stories Collection

And that is what these stories are all about. The Four “chapters” created since May 2019 are a collection of single malt whiskies representing tales of character, endeavour and generational knowledge gathered at the Balvenie Distillery.  These are narratives peopled by the crafts people sowing the barley, firing the kiln, watching and mending the coppers, making casks. The whisky tells its own story, the taste holding memoirs of its making from the origin of the casks and barley to notes on perhaps a little added peat or heather or the toasting of the barrel.

The Sweet Toast of American Oak 12-Year-Old tells the story of the things that can happen when an ancient technique meets fresh ideas with the use of cask finishing in Virgin Oak barrels from Kelvin Cooperage in Louisville, Kentucky.

A Week of Peat 14-Year-Old is a tale of a return to the way The Balvenie used to be made, and of an experimentation with extra peatiness.

A Day of Dark Barley 26-Year-Old tells of experimentation with oven-roasted barley to make changes at the point of distillation.

The latest story, The Edge of Burnhead Wood 19-Year-Old, launched in May 2020, is one of exploration and craft. It is the first ever expression of The Balvenie to be made entirely from ingredients grown on the estate. Inspiration comes from the winding paths through the steep Speyside hills surrounding the distillery leading to a moor of heather, the “wee modest crimson-tipped flower.”

Heather in its various forms cloaks some 4 to 5 million acres of the Scottish landscape and peat contains centuries of it in compressed form, but this story retraces that search for a local ingredient.  The answer, of course, came from local knowledge and the distillery worker who knew where it lay. The journey up the rolling hills reveals views of Dufftown below, before passing through the barley field and towards the tree line. It’s a path that would have been well known to William Grant and perhaps smugglers and bootleggers. The acidic ground underfoot becomes wetter, the snow melt feeding the heather and the same spring water used to produce the whisky.

The process of discovery and experimentation at the point of distillation back in 2000 would fondly come to be known as “The Heather Trials”. With a twist to the tale the hopes nearly went up in smoke.  Concern that the sap within the herbal, earthy newly cut heather might introduce a bitter edge led to it being left to dry before use, but when added to the kiln – whoosh, and it was gone!  Luckily experience would win out and dampened and laid on top of dark coals over glowing red-hot it gives off a blue grey plume of smoke.

There are back stories of worries of low supplies of malt and water, that there might be “no more turning the floor”.  The main theme is one of tradition but with a lot of experimentation as well.  And time, always time.  Things happen at a slower pace at The Balvenie.  The people who were featured at the beginning of the adventure are only now seeing the end, some twenty years on.

The end?   Well the conclusion is the whisky itself.

The outcome produced something different, as intended with the typical honey sweetness but tempered down. Not fruity on the nose, it’s rather fresher and slightly herbal. The flavour softens in the mouth, oak dryness and warmth opening up into richer dried fruit and a hint of spice. The finish is very long and lingering, slightly sweet and floral.

“The Edge of Burnhead Wood,” a heather scented ‘legendary’ single malt

As a prologue, the story telling is also carried through to the packaging with a bespoke illustration by Andy Lovell, evoking the light and atmosphere of the distillery’s landscape.

And as an epilogue for those similarly fascinated with the parallels between storytelling and whisky- making, The Balvenie has produced a book exploring the themes of endeavour, endurance, determination and resolve.  Pursuit: The Balvenie Stories Collection, contains seventeen stories taking us from the Australian outback to a Hong Kong cafe, from the writing desk of F. Scott Fitzgerald to the vast emptiness of the Antarctic.

Pour a dram and immerse yourself in this traveller’s tale across moorland heather, its scent distilled in this new single malt.

The Balvenie

The Edge of Burnhead Wood 19-Year-Old was launched globally on 1st May 2020 and available from select whisky retailers, RRP £260.00

The entire Balvenie Stories collection is currently available in select whisky retailers, at the following prices; The Sweet Toast of American Oak 12-Year-Old (RRP £45.00), The Week of Peat 14-Year-Old (RRP £65.00) and A Day of Dark Barley 26-Year-Old (RRP £600.00).


Highland Boundary Distillery– the story of how Scotland’s ancient woodlands inspired a collection of hand-crafted Wild Spirits

The geological fault line fracturing the landscape across the Scottish Highlands

Chapter One

Once upon a time, the ice slowly melted.

The land it revealed is what we now call the Strathmore Valley, scoured out by an Ice-Age glacier along the Highland Boundary line which separates the Scottish Highlands from the Lowlands.

The Birch Fairy (Cicely Mary Barker)

The great wood of Caledon, a primaeval forest, covered most of Scotland for thousands of years and the first pioneers of this land left anew was the Birch.  Able to thrive in the most forbidding of landscapes it is no wonder that the first human settlers treated these trees with mystical reverence.

The “Lady of the Woods” would come to symbolise fertility, renewal and purification for the Celtic people.  The birch would provide good fuel, useful for smoking herrings and in the distillation of whisky.

The power of the Birch marked the imagination, scenery and language. its roots running deep in Scottish culture and heritage.  The old Scottish word for Birch is Birk.

Now Simmer blinks on flowery braes,
And o’er the chrystal streamlets plays;
Come let us spend the lightsome days
In the birks of Aberfeldy.    

Robert Burns (1787).

Robert Burns’ statue in the Birks of Aberfeldy, which inspired several poems

In 1787, Robert Burns, the National Bard, visited The Birks of Aberfeldy, a riverside woodland with an impressive waterfall. He was fascinated by the birk and hawthorn, finding that the simple traditions associated with them evoked the passing seasons, love, fleeting fulfilment and loss.

Around thirty five  miles from this poetic spot,  Kirklandbank Farm near Alyth, Perthshire is located right on the geological fault line.  This is where the Highlands rise to the North and the Strathmore valley spreads out to the South, a tranquil, green, richly fertile landscape.

As well as rearing Rockies, a rare breed of Hebridean sheep, Dr. Marian Bruce and Simon Montador are biologists with a passion for biodiversity and conservation. Surrounded by ancient trees, native flowers, hedgerows and meadows, they were inspired to capture the essence of this natural wilderness with true spiritual imagination.

The birch is just one within a panoply of sacred trees. 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 Elder’s delicate, frothy white flowers are instantly recognisable and have been widely used in cordials and liqueurs.

White Springtime Elderflower blossom

Aptly named, their Highland Boundary Distillery was developed within the old milking parlour at their farm and here, with magical innovation, they hand-craft a fine collection of botanical spirits and liqueurs.

Hand picked Birch buds

After careful experimentation with the flavours of local flora, Birch and Elderflower Wild Spirit was launched in 2018.  Birch buds and elderflowers are picked in Springtime to ensure that only a small amount from any single plant is picked in season. The botanicals are combined with grain spirit and mineral-rich spring water, filtered through the red sandstone bedrock from beneath the Alyth Hill.

The pure, natural botanical Birch and Elderflower Wild Spirit in a Birch Wood

The 40% ABV strength Birch and Elderflower Wild Scottish Spirit is produced in small batches through a four-stage sequence of dilution, maceration, distillation and infusion, using a 100-litre copper alembic Still from Portugal.

The simple, harmonious approach of production follows the Highland Boundary’s Eco-Green ethos with solar panels, biomass heating, recycling water, sustainable harvesting to preserve and regenerate the wild, natural environment.

The bottle (with a cork and wood stopper) features a logo of a cool, sea-blue wolf, which celebrates Scottish wildness and is a modern twist on the Pictish animal stone carvings found near the farm.

And it all links into Scottish cultural heritage.  The Scottish botanist John C. Loudon wrote  about the Birch in his 1842 Encyclopaedia of Trees and Shrubs: “The Highlanders of Scotland make everything [out] of it”. In traditional medicine the birch provided healing tonics, ointments and oils.”

Medicinal properties for the Elder were documented from as early as 1620 as a cure-all for everything from freckles to piles and bites from mad dogs. (Good to know!).

So, back to the story of ice. The Birch and Elderflower Wild Spirit is more akin to whisky and suitable as an ice-cold shot, served on the rocks or for a long drink with a mixer – sparkling water, soda or tonic.

Birch and Elderflower Wild Scottish Spirit with Tonic

The forest pine-flavour of birch buds, fragrant notes of the elderflower with a splash of fizzing tonic, and a slice of lemon or apple, creates a pure and refreshing drink.

Highly recommended is Bitter Orange and Elderflower Tonic from London Essence to draw out the honeyed elderflower and zesty citrus notes,  and add a twist of orange peel.

London Essence, Bitter Orange and Elderflower tonic

As well as a long ice cold drink, this Wild Spirit has the complex depth shows versatility and can substitute gin, vodka, rum and tequila in classic and modern cocktails.

Forest Dry Martini 

50ml Birch and Elderflower Wild Scottish Spirit + 25 ml dry vermouth + ice.

The earthy, floral flavour of the spirit is a fine alternative to Gin, and shaken up with Vermouth, a complex fortified herbal, spicy wine, results in a perfectly balance, bittersweet Martini.  A garnish of an olive or indeed sprig of thyme enhances the herbal scent.

Forest Dry Martini with a sprig of thyme

See the website for many other classics such as the MacJito, a modern Scottish minty whirl on a Mojito, a reinvented Wild Negroni and a spicy Bloody Mary.

Creative colourful cocktails too inspired from Scottish literature and legends such as the much loved Outlander time-travelling Highlander tales.

The White Raven: In a cocktail shaker add ice cubes and pour in the Birch and Elderflower Wild Scottish Spirit, lime juice, honeysuckle syrup and apple juice. Garnish with borage flowers.

Birch and Elderflower Wild Scottish Spirit was awarded a Gold Medal at the 2019 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, presented to “Exceptional spirits that are near the pinnacle of achievement.”

Highland Boundary has also produced a Birch and Elderflower Liqueur has also been crafted for a lighter alternative (20% ABV) and is equally versatile in various refreshing drinks.  The wolf logo now wears a jazzy Technicolour Dreamcoat.

At the San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2020 the liqueur was awarded a Silver Medal.

To let nature come to the fore, a dram of the Liqueur simply flows over a generous glacial block. It’s not crystal clear, there has evidently been some “magic” going on.  Nor is it syrupy as might be expected with just a light viscosity.  The nose too is subtle, a light floral from the Elderflower, but not overpowering. Soft and subtle to the taste, with again those flowery notes, a little resin and warmth and a long fairly sweet aftertaste.

Just add a glacier block of ice to Birch and Elderflower Liqueur

The liqueur can also be added to Prosecco or Champagne, just like a soupcon of Crème de Cassis for a Kir or Peach puree in the Bellini.

The pungent pine aroma and fresh floral taste of Birch and Elderflower Wild Scottish Spirit and Birch and Elderflower Liqueur, is akin to a ramble through a Scottish woodland; Rabbie Burns would certainly have approved.  Slainte Mhath.!

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Highland Boundary

For all information on the Wild Scottish Spirits and liqueurs, where to purchase, on line sales, cocktail recipes and how to serve and full background on this farm distillery in Perthshire.

Birch and Elderflower Liqueur –  poetically inspired by Robert Burns