Alcohol

Friday Favourites – Indie and craft London Dry Gins

Doing a quick poll around the office, we found that the most popular summer alcoholic refreshment here is the classic ice cold and zest gin and tonic. An ideal accompaniment to sitting out on the terrace on a warm and balmy evening. This week at The Amazing Blog we would like to share with you three of our exception #amazingfinds all centred around international indie and craft London Dry Gin brands. The first thing to note is that a London Dry Gin doesn’t have to be made in England. Instead, London Dry (also known as London Gin) refers to that which is made under a series of mind-bogglingly complex EU regulations that were put in place in February 2008. (definition quoted from Ginfoundry.com  )

Something else that you might not know, is that although gin has become somewhat of a British staple, its origins are actually from 17th century Holland, where it was originally used for medicinal purposes. During this period, British soldiers fought alongside the Dutch in the Thirty Year’s War, where they would imbibe in a glass or three of gin before battle, to help them acquire ‘Dutch courage’ - a popular phrase that stills carries through today.

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We’re going to start by going ‘down under’ to the wine region of the Yara Valley, with the Australian brand Four Pillars and their collaboration with Swedish brand Hernö creating their Dry Island Gin . This all started in October 2017 when Swedish Hernö ‘s founder Jon Hilgren visited founder Cam Mackenzie at his Four Pillars distillery. Hernö came to market first in 2012, exactly one year before Four Pillars, and by 2014, they were both appearing on global lists of the ‘new gins to watch’.  The collaboration began by both of them tasting each other’s range of gins, gaining inspiration and then together creating this rather special 42.8% vol Dry Island Gin.

This Aussie x Swedish collaboration includes particular botanicals given to native Australia such as river mint, roasted wattle seed, strawberry gum, lemon myrtle, and meadowsweet. Although the base is made up European juniper (of course), coriander and fresh lemons. This international gin fusion is definitely one not to be missed.  We think best enjoyed as a dry martini with a lemon twist and a sprig of thyme to bring out all these beautiful citrus notes and a lovely floral cut-grass character.  Or as per their suggestion as a Dry (Island) Martini which consists of 60ml Dry Island Gin, 20ml Cocchi Americano (a quinine-laced aperitif wine) and a dash Angostura Orange Bitters. Stir the ingredients over plenty of ice until appropriately diluted (about 15 seconds of stirring). Strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with lemon peel, twisted to express the oils. Delicious! But be warned as we found that this cocktail really packed a potent punch!  You can purchase the 70cl of Dry Island Gin for £37.75 here .

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Next, we go to the emerald isle, for an Irish craft gin, Dublin City Gin.  Launched in 2016 by the couple Jim O'Connor and Sheila Cooney, two gin enthusiast who came up with the idea that Dublin needed a hometown gin, hence Dublin City Gin was born. Their efforts have certainly paid off with awards such as Gold ‘Super Premium’ at Global & World Gin Masters and a Gold medal as the overall Best European Craft Gin 2018 at ICSEA in Netherlands – great accolades for such a new contender.

What we love about this gin, is that it is Irish to the core, with their Irish milk spirit as the base, which helps to give it their smooth and silky finish, and the organic rhubarb grown along the Grand Canal in Dublin.  All loving prepared by hand in small batches of 600 with only a total of seven different botanicals. As they say this is their “Irish gin with a Dublin accent” In summary, they suggest pouring their gin over ice, with tonic “…all with a soft citrus ruby-red grapefruit, orange or slice of fresh ginger to make it sing!”  So popular is Dublin City Gin, that the Fitzwilliam Hotel in Dublin has even created three signature cocktails exclusive to them. Given the botanicals we decided to try this gin in a Negroni, 30ml Dublin City Gin, 30ml Campari and 30ml Vermouth Rosso. Add all ingredients together, shake well with cracked ice, strain into glass over cubed ice and garnish with a twist of orange peel. Very moreish, so much so we all just had to have another! To buy your 70cl bottle of 42 % volume Dublin City Gin for £37.95, see here .

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Back to the UK with Fatty’s Organic Gin , this is amongst only a handful of certified organic gins that are now available here in the UK. The brain child of former sports agent Phillipa ‘Fatty’ Gee, who self-funded her start-up: “I knew if I was struggling to find a certified organic gin that was uncompromising on taste, others would to.” Cleverly she saw a gap in the market and took her inspiration for her key ingredient from her native Dulwich, which means ‘meadow where dill grows.’  Organic Soil Association approved, they also believe in Fair Trade Produce for sourcing all their 100% organic ingredients. Even their bottles are sprayed with organic ink and screen printed at low temperatures in order to be kinder to the environment. It is also an award-winning gin, achieving a Gold at the Global Gin Masters 2018, and the only organic gin to achieve this.

 

Apart from the dill it also has the finest organic grain and botanicals all carefully selected from around the world. A combination that creates a full flavour and a crisp refreshing finish and noted for its herbaceousness with the dill and citrus. We found it to be the lightest of all three featured London Dry Gins on the palate. We also think that it lends itself perfectly to slightly more subtle flavoured cocktail. So, we tried their recommended Cucumber & Dill Gin Mojito: 50ml of Fatty’s Organic Gin, four lime wedges, two slices of cucumber, two springs of fresh dill and one teaspoons of sugar.  Add the Fatty’s Gin, sugar, dill and lime wedges in to glass and muddle. Dice one slice of cucumber, half fill the glass with crushed ice and diced cucumber. Stir well and top up with soda. It was bottoms up all round and we’re ashamed to say that it didn’t touch the sides! Get your 40% Volume 70cl bottle of Fatty’s Organic Gin for £45 here .

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Finally, we’d like to round off by introducing you to The Gin Dictionary. This 256 page A-Z compendium of gins is an indispensable guide for all gin drinkers. With more than 200 of entries covering everything from history, ingredients and distilling techniques to flavour notes, cocktails and the many popular varieties of gin from all around the world. All researched and penned by the award-wining gin expert David T Smith. Covering the explanation of ABV to the history and instruction of making a Zanzibar cocktail; we found it comprehensive without being overdone or pedantic. Published by Octopus books and available for £15 here .

With the current ‘gin revolution’ sweeping the world, there has never been a better time to explore craft gins and their new botanicals. We hope that these featured three London Dry Gins will give inspiration be a great starting point for you. Bottoms up!

Kill The Cat Tasting Sessions

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The first of March is here, and (thankfully), so is Friday! We're not crazy drinkers at The Amazing Blog, but we'd be lying if we didn't admit to enjoying a tipple or two at the weekend. We were therefore excited to be introduced to Kill The Cat...a craft beer bottle shop with a difference! Based on the famous Brick Lane, they have over 150 specially curated beers, not only providing standard beers but a vast array of unique and innovative flavours. Whether you're a connoisseur, or more amateur (we're certainly in the latter category), Kill The Cat are committed to providing their customers with a newfound favourite. Even better still, you can choose from three tasting tours - with expert advice to help you along your way to finding something a little different from your 'usual.'

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Having discovered this brand, we were keen to delve further into the way in which they operate. Those with a penchant for beer may recognise that many companies group their beers by brewery or geography, and while this may be no bad thing, we were intrigued by the unique categorisation of Kill The Cat's offerings. Taking inspiration directly from the brand name (and with a little pun inspiration), you'll find that Cat 1 beers cover the familiar, whereas Cat 2 will provide a slightly rarer and unusual range. For the adventurous, Cat 3 is ideal, acclaimed to include beers that will ‘blow your mind.’ Now if you're feeling a little lost, then never fret, the beers are also arranged by their colour (light to dark), and expert advice is on hand, with top picks each month to provide a ittle inspiration.

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If you’re still not sure where to start, then a beer tasting is the answer, with three different options: The Beer Curious, The One Track Mind (IPA's) and The Killers. As the name suggests, The Beer Curious is an introduction to the world of beer, with a guided tasting of six beers, ranging from easy drinkers to more full-on brews. If you're a more seasoned pro or prefer IPA's, then The One Track Mind will float your boat, again with six drinks to try. Finally, for those looking to find innovative beers above the rest, then The Killers tour will be for you! This includes the tasting of nine different beers, picked acutely because of their uniqueness and rarity. Whichever tour you choose, you'll be enticed by the contemporary and fresh interior. Each tour lasts for around an hour, and you'll be treated to complimentary snacks - what's not to love?

Price wise, these tastings are reasonable, ranging from £22.50-£45 per person. These rates depend on the number of people in your tasting group, and the tour you decide on. To see the full price list, then visit the Kill The Cat website here where you can view their availability and browse the online shop. We think this would make an excellent gift for a beer lover, or an equally nice way to whittle away an hour or so with friends. Be sure to let us know how you get on, and we hope you have a wonderful beer-curious weekend!

Christmas Spirits

It’s just four days until the big day - our trees are up, the food is ordered, and both children and adults are suitably excited. However, if you’re like us at The Amazing Blog, then you may still be on the hunt for some last minute presents, or a few Christmas tipples to add to your festive drinks cabinet. For our final blog post of 2018, we bring you our top Christmas spirits, helping you to become a stellar host, whether that be for Christmas Day itself, or perhaps even for the New Year.

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Firstly, we came across Pedrino, the brand bringing Mediterranean flavours to the aperitif market. Taking inspiration from Spain, Portugal and Italy, Pedrino’s three tonics are the ideal gift for an aperitivo lover or a great addition to your dinner party drink’s cabinet. We tried all three - Sherry & Tonic, Ruby & Tonic and Vermouth & Tonic, and were pleasantly surprised by their light and refreshing nature. Thanks to their low alcohol content, at 5.5%abv, these drinks are perfect as a pre-dinner tipple; only strengthened by the use of all-natural and carefully proportioned ingredients.

While they are delicious when consumed on a hot summer’s afternoon, we found these tonics particularly apt for the Christmas period too. Given that sherry and port are often consumed in the colder and darker months, we were pleased to find a lighter alternative. All three are handmade with citrus botanicals, giving freshness and depth. Equally, only the best and award-winning fortified wines are used, alongside good quality tonic to ensure that your guests (and yourself) will not merely be given a watered down spirit. Our favourite? As port lovers, we loved the Ruby & Tonic, especially when drunk over ice and served with a garnish of lime. That said, it was hard to choose, and the other two closely follow. The bonus though, is that they need only to be served over ice (with a garnish if you’re feeling fancy). If this sounds just the tipple, then you can purchase these aperitifs from Waitrose at just £1.95 per bottle. Click here to see for yourself.

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If you’re more of a rum lover, then let us introduce The Duppy Share. Founded by George Frost, the brand brings the essence of the Caribbean back to London, with a focus not just on the Jerk seasoned food and reggae music, but on the nation’s love for rum. Made from a unique blend of fiery Jamaican rum and smooth Barbadian rum, this spirit is both bold and tropical. For those less inclined to go for rum, rest assured that this was a hit across the office, so much so that we were flipping coins for who could take the remainder of the bottle home! We’re also not the only lovers of this brand, as The Duppy Share was the official sponsor of the infamous Notting Hill Carnival in the summer, testament to the brand’s ethos and high-quality product.

The use of a traditional copper pot still gives the Jamaican rum its poignancy, aged in old white oak bourbon barrels and utilising the perfect weather conditions to increase the rate of ageing. On the other hand, the Barbadian method of continuous and pot still distillation gives notes of caramel - which when combined, gives this dark rum a deep, yet refreshing flavour. We like to drink this 3-year-old rum with the classic lime and soda, allowing the rich flavours to take over. However, for a more fiery approach, we also enjoyed it with a high-quality ginger beer and wedge of fresh lime. To bring the Caribbean to your Christmas, then visit The Duppy Share website here where you will find a 70cl bottle for £27.50. Alternatively, you will find this product in many good supermarkets, well worth the crowded rush!

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For many of us, the festive season means it's time for bubbles, so we were thrilled to discover Sparkle Drops. This brand brings a vast range of fruity flavourings to your alcoholic beverages - particularly effective when added to something bubbly. Adding a lovely shimmer to your drinks, these drops are equally effective when mixed with gin and vodka, also giving cocktails a little extra pizzaz.

We were fortunate to try two of their sets, the Unicorn Collection and the Gin Collection. The Unicorn Collection contains three 10ml bottles, with Golden Passionfruit, Blue Raspberry and Pink Cherry flavourings. Our favourite was the Golden Passionfruit, which is pleasantly fruity, and thanks to the gorgeous shimmer, will not look out of place on your festive dining table. That said, the other flavours were close contenders, the Blue Raspberry is particularly striking, and the Pink Cherry adds a pop of sweetness to drier proseccos.

Equally, as gin lovers, we were thrilled to try the Gin Collection. This consists of a further three flavours: Silver Elderflower, Green Lime and Rose Gold Rhubarb. It's difficult to choose a favourite here, but as the Rose Gold Rhubarb transported us back to our rhubarb and custard days at the local sweet shop, this perhaps edges above the others. That said, the Silver Elderflower adds a classic flavour to our standard G&T and the Green Lime brings a much needed citrusy zing to combat rich Christmas foods. To use either collection, add a couple of pipette-fulls to your glass, and top with something bubbly. Each bottle will make 6-8 125ml glasses sparkle, and they need not only be mixed with alcohol, as we found the Silver Elderflower worked particularly well with sparkling water. To add a bit of shimmer to your festivities, then visit the Sparkle Drops website here, where each collection is available for £10.

Finally, we discovered the perfect after-dinner tipple from La Mere Wine Estate. Based in Jersey, and established in 1972, La Mere provides heritage products with the use of local ingredients. The company is also established as a Green Tourism Gold standard attraction, in line with adhering to 20 specific actions, designed to promote sustainable tourism. These include controlling energy consumption and water usage, so we were intrigued to try their Jersey Apple Brandy Cream Liqueur.

Blended with the use of Jersey dairy cream from local island herds, the Jersey Apple Brandy Cream Liqueur also consists of locally distilled Jersey Apple Brandy - creating a deliciously creamy and rich combination. Thanks to the use of aged brandy, the flavour is warm and uplifting, ideal for the festive period. Equally, with the use of dairy cream, the texture is smooth and velvety, adding depth and thickness to this tipple. We found this is best enjoyed over ice, however, we’ve become quite partial to this liqueur when drizzled over a vanilla ice cream - perhaps it may even work well with Christmas pudding! To try the 17% ABV Jersey Apple Brandy Cream Liqueur for yourself, then click here, where you’ll find this tipple for £17.50.

So there you have it, four new brands to try this Christmas or New Year. Whether you’re looking for a pre-dinner aperitif, a warming rum, or an after dinner night cap, we’re sure you’ll find something to encourage a little extra festive spirit. As our last blog post of 2018, there is nothing left to do but put our out of office on, wish you all a Merry Christmas and grab a glass (or two) of something nice!

Christmas Gift Guide for Men

With just eight days to go until Father Christmas arrives, we can’t quite believe how quickly the season of giving has come around. We’re not yet at the stage of panic buying; however, it has to be said that most of us at The Amazing Blog, are beginning to cut it fine with our present ideas. If you too are struggling, then this week we will be providing some last minute gift guides, helping you to spend less time worrying about the tricky receivers to buy for (we all know someone), and more time enjoying the festivities. Today we start with ‘Gifts for Men’, ranging from grooming products to technology and accessories. Grab a mince pie (and a glass of something nice), and let us do the research for you.

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Firstly, we introduce The Bluebeards Revenge - a shaving and grooming company who provide products that promote a sustainable grooming routine, as opposed to the quick rush (and inevitable cuts) from using mass-market products. We previously reviewed their Ultimate Sea Salt Spray (see here), and so we were thrilled to try their Soap Stack Kit. True to their promise of creating products that are neither cheap cans of mass-produced products nor designer creams that are more akin to moisturisers, this set consists of three expertly produced soaps.

Ideal for any wash or gym bag, these soaps are unique in many ways. Primarily, the three scents are the perfect balance between providing a less feminine smell, while also promoting hydration and comfort. The first, ‘Classic Ice Soap’ is a modern twist on the British barbershop fragrance, a welcome scent that provides manliness and moisturisation simultaneously. Secondly, ‘Big Blue Bar of Soap for Blokes’ has a simple and fresh scent, and thanks to the bright blue colour, stands out amongst the sea of other generic products. Equally, ‘Cuban Gold Soap’ is ideal for days when an exotic aroma is needed (calling all Monday mornings!) With inspiration from the Caribbean, this soap packs a punch, and as a result of the unique shape, it is easy to handle, and unique to the eye. To make life even easier, these soaps come packaged in an aesthetically pleasing box, which coupled with the attractive colours, makes for a ready-made present. These soaps lather well and help to invigorate the body. To gain optimum benefits - use from head to toe, either in the bath or shower. The Bluebeards Revenge are also strictly against animal testing, and these soaps are both vegetarian and vegan-friendly - the perfect grooming gift that doesn’t involve a generic body spray or cheap aftershave. The best part? The Soap Stack Kit is affordable, at £13.99. Click here to see for yourself.

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For a man with a newfound grooming routine, a durable wash bag is undoubtedly next on the list. We turned to a brand that we know and love and discovered Morris & Co.’s ‘Refined Gentleman Washbag’, which we think fits the bill perfectly. Part of the brand Heathcote & Ivory, Morris and Co. similarly specialise in creating unique and detailed lifestyle products. We have previously featured both Heathcote and Ivory’s Inflight Essentials and Christmas Gifts Set, so were excited to try a lifestyle product aimed at the male market. Thankfully we were not disappointed!

The Refined Gentleman Wash Bag is the ideal gift for a man that is looking for some luxury. The wash bag itself is generous in size, fitting full sized products in, with ease. Thanks to the use of a zip, it also opens and closes easily, and uses vegan leather, which ensures it is wipeable, and therefore easy to keep clean. The real standout of this product is the Acanthus print, inspired by Morris & Co.’s first wallpaper design. As the primary showcase of the brand’s plan to create large-scale wallpaper designs, we like this historical link, as well as the elegant and unique finish. The inner fabric is also wipeable, made from 100% polyester, meaning any spillages can be quickly rectified. To purchase a wash bag for the gentleman in your life, then click here, where you will find The Refined Gentleman Wash Bag available for £24.

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For a gentleman that enjoys a tipple, we also came across Morris and Co.’sThe Refined Gentleman Hip Flask’. Designed with the same embossed pattern as the above wash bag, this hip flask is a classy addition to any inner pocket. Although it is slim enough to fit most pockets, it contains enough room to hold approximately 200ml of liquid. Once again, the fabric is vegan and wipeable, meaning any sticky alcohol spillages can be removed with ease. It comes packaged in a simple, and elegant box (yes - we look for presents that are easy to wrap too), and we think it would make a great present alongside the Wash Bag or would be equally welcomed with a small bottle of your receivers favourite spirit. Either way (or neither way, as it is equally lovely on its own), you will find it on the Heathcote and Ivory website for £22 - a reasonable price for a present that is durable, and sure to be well loved.

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For something a little more outlandishly festive, we came across Lime Lace. Stockists of stylish home accessories, gifts and furniture, their website offers an abundance of gifting options, from artwork to lighting and cushions. It was, however, the candles that caught our eye, in particular, The Christmas Jumper Candle the perfect balance between Christmas kitsch, and clever design.

This candle adds a little festive spirit to any room and will be sure to make your receiver smile. We must confess that we were concerned by the prospect of this candle looking too novelty, however, we were pleasantly surprised by the enormous amount of detail. The wax has been carved to look like intricate wool, and the addition of the glitter is an excellent way to jazz up any table or mantlepiece. The detail even goes as far as to emulate red stitching around the cuffs and hem, and we were pleased to discover that the glitter is non-transferable. Gone is the worry of packaging a present, only to find a product that has become distinctively less glittery in the process. Additionally, you’ll find the outer box easy to wrap, although we think it would look lovely when wrapped in cellophane, with a red ribbon bow. The size of this candle also surprised us, at 11x12cm, a decent dimension to create an optimum festive atmosphere, without being overbearing. To send a little Christmas cheer of your own, purchase a Christmas Jumper Candle here for £16.95.

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Finally, for the gadget lover in your life, we discovered Orbitkey. Founders, Rex and Charles, started the company after they decided enough was enough when it came to key organisation. Initially, it took just 30 days to gain 5,000 supporters, and with bases in Melbourne and New York, the success is now notable. Based on the concept of making key storage less bulky, we were keen to try the brand for ourselves.

Although Orbitkey have a plethora of different options, we particularly like the Orbitkey 2.0 Leather. This design comes in a vast array of colours, from simple black and stone to more eye-catching sage and tan. In a nutshell, this product provides a way to hold up to 7 keys, organising them, preventing them from scratching and providing a durable and lightweight finish. Now, of course, this product is not merely limited to men, but we particularly think the concept is perfect for men who often carry keys in their pockets. We were astounded by how convenient this product is, not just for protecting the keys, but also other ensuring other items in pockets and bags are equally protected. Orbitkey have also considered the inevitability of needing to add car keys separately, which can be done utilising the slim D-ring at the top of the leather strap. We tried the Orbitkey in Charcoal with Grey Stitching, which has proven to be popular in the office - especially among the male members of our cohort. There is also the option to monogram the genuine cowhide leather, which screams present giving to us (although you may be pushing it this week). We get the impression that design and ergonomics are paramount to this brand, which only extends further into the stylish and sleek box that the product arrived in. To encourage organisation for a man in your life, see the Orbitkey website here, where you will find this design for £35.59 or £46.23 with monogramming.

So there we go, five products that have hopefully given you a little inspiration for any gift giving nightmares. Perhaps you’ve even found a little something that you’d quite like yourself (when is it too late to add to your Christmas list exactly?) Be sure to check out the rest of our guides this week for even more inspiration, or for those of you who are indefinitely organised, perhaps these could be potential gifts for the New Year. Happy shopping!

Friday Favourites: Beers and Ciders

There’s no doubt that as Christmas approaches, beers and ciders are some of our more pleasurable lighter tipples… One thing we don’t enjoy though, is in our rush to replenish our fridge, is only having a limited choice from supermarket. Supermarket buyers please take note: There are some fantastic indie brands there! With a little research we’ve found some new and interesting options, from fruity ciders to chocolately beers. Keep reading as we at The Amazing Blog introduce you to some of our new festive favourites!

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Let's start with something fresh. Sassy's Cider, created in Normandy, is made of 100% pure juice, is 100% naturallow in calories and no added sugars. We started with the L’inimitable, a bright and golden balance between a traditional-dry cider brut taste, and the fruitiness of a semi-dry cider. It works well as an aperitif, but is also delicious alongside any meat or cheese. The full bodied aroma reveals apple and leather, creating a subtle balance between acidity, bitterness and roundness. Our next treat was Le VertueuxClear and pure, this can be perfectly combined with fish or light chocolate desserts as it gives you a sharp and slightly tannic mouth feel at first, finishing off the soft and subtle flavour of pear. This taste is something we certainly hadn’t come across before and it’s delicious!

Our favourite however, is La Sulfureuse, a cider blended with apple spices, creating a soft and semi-dry cider. Ideal with desserts like sorbet or pastry. lt is lower in alcohol than other ciders and has an intense pink colour, as well as a delectable smell of apples and red fruits. If you want to try Sassy’s ciders for yourself, then you can purchase 12 mini bottles (330ml each) for €44 or 6 bottles of 750ml each for €43 here. Alternatively, you can purchase a set of three for £24 on the John Lewis website here.

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Another fresh and new cider experience is provided by Lilley's, this time from the UK. Their lightly sparkling Rhubarb Craft Cider is characteristically tart, packed full of rhubarb flavour, yet still has a delicous sweetness. The taste is fulfilling, perhaps going down a little too easily at times! Lilleys, a family run cider business, based in Frome, Somerset, offers a diverse range of traditional and experimental blends of cider. Always made with care and a lot of enthusiasm, this cider definitely helps you to get the best out of the day. The notes of rhubarb effectively take away the usual over-sweetness of fruit ciders, instead leaving a light and refreshing taste. This is one of our favourites from their extensive range. We particularly like this tart nature, and it was a hit even with those who are usually put off by flavoured ciders. This Rhubarb Craft Cider was a winner in The Great Taste Awards 2018 for being ‘very sweet with lively carbonation tart and beautifully blended’ and we couldn’t agree more. This is an excellent present for a cider lover, in it’s substantial carton 5L box of rustic goodness that is certain to pack a punch for a mere £19.80 here

Delivering to businesses all across the UK, you can purchase the 6 bottles (500ml each) for £15.18 here. Alternatively, you can mix and match this cider with other great options, buying a selection of 6 flavours, including Mango or Apple & Blackberry. Click here to personalise your own crate.

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Moving away from cider, and onto beer, we came across Lowlander. There is no doubt that Lowlander’s Beer shines amongst the competition, with a range of awards for their botanically brewed beers. With its snappy branding inspired by travel to far-away lands, and discovery of exotic herbs and spices, Lowlander beers are packed full of flavour and character. A whole new dimension of flavours is added thanks to the botanicals used, and their website provides advice on how to combine your favourite beer with either food or other alcoholic beverages.

We tested Lowlander’s Yuzu & Pink Grapefruit beer, and were surprised by the lightness and freshness of this beer, revealing a bright citrus flavour characteristic of having being brewed with earl grey tea and gose beer. We also tried their Ginger & Kaffir Lime beer, which is, in contrast, rather spicy and aromatic, delivering hints of zesty citrus. This beer is brewed with Darjeeling tea and wheat beer, and both beers are presented in colourful and flowery bottles, sure to brighten up any day. With this innovative combination of botanicals, tea and beer, Lowlander wanted to provide innovative lower alcohol options (2.5% vol.). Their beers are subsequently lower in alcohol content than other competitors, but we certainly don’t think this has dampened their flavour! Launched at the Speciality & Fine Food fair in London, these beers can now be purchased from €15 for 6 bottles (330ml each) on their web shop and you’ll find them stocked in many good bars and shops.

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Another innovative brand we came across is Pillars, founded by four guys who have created their own Lager Revolution in London. Finding its roots in a garden shed, the aim of the brand was to prove that a craft lager can be just as tasty as its ale counterparts. This is something that we think has turned out to be a great success. With a lot of creativity and quality, the tasteless reputation of Lager has been smashed!

Their first creation was the Untraditional Lager, which has since become the all-time favourite (and our favourite as well). This 4.5% Session IPL combines ingredients from all over the world, producing a never before seen combination of a pilsner and hoppy IPA. This creates the delicious flavour of local British malts, with softness and fruitiness which has a slightly citrusy, but definitely crisp, finish. We also tried their Rebell Helles (4.8% vol.) lager, which combines traditional Helles Lager with new world hops. It is most definitely waves two fingers to boring beers! It is a malty maverick, revealing a full bodied taste, yet is easy to drink. Based in Walthamstow, East London, the brewery pays homage to a brand that wants to change perceptions of lagers. The packaging is metallic orange, and black and white in design, offering a graphic look that looks great on any shelf. With a reasonable price of £2.65 for 330ml, this fresh taste is definitely worth a try. Visit their website here to see for yourself.

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Our last stop of this revealing beer and cider discovery tour is Big Cat Stout from Stroud Brewery, a British Craft Brewery founded in 2006. They create premium organic beers, offering a wide range of beers in cask, cake bottles and cans. Starting out as their pet project, this dark stout is organic, and vegan and delivers a silky complexity of dark roast malts.

We decided to give this 4.5%, easy drinking conditioned stout, a try. We were certainly more than satisfied. Encased in a stylish and simple bottle with a graphic red logo, we were impressed to find that this stout is organically brewed, without any artificial preservatives, flavourings or colourings. The taste is not highly bitter, and we think is best combined with rich spicy foods, mature cheddar, chocolate or coffee based pudding. The silky smooth texture is full bodied, delivering a fruity dark chocolate aroma, with a hint of liquorice. Winner of a 2 star Great Taste Award (2017), this beer is definitely not what you find in an everyday pub! Purchase 12 bottles of 500ml each for £33 here.

As Christmas draws nearer, we hope to have opened your eyes to a few new festive tipples, we think in particular that these are great for those who normally steer clear of beers, ciders and stouts. So go on, give it a go, why not try something new?