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Shelton's Coffee - Coffee Hearts

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For us a day without coffee is a day wasted! At The Amazing Blog ever time poor, we were thrilled to receive the rather special Shelton’s instant Coffee and their Coffee Hearts have since become a bit of a life saver here at the office. We don’t know about you, but sometimes during the week we’re just too busy, to even dive into the local café to pick up a quick caffeine shot.

Shelton’s Coffee is a family owned business based in UK, where they have focused their expertise in Colombian coffee for the past 40 years. Founded by Ximena Shelton (hence the name of the brand) whose Colombian background has helped in the brand’s mission to source 100% single origin Arabica Colombian coffee. This coffee is very high-quality, all sustainably grown, ethically farmed and artisan roasted. Direct from the crop to the cup, they use two different types of roasting one is the dark roast a perfect match for an espresso because of its creamy body; and the other is medium roast which is smoother and silkier. Like us, Ximena has a hectic lifestyle too. this is why she developed Shelton’s Coffee Hearts. With Coffee Hearts, they’re so easy that all you have to do is pop one heart into a cup with hot water and let it dissolve; they are convenient, practical, and easy, revolutionising the art of instant coffee.

While the Mocha Coffee Hearts are the most popular variety out of the 6 available, we kept flitting between the Classic Colombian giving us a taste of smooth, medium roasted coffee with fruity notes, and the Cappuccino Hearts which provided us with the intensity of an espresso combined with the taste of a creamy milk foam. Far too difficult for us to choose a favourite!  All hearts come in boxes containing 10 servings individually wrapped to retain freshness and each of them is only 5 calories. We loved Shelton’s Coffee because unlike most instant coffees, they took away the bitter after-taste, maintaining the true fresh coffee flavour. They are allergen free, and don’t contain any added sugars potentiating the natural ingredients.

Shelton’s Coffee Hearts was highlighted by Mintel UK for ‘The best convenience innovation in the coffee market’ and was selected to co-exhibit with the Department of International Trade at IFE2019 as well as being shortlisted for the 2019 CHS Awards. If you are unsure about what flavour to try, why not purchase the Assorted Coffee Hearts which contain one of each of the coffee varieties, then you can decide which one you like the best. Purchase your Shelton’s Coffee Hearts box here at only £5.00, not only are they delicious but uber time-saving too, we like that!

Albiva - ECM Advanced Repair Brightening Serum

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Everyone knows that the weather conditions here in the UK are wildly unpredictable. One minute it’s rain, the next sun, and who knows what the following day might be doing - snowing?! All these temperature changes effect our skin with varying degrees of dryness or break-outs. Which prompted our mission at The Amazing Blog to look for a natural skincare to protect and nourish it rain or shine. This is where we’d like to introduce you to Albiva (who we met at the CEW Awards showcase) a new natural skincare where science meets nature, and they kindly sent us their ECM Advanced Repair Brightening Serum to try out.

Ivana Iesini founder of Albiva, was diagnosed with a spinal tumour at the age of 28, where she was having to combine so many conventional medicines, that it started to make her feel worse. During her months of recuperation, she thought about her grandmother, Albina who was a herbalist. She remembered the natural remedies that she was introduced to from an early age, and the power of all these botanicals used to help heal and regenerate the body. Her journey into launching Albiva had begun. The name is a portmanteau combining the name of Ivana’s grandmother and her own. Ivana combined her knowledge of these natural remedies, her studies in biomedical sciences together with embracing an organic way of life, and bingo! From this, Albiva skincare gradually took shape combining her knowledge of science and natural compounds, all collated from sustainable sources. Another thing that sets this brand apart is their use of ‘gemmotherapy’ (an advanced branch of phytotherapy, which isolates the active ingredients from the embryonic tissues of plants). They also remove plain water from their formulations, where Albiva prides itself on replacing the plain water with COSMOS certified organic Raspberry water, this in itself is an active ingredient renowned for firming, lifting and smoothing properties. There are skin-identical and cell communicating ingredients, all designed to stimulate cell regeneration using the skin’s own cell biology. Let’s not forget to mention the ultra-hydrating blend of botanical extracts, powerful antioxidants, collagen supporting ingredients, peptides, ceramides, compound of oligo-elements, phyto-stimulins, nucleid acids, marine algae extracts, essential fatty acids and many more. Now you know why this brand is so very special!

The ECM Advanced Repair Brightening Serum (ECM means extra cellular matrix) combats hyperpigmentation (age spots) and equalises the skin texture providing natural minerals and vitamins that the skin might be lacking. This serum rejuvenates and restores damaged skin by combining an array of natural botanicals: Mallow, Peppermint, Cowslip, Lady’s Mantle, Speedwell, Melissa, and Yarrow together with Swiss Garden Cress extract; all to enhance the complexion protecting it from environmental damage. It is vegan, cruelty-free, dermatologically tested, contains 77% of certified organic ingredients and 92% of natural ingredients. We like that it’s light in texture, absorbs quickly (no oiliness), with the subtlest of fragrance and left our skin feeling hydrated and looking brighter. We used it under our regular moisturiser and SPF primer, and were pleased to note that it complemented these other products. This serum is suitable for all skin types, so whether you are combating age spots or the effects of the erratic UK summer weather, the ECM Advanced Repair Brightening Serum is going to be your perfect ally. This is one brand to keep an eye on, as we’ll predict they’ll being going places…. To get your very own special serum, go to Albiva’s website here 30ml for £195.00.



Friday Favourites - Summer Alcohol

Are you ready to try a new summer tipple? Then read on as at The Amazing Blog we’d like to give you a global tour of some very special alcohol brands stretching all the way from Japan to Switzerland, Iceland and then returning back to the UK. We guarantee it’ll liven up the tastebuds and add something extra to your regular sun-downer drinking. It’s always fun to experiment with new and different alcohols and today we’re happy to move on from our ubiquitous G & T.  While gin in known as the archetypal British go-to drink; whisky and vodka keep a steady visibility and are currently climbing in popularity. We hope these featured whiskies and vodkas will encourage you to explore new textures, experiences and flavours.

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So, let our journey begin. First stop is Japan, specifically in the temples of Nara, which is considered to be ancient land and one of the epicentres of spiritual belief, with temples that date back to the 8th century, and was once the capital of the country. Omiwa Shrine lies at the bottom of the Mount Miwa in Nara and is the centre of the Japanese alcohol producers, giving life to this Kamiki Whisky.  This whisky is one of the alcohols often served as a blessing at the Shinto temples. Kamiki Whisky is a remembrance of Japanese culture and tradition as well as nature and artisanship, and its name derives from the mount; ‘Kami’ meaning ‘God’ and ‘Iki’ meaning ‘Breath’.

Kamiki Whisky combines the west and eastern cultures. Using the purest spring water from Japan and the Yoshino Sugi – aka Japanese cedar – the whisky’s aroma and smooth texture that introduces us to mindfulness, giving peace to both mind and body. Kamiki is the world’s first whisky to finish its maturation with Japanese cedar cask. Kamiki whisky is also blended with the finest malt whiskies from around the globe, making it a unique and flavourful drink. Kamiki is mainly composed by heather honey, sweet caramel, Japanese plum, oak, peat and toffee with a touch of sandalwood and green tea. All these ingredients are carefully selected and blended incorporating the perfect percentage to achieve the finest flavour. This whisky is non chill-filtered at 48% volume in order to maintain balance and maximum taste. It also ensures that the oils do not become viscous at colder ambient temperatures or become cloudy in the bottle. You can purchase the 50cl of Kamiki Whisky at the Masters of Malt for £59.99.

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Next stop is Switzerland for a taste of the three Gold Winner of the Wizards of World Whisky Awards, for their Classic Langatun Whisky. Originating from a family owned brewery in 1860 created by Jakob Baumberger, which progressed into a distillery in 1907 by son Hans Baumberger the 1st. Handed down through the next generation and in 2007 they continued their grandfathers vision creating this hand-crafted Swiss Whisky "Langatun“ single malt. So, what is so special about Langatun? Let’s talk about its timing and barrel composition: Malting, mashing, fermentation, distillation, cut, maturation and bottling. The fermentation is much longer compared to other whiskies and during the first distillation, the alcohol is given a cut at 26% and in the second distillation that it is upped to over 80% where it really packs a punch. The whole production process is carefully monitored to ensure optimum results.

We tried the Langatun Old Bear Cask Proof Smoky Whisky which is from the range of their five Classic whiskies . This single malt is matured in oak barrels using Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine casks and bottled at cask strength. It a peated malt that is laborious and painstaking made by a double distillation process with roasted malted barley added, hence the epithet ‘smoky’. The peating process goes through a smoking process similar to that for meat or fish. The distillation date on the bottle is October 2012, the bottling is March 2017 and it even has a lot number on the bottle! Master whisky drinkers say that it has a smoky fresh nose with a hint of red fruits and orange while the flavour is said to be of juicy grapes, toffee and wood smoke, leaving a long dark chocolaty finish. The distillery is open to the public for in-house events, such as brunch, a tour or whisky and dinner gatherings.

We have had a taste (of course, who could resist!) and found it remarkable toasty and smooth with a deliciously rich aromatic flavour. This is a perfect for rounding off the evening as a night cap. Get your Langatun Old Bear Cask Proof Smoky Whisky 50cl (62.4%) at the Gauntleys of Nottingham  for £64.78 or at Master of Malt, Nickolls and Perks, Shop4Whisky or The Whisky Exchange.

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Next, we travel all the way to Iceland where we meet the Icelandic Mountain Spirit. Based in Reykjavik in 2016, the founders created a range of four alcoholic formulations; Eagle Spirit, made with Gin; Mountain Spirit, based on Vodka; Dragon Spirit, made for shots; and Taurus Spirit, made with Rum. FUN FACT ALERT! The Mountain Spirit might be familiar to you if you’re a Game of Thrones fan, if not let us explain: ‘The Mountain’ is Hafthor Julius Bjornsson, (actor in Game of Thrones) he is also The World’s Strongest Man and one of the founders of this Icelandic Mountain Spirit.

What makes this vodka stand out (besides the Game of Thrones fact) is that is it made with Icelandic water, known as the purest water in the world. This vodka, gluten-free and is distilled seven times which makes it incredibly smooth, soft, and quaffable! They recommend drinking it on its own but for those who are not so keen on shots, combining it with a simple tonic seemed the way to go for us. Each Mountain Vodka bottle is printed with ‘The Mountain’ on the reverse of the bottle, making it an ideal gift for all those GoT fans. It is 40% ABV and more importantly, was a Gold Medal Award Winner at Tastings.com; proving its quality, sourcing of ingredients and time spent perfecting this vodka. Based on the Tastings jury review: “…Creamy, with confected aromas and flavours of spumoni, peach jam, and pistachio paste and a lychee and mint cream finish” this clearly makes it a winner. We love the heritage (as G of T fans) and because of its smooth and creamy qualities we also enjoyed it in a chilled Kamikaze cocktail: 1 part vodka, 1 part triple sec, 1 part fresh lime juice; which is a bit of twist on the popular Margarita.

To get your very own star-studded vodka, go to Icelandic Mountain Spirits website here for £25 including delivery (any mainland UK address). Although the spirits are distilled in Iceland, they are shipped directly to Northumberland for distribution.

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Last stop, we’re coming home. UK based vodka RK Vodka is considered to be an ultra-premium brand and is only available in selected stores. Featured in GQ and Tatler, RK Vodka aims to combine old with new, past with future, traditional with modern. RK Vodka combines the high-quality, authentic, hereditary vodka with forward-thinking and modern techniques.

RK Vodka is different, it is bold. Distilled only once and being non-filtered, the drink is full of character. Making it enjoyable on its own as well as mixed (we suggest a zesty mixer). RK Vodka contains English sugar beet which adds a sweetness, replicating the flavour of vanilla. Going back to the production process, traditionally it is suggested that multiple filtering makes for a higher quality and smoother vodka. However, RK Vodka defies that. The founders say that the more you filter it; the more the natural flavours and power of the drink will disappear. This is why RK Vodka is not filtered to preserve its characteristics and minerals, rather than just water and alcohol. This vodka is only distilled once which all takes place in a copper pot to reduce the tannin (what makes vodka poor and rough) and also gives it the smooth finish, whilst being both gluten and sulphate free. Apart from its stylish and elegant black and white bottle, these alternative production methods are what make RK Vodka stand out. They have managed to create a high-quality and a dedicated drink for a modern and cosmopolitan market. We added only lemon zest to the very chilled RK Vodka and loved it! Get your RK Vodka here for £38.00 (70cl, 40%).

Curlee Box

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For any regular readers of the Amazing Blog it’s obvious that we love discovering new beauty products. There’s nothing more exciting than receiving a box at your door and opening it to see new products for you to try. That’s why we couldn’t resist the Curlee Box.

Curlee Box is the perfect way to try new hair products without breaking the bank. Designed especially for women with curly and kinky hair, Curlee Box delivers a minimum of 4 full-sized hair care products to your door each month. The best part? It’s only £20. It’s so much fun every month to receive a surprise box of goodies, and the day that The Curlee Box came, we gathered around to see what products we received.

We received five products from the Curls Professional Cashmere + Caviar Collection (try to say that 5 times fast) in our July Curlee Box. Let’s talk about the The Cashmere + Caviar Hair Bath is a luxurious hair bath that gently cleanses with active charcoal while conditioning at the same time with cashmere + caviar extract. Caviar is a rich source of vitamin A and vitamin D along with omega-3 fatty acids which all strengthen and nourish the curls. Now you can feel rather grand by saying you have Cashmere + Caviar in your hair! The Cashmere + Caviar Hair Silk is a great leave-in conditioner for curly hair. We love how it melted through the hair like butter and left it feeling as soft as cashmere. It can be used on dry or wet hair, but we prefer running it through when the hair is damp. Followed by the Cashmere + Caviar Hair Masque  this is a great deep conditioning masque infused with antioxidants and vitamins to strengthen and smooth the hair, ideal as a treatment once a week to help scalp damage an promote faster hair growth.  Next, we used the Cashmere + Caviar Hair Gelle, which provides a light hold to your locks while adding sheen. Cashmere emits high wattage shine, stops frizz and makes tresses more controllable! Last but certainly not least, we used the Cashmere + Caviar Hair Serum, which is a growth enhancing and hair strengthening treatment. It smells delightful and leaves the hair with a natural shine.

Now we feel like queens with the mixture of Cashmere + Caviar in our hair products. The Curls Professional line left our hair feeling nourished, strengthened and like a million dollars. We love how fun the Curlee Box is and how each month we can discover a new favourite brand.  If you’d like to receive new hair care products to your door every month, you can subscribe to the Curlee Box here for only £20 a month.

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!