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Friday Favourites: Festive Gins

The second weekend of December is here, and we think that justifies a festive tipple or two. As gin lovers at The Amazing Blog, we were thrilled to come across six new spirits - we're certainly never averse to a spot of gin tasting in the name of research! Whether you're a connoisseur or not, we're sure that you'll find a suitable botanical to mix with your favourite tonic, add to a signature cocktail or gift to a gin lover in your life.

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Firstly, we discovered Conker, based in Bournemouth and known as Dorset's first gin distillery. They pride themselves on being free from traditional constraints, instead, evolving their Dorset Dry with meticulous testing and tweaking; producing a gin that has a strong focus on quality, rather than industry expectation. We don't mind admitting that we were dubious as to whether this approach would produce a suitable outcome, but in fact, the delicious taste of this gin speaks for itself, proving this assumption very wrong. Whether distilled traditionally or not, we are suitably impressed.

Despite their no-fuss approach, Dorset Dry is still a classic dry gin. The fresh taste is thanks to the use of ten unique botanicals, including Dorset elderberries and samphire, as well as handpicked New Forest gorse flowers. We were pleased to see the use of local ingredients, including British wheat spirit and New Forest Spring Water, both adding subtle and different flavours. We particularly enjoyed the light and refreshing taste, still smooth enough to be consumed neatly over ice, or equally enjoyable when mixed with a good quality tonic. We also found it works well with a dash of ginger ale, for a spicy and fresh tipple. Purchase Conker's Dorset Dry here starting from £21.50 (350ml).

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If you're a traditionalist at heart, then Hayman’s may be the gin brand for you. Producing gin since 1863, Hayman’s have a wealth of knowledge, passed down between generations. This has unearthed a brand that is committed to championing traditional methods, and through priding themselves on creating truly English Gins, Hayman’s have produced a collection of delicious spirits, that certainly stand out amongst the crowded gin market.

For us, sloe gin optimises December and Christmas, the ideal tipple for an evening spent by the fire (or perhaps Father Christmas’ spirit of choice). We tried Hayman's Sloe Gin, a handcrafted spirit that is distilled using a fifth-generation family recipe. Thanks to the use of English wild-forage berries, this gin has a plummy aroma and fruity taste, particularly popular among those of us with a taste for almond. Made from harvested English sloe berries and Hayman's English Gin, the ingredients are steeped for four months, giving a broad and bursting flavour. Due to the lower alcohol content of 26% ABV, this gin is delicious when consumed on its own, or when mixed with prosecco, for a party worthy Sloe Royale. We must also mention the packaging, launched nationwide in Marks & Spencer; the bottles are wrapped in limited edition paper, perfect as a gift for gin lovers, or merely to add a bit of festive cheer to your spirit cabinet. To purchase your own Sloe Gin for £26.00, head into a local Marks & Spencer store or visit the Haymans website here.

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Despite the name 'London Dry Gin', it is not only manufactured in the UK. Strane introduced us to their Swedish offerings, made at Smögen Whisky, a small craft distillery on the Swedish west coast. As a whisky company, we found it interesting that Strane have applied their whisky process to gin making, focusing heavily on the blending process. Launched in 2014, Strane's blending process is designed to ensure that each gin has a distinctively different outcome, with different proportions of botanicals added to each of the three offerings. What impressed us, is the quality control of this small batch company, trialling and testing on a constant basis to re-balance the final product.

We tried two of Strane's gins: Strane Merchant Strength 47.4% ABV and Strane Ultra Uncut 82.5% ABV. Both are handcrafted in small batches of around 45 litres and are mixed by master blender, Pär Caldenby, who ensures each of the three gins is mixed precisely. Merchant Strength has an intense depth of character thanks to the use of juniper, coriander and mint. Strane also include two secret botanicals, one local, and the other, typical of the ancient trade of the armed merchant ships. Although we can't spill the names of these ingredients, we certainly enjoyed the gin with a good quality tonic and a classic lemon garnish. Strane's Ultra Uncut gin is an explosion of strength, yet is still a delicious gin to be consumed with a good quality tonic. Thanks to the use of cinnamon, sweet almond and sage, this gin has a botanically strong taste, which is rich in juniper, and heavily citrusy with notes of lemon peel and garden mint. Try it for yourself here for £33, or if you're feeling less adventurous, try Strane's Merchant Strength for £39.83 here.

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Finally, thanks to Esker Spirits, we were transported to Scotland and introduced to two final additions to our (ever-growing) gin cabinet. With a desire to create premium spirits, Esker's first distillery was housed in a humble back garden shed, which has now impressively evolved into a distillery on the Kincardine Estate. As a family-owned distillery, ingredients are sourced from the local area of Royal Deeside, and it is the silver birch sap, in particular, that is characteristic of their unique spirits. Thanks to this ingredient, Esker Spirits have a classic yet distinct flavour, distilled traditionally in a copper pot still, creating delicious gins that we couldn't wait to try.

Firstly, we tried Esker's Traditional Gin, with citrusy notes, thanks to the use of orange peel. This is a refreshing gin, with floral undertones that are characteristic of rosehip and heather flowers. We found this gin is best mixed with a good quality tonic (we liked it with elderflower tonic especially) and the citrus flavour really pops when served with a small amount of orange peel. It is also delicious when added to prosecco, add a cordial of your choice, and wow your party guests with a delectable (yet simple) cocktail. Equally, if you're looking for a spicier alternative, then Esker's Honey Spiced Gin is the answer. Thanks to the use of pink peppercorn and cassia, this gin has a warming kick, enough to warm the cockles after a long week at work. Although this can be served with traditional tonic, we enjoyed it immensely when served with ginger ale and orange peel, the ultimate long drink to accompany an evening of present wrapping. Purchase Esker's Traditional Gin for £36 here, or Honey Spiced Gin for £35.30 here.

How's that for some gin cabinet inspiration? Whether you're searching for a gift, a companion for your festive cocktail recipes, or even a spirit to put hairs on your chest - we're sure one of these gins will be your answer. Enjoy!

Friday Favourites - Father's Day Gifts

We here at The Amazing Blog think men should be pampered just as much as women are. Dads work hard and are definitely in need of some spoiling. See our top picks to make your dad feel special this Father's Day.

First on our list is the Body Wash and Eau de Toilette by Milano Cento. Inspired by aromatic plants of Italy, the Milano Cento Him range is bound to make your dad feel like a Don. The range is based on the classic sophistication of all things Italian, for a man wanting a somewhat unusual, unique and understated scent. The Him body wash and eau de toilette are formed from the same scent, which opens with zesty notes of lemon, bergamot and petitgrain. The middle notes are herbaceous, of lavender, intense basil, rosemary and sage, followed by base notes of rich, sensual sandalwood, patchouli, spicy cloves, cinnamon and warm amber. You will be left with an overall citrus and woody aroma, which is, in itself, a gift to yourself if you get to smell it on the regular.

Milano Cento does not sell online, but you can find their nationwide stockists here. Purchase the Eau de Toilette for £29.50 for 50ml or £49.50 for 100ml. Purchase the Body Wash for £12.50.

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If you thought candles were just for women, then think again. LEGNA London has created candles especially for men, with the philosophy that candles shouldn’t be marketed solely to women. By creating a non-obvious manly product, LEGNA dedicates their candles to anyone of any sex, to couples and to friends. They draw their inspiration from an array of cultures from around the world which celebrate manhood.

Hand poured in the UK, made of biodegradable, natural, blended wax. The ingredients are composed of non-petroleum renewable resources and therefore burn clean. There are three signature scents; Strength, Unity and Wisdom, made from classic masculine ingredients, such as musk, tobacco and leather. Strength gives off a delicate smoky and woody, yet sweet, aroma. Strength was created to celebrate the physical and spiritual strength of men. Unity is composed of comforting spicy ingredients with woody notes, designed to celebrate the brotherhood of man. Wisdom is comprised of musky leather notes, creating a warm and luxurious fragrance for people to relax around and share their experiences.

Having been featured in and receiving raving reviews from The Independent, GQ, Elle Man, Country & Town House, the lucky gentleman is sure to enjoy the aroma of these heady scents.

Purchase the candles separately for £40 each (220g) or together in a gift set for £50 (3x 75g) here.

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If your dad boasts a full beard, The Scottish Fine Soaps Company's Face & Beard Care Kit is the ideal gift. Men’s grooming is serious business, and should be an indulgent experience from time to time, or even every day! Blending luxurious ingredients with contemporary Scottish style, The Scottish Fine Soaps Company have created a kit with a face and beard soap, beard oil, aftershave balm and a hardwood beard comb.

This grooming kit is in their Thistle & Black Pepper range. With this kit, you can care for your beard and pamper your skin with the invigorating scent of thistle and black pepper. All products are made and packed in Stirlingshire, Scotland. Scotland has one of the most beautiful natural environments, so it only makes sense to draw inspiration from it. So as to not damage it, The Scottish Fine Soaps Company practices sustainable and environmentally-friendly production. Even more, the products are cruelty-free, paraben-free and use natural ingredients wherever humanly possible.

Purchase the Face & Beard Care Kit here for £19.99.

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Bentley released their newest fragrance for men, Bentley Momentum, earlier this year. This bold eau de toilette was made for the discernible man who appreciates beautiful craftsmanship and quality. If your gentleman in mind is a fan of the finer things in life and wants his signature scent to meet the standards of Bentley cars, then you must give Momentum a sniff.

Momentum is a forceful composition that contrasts aromatic freshness with potent woods. The primary notes are a splash of aquatic aromas, closely followed by energising bergamot and cooling violet. Underneath this refreshing concoction is herbaceous and aromatic sage, adding a sensuous warmth and depth. The final notes are striking ambergris and cashmere wood. The dry-down of the scent reveals a deep blend of smooth sandalwood, dusky tonka bean and a lingering trail of sensuous musk and moss. This scent certainly gains momentum, all encapsulated in a sleek, geometric bottle.

Currently, Bentley Momentum eau de toilette can only be purchased exclusively at Harrods in-store, for £59 (50ml).

We clearly think men should smell marvelous, which is why we are continuing our scent search with L:A BRUKET's Perfume Oils. This product is for the man that is partial to aromatherapy. With each spritz you are administering a mind-strengthening aroma. The perfumes are made purely from organic and natural oils. There are three scents to choose from, each with differing properties. Petitgrain, with its bittersweet notes, is calming and relaxing. It is said to improve memory and help you work well under pressure and stress. Perfect for those workaholic dads. Myrrh, paired beautifully with cedarwood, is sweet and woody. This oil will help with concentration and trigger a focusing effect. Lastly, Hinoki is also woody but with fresh notes. Hinoki is known for its mentally-strengething and energising properties. Ideal when paired with an outdoorsy man.

Purchase the L:A BRUKET Perfume Oils from their UK stockist here for £46 each (10ml).

Whether your dad is a beard-guy, a fragrance-connoisseur, or enjoys a scented candle, with these exciting products to choose from there will surely be some lucky dads this Father's Day. They most definitely deserve it so use this opportunity to spoil your dad, but remember that you can treat your dad to these gorgeous gifts any day of the year.

Friday Favourites - Latest Cookbooks

We love nothing more than making a home cooked meal at The Amazing Blog. We find the process of cooking to be an incredibly therapeutic one, as well as being one of the best ways to make small and easy changes in your life. We’ve always thought that mixing things up in the kitchen is an excellent, if not the best, way to lift yourself from a slump. In fact, many of the best evenings we’ve had, have been sitting around a table with friends sharing a bottle of wine and a delicious and carefully prepared home cooked meal. As such, we are always looking for new cookbooks with exciting, delicious and new recipes for us to try! So here is a review of five of our favourites to help you add a bit of extra spice to the kitchen; from five-star restaurant cuisine to Jewish home cooking,  game day favourites and kitchen hacks! We've even included a special book for all you chocoholics out there!


First on our list is The Mountain Café Cookbook: A Kiwi in the Cairngorms, which was written by the brilliant chef at the Mountain Café in Scotland, Kirsten Gilmour. One of the main reasons we love this book is its inclusivity! In the introduction, Gilmour talks about taking a trip with a coeliac friend and realising how hard it was for her friend to eat food and stay healthy. Despite being told food was safe for her it often wasn’t, and she would suffer the horrible effects later. As such, Gilmore vowed to make food that was reliable for everyone. Her book is filled with mouth-wateringly good recipes and using a key, she takes the care and time to let you know which recipes are gluten-free, vegan, egg free, wheat free and dairy free! It can be a daunting task finding a recipe that is safe or reliable when cooking for a friend with dietary restrictions,  and in our experience has led to less than desirable meals, but with this book in your kitchen those days will be a thing of the past. Having this key takes the pressure off, and you know that everyone will be happy and leave the table feeling safe and looked after.


The book is full of exciting flavours including your favourite classic dishes with restaurant quality twists; such as beef, chorizo and mushroom stew, lamb kofta kebabs and sweet potato, spinach and caramelised onion quiche. The salads in the book were definitely among our favourite recipes, and were so much more than your everyday garden variety salad; our two favourites were the seared lamb, halloumi, orange, roasted carrot and almond salad and the sweet potato, red pepper, pine nut and feta salad. These are delicious as light summer dinners as well as healthy lunches to take with you to work.


You can purchase these wonderful recipes and much more here from £20.00

Diana Falk’s cookbook, The Hungry Fan's Game Day Cookbook: 103 Recipes for Fangating, Eating, Drinking & Watching Sports, is the perfect book for those days when everyone comes over to watch a big game or race. The food is not only fun but delicious, and each recipe is guaranteed to be a crowd-pleaser!

The book is a mixture of healthy and decadent ideas, that will all help with the festivity and excitement of your next sports event. From Bacon, Cheddar Spud Nachos to panko and coconut crusted prawns to lentil salad – there is a delicious recipe in here for every sports lover you know. What we think is fabulous about these recipes is that, whether your guests know everything there is to know about sports, or are completely uninterested, both will have a fun time – even if your team loses!


You can purchase this cookbook here for £18.22 and be the MVP of the day!

 

We cannot think of a more appropriate title for a cookbook, as in Yiddish the word Fress means “to eat copiously and without restraint.” This is exactly what you’ll want to do as you peruse the recipes in this book. Emma Spritz was a finalist on BBC1 Masterchef, and her cookbook brings together a melting pot of Middle-Eastern and Eastern European tastes to create big flavours that are happy and sociable dishes to feed to friends and family. 

We love how unfussy Emma’s style is, her food is all about extracting maximum flavour from the simplest ingredients in the easiest way.  Embracing recipes from Poland, Russia, Israel, North Africa and Algeria, there is bound to be a delicious recipe for you in here. Whether the recipe brings back a homely familiarity or an exotic new flavour you cannot go wrong with these meals and are sure to wow your friends. 

you can purchase Fress: Bold, Fresh Flavours from a Jewish Kitchen here for £17.00 to start cooking these delicious Jewish flavours at home

Next, on our list is Mastering Chocolate: Recipes, Tips and Techniques from a Master Chocolatier - we would be monsters if we didn’t give you at least one indulgent dessert-centric cookbook! If you want to wow your chocoholic friends and be revered as the master of all chocolate, then this book is for you. With twenty recipes from simple truffles to awe-inspiring tiered cakes, this book explains the essential equipment and provides complete step-by-step photos of each stage of every recipe to help you make the most perfect desserts possible.


The book was written by award-winning pastry chef and chocolatier Mark Tilling.  In case you don’t know who he is, he is the twice UK chocolate master and winner of the first series of BBC2’s Bake-off: Crème de la Crème. These recipes have been tried, and tested and are easy enough to tempt beginners while having the perfect range and creativity for professional chefs! We are still on the lookout for another excuse to make the utterly divine chocolate berry tart!


If you fancy becoming a master chocolatier, then you can purchase Tilling’s cookbook here for £20.00.

Now, while this final book is not technically a cookbook, we simply had to share it with you as Kitchen Hacks: Uncommon Solution to Common Problems is a definite must have! The book teaches you brilliant and easy ‘kitchen hacks’ such as how to professionally hull of a strawberry using only a straw, how to easily peel a hard boiled egg, and how to preserve herbs by freezing them in oil for easy and quick use the next time you need them. What we loved about this book is how it has completely revolutionised the way we move around in our kitchen and how we prepare the food we make. It’s taught us new, better and more time efficient techniques. So now when we have a dinner party, it’s an effortless occasion, and we get to spend time with our guests! We cannot imagine our lives without this handy book being within reach.

You can purchase your very own kitchen helper here for £7.99

So what are you waiting for? Anyone of these books will spice up your everyday cooking or impress at your next dinner party or family lunch. So whether you are trying to get out of a slump or looking to dazzle someone, you'll be able to do it with these in your kitchen. 

Pure Lochside - Capsule Collection

Here at The Amazing Blog we know how it feels to be faced with a particular beauty dilemma especially when pushed for space on packing for that weekend away. We've all experienced that heart-racing anxiety that sets in at the prospect of having to abandon our trusty skincare staples all due to lack of space. Well, we're very happy to report that premium Scottish brand, Pure Lochside  has come up with a summer solution with their very handy Lochside Capsule Collection.

The Lochside Capsule Collection, contains 5 therapeutic, 100% plant oil infused products, that are perfect for that weekend away or a two day music festival. Not only does it contain some of Lochside’s best products but also a muslin cloth to help you to administer your regime efficiently and swiftly. Designed to be used on the go, but without a loss of quality, this regenerating, organic-rich collection will boost your skin and leave it nourished, luminous and glowing, regardless of where you’re holidaying. The kit contains the Organic Orange Cleansing Oil 15ml which is rich in vitamin E and removes all mascara and eye makeup, the Pure Face Serum 15ml, a regenerating serum designed to keep skin luminous and glowing. As well as the Orange and Echinacea Toner 3ml as a refreshing final step to hydrate the skin and impart an uplifting aroma (it can also be used as an aftershave for male travel companions).

Our favourite was the Organic Skin Refiner 3ml which exfoliates and doubles as a hydrating mask with Organic Scottish Oats for a natural, gentle scrub. For the extra sensitive skins, the Soothe Daily Face Oil 3ml is gentle yet rejuvenating, and uses Rose, and Neroli essential oils. It has Calendula, Chamomile and High Altitude Lavender, to soothe and nourish irritated skin, such the type that arises from heat exposure.

A the winner of many beauty awards, the Lochside Capsule Collection is perfect for travellers and revellers alike. Best of all you won’t have to worry about roughing it (at least when it comes to your skin) on trips away. The Capsule Collection can be purchased here for £48.50