• Crabbie 30 Year Old Whisky – an old name returns

    You may only know the name Crabbie for ginger-based drinks, but the booze brand was started back in 1801 by Edinburgher* John Crabbie who sourced and blended whisky and sold them under his own name. After an absence from the whisky scene since the 1970s, the Crabbie name is now back on whisky bottles, celebrating its return with two single malts carefully selected from some of Scotland’s finest cellars. That pair of whiskies is a Highland single malt, sold as Crabbie 8 Year Old, and a single cask release of 336 bottles of Speyside single malt, badged as Crabbie 30 Year Old. While the former should be readily available, the 30 Year Old is likely to have sold out by the time you’ve read this – even with its £500 per bottle price tag – but it’s not that often we get our mitts on such an expensive drop of booze** so that’s the one we’re featuring to tell the Crabbie story.

    Crabbie 30 Year Old

    Type this whisky name into google and you’ll see a flurry of excitement about its release. The whisky is a Speyside single malt, bottled at 48.6% and, besides praising its taste and showing excitement for the return of the brand, you’ll also find a lot of conjecture on what distillery it was sourced from. If you’ve asked the ‘what distillery’ question of google and found us, then sorry, we haven’t got the foggiest idea.

    The long-term plan for Crabbie’s Whisky, owned by spirit giant Halewood, is to begin continuous single malt distilling in Edinburgh but, until those barrels are ready for bottling, the brand is reviving its founders expertise at sourcing other whiskies for its own label products.

    Tasting notes

    My initial sniff of this expensive tipple revealed a lovely clean whisky perfume with an almond sweetness to it. The taste was, at first, very intense with oaky spices engulfing the senses and boozy goodness penetrating deep into the bones. I added a splash of the Mendip’s finest tap water to the glass which allowed the hints of almond to nudge forward while the rich spicy notes remained in tact.

    I shared the dram with whisky connoisseur David*** who added that it had the deep, woody spice flavours you might expect from a high class bourbon while praising its exceptional smoothness. Even my mum snuck in for a wee sip. She wouldn’t normally go for a whisky with such a strong flavour but claimed “I could drink this.” I hope that wasn’t an early hint for Christmas…

    Fascinating fact

    Not content with his whisky sourcing and blending business, John Crabbie also dabbled with ginger wine and records show that a first sale of the two drinks was to ‘MacDonald of Glenalbyn.’ Not content with blending just whisky, it is from this liaison that whisky and ginger wine first joined forces in a glass, originally known as a Whisky MacDonald and now referred to as the Whisky Mac.

    You should still be able to get yourself a bottle of the excellent Crabbie 8 Year Old at Whisky Exchange

    John Crabbie 8 and 30 year whisky

    *What are people from Edinburgh called?

    **We were sent a dram, so don’t come knocking on my door expecting to take a snifter of rare, expensive whisky. It didn’t last long.

    ***Generous, huh?



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  • A Thirsty Gardeners Guide to… Sárpo potatoes

    In the battle against potato blight, one name stands proud above all others: Sárpo. We find out a little more about the fantastic fungal fighters…

    You say potato, I say potahto. You say sarpo
    …I say sharpo. Try it in your best Sean Connery voice with the very opposite of a silent ‘h’. Oh, and NO-ONE says potahto.

    Hmm… doesn’t sound especially Scottish to me. Eastern Europe maybe?
    Yep, Hungary to be precise. The Sárvári family (SARvari + POtato, geddit?) began developing blight resistant spuds over forty years ago, an enterprise that has now expanded into the Sárvári Research Trust (SRT) which trials loads of new varieties from its base in Bangor, Wales.

    Bangor and mash! Ahem. How do they resist the blight?
    ‘Late blight’ is a fungal disease which is incredibly hard to control. The Sárváris produced their varieties by crossing spuds with wild plants from the potato family that were naturally resistant to blight.

    So we’re trying a few on our blight-prone plot this year?
    Indeed we are. Joining our heritage spuds will be Sárvári stalwart ‘Sárpo Mira’ – a red skinned tatty which, according to the blurb from Thompson & Morgan, produces “huge yields of tasty, floury tubers”. Other approved varieties include ‘Sárpo Axona’, ‘Sárpo Una’ and ‘Sárpo Gwyn’.

    Super Sárpos. Is there anything else that suffers from late blight?
    Tomatoes also suffer badly from blight and the allotment is currently a no-go zone for tomato growers so Nick’s greenhouse is the where the tomato action happens. There are a few resistant varieties available but they’re nothing to do with the SRT and, apparently, are much less successful than the spuds.

    I say tomato, you say tomahto
    Lets call this whole thing off.

    If your spuds do succumb to blight then read our top tips on what to do about it here

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  • Pine, Juniper, Thistle. Three beers with ingredients that tell a story

    Every February we make our way down to the Truman Brewery in London to attend Craft Beer Rising where, along with sampling some of the best modern beers around, we also hold talks about home grown or foraged beer.

    This year Rich had to make an unscheduled trip to Leicestershire instead, meaning that I would have to run our session solo. Without Rich’s jokes to back me up how could I possibly keep the punters entertained while attempting to educate them with my foraged beer ramblings? Fortunately we stocked up with booze samples containing some of the featured ingredients and, although many of them were stuck with Rich in the East Midlands, I had just enough to distract the audience with regular sippings of free beer.

    One of the beers we included was Tomos a Lilford’s stout Crwrgl, which is brewed with two varieties of seaweed. You can find more about this fine drop in a blog about our trip to the brewery, here. The other three beers – craftily prized from our pals at Beer Hawk – each use ingredients with equally interesting stories to tell, so here are short versions of each of those tales…

    To Ol Frost Bite brewed pine

    To Øl, Frost Bite, 6%

    Foraged ingredient: pine

    Spruce and pine are among our favourite forageable ingredients. We’ve written about them in the past, including how you can use them to infuse vodka or even pickle the tips for a cheap woodland snack. Those vivid green young spruce tips have an interesting slot in the history of brewing: such is their high content of vitamin C, Captain Cook served a beer made from molasses and spruce tips to help his crew fend of scurvy.

    Although far from common, there has been a steady trickle of beers produced using pine or spruce in recent years. Scotland’s Williams Brothers make an excellent Christmas ale called Nollaig which has been spruced up with the flavoursome needles, but for our demo we turned to Denmark’s To Øl for a wintery American Pale Ale called Frost Bite. Many modern American hops have aromas and flavours that taste of pine and orange, so To Øl picked out a hop combination that would give their beer this profile (Aurora, Citra, Tettnanger, Simcoe and Amarillo) and then doubled the effect by adding actual pine needles and orange peel.

    The result is an invigoratingly fresh and zesty affair, with the pine flavours subtly through the crisp, frosty ale.

    Buy now

    Beer brewed with juniper and smoke

    HaandBryggeriet, Norwegian Wood, 6.5%

    Foraged ingredient: juniper

    Our next beer is another Scandinavian effort, this time from the outstanding Norwegian brewery HandBryggereit. The brewery’s commercial description of Norwegian Wood includes the historical inspiration behind the beer: “Once, every farm in Norway was required by law to brew its own ale. All of that ale had a natural smoky taste because the malt was kilned by fire, and most of it was spiced with juniper berries.” Neighbouring Finland is also well known for a beer style that relied on juniper – Sahti uses the branches of the plant as a flavouring and beer-making tool, with the mixed-grain brew being filtered through a trough lined with juniper twigs.

    We’re such big fans of juniper as a beer ingredient we even managed to create a home brew recipe for a juniper rye ale which features in our book, Brew it Yourself. But for anyone wishing to taste juniper in beer-action without having to brew their own, HandBryggereit’s is well worth trying. To stay true to their local inspiration it’s a smoked ale, although the smokey grain flavours don’t dominate as they do in other smoked beers. It has a lovely sweet toasted grain backbone and quite mix of herby, citrussy and spicy flavours dancing on the tongue, with some mature woody notes and a lovely dry finish.

    Buy Now


    beer brewed with blessed thistle

    Brouwerij de Kazematten, The Wipers Times 14, 6.2%

    Foraged ingredient: blessed thistle seeds

    Last year I visited Brouwerij de Kazematten in the Belgian city of Ypres. The local tourist board is keen to promote the area for its beer heritage, along with its more well known association with the first world war, and the brewery – established with the support of the city council – is a destination that covers both subjects. It’s housed within the 17th century fortified wall that surrounds the city and its flagship beer, The Wipers Times 14, is named after the trench gazette that was produced in the same location (‘Wipers’ being the soldiers nickname for Ypres).

    To further the links with the paper’s history and locality, this blond beer is brewed with local hops and four herbs, including seeds from the blessed thistle, an illustration of which forms part of the old Wipers Times masthead and the new bottle label. Brewery founder Rudy Ghequire, also a brewer at Rodenbach, wouldn’t reveal the other herb additions and was very cagey when I asked how he worked out what quantities of blessed thistle to use, responding simply “because I am a brewing expert.” But as with many botanical additions, you’re not necessarily looking to impart the exact flavours of those ingredients into the finished beer but instead alter the taste and texture of the overall brew to create something unique.

    So The Wipers Times 14, while being typical of Belgian blonde ales in many ways, also possesses complex herby and grainy flavours, a slightly sweet and creamy body and some delicate soft fruit aromas.

    Buy Now

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  • Win! Tickets for The Ideal Home Show

    Do you like houses? Do you like things that go in houses? Do you like the green bits that wrap around houses*?


    We’ve managed to wangle FIVE pairs of tickets for The Ideal Home Show which will be held at Olympia London from 17 March to the 2nd April.

    From kitchens and bathrooms to bedrooms and basements, fixtures and fittings to fine food, gardens and the latest in home renovation to fashion beauty and gifts, you’ll find it all under one Olympia-sized roof at this award-winning show.

    Highlights include: 

    • A celebrity talks theatre featuring the likes of David Domoney, Phil Spencer, our pal Alys Fowler, Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen and that DIY bloke off Big Brother.
    • The Renovation Advice Hub, hosted by experts ranging from interior designers to architects, KBB specialists to landscape gardeners and DIY-ers.
    • Show homes to wander around and coo over.
    • Free entry to the Eat & Drink Festival, featuring fine street foods, live entertainment and cookery demos.
    • A beer garden. Featuring beer.

    To stand a chance of winning a pair of tickets, simply log into Twitter, make sure you are following @ideal_home_show and @thirstygardener, and retweet our Ideal Home Show competition tweet with the hashtag #thissoundsideal

    All names successfully completing the criteria above will be plunged into our ‘magical cement mixer’ and the winners plucked out randomly on Saturday 3rd March 2018.


    Check the Ts&Cs below and GET TWEETING!

    Terms and conditions
    Entries must be submitted by midnight, 2nd March 2018. The winner will be selected at random from all entries fulfilling the criteria as stated above. The decision of the judges is final and no correspondence will be entered into. The winner will be drawn at random from all entries received by the closing date. Should the Promoter be unable to contact the winners or should the winners be unable to accept the prizes, the Promoter reserves the right to award the prizes to an alternative winner, drawn in accordance with these terms and conditions. The prize does not include travel between the winner’s home and Olympia London, accommodation, food and drink, personal expenditure or incidental costs.


    * Gardens.

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  • Seaweed stout and green fairies at Tomos a Lilford brewery

    It’s ‘experimental brew day’ at the Tomas a Lilford brewery and I’ve been invited to collaborate with them on a new beer. The brewery in Llandow, Vale of Glamorgan – a short drive from Cardiff – creates beers with botanicals used to compliment the staple brewing ingredients, with some of their more adventurous additions including pine, hay, rose and the one I’m most keen to learn more about, seaweed, which features in their stout, Crwrgl.*

    I’ve been discussing ideas with Rolant Tomas over email and we’ve decided on a wheat beer with the botanical element provided by either wormwood or calamus root (also known as sweet flag), two of the key ingredients in absinthe and the ones said to be responsible for hallucinatory side effects which include visions of green fairies.** Both ingredients should add varying degrees of bitterness, besides their unique flavours, so Rolant and his brewing partner Rob Lilford have been debating whether to “soften the effect” with some bay leaves which Rolant, rather excitedly, has just discovered are referred to as ‘dail cwrw’ in Welsh, which translates as ‘beer leaves’.

    Rolant meets me at Cardiff station on a crisp, clear February morning, which bodes well for a seaweed foraging trip to the coast later. We first heard of this coastal beer from Food & Drink Wales, who are promoting the nation’s cuisine through a ‘Year of the Sea’ campaign, and there’s not much more Welsh than seaweed, an ingredient that is becoming more popular with fancy chefs but has yet to make much of an impact on the booze scene.***

    At the brewery, the first task of the day is to stew up some tea with the wormwood and calamus to test their flavours and guess how much we should use in the brew. 10g of each goes into a separate mug which Rob fills with boiling water, handing Rolant the calamus and me the wormwood. Rolant is impressed with his first taste – it’s pleasantly fruity with a pithy orange bitterness – but my sip of wormwood has such an unpalatable astringency that it’s is immediately spat into the sink. The same sip-and-spit routine is repeated by Rob and Rolant, leaving the coast clear for the calamus root to progress to the next stage without its absinthe companion. The bay leaves also get left out, with Rob so taken by the calamus potential that he wants to discover how it fares without interference from the bay.

    calamus root for absinthe and beer

    Brewing up some calamus root tea

    Today we’ll be brewing 200 litres of beer which, assuming it tastes OK, will be sold at a regular food festival held at the brewery’s business park. Although only a small outfit, the beers have been hugely popular with locals and are starting to get recognised on the other side of the Severn bridge, enabling Rob – a former Chinese medicine practitioner – to go full time while Rolant works one day week, with help also provided by the third brewery partner, Rob’s brother Jim. Rob and Rolant met at their kids nursery, where most of the adults were mums and, as Rob says, “it can be hard to fit in unless you’re able to talk about nipple cream.” So it was a pleasant surprise when not only did another dad show up, but one with a similar passion for beer and foraging.

    Small bladders

    With the brew underway, Rob takes me to a nearby beach to gather some seaweed, while the steaming wheat is under the watchful eye of Rolant. Two varieties go into Crwrgl – the famous Welsh laver and the common rockweed – which are picked and dried before being added to the brew. Today we’re tracking down rockweed and our beachy destination is a wide rocky strip, backed by a slender limestone cliff, and a lively, spitting sea. It’s not the most challenging foraging trip I’ve ever been on as the shoreline is covered with seaweed, its wet, shiny strands supporting small bladders, lying bedraggled among the rocks and pools. The only harvesting tool required is a pair of scissors to snip the goods free. “As with mushrooms you should always leave the lower part behind, so don’t completely detach it from the rock” explains Rob, who administers a few quick swishes of the blades to fill a carrier bag.

    hopping beer at Tomas a Lilford

    Rolant (left) fills a tank with the wort before Rob (right) adds the hops

    Back at the brewery we’re ready to add our calamus to the hot wort. The whole 250g bag goes in and is joined by the curranty tasting Northern Brewer hops, with Goldings set aside for late hopping. Brewing and foraging is thirsty work, so while the liquid is bubbling away we have a taste of Crwrgl. Rolant likes the effect of opening the bottle to release the unique aroma caused by the seaweed. He describes it as being “like when you’re a kid at the beach, opening the door and getting the first aroma of the sea. It’s that ozone smell.” Rob points out that this smell is caused by rotting seaweed and is, in fact, dimethyl sulphide, but fortunately there’s no rotting whiff to this beer. It has the rich roasted malt aroma you would hope from a stout and and an uplifting freshness which I’m happy to put down to a positive seaweed effect.

    There’s no obvious taste of seaweed to the beer either, but that’s not necessarily the point of introducing botanicals to brewing. As Rob points out, “rockweed is quite robust and requires a lot of cooking so, along with the subtle aroma, it also adds to the beer’s mouthfeel.” The laver is much more delicate so is added towards the end of the brewing process. Rolant notes that both seaweeds “add a bit of salt to the beer which helps bring out the stout’s sweetness.”

    It’s a delicious stout which I’m a bit surprised is only 4% – the seaweed certainly seems to have boosted the beer’s body and enriched the toasty grain flavours. It’s a punchy brew but very easy to drink. A classic stout that’s both familiarly comforting and indescribably unique.

    calamus root beer fermenter

    Our strong calamus wheat beer is in that fermenter…

    High alcohol

    The calamus wheat beer has now finished its boil and is ready to be cooled and transferred to the fermenter, which leaves one decision left to make: what type of yeast to use. A quick dip of a hydrometer to test its strength reveals a stronger-than-expected 9.5% ABV. Rob puts this down to their equipment being “more efficient with wheat” and he opts for a saison yeast that is most likely to cope with such a high amount of alcohol.

    And although such an alcoholic brew wasn’t intentional, perhaps a beer using one of absinthe’s famous hallucinatory ingredients was always going to be an especially boozy one. So if you hear reports of green fairies drifting around the Vale of Glamorgan area then you’ll know who’s responsible.

    Learn more about Tomos a Lilford brewery on their website www.tomosalilford.com

    Tomas a Lilford beer bottles

    Bottles of Crwrgl lined up in the brewery tap room

    *Welsh for coracle, it was first made to celebrate the The Coracle Society’s 25th anniversary. And in a bit of Welsh punnery, crwr means ‘beer’

    **The hallucinatory compounds in absinthe are so small that any ear-severing or other crazy antics were more likely due to the drink’s high alcohol content

    ***Although I’ve previously had a seaweed beer from Cornish brewery Keltek and a seaweed gin produced by Welsh distillers Da Mhile

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  • Winter pruning

    If you can brave the cold weather and are prepared to forgo a nice warm duvet for a spot of outdoor hacky-choppy-action, now is the time to give your dormant apple trees a good prune before new season growth starts to emerge. The benefits from this are two-fold; to encourage and nurture a strong, disease free tree and more importantly, to ensure a healthy crop of apples from which to make cider in the autumn months.

    Pruning is often considered a dark art; something that should be left to a professional arborist, but just think of it like giving your tree a splendid haircut*, only the type of haircut where you might consider loping off an ear and maybe a couple of fingers for good measure. We’re talking Sweeny Todd here, not Nicky Clarke.

    Tools for the job:

    You’ll need a pruning saw for any serious branch work, a pair of sharp pruners for smaller twigs and a pair of decent loppers for medium sized branches. When choosing the latter, go for a pair of cross cut loppers like these. Anvil loppers are super for crunching through dead wood but will leave living limbs mangled and at the mercy of diseases, and you really want to be making the cleanest cuts possible.

    Points to remember:

    • When pruning, you should be looking to sculpt the tree into a goblet shape – one that has a nice, open middle to allow sunlight in through the canopy to ripen and colour the fruit.
    • Begin by removing any dead or diseased branches with your pruning saw. Don’t bother smearing any tree paint over the wounds to help with the healing process – as long as you cut is nice and flush against the leading branch it will bark over naturally without any man-made interference.
    • Look for and remove any branches that cross each other and remove any over crowded spurs
    • If your tree has reached the desired height, cut back any new growth at the ends of the branches by around 2/3rds. Leave young laterals to develop fruit buds.
    • If you want to encourage a stumpy tree to grow taller, leave leaders and hack back any lateral branches.

    Afterwards, (as any half decent barber will tell you), clean your equipment thoroughly and if required, smooth out any burrs on your pruner blades with a whetstone. Finally, clean off any resin residue with WD40 and a healthy squirt of elbow grease.

    Apple tree pruning

    * I often talk to my trees whilst pruning, just like an intrusive hairdresser. “Would sir like a bit more off the sides? Where is sir going on holiday this year? Would sir like something for the weekend?”…That kind of stuff. 

    We obtained our pruning tools from Homebase. Look see, here.
    (Note: Homebase kindly provided the tools for review. Hand, ring and collection of twigs, models own)


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  • Talisker 10 Year Old whisky – the taste of Skye

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

    This is the first verse of a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson, sung to the tune of popular Scottish folk number ‘Skye Boat Song’, about the escape of Bonnie Prince Charlie to the Isle of Skye following his defeat at Culloden. Skye was an island familiar to Stevenson from his own nautical travels around Scotland, although he wasn’t much impressed, once writing to his friend Fanny Sitwell “Pictures of Skye enclosed. They look well enough on paper, but in reality they are hatefully bleak and cold: they make my heart sick”* But the island did have at least one redeeming feature for the author: Talisker whisky, which he declared as his favourite among “The king o’ drinks.”

    Talisker 10 year old

    The Talisker distillery has been in operation since 1835 and is the oldest and most famous of the island’s whisky makers. Peering across the craggy coastline, the company makes much of its proximity to the sea, producing whiskies with names such as ‘Storm’ and ‘Neist Point’, and using the ocean landscape prominently in marketing and packaging.

    We’re highlighting the distillery’s most familiar bottle, Talisker’s 10 year old single malt, a whisky that’s the ideal starting point for anyone looking to venture into smoked whisky territory.

    Tasting notes

    Sidle your nose up to the rim of your whisky tumbler and you’ll instantly notice that this is a peated whisky. But it’s not one to fear for peat virgins. The first sip is pleasantly sweet with a good grainy character giving it some richness. Before a lovely dry, spicy finish kicks in, the peat has wafted into the scene, steadily building an intensity with every sip so that by the time you’ve finished your first dram you’re fully immersed in the smoke-experience without any bother at all.

    For drinkers who think this might still be too much smoke to start out on, Talisker Skye is a similar whisky with the peat turned down, while the aforementioned Talisker Storm pushes in the opposite direction, with an increased intensity of peat for your palette.

    Visit the distillery

    For anyone following in the footsteps of Bonnie Prince Charlie and Robert Louis Stevenson and finding themselves on Skye, then a tour of the distillery will provide you with a slice of the island’s history (and, of course, a taste of the whisky).

    There are currently three tours available: the Talisker Classic Distillery Tour is a mere £10 and lasts for 45 minutes; Talisker Flight at £25 is 1 hour 30 minutes and finishes with “an informal tasting of several expressions of Talisker Single Malt”; and the Talisker Tasting Tour is a 2 hour in-depth tour with a tutored tasting of 5 expressions of Talisker, costing £40. Check the website for opening times.

    Fascinating fact

    Talisker gets its name from Talisker House, historical home of the Clan Macleod, although the distillery is situated some five miles away at Carbost, Loch Harport. The area is notable for the presence of two rare species of Zygaenidae moths, the Talisker burnet moth and what sounds like the hardest moth to spot, the transparent burnet moth.

    Grab yourself a bottle of Talisker 10 at The Whisky Exchange

    Talisker Whisky Skye Packshot

    *From The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, ed. by Bradford A. Booth and Ernest Mehew, vol ii [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995]

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  • The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve

    The 25th of January is a highlight of the Scottish social calendar, a time when any Scot worthy of their tartan troosers will gather to celebrate the birthday of their most revered national poet, Robert Burns.

    Burns Night supper celebrations follow a scripted order, passed down through generations of literature loving Scots – the main thrust of it being poetry recitals and the ceremonial stabbing of bags of offal, interspersed with various boozy toasts. The evenings celebrations inevitably end with a giant chaotic ceilidh, which may or may not include bagpiping.

    As you’d expect, the prefered booze on this occasion is the single malt, which makes this the perfect occasion for us to introduce our latest regular…Whisky Wednesday!

    Granted, today is Monday, but after we post this one, they’ll appear on Wednesday. Not every Wednesday though… sometimes we might forget or not be bothered. But anyway, kicking off the series is one of our favorites…


    The Glenlivet Founders Reserve

    The lowdown
    Situated on the northerly, wind-lashed edge of the Cairngorms, the Glenlivet Distillery has been cranking out single malts since its inception in 1824. Many whisky aficionados consider its output to have set the standard for Speyside-style whisky, and who are we to argue? Our pals over the pond are certainly partial to a glass of glen – it’s the number one selling brand in the USA.

    Founder’s Reserve is Glenlivets unaged ‘entry level’ whisky.

    Tasting notes
    In classic Speyside style, this pale golden whisky has a creamy and fruity character which errs on the sweet side. Unplug the bottle and take a good old sniff – you’ll be greeted with delicate hints of candied orange. There’s a whiff of toffee apple in there too. On taste, it offers up sweet and fruity mouthfuls, with hints toffee and chocolates. Finish is long, smooth and toffee-tasting.

    Visit the distillery
    It’s remote. As Brand Ambassador Ian Logan puts it, “If you find us by accident, you’re lost”Unfortunately, there is no public transport that runs past the distillery, so unless you relish a ten-hour hike over the Cairngorms from Aviemore train station, you’d better clamber into a car. The Glenlivet Distillery is located ten miles from Tomintoul, on the B9008. Punch this postcode into your satnav and hope for the best.

    If you actually manage to locate the place, you might as well take a tour. Distillery tours come in a variety of guises, from a £10 1 1/2 hr tour, to a £60 extravaganza which includes a tutored tasting and a complimentary whisky gift. There’s also the option to bound gleefully amongst the rugged Speyside scenery. Pick up a map from the visitors centre and head out amongst the heather on one of three signposted routes. Stout shoes and midge repellent are advisable.

    Fascinating fact
    George Smith – the founding father of Glenlivet – started out as a moonshiner who, in 1824, turned legit after obtaining the first licence ever granted to legally distill whisky. This didn’t go down too well with his illicit booze making compadres, so poor old George had to spend the following years sporting a pair of pistols in his trousers to protect himself and his family from jealous, violent repercussions.


    Buy the booze
    Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve
    Price £28 for 700ml, 40% ABV
    Buy here


    We prefer to imbibe our whisky neat to be honest, but if you fancy mixing it up, here’s a bonny recipe we’ve wrestled from Glenlivets whisky-based cocktail collection.

    The Founder’s Reserve Auld Fashioned

    3 dashes bitters
    3 oz. The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve
    1 tsp. water
    1 sugar cube
    1 orange peel twist
    1 maraschino cherry

    In a rocks glass, muddle the bitters and water into the sugar cube with a teaspoon or wooden muddler. Fill with ice cubes and add The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve. Garnish with an orange peel and maraschino cherry.


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  • How to grow mistletoe

    If, like me*, you find the annual dismantling of the decorations a joyous occasion and can barely contain your glee at the sight of tinsel–flecked boxes of Christmas junk disappearing back into the attic for another year, just pause a moment before flinging out that wilting bunch of mistletoe. You probably paid a princely sum for that clump of greenery, right? With your cheeks rosy from Christmas cheer, your wallet probably flopped open all too easily and were only too pleased to fling your hard earned dosh in the direction of that gurning mistletoe merchant who saw you coming.

    Mistletoe** grows on trees! Yes! Literally! And although it’s naturally spread by the seed-laden dung squitted out from the backsides of our avian chums, it’s possible to impregnate your own tree with very little faff. 

    Mistletoe is a parasitic plant that grows on Lime trees, Poplar, and has a particular penchant for old apple trees. We’ve ogled many a magnificent bush on apple scrumping missions*** to some of the older Somerset orchards on our books, where mistletoe can be seen dangling amongst the bows like the unkempt barnet of Brian May.

    Simply pluck the berries off the foliage of your mistletoe sprig and pummel them into a paste with your fists. Take said paste and smear it over the joints of your chosen tree as if you were basting a particularly knobbly chicken****. Try and smear your seed as high as you can, so your mistletoe commands maximum sunlight when it gets going. Some folks suggest cutting into the bark of the tree to create a flap under which to stuff your berry mush, but my mistletoe managed to germinated just by basting a particularly gnarly armpit of my old apple tree.  

    But don’t pucker up just yet – mistletoe germination can be rather hit or miss, especially if you are using the underdeveloped berries from a plant that was entwined within a Christmas wreath. It’s still worth a punt though, and be aware that it can take up to five years for those distinctive white berries to develop. The plant pictured below is two years old. If the amount of mistletoe foliage is proportionate to the amount of passion conducted underneath, then we are currently looking at suggestive winks and warm handshakes, rather than lusty clinches. But hey, it’s a start..


    * Massive Christmas Grinch

    ** Mistletoe fact: Its name comes from the Anglo Saxon words Mistel (dung) and tan (stick). Or Chelsea FC circa: 2007, if your name is Jorge Valdano.

    *** And when we say ‘scrumping’ we of course mean permitted visits to orchards to merrily gather apples in wicker baskets. Not stealthy twilight orchard raids involving sacks, balaclavas and the unmistakable screech from the wheels of a speeding Ford Focus. 

    **** Or goose


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    Source: Two Thirsty Gardeners

  • Win a set of Burgon and Ball Kneelo knee pads!

    Poor old Nick’s knees have been taking a right old beating of late. If it’s not damage caused by crawling around after his one year old son in an attempt to stop inquisitive fingers delving into electrical sockets, his poor patellas have been hammered mercilessly by the endless crouching down required to clean up after his two incontinent greyhounds.

    There’s no wonder his knees clack like castanets when he waddles down the allotment path, so this year I’ll be giving him the gift of knee protection, courtesy of Burgon and Ball. Kneelo knee pads incorporate memory foam technology and deliver optimal flexibility right where it counts, making them perfectly suited for gardening, DIY duties and other knee-bound household tasks. Quite simply, if you own a set of knees, you need a pair of these.

    And it’s not just Nick who will be squealing with delight on Christmas morn , I’ve managed to grapple FIVE PAIRS of Kneelo pads off the folks at Burgon & Ball to give away to five lucky winners of this ridiculously easy-to-enter prize draw.

    How to win

    To stand with a chance of winning, simply log into Twitter, make sure you are following @thirstygardener and @burgonandball, and retweet our Burgon & Ball knee pad competition tweet with the hashtag #Ikneedthese

    All names successfully completing the criteria above will go into into our ‘Santa sack-o-fun’, and the winners will be picked out randomly on Wednesday 13th December 2017.

    Check the Ts&Cs below, stroke your kneecaps in anticipation and GET TWEETING!

    Terms and conditions Entries must be submitted by midnight Tuesday 12th December 2017. The winner will be selected at random from all entries fulfilling the criteria as stated above. The decision of the judges is final and no correspondence will be entered into. The winner will be drawn at random from all entries received by the closing date. Should the Promoter be unable to contact the winners or should the winners be unable to accept the prizes, the Promoter reserves the right to award the prizes to an alternative winner, drawn in accordance with these terms and conditions. Two Thirsty Gardeners are responsible for the first part of the promotion, which is the publication and adjudication of the prize draw. All other facilities connected with the provision of the prize are the responsibility of Burgon & Ball


    with since 1730



    To see more Burgon & Ball products, go HERE


    The post Win a set of Burgon and Ball Kneelo knee pads! appeared first on Two Thirsty Gardeners.

    Source: Two Thirsty Gardeners

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