• New booze round-up #20: Low alcohol beers and a calvados discovery…

    We like discovering new things and, in this round-up, we’ve been introduced to some great new things. Like a new retailer for alcohol free beer. And apple-based spirit, Calvados. We may be a little late on the Calvados thing (it has been around for centuries after all) but we’re now eager to make up for lost time…

    Drop Bear Alcohol Free

    Drop Bear Co Tropical IPA, 0.3%

    It’s always handy to know drinks retailers that offer something a little different than usual. Good Stuff Drinks recently contacted us to introduce themselves and let us know that among their huge range of low alcohol drinks products are a bunch of beers that we might be interested in. Besides a few of our favourites (hello ‘Lucky Saint’ and ‘VandeStreek Playground’) is a selection we’d not encountered before, so the Good Stuff good folk sent us over a quintet to get our chops around (see the main photo for the full line-up).

    Thumbs were lofted for the lemony Coast Beer Co’s 0.0% Hazy IPA, but top marks went to Drop Bear Co’s Tropical IPA with an intensity of flavour that few alcohol-free beers can match. It has a strong, rootsy bitterness that suited the chalky dryness you often find in such beers, while our senses were showered with fruity hop flavours. Like much of the British population we’re increasingly stocking up on alcohol free beers and, by the looks of it, Good Stuff Drinks will be top of the list for future purchases.

    Buy Drop Bear Co Tropical IPA

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    Bottle of calvados

    Michel Huard Vieux Calvados, 40%

    Calvados, the French spirit made from apples (and sometimes pears) isn’t a drink we’ve had many dealings with, despite our love of cider. So we welcomed the opportunity to try out five of the best (and a Somerset Cider Brandy) as part of an online tasting session held by Dawn Davis of the Whisky Exchange.

    The first revelation was the discovery that some Calvados tastes EVEN BETTER THAN GIN* when mixed with tonic, with the fresh and vibrant Avallen being Dawn’s tonic-pairer of choice. Our favourite of the session was Michel Huard Vieux Calvados, aged for seven years and amazing value at under £50. Hugely complex, it has the tannic apple quality of some of our favourite ciders with bold and boozy oak flavours and a sweet marzipan softness to round it all out. Calvados may just be our new favourite drink.

    Buy Michel Huard Vieux Calvados, 40%

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    440ml gose

    To Øl Gose to Hollywood, 3.8%

    During lockdown, Nick has avoided all large supermarkets, shopping instead at a couple of independent shops with schoolmasterly strictness on distancing policies, and combining these trips with the occasional visit to the wide-aisles of his local M&S. While browsing the beer shelves during his most recent visit he noticed a few new recruits, including local booze from the excellent Arbor Ales and Electric Beer and a change of offerings from Danish brewmeisters Mikkeller. 

    Just below Mikkeller on the Danish Beer Family Tree sits To Øl and they too are now listed at M&S in the shape of a 440ml can of gose, soured to the max with the addition of orange juice. It’s an outstanding summer guzzler (our cans disappeared in a flash), sour and salty enough to make your eyes squint with an orangey freshness shining through the mineral astringency. Delicious stuff.

    Buy To Øl Gose to Hollywood

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    Nanobot session IPA can

    Beavertown Nanobot, 2.8%

    Beavertown has lately been shuffling towards the big brewery league, having welcomed an investment from Heineken in 2018, and it’s good to see such a player introducing a sub-3% ABV beer into its team of regulars. Nanobot is a session IPA which, at 2.8% neatly sits in the gap between a regular boozy beer and an alcohol-free offering, giving a decent amount of flavour with just a smidgeon of alcohol to the system.

    It’s a hazy, tropical kind of IPA-lite beer, with plenty of pineapple and soft peachy notes and a slightly tinny, piney, bitter finish. We enjoyed our cans and reckon it’s one to tuck into the picnic hamper when family picnics are back on the menu after lockdown…

    Buy Beavertown Nanobot

    *A bold statement indeed but we’re sticking with it.

    The post New booze round-up #20: Low alcohol beers and a calvados discovery… appeared first on Two Thirsty Gardeners.


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  • World Whisky Day 2020. The five best drams from unlikely countries

    The third Saturday of May marks World Whisky Day and to celebrate we’ve moved aside our bottles of Scottish, American, Irish and Japanese whiskies to enjoy a few drams from elsewhere in the world. To give you a taste of the whisky available from around the globe, here are five recommendations from less celebrated single malt whisky producing nations…

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    Filey Bay Whisky Bottle

    England

    Not that long ago Scots would chuckle at the paucity of whisky produced in England, but a recent spate of distillery openings has seen some fine boozes emerge, many of them good enough to give those from north of the border a run for their money. As an example of this increase The Whisky Lounge recently hosted a St George’s Day virtual lockdown tasting featuring whisky from five English distilleries – The English Whisky Company, Bimber Distillery, The Spirit of Yorkshire, The Lakes Distillery and The Cotswolds Distillery (for more information scroll to the end of this piece). Having visited the latter last year we’re already familiar with their excellent whisky and we were similarly impressed by the other boozes lined up for the evening. Looks like English whisky is here to stay.

    Try this: Filey Bay Moscatel Finish, 46%

    Filey Bay whisky is produced by the Spirit of Yorkshire distillery and this new release is our first tasting of their whisky. We got Eddie Ludlow, founder of The Whisky Lounge, to describe it for us: “The first thing that strikes me about the Moscatel Finish is a lovely, almost stem ginger and winey character running through it. It is a real sweety with lots of ripe citrus and summer fruits, like peaches and apricots. It also has a long, slightly oily finish and mouthfeel. Lovely stuff and perfect as an aperitif or a session whisky!”

    BUY

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    That Boutiquey Whisky Santis

    Switzerland

    The trend for new whisky distilleries has been spreading across Europe for a while and we’ve previously enjoyed excellent offerings from The Netherlands (Millstone), Sweden (Spirit of Hven), Wales (Penderyn) and France (Brenne). New to us this year is Switzerland which has around 20 whisky distilleries, with Langatun leading the charge. Our most recent tasting came from the Santis distillery, courtesy of That Boutique’y Whisky Company, who have an impressive track record of seeking out and bottling drams from far flung places. The distillery was set up in the Appenzell Brewery, which dates back to the 19th century, with whisky production beginning in 1999 and the brewery’s beer barrels used to age the spirit.

    Try this: That Boutique’y Whisky Company Santis 10 Year Old Batch 1, 51.4%

    This deep gold liquid has a very sweet, toffee-coated fruitiness to the aroma which suddenly crackles with gingery spice on sipping. There’s lots of oak, a squeeze of pair and a dusty sprinkling of toasted nuts before a lingering dry spice finishes things off. A very decent dram indeed.

    BUY

    +++++

    Starward Whisky Bottle

    Australia

    When we first looked into Australian whisky we were surprised at just how many distilleries the country contained (293 at the last count). Tasmania is the beating heart of the malted barley industry with 56 distilleries, thanks to an environment that is well suited to producing the spirit’s raw ingredients, including peat (albeit a different kind of peat to that found in Scotland). We have yet to properly explore the Aussie whisky output but have been suitably impressed by the few drams we have supped.

    Try this: New World, Starward Malt Whisky, 43%

    The New World Whisky Distillery is based in Melbourne and its Starward release has been earning many rave reviews. One such review was by us in a piece for the Independent where we remarked on it having “a warmth and richness that features nuggets of fruit-and-nut chocolate” before declaring it “a resounding success.” 

    BUY

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    Kavalan Whisky Bottle

    Taiwan

    There is only one whisky distillery in Taiwan – King Car – but its whiskies are among the best in the world. Bottled under the name Kavalan they benefit from Taiwan’s subtropical climate, where the heat and humidity rapidly sucks flavour from the casks and causes a greater rate of evaporation, producing whisky that is rich, intense and full of complexity. It’s not easy producing whisky in this environment (not least because there aren’t many other distilleries with whom they can compare notes) but the brains behind Kavlaan have mastered the process with amazing results.

    Try this: Kavalan Single Malt 40%

    Full of flavour and a brightness that transforms the oak into something much fruitier. Rich with a tropical freshness that drips with honey and a luxurious creaminess that makes it feel like a much more mature beast than it is.

    BUY

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    Rampur Select Whisky Bottle

    India

    No country produces or drinks more whisky than India. This is largely due to slacker rules on what can be classified as a whisky than other parts of the world (molasses is an accepted ingredient), but a nation with such an appetite for the stuff is bound to have at least a few top notch products. The three single malt distilleries you’re most likely to encounter in the UK are Amrut (distillery in Bangalore, single malt launched in 2004), Paul John (distillery on Goa, single malt launched in 2012) and Rampur, the original name of the vast Radicao Khaitan company who launched their first single malt whisky in 1995.

    Try this: Rampur Vintage Select, 43%

    This is a great entry level whisky, and not just for those looking to dip their beak into the Indian booze market. Smooth and sippable, with sweet vanilla and fruit flavours to the fore. Well worth a try.

    BUY

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    The full line up of English whisky from The Whisky Lounge Tasting Session

    The Whisky Lounge is a place where folk can discover whisky through various events and activities. Founder, Eddie Ludlow, had been keen to do something with English whisky for a while and, with the world in lockdown, decided to “fast-track it in our virtual tasting program.”

    The session featured a Q&A session with five English distillers and the opportunity for ticket-holders to taste their products while discovering more about their craft. According to Eddie “the event itself was our most successful virtual event so far, it sold out within days, with £5 from every of the 90 tasting packs sold, donated to The Drinks Trust. The feedback from the night has been incredible and I hope that we have been able to shine a light on the English whisky revolution! We have plans for lots of other virtual tastings including a revisit to English Whisky later in the year.”

    The five whiskies featured were as follows:

    The English Whisky Company – ‘Double Cask’ 46%

    Bimber Distillery – ‘Ex-Bourbon Cask’ 56.4% 

    The Spirit of Yorkshire – ‘Filey Bay Moscatel Finish’ 46%

    The Cotswolds Distillery – ‘Founder’s Choice’ 60.5%

    The Lakes Distillery – ‘Whiskymaker’s Reserve No.2’ 60.9%

    You can view the session in full on Facebook Live

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    Read our feature on the best Scottish Whisky for 2020 here

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  • Greenhouse gardening: five top tips on how to grow tomatoes

    If, like me, you’re the lucky owner of a greenhouse (you can read our how-to-put-up-a-greenhouse guide here) then you’ll be grateful that it allows loads of plants to grow at a much faster rate than those left outside in the miserable British weather. The fastest developers in our greenhouse are undoubtedly the tomatoes: they are easy enough to grow in most conditions and a doddle under the warmth of clear glazing.

    Even though anyone can grow them, there are a few bits of advice worth following to help them fulfil their tomatoey potential. Here are our five top tomato growing tips…

    snip shoots from tomatoes

    Support, ripen and snip out those shoots…

    Our top five tips for growing tomatoes in your greenhouse

    1 Water
    Tomatoes are thirsty fruit. Give them a good guzzle of water when you first plant them and continue to water regularly. However, it’s worth treating them a bit mean in the early weeks by skipping a few days. This will stop their roots lazily lapping up the moisture within the immediate vicinity, encouraging them to go roaming to find more. The result will be stronger plants.

    2 Feed
    Despite what every expert and fruit-feed manufacturer says, you don’t need to feed tomatoes in order to get a harvest. But if you want bigger, better yields it sure does help. You can buy food (usually called something with ‘tom’ in the title such as ‘Tomogrow’*) or you can make your own. Nettles chopped up and left to soak in water works (although it’s a bit stinky) as does watered down manure (equally stinky). Comfrey and seaweed mulches are also recommended.

    3 Air
    Although your tomatoes will love the tropical steamy conditions created by your greenhouse, they will also benefit from a bit of air to circulate through an open window or door. Not only will this allow pollinating insects easier access than by forcing their thoraxes through gaps in the construction, but it will also create a more stable growing environment and discourage nasty damp-related diseases from taking a grip. Furthermore, when temperatures reach scorching levels during the day, they usually plummet at night, and this exaggerated shift on the thermometer ain’t much fun for a plant.

    4 Support
    If you think tomato plants are so clever, what with their quick growing and showy, tempting bright red fruits, then why do they have such feeble stalks that collapse as soon the first tomato adds its weight to their structure? Eh? Give them a hand and keep them in a vertical position by gently tying to stakes or creating a framework of string for them to lean against.

    5 Snip
    Turn your back for two minutes and those eager growers will be sprouting shoots between leaf and stem. Unless you’re growing a bushy variety you should regularly snip them out with a pinch of your fingers. You don’t want excess energy going into side shoots – keep the plants climbing high and fruiting big. Another snip at the top of the plant is advisable when you’ve got a good amount of fruits set to focus energy into the harvest, rather than the rest of the plant. You can then also dispense with leaves at the bottom of the plant – these will just get in the way while you’re picking and prevent air from circulating between plants.

    *We don’t think ‘Tomogrow’ actually exists. Looking for a name for your new tomato feed business? Have it and thank us later…

    For more information about our Palram Harmony greenhouse check out their website here

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  • Five fantastic aniseed flavours for home made teas

    While researching for our new book, Wild Tea, we developed a liking for brews with the flavour of aniseed and set out to discover as many as we could find. Here are our five favourites…

    Fennel

    The undisputed aniseedy ace – its roots, leaves and seeds can all be used as an ingredient. It’s the vast Wild Fennel that’s best and dominates corners of our allotment and garden, and the seeds* are the highlight. Lightly crush a teaspoon of dried seeds and steep in a mug of hot water five minutes.

    Anise

    This Mediterranean plant has tiny seeds that are used in numerous sweets and boozes, including ouzo, absinthe, arak, sambuca and pastis. Lightly crush a teaspoon-full before adding to hot water or milk (a milky anise brew is a fine thing).

    Caraway

    Also known as Persian cumin and meridian fennel, these seeds are a common flavouring in rye bread. They have a milder aniseed flavour than fennel and are earthier with a slight peppery warmth to them. 

    Star Anise

    This spice is popular in Chinese cuisine and has a fruity aniseed flavour to it. Crush the stars into small pieces and use a teaspoon per cup for a fruity, spicy take on the aniseed theme.

    Liquorice

    We were surprised to discover that liquorice can be grown in British gardens so are now the proud owners of a plant. It’s the root that has the aniseed magic and, for the best cuppa, you’ll need to simmer a 50mm length in water for ten minutes. Alternatively, chop and bash as best you can and steep instead.

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    For lots more tea inspiration (including extended growing and brewing information on fennel and liquorice) get your hands on a copy of Wild Tea

    *Technically they’re the fruits…

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  • New Booze Round-up #19: British rum special!

    We’ve been commenting on how rum is on the up for a while and this year the curve seems to be arcing steeper, at least if the volume of rum-release emails we’re receiving is anything to go by. And they’re not all coming in from the Caribbean. For this edition of our New Booze Round-up we’re featuring three rums, each with the unusual distinction of being made in Britain…

    Bottle of pineapple rum

    Dead Man’s Fingers Pineapple Rum, 37.5%

    Rum’s attempts to be the new gin are evidenced in the huge variety of flavoured rums arriving on the market. In our experience, apart from myriad spiced rums, there is only one flavour that works consistently well: coconut. But we’re also beginning to believe that pineapple could be a best flavour contender, with Dead Man’s Fingers being the latest to give it a go.

    The Dead Man’s Fingers team hail from a crab shack in St Ives, Cornwall (Dead Man’s Fingers are the fingery gills in a crab) but distill their spirit in Bristol. Roasted, caramelised pineapple has been added to this rum, but it’s not as sweet or in-your-face-pineapple as you might imagine. Instead there’s a light pineapple flavour with a few sharp notes and a burnt toffee background that demands to be mixed with something fizzy and lots of ice. Lemonade, ginger beer or one of those tropical flavoured soft drinks that were massively big in the 1980s. Just make it cold and make it long for some terrific hot weather supping.

    BUY

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    Bottle of Silk Road rum

    Silk Road White Spiced Rum, 42%

    There’s a lot that’s unusual about this rum. It’s made in London. It’s a spiced white rum. And the six botanicals featured are vapour infused. Like most young white rums it’s best used as a cocktail mixer – sup it neat and the burst of alcohol will jab at your jaw before the spices deliver a knock-out punch. But calm the fire and you’ll notice it’s a much smoother sip, carrying those botanicals through to whatever drink you team it with, spicing up the flavours a treat.

    To make it sound even more unusual, we thought it worked well with tonic as a less bitter alternative to gin. And best of all was with flavoured tonics. Where these soft drinks can often kill the subtle flavours of gin, they mixed extremely well with the spices, allowing you to appreciate the flavours of the tonic as well as those of the rum. If you’re a cocktail experimenter then this rum is definitely one for you.

    BUY

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    Bottle of mainbrace spliced rum

    Mainbrace Rum, 40%

    Here’s another new rum with a Cornish connection, but to say it hasn’t come in from the Caribbean would be a bit of a lie. It’s a blended rum, dreamt up at The Ferry Boat Inn on the Helford Passage.* The spirits making it into the bottle are two to five year old golden rums from Guyana and an unaged Rhum** Agricole from Martinique.

    Rhum Agricoles are less well known in the UK but are the main type of rum in French speaking parts of the Caribbean. Unlike most rums that are distilled from molasses, Agricoles use sugar cane as their source and the resulting booze has a fresh and grassy flavour to it (perhaps unsurprising as sugar cane is a type of tropical grass).

    The folk at Mainbrace think this is the first such commercial blend*** of these two rum types and the resulting spirit is certainly different to others you’ll find in the UK. It has a good aged-rum aroma to it with sweet toffee to the fore, while those grassy notes lend the flavour a lighter edge and a dryness to the finish. It’s an excellent neat-sipper – not too challenging for those not used to sipping rum neat – and we are certain it will work well in your rum cocktail favourites, with a splash of fiery ginger being our preferred partner.

    BUY

    *Nick caught his first ever fish on the Helford river, over 40 years ago. A rock wrasse. He was way too young to be drinking so has now celebrated the occasion by raising a rum-toast to the mighty river and all who fish on it. (To see how stunning it is take a look at the pictures on the Mainbrace website)

    **French for ‘rum’

    ***Or ‘splicing’ as they call it, hence ‘splice the mainbrace’

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  • The best place in the garden for a bench (featuring the Turnberry Flat-Arm)

    A few years ago Rich got hold of an ace new bench from Sloane & Sons. His Westminster is a marvelous piece of craftsmanship and he has been bragging about it ever since, suggesting meetings round his house are held outside (even in winter) just so I’m forced to sit on the bench and admire its sturdy features.

    Last week we were chatting with the good folk at Sloane & Sons discussing how, with the country in lockdown, and gardens being busier than ever, those Westminster benches have been flying out of the warehouse.* During the conversation I casually mentioned that my own garden was currently bereft of benches** and, quick as a flash, they offered to rectify the situation with a handsome flat arm Turnberry teak bench.

    In return for this generosity I have agreed to write about the bench’s exquisite qualities while providing some insight into where the best place to position it might be…

    Where to place a garden bench

    Considerations

    Anyone unpacking a new bench might be inclined to simply plonk it where there’s some convenient space. But seeing as you’re going to spend a fair bit of time relaxing on your new piece of furniture it pays to give due consideration to where it might fit best, re-landscaping that area if necessary. When casting an eye across my own garden these are the questions that I worked my way through

    Do I want to maximise sun or shade?

    Which direction should the bench face?

    Should it be close to the house (for convenience) or as far away as possible (for escape)?

    What should the neighbouring planting scheme consist of?

    What surface should it sit on?

    My solution

    My garden is North East facing, so during the afternoon and evening the sunniest spot is at the end furthest away from the house. This is where my neighbours have their bench and they can be seen reclining on it, glasses of booze in hand, on most sunny evenings. However, the far end of my garden is currently a mess and I prefer a bench closer to the house.

    Besides giving me a shorter journey from beer fridge to furniture it also allows me to keep a better eye on dogs and children running in and out of the house. In design terms, a bench that is visible from inside the house can also create the illusion of the garden being an extension of the home, encouraging more frequent use of the outdoor space.

    Because most of my bench dwelling will be during the heat of the midday sun, some shade will be quite useful, so I’ve placed the bench among tall plants for a dappled light effect. It’s surrounded by rose and honeysuckle, giving me some floral fragrance while I relax, and there’s room either side for pots of further scented specimens (I will soon choose between lavender and rosemary).

    As it’s by the border it faces out across the lawn, giving me a good view of the garden (and my lager-swigging neighbours). I have a slate chipping surface, which allows it nestle down solidly while providing a dryer base than the lawn, which will help protect it from damp. I may be missing out on that evening sun but in situ it looks splendid.

    Turnberry 2 seater teak bench
    There’s comfort in those curves, while the view from the conservatory makes the garden feel like an extension of the house

    The bench

    Turnberry Flat Arm 2-Seater Teak Bench

    The main difference between my Turnberry bench and Rich’s Westminster is in its curves. Where Rich’s is all straight lines, my Turnberry flows with a graceful sophistication. A gentle arch across the top, and curved slats to lean against, provide excellent support and comfort for post-digging backs, while the smooth curvature of the arms is ideal for leaning on. Like Rich’s Westminster, the arms are flat, but mine widen at the front to create an ample platform on which to rest a mug or pint pot.

    The bench arrives as a flatpack, but assembly is easy – the back, base and arms are already made up so it’s just a case of fixing them together with the narrow strip of wood at the front. Simply hammer in a handful of wooden dowels and a screw in a couple of screws (the screws are underneath so won’t be visible) and you’ll have a perfectly sturdy bench that’s ready to take the strain.

    From now on, meetings are round my house.

    Wooden dowels and solid joints make the bench sturdy and avoid unsightly screws, while that curvy arm is crying out for the addition of a pint glass
    Wooden dowels and strong joints provide sturdiness while avoiding unsightly screws… and that curvy arm is crying out for the addition of a pint glass

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    If you want a Turnberry teak bench to rest upon the click here

    *Rich claims his bragging on this website is partly responsible

    **I had an old, narrow bench (converted from a shoe rack) which finally succumbed to rot last winter

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  • New Booze Round-up #18: Special releases from Laphroaig, Ledaig, Glenburgie and Worthy Park Rum

    Behold! This latest edition of our New Booze Round-up is a Whisky Exchange Special!

    A few weeks ago were recently sent four small sample bottles containing new releases from The Whisky Exchange. Each one of them is a little bit special. So special that we’ve decided to feature them in a new booze round-up all of their own. 

    If you’ve yet to explore the treasures on offer at The Whisky Exchange then you’re in for a treat because it’s one of the best-stocked booze retailers around. Besides housing one of the biggest ranges of whiskies and other spirits you will find anywhere, they also sell exclusive boozes that are bottled under their own label. They’re staffed by drinks experts who share a lot of their knowledge (check out the highly informative features on their website) and we regularly tap into their expertise when researching spirits for features. 

    The four samples we received are all exclusive releases – three Single Malt Scottish Whiskies and a Jamaican Rum – so if you’re looking for a taste of something rare then read on…

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    Laphroaig 1998, 21 years old, 54.4%

    Anyone who likes a peaty dram sloshing around in their glassware should be familiar with Islay’s Laphroaig distillery. Its whisky has a distinctive smoke and antiseptic tang that can put off some folk for life, but those who develop a taste for such a combination will lap up each new release with gusto.*

    This 21 year old suntanned spirit has a typically strong whiff of smoke and leather with that medicinal TCP quality also creeping into the frame. It’s a drink that has bags of flavour, with heavily roasted meat bones, sea spray, cherry pie and Unami all in the mix. There’s a minty tingle to the smooth oak finish and, even when it’s long since gone, those peaty characteristics keep on chugging away.

    Buy £325

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    Ledaig 2005, 13 year old, 57.4%

    Ledaig is made at the Island of Mull’s Tobermory distillery but, unlike Tobermoray releases, the whisky is infused with the flavours of peated malt. In trying to describe whiskies, several comparisons crop up that sound far from flattering: TCP (see above) is one of them and, in this instance, one of the key words you might find used is ‘damp.’ We’re going to take this cruel comparison even further and suggest the dampness is akin to steamy compost. And we’re also going to throw in burnt flavours to the flavour-association game: burnt oil and a fruit and chocolate cake that has spent way too much time in the oven.

    On more positive sounding territory we’ll also add some sherry sweetness and the kind of sugary hit you might detect when chewing on a licorice stick. In reality – as with most tasting notes – the similarity to these flavours is a personal perception: overall it’s an outstanding peaty whisky.

    Buy £94.95

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    Glenburgie 1998, 21 year old, 55.4%

    You won’t see many bottles of Glenburgie Single Malt Whisky in the shops because the majority of the distillery’s output is destined for blends produced by owners the Chivas Brothers. In fact, this is a first tasting of Glenburgie whisky for us.

    The initial supping of this pale dram was at the end of a tasting evening and our notes are verging on the indecipherable. We think they read “bitter lemon sweets, creme brulee and chewed toothpick.” A subsequent tasting does confirm that suckable citrussy sweets can be detected and there is the kind of creamy, crunchy, flame-grilled-sugar flavour that might sit on the top of a creme brulee. As for the toothpick, we suspect that refers to a mature, woody finish alongside which some of the fresher fruit flavours remain.

    Buy £120

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    Worthy Park Rum 2007, 12 year old, 58%

    Worthy Park is a Jamaican estate with a distillery and sugar plantation, the ideal combination for the production of rum. This bronzed molasses rum was aged for 12 years (9 years in the Caribbean and 3 in Europe) before being bottled by Thompson Brothers exclusively for The Whisky Exchange.

    It’s the kind of spirit that engulfs your senses with every sip, the gingery oak tugging away at the cheeks while the smooth, syruppy, tinned fruit and caramel flavours ease into every pore. It’s a rum that is drenched in Jamaican sunshine, giving you a tropical warmth and happy glow that will last through even the coolest of British evenings.

    Buy £64.95

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    Note: Prices are correct at time of publication

    *Looks like this one has sold out. Already

    The post New Booze Round-up #18: Special releases from Laphroaig, Ledaig, Glenburgie and Worthy Park Rum appeared first on Two Thirsty Gardeners.


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  • The five best flowers for home grown teas and infusions

    How do you decide on what flowers to grow in the garden? Looks, fragrance, attractiveness to wildlife and minimum effort are all key considerations for us, but recently we’ve been prioritising those plants we can stick in a mug of hot water to make a tasty tea.

    If you fancy a caffeine-free hot drink then these five fab flowers are well worth finding room for…

    Grow your own chamomile

    1 German Chamomile

    Chamomile is one of the better known floral teas around and its daisy-like flowers are easy to grow in borders or pots, giving you the option of making fresh cups of tea that taste even fruitier than when dried. There are two types of chamomile – the low lying Roman Chamomile and the taller German Chamomile – and it’s the latter that you want to seek out. It’s easy to grow from seeds and will give you regular pickings of flowers throughout the summer.

    Grow your own marigold

    2 Pot Marigold

    Add some bright yellow and orange colours to your garden with another easy-to-sow-and-grow flower, Calendula officinalis – commonly known as Pot Marigold (not to be confused with the inedible French or African Marigolds). The petals make a delicious, delicate cup of tea with a slightly sweet, earthy flavour, and they can also add those sunshine colours to your favourite herbal tea blends.

    Grow your own lavender

    3 Lavender

    If you feel instantly calmer whenever you catch the fragrance of lavender, then consider converting those calming properties to a cup of tea or coffee by sticking a couple of flower heads in your next brew. We think that fragrance is well suited to milky drinks such as chais and lattés. For maximum brewing pleasure it’s the English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) you’ll be needing to grow.

    Grow your own yarrow

    4 Yarrow

    Let the wild into your garden by growing some yarrow – its white (and sometimes pink) heads of flowers will be greatly appreciated by insects and you can use the flowers and leaves for a very underrated cuppa. Three to five young leaves or a few teaspoons of flowers are all you’ll need for a mug and you’ll be rewarded with a hot drink that has a tasty green freshness and bitter bite.

    Grow your own roses

    5 Rose

    Look after your roses and you’ll get to enjoy both their flowers and fruits for tea-making purposes. The petals are best for adding their heavenly scent to other teas (try infusing a handful of dried petals into a packet of black tea for a take on China Rose tea) while the rose hips taste so fruity that commercial tea makers use them to increase the flavour of their fruit tea blends. Most fragrant roses are suitable but we like the plump-hipped Dog Rose best.

    Grow your own tea book

    Our latest book, Wild Tea, is packed with even more ingredients you can grow and forage to turn into teas and infusions. Learn how to grow, brew and blend in one handy book. Order now from Amazon.

    The post The five best flowers for home grown teas and infusions appeared first on Two Thirsty Gardeners.


    Source: Two Thirsty Gardeners

  • Rhubarb and vanilla liqueur: our easy recipe

    With Covid-19 forcing people to spend their days at home there has been a sudden surge of interest in gardening. At this time of year there are plenty of tasks to be getting on with, but little in the way of harvests. Unless you have a rhubarb plant.

    This fruity vegetable is one of our saviours, giving us early spring pickings so we can enjoy the taste of our home grown efforts. And if you think its use is just restricted to crumbles, then you’re in for a treat – because it’s one of the best booze-making ingredients we know (along with a few other uses which we run through here).

    To give you something to do when you head back inside from the garden we’ve reproduced our ace rhubarb and vanilla liqueur from our book Brew it Yourself. We’ve also included a PDF from the book for anyone who wants to download it, print it out or share with their friends.

    Enjoy the recipe and, most importantly, stay safe.

    Our easy rhubarb and vanilla liqueur recipe

    Ingredients

    2 good-sized sticks, or 4 small sticks, of rhubarb (roughly 250g/9oz), chopped into small pieces

    220g/7¾oz/1 cup white sugar

    1 vanilla pod, sliced lengthways to expose the seeds

    Zest of ½ an orange

    1 x 70cl bottle of vodka

    Method

    1. Put the chopped rhubarb in a jar with the sugar, and leave for 24 hours.

    2. By now the sugar will have got to work extracting the rhubarb juice, so you can add the rest of the ingredients, including the whole vanilla pod. Cover everything with the vodka.

    3. Shake the jar to help dissolve the sugar, and leave it in a cool place away from direct sunlight. You’ll probably have to give the jar a few more shakes in the first few days to make sure all the sugar has dissolved.

    4. Ideally this mixture needs around 2 months to mature before bottling and the liqueur will continue to mellow and improve with age once in the bottle.

    Serving suggestions

    For the perfect rhubarb and custard liqueur, combine with egg-nog at a ratio of three shots of egg-nog to one shot of rhubarb and vanilla liqueur. Alternatively, splash the liqueur into real custard and pour it over the dessert of your choice.

    +++++

    Drag the PDF below onto your desktop or click here to download

    The post Rhubarb and vanilla liqueur: our easy recipe appeared first on Two Thirsty Gardeners.


    Source: Two Thirsty Gardeners

  • An interview with… Kerry Godliman

    Kerry Godliman is one of Britain’s most versatile performers, starring in Bad Move, Derek and After-Life, along with appearances on Live at the Apollo and numerous comedic panel shows including Mock the Week, 8 out of 10 Cats and Taskmaster. You’ll also see her in the brand new, four part-series Adult Material, which will be hitting Channel 4 later this year.

    When she’s not treading the boards, Kerry likes to relax with a spot of aggressive allotmenteering. She kindly takes time out from her busy schedule to tell us all about boshing weeds, prepping for gigs, and the joy of a National Trust cake.

    Unfortunately the ‘Bosh’ tour mentioned below has since been postponed due to COVID-19, so keep checking her website for further details.

    —————–

    Is gardening something you were bought up with, or have you grown into it?
    Well I had no interest in it. My mum and dad always did gardening, but I wasn’t that bothered. So yeah, it has come to me at this chapter of life.

    You have an allotment now….
    Yes I have. I share it and I have to be honest with you, my friend Claire does most of it. She’s very passionate about it. She has two in fact and it is much more her thing, but I was the one that got it. I put my name on the list and my name came up and I had a feeling that I wasn’t going to be able to do it on my own so I asked her if she wanted to share it which was a canny move because she’s done most of the heavy lifting really. I had to wait four years, which is pretty average for London.

    Thinking back to the time when you appeared on Taskmaster (the Channel 4 game show fronted by comedic colossus Greg Davies) you had a very much direct, no-nonsense way of tackling the tasks. Is that your approach to gardening too?
    Actually, it is. There’s a bit on Taskmaster which references this*. The way I garden is not very tranquil. I can get quite aggressive with slugs and weeds. I don’t go into a reverie of meditation. I’m quite robust.

    A lot of people use gardens as their restful, therapeutic place….
    I do too. But that’s how I rest.

    Do you find the allotment a good place to work on material?
    You kind of percolate all the time. When I was younger, I felt that you had to sit down and write in the kind of traditional way, but now I tend to percolate quite a lot and tend to get on with other things. So gardening is quite good for that – it’s one of those flow activities where you are half-thinking about what you are doing but half-thinking about other stuff.

    How long did the current tour take to write?
    Well, it’s not really a locked down thing. It’s been evolving, bits and routines have been floating about in pads or in offshoots of other bits. It’s really really hard to define or explain, but it’s been evolving for about two years, like tiny little bits have been bubbling up, and they start to develop a theme. At some point – usually when your agent kicks you up the arse and says “I need a title because I’m booking this in” – you go, right, all these things that have been flying about in my brain for two years now, I need to lock them down and pull them together and do a little bit of homework. You then scribble them down and stick them on post-it notes and then arrange them in a way so there is some form of narrative. I mean, it’s a contrivance because it’s not really a narrative – you are just finding a way to kind of hang the disparate bits together.

    How do you prepare for going on stage?
    I’m a drama school trained actor so I know that the sensible answer is that I should do a vocal warmup and stretch out but I know that comics just don’t do that. And I have occasionally lost my voice on tour. When I’ve spoken to actor friends they go “Why didn’t you warm up?”, because if you were doing a play you would warm up, but stand-ups are just too rock and roll for that and they think it’s really edgy to not bother getting themselves mentally ready. I suppose I just try and have a bit of quiet where I can just map the route of the show over in your head. I also like to reflect on all the people that have come actually, that has become a nice ritual, where you go “wow, I’m just really grateful that all these people came.” And it’s a way of diffusing nerves, because if you get caught up in nerves, it’s a downward spiral, so you have to nip it in the bud.

    Your tour involves lots of dates…
    It’s long but it’s broken up, so I’ve got like a week in London, so that’s one stretch of it, and then I’ve got a week in the Highlands, so I’m going to the Outer Hebrides, so that’s a bit of a random addition. It’ll be amazing, and basically it’s an excuse to go somewhere I would never have otherwise gone. A couple of other people have been there – Alan Carr has done it and Suzi Ruffell has done it. Tom Allen also. I’ve heard so much about it from other people and I’ve gone “I really want to do that”, so it’s kind of like a treat for me really.

    It sounds like your allotment will be a bit of a state by the time you get back.
    Nah, my mate’s all over that. I do love going away, and that isn’t really conducive to being a devoted gardener. My dad’s always saying that to me. “You can’t have long holidays Kerry if you are a true gardener.” But I cheat, I’m a terrible cheat. I get other people to come and do it.

    What kind of things will you be growing this year?
    I’ve already got my seeds in. I think I’m going to grow more flowers this year as opposed to just edibles. I just want to get the colour in the garden – I want to make it as colourful as I can get it. But edibles, I’m just going to do easy things like chard and courgettes and beans. Things that I can just keep eating through the season rather than have just one harvest.

    Is your allotment all neat and regimental?
    No, I really like that kind of Alys Fowler-y permaculture kind of system. Make it all look a bit higgledy piggledy. So growing sweet peas through beans, that kind of thing. I like it when people create sort of lounge sitting areas up there (at the allotment) and in the summer you can have a BBQ up there and all that. That to me is one of the upsides of having it. It’s social and somewhere to go. In London, it’s just so hard to get that sense of country and nature and you really have to find it where you can get it. I’m naturally quite urban, and I think I would go quite bonkers in the countryside, so I found a compromise by having an allotment.

    Is there a good community on your allotment, or are things a bit competitive?
    Claire (the woman who I share it with) says it can get a bit competitive. I just don’t engage with it. I just reserve my competitive nature for my area of work. I can’t be arsed to get competitive about a carrot.

    Listening back to your appearance on the superb ‘Off Menu’ podcast, you mentioned your allotment and the joy you get from visiting the Gardening Museum. Ed (Gamble) and James (Acaster) rudely took the piss out of you for this, didn’t they?
    Yes they did. They are young, silly boys.

    Do you get to visit many gardens?
    Yes I do. I went to Down House the other week. I was planning to go to Charleston next week but worried the weather will rain that off. I go to Kew regularly – my mum’s a member, and it’s great for accessibility there. You can hire a mobile and get around really easily. National Trust ones are always lovely, and are a great way to break up a journey.

    National Trust Gardens have nice tea shops…
    Ooh I do love a National Trust cake. That’s what I mean though… when James and Ed took the piss out of me for going to the Gardening Museum**, they’ve just got no idea what I’m talking about. I think they thought I was just making it up.

    I read on Wikipedia*** that you did a voiceover for a program about saving old pubs. Is this a subject close to your heart?
    Oh yeah, no that was just a voiceover job. I also did something for GCSE Bitesize maths. I don’t even have GCSE maths so there’s an indication just how disconnected you can be from a voiceover job. 

    But you do like pubs though, right?
    You know, I don’t mind them but I have gone off them as I’ve gotten older because I’m not drinking so much any more. We went to a pub in Barnes last Sunday and the rugby was on, I don’t eat meat and it was all roast dinners and I wasn’t drinking. What are these places for if you don’t like meat and you are not drinking and you don’t like rugby? I’m not passionate about pubs any more. I used to be when I was young… I used to live in them. 

    And finally, after a hard day’s graft – allotment or stage, what is your go-to drink?
    I would have either a beer or a red wine. 

    Any particular beer?
    I think I’d quite like a lager actually. Or just an ale. A nice cold drink. There’s something about a beer that makes you feel like you are on holiday. And then red wine is a nice wintery drink to make you feel a bit cosy.

    —————-

    Follow Kerry Godliman on Twitter
    @KerryAGodliman

    For gig info and booking details, visit
    https://kerrygodliman.com/

    —————-

    * Kerry’s blunt, ruthlessly efficient approach on Taskmaster helped coin the name of her current tour. BOSH!

    ** Kerry chose the chocolate pudding from the Garden Museum cafe as her favourite dessert. Unfortunately a quick look on their website reveals that this dessert no longer exists. The Buttermilk panna cotta, poached rhubarb and shortbread sounds nice though.

    *** Only the most thorough pre-interview research for us…

    The post An interview with… Kerry Godliman appeared first on Two Thirsty Gardeners.


    Source: Two Thirsty Gardeners

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