Until you ‘get into’ whisky, it can often feel a bit overwhelming. I remember having a swig of a dram years ago at a family event or party and swiftly deciding that it wasn’t the drink for me.
I had written off whisky in its entirety for about a decade until I took part in a press launch for a whisky brand and was introduced to the whisky sour and from there, my taste for whisky developed. It was nothing like that dram that stuck in my mind from all those years ago. I now found it much smoother, warm and a really enjoyable drink.
And here lies part of the problem. If you’re a novice to whisky, where do you start? If you pick up any bottle, you’ll generally see some very lovely branding, an age statement (if it’s a malt), and a where it was bottled etc but nothing at all about the flavour profile.
If you’re a bit of a connoisseur and know exactly what you want so that’s maybe not such a big issue, but if you’re trying to pick up a nice gift for someone or are introducing yourself to whisky then it can be a bit more of a challenge.
Thankfully, change is afoot as William Grant & Sons have created a brand new 10-year-old single malt called Aerstone. The idea behind Aerstone was to make it easier for people to discover a whisky that they like and to get an understanding of what kind of flavour that they might expect from it.
To do that, they created 2 very distinct variants of Aerstone, one a smooth and easy to drink whisky and the other a rich smoky whisky for those who enjoy a little bit of a flavour punch.
The Aerstone Sea Cask is the smooth and easy whisky and it has been matured in their warehouses by the sea down the Ayrshire coast in Scotland. The Land Cask, on the other hand, has been matured inland, using highland peat which results in a much richer and smokier character.
It’s Father’s Day this Sunday so what better way to say thanks then by taking some time out to share a dram with the father figure in your life. Both the Aerstone Land and Sea Cask variants are currently exclusively available at Tesco at the special price of £20 making it the ideal gift.
I’m a massive fan of sportswear and the 80’s inspired TV series Stranger Things so when the news of their collaborative capsule collection dropped into my inbox yesterday I literally gasped with excitement.
The new season of Stranger Things is set in the summer of 1985 and sees Hawkins, Indiana in the midst of big change. The 80’s nostalgia vibes are as prominent as ever and this, of course, extends to the cast’s wardrobe. Off-screen, this nostalgia is the impetus for the Nike Stranger Things collection, highlighting the Cortez, Blazer (two of my favourite ever Nike styles) and Tailwind.
The first drop of the Nike x Stranger Things capsule is expected on June 27th and incorporates Hawkins High’s green and orange colour scheme and Tiger mascot into a spirited mix of apparel and footwear. Sweat suits and T-shirts channel 1980s American phys-ed class style, and three footwear match accordingly.
A few days later the OG Pack, arrives (July 1st), and each shoe in this collection will carry a red, white and blue colour scheme and celebrates 1985 Independence Day with a year marker on the heel and special firework display sock liner.
It sounds awesome!
And for those of you wondering when Stranger Things season 3 arrives, you don’t have long to wait as it is coming to Netflix on July 4th .
As our homes continue to get smarter and smarter the array of connected gadgets available to us keeps getting larger. Home security cameras used to involve a very clumpy setup with lots of wires, huge, unsightly camera and a monitor in the house for watching the footage back.
Thankfully this has all completely changed as it is now possible to install a device on the exterior of your home and monitor it in real time via an app on your smartphone.
I’ve been toying with getting one of these smart cameras for a while, as I love the idea of being to communicate with anyone who turns up at my door if I’m out. I get a lot of deliveries and often if I miss them it can be a real pain trying to organise a re-delivery or to collect them from the local (which never actually seem to be that local) depots.
Rather handily, I got an email last month from Yale, asking if I fancied trying out their brand new All-in-One Outdoor Camera so for the past few weeks I’ve been using one at home and must say I love already.
The camera unit itself is small and discreet which means that it won’t look unpleasant on the side of your buildings. It’s waterproof so there is no issue with the lovely British weather affecting it operating.
Aside from recording footage the Yale all-in-one outdoor camera also has a built-in siren alarm and spotlight, these can be controlled from the Yale App and used to scare off any potential intruders near your property. The motion detector can send an alert to your phone whenever motion is detected too.
As this is a connected product you will need a home wifi connection and the Yale View App (downloadable from the app store or from google play) to use it. The app is used to configure and control the camera as well as to view the footage and activate its features.
Due to the features on the camera (light and siren etc), it needs to be hard wired into a socket and it comes with a 3-metre long USB cable. Luckily, I have a powerpoint that I use to power the Christmas lights already so it was easy to run it from that. If you don’t have a powerpoint handy then you might need to run the wire through a window or similar.
IT’s then just a case of finding the best place for it and attaching it using the mount onto the wall.
You will need an SD card for recording footage and this is not included so make sure you pick one up in advance. You’ll find these on amazon or the likes for under £10.
Using the app
You use the app to control the camera and activate its features. It also allows you to adjust the brightness of the spotlight or to completely disable it and the siren.
As the camera activates when it detects movements, you can also use the app to define ‘activity zones’. These are areas like your front path where you naturally get a lot of movement. Using this feature will cut down on the number of false alarms that you have.
You can also use the app to communicate with people who may be outside your home too. I found this feature really handy and on occasion, I was able to request that a courier leave a package in a safe place as I wasn’t at home.
Even if you live in a relatively safe area, the addition of a few extra features like the Yale all-in-one outdoor camera just makes your home that little bit less appealing to any would-be intruders so it is most definitely an investment worth making. The added option of speaking to visitors is great too and for me really makes this product.
This year British Airways are celebrating 100 years in the sky and to mark this special occasion they have announced lots of exciting activity including some rather cool retro paint jobs on a few of their aircraft, new planes, and most excitingly for us a special edition IPA.
The new transatlantic IPA has been developed for British Airways but the Scottish craft beermaker, BrewDog and in a world first it has actually been brewed at 40,000ft.
The IPA started life onboard a British Airways 787 Dreamliner as it cruised at 500mph near to the home of BrewDog, over the north of Scotland. BrewDog founders Martin Dickie and James Watt enlisted the help of some BA cabin crew to mix the water, hops and barley needed to start the mashing process.
The new beer has been aptly named Speedbird 100 after the airline’s call sign and is exclusively available on board all BA flights and in selected airport lounges.
Boffins will tell you that at altitude our tastebuds alter and our sensitivity to flavours and smell is reduced. Speedbird 100 has been expertly crafted to ensure that it tastes its best whilst enjoyed in the air.
In addition to the launch of Speedbird 100, British Airways partnership with BrewDog has seen them open the first dedicated BrewDog bar in New York within the BA lounge at JFK airport.
British Airways - Introducing Speedbird 100: Transatlantic Pale Ale - YouTube
My wine journey (and my new-found love of red in particular) actually started on a long-haul flight. Now I know that the connoisseurs out there will probably tell you that altitude is the worst place to properly taste wine as out taste buds are completely altered up there. Time after time I had politely declined the crew’s offer of wine with the meal service but on a night flight over the Atlantic, I took a notion to try the red. As I was clueless about wine, I asked the steward to recommend one and so they did. It was a Cabernet Sauvignon and after those first few sips, I savoured every last drop.
I’m now a couple of years into my wine journey and, while still not an expert I’ve had time to try a few others and discover the types of wines that I like and those which I also dislike. I quickly discovered that my wine of choice was generally of the red variety. I’m not a massive drinker in general but that experience of a nice glass of red with dinner or on a chilled evening is something that I’ve really grown to enjoy.
Finding nice wines is something that I’ve realised is not always easy.
I’ve finally realised the obvious and that the cost of the bottle does not
always signify the best taste. The nice labels don’t mean nice wine and
After spending some time sampling a few wines from supermarkets I found the Millesima online wine shop. It’s an amazing destination for wine lovers and has grown from humble beginnings in 1983 to become Europe’s leading fine wine mail order merchant.
They specialise in a unique range of Bordeaux wines from all the best appellations of the region, in a range of vintages but on top of this they have a very expansive range of wine from the other regions as well as the Champagne, Burgundy, Rhone Valley, Provence, Languedoc-Roussillon, South-West, Corsica, Alsace, Loire Valley as well as a great foreign offering. In fact, they stock around 2.5 million bottles of wine so if you can’t find something that you like on there, you are most definitely doing it very wrong!
The website is very well laid out so if you know what you are looking for
you can quickly navigate over to that but if you enjoy a bit of a discovery
mission then it’s great just to browse the collection. They offer very
detailed descriptions of each wine, so you have a lot of useful information and
tasting notes to go on before deciding what to purchase.
And the best part is, once it has been very carefully packaged at the
Millesima warehouse in Bordeaux, it’s all delivered directly to your
door. Now tell me that doesn’t sound good.
DS, in case you are still unfamiliar with this relatively young car brand, are a standalone luxury car brand within the PSA family (Citroen, Peugeot and Vauxhall) that were created to meet the growing luxury market. Initially, the first carnation of the DS3 that was unveiled back in 2009 was very much a stylised version of the Citroen 3 but as time has moved on DS have carved their own very distinct style and identity.
I was actually at the unveiling of this new car over in Paris, late last year but last month, I popped down to Kew Gardens for a closer look at the car and to hear about the DS sponsorship of the current Chihuly exhibit at Kew. This was my first visit to Kew so I was as excited to see the gardens as I was to see the car and thankfully neither disappointed.
The DS 3 Crossback is a luxury small SUV and the third car to join the DS range and with a few others set to be unveiled by 2024, DS will shortly have a car in almost all of the main segments. DS (in their own words), is an avant-garde car brand who blend the knowhow and craft with advanced tech and, I guess that does hit you from the first look at the DS 3 Crossback. In a line-up against its direct rivals, the Audi Q2 and the MINI Countryman the DS 3 Crossback really does rather striking looking.
It is on the interior though that the designers have really gone to town and whilst I applaud the craftsmanship and originality. I was driving the Ultra Prestige model and I think that in some aspects the interior is a little bit too fussy for me, especially in the non-black colour options. I guess that’s just my taste though as I’m a bit more of a minimalist. I was a big fan of the infotainment system though, it was clear, sleek and responsive. The seats, which were a mix of soft Nappa leather and Alcantara were comfortable and luxurious to the touch and, for its size, the cabin was relatively spacious inside too.
On the road, whilst not the most fun I’ve ever had driving, the DS 3 Crossback felt solid, safe and relatively powerful for its size too. I switched from some lovely quiet country roads to the joy that is the M25 and it was a smooth ride on both.
By 2025, DS intend for their entire range to be electric so it’s no surprise that they are really pushing the E version of this car too and whilst I have not had the change to drive one, the E-Tense DS 3 Crossback does sound promising too. Particularly that at a quick charge station you can top up your battery to 80% in just 30 minutes.
You do get a lot for your money with a DS car both in terms of the vehicle spec and in terms of aftersales. Their unique ‘Only You’ mobile app, for example, offers a whole host of services from assistance to exclusive event invites and servicing so they really do go that extra mile for their customers.
The DS 3 Crossback is priced from £21,500 and available to order now.
I’ve got some great news if you follow a vegetarian diet, as Fray Bentos, Britain’s, best-loved pie brand have just launched their first ever vegetarian pie.
Fray Bentos have been feeding hungry students, families, and pensioners for decades now and have grown to become a kitchen cupboard saviour ever since their classic tinned steak and kidney pies were first sold on supermarket shelves in 1961. Since then the range has grown to include chicken pies, minced beef pies, and a range of other options.
The brand new Fray Bentos Vegetable Balti pie is packed with a really tasty (I tried one last night) filling of potato, onion, red pepper, carrot, peas, and that all-important puff pastry topping. I’m not sure why, but it had been years since I’ve had one of their pies but they are the ideal midweek comfort dinner.
Just like the rest of the range, the Vegetable Balti pie is baked in Scotland and comes in their iconic pie tin, which means all that you have to do it remove the lid (make sure you have a heavy-duty tin opener for this bit) and bung it into the oven for 25 minutes and you’re good to go. My favourite part, aside from the tasty pie itself is the fact that you have no washing up of a crusty pie dish afterwards. Just give this a rinse and pop it in the recycling.
As I said above, I made myself one for tea last night and was pleasantly surprised by both the taste and the generous amount of filling. There’s nothing worse (for me) than a pie that is all gravy and no action but this had a great blend of thick sauce (that wasn’t too spicy) and plenty of veg too. Winner, winner, veg pie dinner!
Meat lovers don’t have to worry either as they have no plans to ditch their other pies, they are just meeting the ever-growing customer demand for vegetarian and vegan-friendly products.
The best part is that they are only a quid at the moment in Morrisons! Bargain!
Perfecting a good morning routine forms a great foundation for the day ahead and I think it all starts the night before. Waking up feeling refreshed and raring to go all depends on having a good sleep doesn’t it? I’m pretty fortunate that I’m a pretty good sleeper on the whole, it’s rare that I struggle to doze off at night, but I realise that is not the case for everyone.
No matter how crazy your day has been it’s always best to try to take some time to slow down and unwind before falling into bed. If you don’t as soon as you hit the pillow your head will still be spinning with thoughts. It goes without saying that taking time out to have a bath, relax and enjoy some general chill time before trying to sleep is great but who actually has time for all of that each night? Not me for one! Try to make some small changes in the hour before bed. That means no TV, no sugar and no work. I like to listen to some chilled music (Radio 2 have some great documentaries on late at night) and generally slow things down a bit.
Your bed itself should be a haven of comfort so investing in it should not be overlooked. A good quality mattress, pillows and bedding make a massive difference. It’s no coincidence that when you stay in a nice hotel the beds normally feel like heaven, they use premium cottons and well-made mattresses. Try switching to Egyptian cotton bedding too and there is no way you will want to buy cheap supermarket sheets ever again.
Next comes the mattress. I know you probably think that your current mattress is ‘fine’, but fine really isn’t good enough. Depending on your personal sleeping habits it is likely that you spend around a third of your life in bed, so you need to ensure that this is spent in comfort. You’ve no doubt seen the Casper mattress advertised everywhere. They offer comfort and support all in one through their high-density memory foam and transition comfort zone layers. The zoned layers treat your shoulders and hips differently for better alignment and deeper comfort. Honestly, once you upgrade your mattress to a new one like the Casper you will quickly realise that your old one was anything but fine!
It’s important to get the temperature right during the night too. As we move into summer it’s worth thinking about switching your heavy duvet for something a bit lighter. Being too hot or too cold is a major factor in a restless night’s sleep. I’ve switched to a summer recently too, it’s only 4.5 tog so it’s ideal, as the night temperature creeps up a little.
So now you have got to sleep, what about waking up? I’m obviously lucky in that I work from home a lot of the time so waking up in the morning is not so much of a rush job for me as many of you probably face. The one thing I would say is to stop using the snooze button. Just set your alarm for as late as you possibly can and get up as soon as it kicks in. An extra half hours sleep is much more beneficial than 30 mins of constant snooze button hitting.
Gran Canaria had never been top of my travel bucket-list but when I was introduced to Seaside Palm Beach in Maspalomas that changed very quickly. After a fairly busy start to the year I was on the hunt for somewhere sunny and chilled to spend a few days by a nice pool recharging my batteries. Seaside Palm Beach ticked all of my boxes.
Originally opened in 1975, Seaside Palm Beach was one of the first 5-star properties in the area and it therefore commands a fantastic location adjacent to the beach the famous Maspalomas Sand Dunes. The resort was given a complete refresh in 2002 by the renowned designer Alberto Pinto. He placed a big emphasis on design and gave the hotel a very chic, 1970s Miami style makeover. He used bold and bright colours which perfectly complement the islands sunny climate. You’ll find little pockets of colour on every turn and they didn’t half help to brighten up my days.
I must admit, a more mature property like Seaside is not the type of place that I’d normally stay as I’m generally a fan of the more minimal and modern style (the all-white everything kind of vibe) but the design link here and the fact that this was the first Design Hotel in the Canary Islands really had me intrigued.
As I arrived at the hotel and entered the quirky reception area for the first time, I knew that I’d made the right choice. The smartly dressed but very friendly staff on the front desk quickly checked me in while I enjoyed an ice-cold glass of cava on the fantastically coloured sofas overlooking the beautiful pool and lush gardens.
The general rule in hotels is the higher the floor, the better the view and that is certainly true here. I was allocated a room on the 6th floor which had a view of the sea, the beach and dunes. It was the perfect little spot and I must admit, I found it hard to tear myself away from that perch. Watching and listening to the palm trees swaying in the wind was so utterly relaxing.
The 70’s style design touches continue through to the rooms too. Mine was in the beige colour scheme (the most muted in the hotel) but a funky zig zag carpet and colourul art work on the walls maintained the retro vibe. The beds were comfy and the addition on a little seating area (I had the superior room) was nice too. I also loved the addition of the white Loewe television and the nightly delivery of the tastiest hazelnut chocolates on my pillow too.
The whole vibe at Palm Beach is very chilled. It’s the kind of place where you could easily just find a quiet corner and tuck yourself away with a book without being disturbed. If like me though, you like to keep a tad more active though then they also have you covered as dotted around the gardens you’ll find a table tennis table, shuffleboard, French bowls and both tennis and basketball/football courts. Their gym is actually outdoors too (with a little shelter to keep the sun off you) and is really well equipped with lots of modern Technogym equipment so you have no excuse not to keep up with your routine. Should you wish.
I was staying on a half board basis, so my breakfast and evening meal was included. Very rightly, they really pride themselves on and their food offering and it was exceptional. They have 2 a la carte restaurants but it was the buffet selection that really blew me away. There was everything from grilled lobster too steaks and other speciality foods. I think I’d go as far as to say that it was the most impressive and tastiest hotel buffet that I’ve ever eaten at. Keep a look out for their BBQ grill nights as these were the clear highlight for me.
There were countless things that I loved about this property but right at the top for me was the perfectly maintained tropical garden. I say garden but it’s so large it felt a little more like a jungle at times. It’s filled with giant palm trees, a variety of cacti, colourful flowers and lots of little birds. I genuinely loved having a wander through them on the way down to the gym in the mornings.
Over the years, I’ve sampled rather a lot of different Belgian beers, but I’d never actually been to the country so when an invitation from Heverlee dropped into my inbox inviting me on a trip to discover their heritage I jumped at the chance.
I first tried Heverlee about 5 years ago now at a little pop-up event in Glasgow that they were sponsoring. For a beer that I’d never tried before I remember thinking that it went down quite well. Heverlee are big on street art too and at that very event they had signed up a Belgian artist called Dzia to create a few murals around the space of the pop-up.
I knew little of the Heverlee story, so as I arrived in the Belgian city of Leuven, I was looking forward to finding out how it all began. My tour guide for this Heverlee discovery trip was a quirky Belgian guy called Joris who is also (rather handily), the Heverlee master brewer. He told the story of how he actually grew up in the sprawling grounds of Park Abbey, Heverlee and that an ancient order of monks, the Abbey of the Order of Premontre based at the Abbey used to make beer on the site many years ago.
It all started as at the time the water from the nearby spring wasn’t clean enough to drink so by turning it into beer, they avoided anyone falling ill. It of course had been quite some time since that last batch was brewed by the monks but Joris and his team took inspiration from books in the abbey’s library that told of a light, fresh tasting beer. It was from the descriptions in these ancient books that Heverlee was born.
From the home of Heverlee we travelled north to Antwerp, a Belgian city which sits close to the border with Holland with a pretty vibrant street art scene. As I mentioned above Heverlee are pretty big on street art and have enlisted a few big-name Belgian artists over the years to produce the art work for their cans and glasses.