Your Swiss meringue buttercream might be flawlessly spread or your creme pat perfectly set, but if you serve it on a disposable party plate (too often the case), it’s sure to lose its showstopper potential.Do your creation justice – or jazz up something simple that needs a little added wow factor – with a standout cake stand, whether it’s a simple white porcelain beauty or something more dramatic in bright colours or unusual shapes.
The success story of Argentine malbec is well documented. A once important part of Bordeaux blends, contributing firm tannins and dark, brambly fruit flavours, it fell out of favour after a terrible frost in 1956 wiped out most of the crop. But it was reinvented in Argentina, which began to produce good value, richly fruited, velvety malbec, shot through with appealing acidity and lightness of touch on the palate: ideal with steak and other red meats and a winning combination with UK consumers.
If the thought of choosing a bottle of wine from a wall of supermarket plonk leaves you feeling faint, it might be worth turning your attention to the online stores, providing all manner of added assistance.Whether you’re a novice or a WSET-certified wine expert, these online merchants offer bigger ranges than most physical stores can stock (thanks to unlimited shelf space) and plenty of helpful tools and advice to make sure you purchase wines you and your guests will love.
There’s nothing quite as frustrating as lunch envy, especially when you covet the lunch box as well as its contents.With the money spent on grab-and-go lunches at an all-time high, and single-use lunch packaging continuing to wreak havoc on the planet, it really is high time you invested in a reusable lunch box or two – if you haven’t done so already.
A hard-working, everyday piece of kitchen kit – the humble salt and pepper mill needs to stand the test of time. Essential for seasoning your food to perfection, whether that’s while rustling up a meal, or sitting at the dining table.However, there’s really no need to spend a fortune and you can expect a good quality set to last many years, with some in our round-up even coming with a lifetime guarantee.We hadn’t considered this before, but as well as grinding tough black peppercorns and rough sea salt, many of the sturdy mills with good quality mechanisms are also capable of crushing whole spices too – a handy kitchen hack we’re happy to have discovered. Personally, we prefer a grinder that dispenses the fruits of its labour from the top, that way kitchen mess is kept to a minimum, however, some of these clever contraptions even come with their own pretty plate, so whatever your preference, there’s an option for that.And if grinding by hand sounds like too much effort, we’ve even included a battery-powered option, which will dispense freshly ground seasoning at the touch of a button.At the other end of the gadget spectrum is a simple salt and pepper shaker, if you don’t require freshly ground condiments.Another thing to consider before selecting your mills is where your set will be kept when not in use. Do you want a stylish pair, worthy of keeping out on display? Or would you rather something small and compact that will stay tucked away in a cupboard until you need it.When testing we were looking for user-friendly sizes, easy to fill contraptions that looked chic at the same time.You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers , but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent. Menu norm bottle grinder salt and pepper set: £60, Harvey NicholsIn stylish, muted shades of grey and off-white, this Scandinavian salt and pepper mill set is as good-looking as it is functional. Each mill is comprised of two parts which simply pull apart for you to fill the bottom half. As well as grinding coarse sea salt and black peppercorns, these would also work well on whole spices and seeds, with a choice of three settings which determine how fine you’d like the result. The outer shell is made of silicon, which is easy to wipe down and each mill is finished with a light wooden top. As the opening is at the top of each grinder, you won’t leave a trail of salt and pepper in your wake when out of use.Buy now Zara Home berghoff salt and pepper grinder: £19.99, Zara HomeReminding us of something we might see in a rustic Italian trattoria, these sleek black salt and pepper mills will look just as great in the home. Measuring 27.5cm in height, these tall mills are made from wood and have a sturdy ceramic and stainless steel grinder mechanism. To fill, unscrew the knob at the top, remove the lid and fill to the top – which should keep you going for some time.Buy now Tower electric salt and pepper mill set: £22,99, WayfairSave the elbow grease and invest in a battery-operated pair of mills instead. Making light work of grinding salt, pepper and other spices, just hold down the button on top and an LED light will appear, making it even easier to see what you’re doing. They’re stylish too, sporting a very on-trend marble and rose gold design, paired with an acrylic section allowing you to see what each grinder is holding. A good option for those with arthritis in the hands or other mobility issues.Buy now Cole & Mason gourmet precision+ Lyndhurst ash inverta salt and pepper mill set: £99.99, Cole & MasonNew for 2019, the Precision+ grinding mechanism is billed as Cole & Mason’s “best pepper grinder ever”. The new technology has been created to release more pepper per turn and will come from the top of each mill, to keep your kitchen sides free from residue. With a pleasing weight and smooth carbon steel mechanism, these mills are available in either Nordic white with steel or chestnut and rose gold designs which should fit into most kitchen colour schemes. These offered the widest grind choices, with six options for pepper and three for salt and we found filling each mill from the base very easy. Although one of the most expensive brands we tried, these mills are covered with Cole & Mason’s lifetime mechanism guarantee.Buy now Anthropologie bistro salt and pepper shakers: £16, AnthropologieReminding us that not all salt and pepper mills need to be purely functional is the fabulously eclectic homeware brand, Anthropologie. Designed in an elegant, black, white and gold tile effect pattern, the set contains a pair of shakers for your salt and pepper, labelled with a large S and P respectively, as well as a very handy dish to collect any rogue crumbs. There is also a butter dish, various sized canisters (ideal for sugar cubes, tea bags and the like) and coasters in the same design.Buy now John Lewis & Partners hammered copper salt and pepper mills: £45, John Lewis & PartnersThe trend for hammered copper in homeware pieces shows no signs of dying down. Unlike clinical silver or showy gold, this more muted metal has the ability to soften décor, with a warm glow which works back with a number of kitchen colour palettes. This simple and pretty set is very straight forward to use, with just the one grind setting. To fill, just you just twist the silver tip, remove the top half of the mill and simply pour in your salt or pepper before reassembling – leaving the pair to shine on the kitchen counter whilst not in use.Buy now STAUB salt and pepper shaker Set: £9.95, STAUBCheap, cheerful and unapologetically low tech, you won’t find any mechanical grinders in this set. Instead, a simple shake and you’re away. Measuring a diminutive 7cm in height, they take up very little space in compact kitchens and add a cheerful pop of colour in this rich dark blue hue. Obviously, you’ll need to buy pre-ground salt and pepper but despite the simplicity, French brand STAUB is one you can trust, hailing as they do from the food-lovin region of Alsace. Crafted from the brands signature ceramic, we’re confident these are built to last, despite the reasonable price tag.Buy now The verdict: Salt and pepper mills and shakersWe’ve been the happy owners of this set for years and they show no signs of giving up on us yet. Well priced, stylish and simple to use, the Menu norm bottle grinder set is a design classic.
Whether your vice is a classic martini (shaken, not stirred a la James Bond) or a perfectly frothed pisco sour, the humble cocktail shaker is an essential piece of kit for making your favourite cocktail recipes like the pros.It’s particularly important for creating the light foam found in some egg white-based cocktails and is also the quickest way of cooling a drink down, while adding just the right amount of dilution from the added ice. Ingredients are thoroughly combined – whether it’s a boozy affair or a mocktail – and you’ll look pretty cool in the process.
You might think tea bags are just simply paper and tea, and that of course they decompose, and that you’re doing your bit by putting them in your home food waste to compost. But, you’re wrong – unless you use plastic free tea bags, that is.In actual fact, an estimated 96 per cent of the tea bags we buy contain polypropylene, which is what the tea bags are sealed with, so when you put in the used bags in your food waste, you’re actually putting toxic chemicals into your beautiful compost that will eventually seep into the ground.Some plastic free tea brands differ between being biodegradable and compostable, which is important to know about, so you can deal with your used tea bag correctly. The former means it will be broken down by a biological process, but it needs the right conditions which are most often at an industrial level that uses a higher heat than you can obtain in your garden. And the latter is able to break down in home garden composting conditions and will work as a fertilizer afterwards.There are lots of brands who champion making tea bags without these tiny plastic pieces, and there’s more that are changing to rid themselves of it too. But if you’re favourite brand doesn’t offer a plastic free bag of your favourite brew, you can also use loose leaf tea. We looked for brands that not only used alternative materials to plastic in the actual tea bag, but ones that also removed plastic from the packaging, reduced excess materials and tags, paid producers a fair wage, and of course, tasted excellent. Here’s our roundup of tea bags that are free of plastic.You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent. Abel & Cole indubitably excellent organic earl grey: £4 for 15, Abel & Cole Coming in a brown paper bag style pouch this tea – sourced from Sri Lanka – is made by Alex Probyn, whom Abel & Cole call the tea whisperer. He began making tea as just a side project, and is now responsible for the brand’s signature blends. The pyramid bags – made from soilon, a bi-product of cornstarch that's best going in food waste – are large and give a well rounded, delicate but full-flavoured brew that’s organic, too. The entirety of the packaging is biodegradable, including the inner plastic-looking lining and reusable seal, made with Nature-flex – which is woodpulp – that’s also home compostable, and takes between three to six months to decompose at home.Buy now Brew Tea Co proper tea earl grey: £4.95 for 15, Brew Tea CoThis brand is all about as transparent and sustainable as it comes, and the brand makes it all fun too. Brew Tea – based in Manchester, uses whole leaves (not dust, it insists) and is a member of the Ethical Tea Partnership which supports small estate grower. This is a refreshing brew full of flavour mixing bergamot oil with ceylon black tea, orange peel and calendula petals. All the tea bags from the brand are made from cornstarch, the inner lining is made from Nature-flex and inside the box is a really useful card telling you what all the packing is made from and how it should be recycled: from the council food recycling (tea bags and inner lining) which decomposes at 45 days to the outer box which goes into the paper recycling. Buy now Clipper organic everyday tea: £3.49 for 80, ClipperIt might look most like an ordinary teabag, but this is far, far from it. Each teabag is unbleached (hence it’s more earthy colour), organic, fairtrade, plastic free and non GM. It was the world’s first pillow-shaped bag to meet this criteria and was launched in 2018. And if that’s not enough, it was even the world’s first fairtrade tea. The bag is made from abaca plants – a type of banana – and the plastic that sealed the bag is replaced with a material made from non-GM plants and it's become our new go-to every day tea. Just like it says. And it's by far the most affordable on the list.Buy now Hampstead Tea whole leaf home compostable pyramids: £4.49 for 15, Hampstead TeaWe love this brand's ethos of "cup to compost", where all the pyramids are made from GM-free sugar startch, which is home compostable, along with the inner plastic-look pouch that holds the tea bags. Hampstead Tea was the first company to produce a fully home compostable bag – which takes 91 days. The tea is whole leaf and all the ingredients are organic or biodynamic, where no chemicals are used. We love that there's no string or labels on the bags and it comes with a little handy bamboo tong to grab your bag out – perfect when there's no spoons in the office.The earl grey makes an excellent, well-rounded brew. There's also four others flavours in the range. We Are Tea English breakfast tea: £2.49 for 15, OcadoThis whole-leaf tea company started in 2007, and was the first brand to remove the paper tags from teabags. In 2012, We Are Tea joined the Ethical Tea Partnership and moved from nylon bags to ones made from soilon. Each teabag is sealed by ultrasound instead of glue, which makes them biodegradable at an industrial level between three and six months, so make sure you put them in your council food waste bin. It can go in your home compost, but it will take much longer (at least 18 months). When the tea first launched, the plastic inner part of the packaging was not recyclable, but it's now made from Nature-flex, too.Buy now Eteaket royal earl grey tea bags: From £4.95 for 15, EteaketBased in Edinburgh, this ethically sourced tea specialist café, which opened in 2008, sells its own brews in tea bags and loose leaf and is part of the Ethical Tea Partnership. The tea bags are made from soilon, which isn’t bleached and is biodegradable. The tag is made from paper which is not laminated and is attached to the string via ultrasound, while the inner packaging, made from Nature-flex, is recyclable and can be composted at home. The brand is also working on making all its wholesale orders plastic free too. We love this as a weekend morning brew. And definitely go to the cafe when you're in town. Buy now Nemi Tea green tea : £4.50 for 15, NemiteasThe teabags at Nemi have always been plastic free, since launching in October 2017. The pyramid bags are made from soilon, are guaranteed GM free and are totally biodegradable at industrial level. There’s no glue used to attach the string and labels, instead it's joined by ultrasound and all the packaging is made with Natur-flex. What we love most about this that the brand also helps refugees integrate into the UK by employing them to run their tea stalls. Buy now T2 French earl grey teabag gift cube: £8 for 25, T2This Australian brand, born in 1996 in Melbourne, reached the UK in 2014 in London’s Shoreditch (and grew to 14 stores in the capital) and takes its sustainability seriously. The bags are made from cornstarch, but have a more opaque appearance than any of the others we tested. The bags will breakdown in home composting but it can take a long as 18-24 months so it’s best to put it into your local council food composting where it will be quicker. The inner plastic is not recyclable, but the brand is working on switching this to a plant based material by 2020. This is our favourite new tea for it's floral flavour that we love devouring from a pot at the weekends.Buy now Roqberry: £7 for 18, The Food MarketAfter launching in 2017, Roqberry prides itself on championing “blending the rules” by using classic flavours to create modern fusions such as “aromatic sushi and spice” and “black smoke”. These pyramid teabags, made from soilon, encase the single-source tea that comes in black, green, herbal, rooibos and oolong, and all are biodegradable. As it won’t breakdown in under a year, this tea bag should be thrown out with your council food waste as soilon composes at industrial standards (in six to eight weeks). The cube boxes are made from FSC paper that’s easily recyclable, too.Buy now Pukka Herbs: £2.45 for 20, Holland and BarrettLaunched in 2001 in Bristol, Pukka Tea’s bags differ from all others as each bag is wrapped in an individual envelope to ensure freshness – and it’s more environmentally friendly than you might think. It took four years of research to develop this new packaging, and it has removed more than 100 tonnes of plastic from the brand’s supply chain. The envelope contains only a very thin layer of BPA and PVC free plastic, but is still able to be recycled with paper. Since 2014 the brand stopped using a staple to connect the organic string and plastic-free label, and instead uses a little stitch to attach it.Buy now Good & Proper Tea: £5 for 15 teabags, Good & Proper TeaWhat began life as a mobile tea bar, has now found a permanent cafe in east London. The plastic free range was added in 2017 and is made from the non toxic material soilon (which needs to go in a collected food waste bin). These are the largest bags we tested and aside from Clipper’s pillow shaped bags, are the only one that comes in a flat large square shape, instead of the pyramid. Bags are packaged in a plastic alternative, the plant based material called Vegware which is also compostable, but at industrial levels..Buy now Twinings loose leaf pyramid bag: £6.50 for 15, TwiningsThe Twinings pyramid tea bags have always been plastic free since it was launched in October 2014. They are made from maize starch which is treated by an enzyme that allows it to be spun into filaments. The tea bags include loose leaf tea which makes an excellent brew, but each bag has a label attached that’s covered in a thin layer of plastic – so it won’t dissolve if it ends up in your brew, apparently – and will need to be removed before composting. The inner foil wrapper isn’t recyclable, but Twinings is the process of reviewing it’s range to finpukkd alternatives. Buy now Teapigs everyday brew tea bags: £3.99 for 15, Ocado Teapigs was the first brand to receive the world’s first plastic-free trust mark, created by the campaign group A Plastic Planet in May 2018. These biodegradable bags are made from cornstarch, while the paper tags use vegetable inks and are, you'll be glad to read, non-toxic. Don’t be dismayed when you open your box, as even the clear “plastic” inner bag (made from natureflex) is compostable. The bags can go in your home food recycling bin for compost, which may feel strange, but they will compost.Buy now The verdict: Plastic free tea bagsWe love the flavour and eco-packaging of Abel & Cole's indubitably excellent organic earl grey tea, which is our winner. While Clipper's every day tea ticks many boxes, as does Brew Tea with its approach to making recycling and saving the planet fun. We also like We Are Tea for removing the label and string.
A great balsamic vinegar is a true store-cupboard staple – best kept on standby, ready to spruce up sauces and swirl over starters. But with so many on offer, at such staggeringly different price points – how do you know the best one to buy? Before even tasting balsamic vinegar you’ll be able to glean a lot of information, just from looking at the ingredients and the label.For example, if you read Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale (Traditional Balsamic Vinegar) di Reggio Emilia and D.O.P. (“Protected Denomination of Origin“) you are guaranteed the ingredient's quality, you’ll know it’s been through a very rigorous process, and you’ll have a place of origin. The only ingredient is grape must (freshly crushed fruit juice), mostly from trebbiano grapes, which is then left in a variety of different wood casks – oak, chestnut, cherry, mulberry, ash, and juniper – all of which will impart their distinctive flavours whilst the liquid slowly matures for at least 12 years. Expert tasters then decide on its ranking with classification following a very strict quality criteria for both production and end product appearance, aroma and taste. It only comes in 100ml bottles, and it is an incredibly precious product. In short, you can expect this to be pretty expensive.Another label to look out for is Aceto Balsamico di Modena IGP Invecchiato (IGP – Protected Geographical Indication meaning the product must come from a specific area surrounding Modena). This is made using age-old craft techniques, blending regional grape-musts mixed with a small percentage of wine vinegar. The mixture then slowly ages in oak casks and in the finished product acidity must be below 6 per cent. Italian regulations actually forbid to state the years of ageing on the label, just look for the word “invecchiato” (aged). This is certainly a more affordable option for most shoppers.As for personal choice, it really depends what you’ll be using it for – balsamic vinegar is an ultra-versatile ingredient. Delicious used in salad dressings, it can also be drizzled over soft and hard cheeses, meat, pasta and risottos. Equally delicious but something you might not have considered is pairing it with ice-cream, panna cotta and fresh strawberries.And just when you thought this miracle product couldn’t get any better, apparently a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar at the end of a meal aids digestion! Try a spoon of the thicker styles at night, just before bed.When taste-testing our vinegars, we were looking for a smooth balanced flavour, combining acidity and sweetness with plenty of depth. We tried them all neat as well as in a variety of dishes. When considering which to buy, we’d suggest thinking about how you’re most likely to use this product. Thinner styles are better suited to everyday use, whilst thicker versions are best saved for the finishing touch to very special dishes.You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers , but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent. Il Borgo del Balsamico Italian balsamic vinegar Modena IGP yellow label 250ml: £16, The Red BeetleThe Red Beetle travels around Italy, sourcing authentic ingredients from local suppliers and then pop them on itslovely website for us to buy here in the UK. As you might expect, it has a truly delicious array of goodies, including a top selection of balsamic vinegars. The Il Borgo del Balsamico brand has a nifty colour code which makes selecting the perfect one for you very easy. The yellow one we’ve awarded our Best Buy to is the perfect option for everyday use. It’s great for fresh salads, can be used to marinate fish or they suggest adding to tempura and eggs benedict as a slightly more unusual (but no less delicious!) way to use this lovely ingredient. The orange one from the same range is slightly thicker, so better suited to adding at the end of a sauce or on top of ravioli, while the red is the top of the range – velvety, thick and silky in consistency, it’s aged in oak for years, and should be saved for the most special dishes.Buy now Belazu organic balsamic vinegar of Modena IGP 250ml: £16.45, BelazuBelazu have a great reputation when it comes to sourcing the best ingredients from across the Mediterranean and this organic balsamic vinegar from Modena is no exception. Matured in a mix of oak, chestnut and juniper barrels for up to 30 months, the resulting dense liquid has taken on a deep colour and a well-rounded, balanced yet highly complex flavour. Elegantly smooth with an obvious sweetness, we’ll be teaming ours with strawberries and ricotta or mopping it up with crusty bread.Buy now Guiseppe Guisti 5 gold medals Cubica balsamic vinegar 250ml: £42.99, SelfridgesThis may be a little more than we’d normally spend on balsamic vinegar but this is a very special product with a price tag to match. Highly concentrated with notes of black cherries, baked plums, cinnamon and nutmeg, the liquid is aged in small antique barrels which date back to the 1700’s. As such only a very limited quantity is available each year. Add a drop or two at the end of your dish to really savour the complex flavours. The elegant bottle is finished with a red wax seal and the label depicts the 5 gold medals in its name. It’s the champagne equivalent in our round-up – best saved for special occasions.Buy now Odysea balsamic vinegar of Modena 250ml: £9.95, SainsburysAged for a minimum of 10 years, this is a velvety smooth vinegar, made with a blend of grape varieties. It’s a thicker style and works a treat in tomato-based sauces, with a dark brown chestnut colour which would also create a satisfying swirl on top of risotto. Well balanced acidity, a slightly earthy complexity and a light sweetness – its’ all we could ask for from a balsamic at this price.Buy now Riserva bio balsamic vinegar of Modena IPG, Organic 250ml: £13.50, Abel & ColeLike everything in the Abel & Cole range, this balsamic vinegar is organic and has the IGP stamp of approval. Thick and rich, this is crying out for a loaf of crusty bread for you to get dipping. Aside from that it would work well in chicken salads and drizzled over roasted Mediterranean veg. The beautiful bottle comes complete with a white ribbon and bottle stop, so would make a great (affordable!) gift for the foodie in your life.Buy now Massimo Bottura organic balsamic vinegar 250ml: £18.95, Harvey NicholsIf we’re going to trust anyone to create a fantastic balsamic vinegar, Massimo Bottura – the chef behind three Michelin starred restaurant, Osteria Francescana in Modena – is undoubtedly the man for the job. A celebration of one of his hometown’s most loved ingredients, his own-label vinegar is sweet and savoury with a good whack of acidity. It had a medium viscosity, but is extremely smooth so could be added to sauces at the last minute to create a rich depth of flavour, as glazes for meat and fruit or simply eaten with one of the regions other famous ingredients, parmigiano reggiano.Buy now Sainsbury's Taste the Difference balsamic vinegar of Modena 4 Leaf 250ml: £10, Sainsbury’sWith a pleasing viscosity and slightly sweet finish, Sainsbury’s “four leaf” balsamic is at the top of its range. When trying other supermarket own-brand balsamic vinegar’s around the same price, this tasted significantly more premium than the rest. A very good sweet to tart ratio that will work well in sauces and for dipping.Buy now Fortnum & Mason 20 year-old balsamic vinegar 100ml: £40, Fortnum & MasonRich, thick and luxurious, but then what else would you expect from royal warrant holders, Fortnum & Mason. This vinegar has been aged for an impressive 20 years, and in that time has taken on the complex earthy notes from the wood it’s been aged in – in this case oak, mulberry, chestnut, cherry and juniper. Thankfully a little goes a very long way, so just add a drop our two over freshly steamed asparagus and serve as a sumptuous starter, which is guaranteed to impress guests.Buy now The verdict: Balsamic vinegarsThe Red Beetle’s Yellow Label balsamic vinegar comes out top for us, as we think it’s a great quality product at a sensible price, making it perfect for everyday use. However, if you’re looking for something slightly thicker and better for dipping, Belazu’s balsamic is perfect for the job. It’s more pronounced flavours made this a very memorable product that we can’t wait to cook with again.
Getting home from work and realising you need to sprint to the local supermarket to buy a last-minute dinner before Love Island starts is up there with one of life’s most mundane tasks.At least, it was until Sainsbury’s announced that it is now offering customers hot takeaways via Deliveroo.From Monday 22 July, Deliveroo users will be able to order freshly-baked sourdough pizzas, a range of sweet and savoury snacks, dips and soft drinks from selected Sainsbury’s shops in the UK straight to their door.Better yet, the prices of the products will be exactly the same as those customers would find if they bought them in the supermarket or online.The move, which marks the first time a supermarket has joined forces with the delivery app, is part of a two-month trial which is available in Cambridge, Selly Oak, West Hove, Pimlico and Hornsey.According to Deliveroo, customers will be able to choose from around 50 Sainsbury’s products on the app and more will be added during the trial.“With more and more shoppers looking for convenient and affordable meals delivered to their doors, our trial with Deliveroo brings our great value hot food direct to customers’ homes,” says Clodagh Moriarty, Sainsbury’s group chief digital officer.The news comes days after Sainsbury’s launched the UK’s first signing supermarket in an effort to support the hard-of-hearing community.The Bath branch – which was renamed “Signsbury’s” for the three-day project – took the step as part of the supermarket’s 150 Days of Community scheme to mark the company’s 150th anniversary.Staff communicated with customers both verbally and with sign language, signing common words and phrases such as the locations of food items.Children took part in a challenge that earned them a free snack if they learnt to sign basic words.To prepare for the project, more than 100 store staff took British sign language lessons, run by a local signing centre, I Can Sign.The lessons were supported by Sam Brook, a Sainsbury’s employee who is deaf, and Rachel Shenton, the actor who starred as Lily Summers in the film Switched at Birth.Earlier this month, Deliveroo announced the launch of a letterbox delivery service so that customers don't need to answer the door when indulging in a "duvet day".The new letterbox delivery service – named "Royal Meal" – is currently being trialled in Manchester with deliveries from cafe Katsouris.Breakfast sandwiches from the restaurant can now be delivered to customers in recyclable packaging slim enough to fit through a letterbox.
Looking for a gift for the person who has everything? Then they need a chocolate subscription – we really can’t think of a single person that wouldn’t appreciate a monthly sweet treat delivered to their door. Whether they prefer milk, white or dark, chocolate truffles, bars or ganaches, there’s a box for it.Channel your inner chocolate nerd and invest in a subscription that will teach you a thing or two, taking you on a cocoa tour around the world complete with tasting notes, or take things easier with sprinkles of jelly hearts and marshmallows.We were on the hunt for hand-crafted, artisan producers, exciting flavours and subscription perks. Most of these will fit through your letterbox but we’ve highlighted the ones that don’t, with all delivering nationwide. Choose from a monthly rolling subscription, or pay up front for a pre-determined amount of time, with easy cancellation policies should you change your mind (highly unlikely!).Of course, we wouldn’t judge if you signed up for your very own chocolate subscription, it’s a great way to ensure you’ve always got your favourite chocolate on standby, should the moment strike.So get ready to seriously upgrade your post, with our round up of the best chocolate subscription boxes. The Chocolate Society box of the month: £22.50, The Chocolate SocietyEach month, the team of chocolatiers at The Chocolate Society works hard to bring you a completely new set of flavours to enjoy. For July we were treated to six gelato and ice-cream inspired flavours including mint choc chip, pistachio and stracciatella – a dark chocolate with white chocolate ganache and chocolate chips. The stylish letter-box friendly grey box contains 18 chocolates in total which were a mixture of colourful speckled dome shapes and large squares and comes complete with a white fabric ribbon, which would make this an ideal gift. Choose from a one-off month, three, six or 12 month subscriptions. Absolutely delicious.Buy now Cocoa Runners monthly subscription: £19.95, Cocoa RunnersWith more than 120 chocolate makers and an online library of more than 1000 bars, Cocoa Runners promise to never repeat a bar in your subscription. You’ll receive four full-size single-estate bars each month, which you’re encouraged to try side by side to compare flavour profiles. In much the same way as we would describe wine, the reverse of the welcome letter provides helpful flavour prompts such as smoked, stone fruit, mineral or tobacco to help you describe what you’re experiencing. There’s even a resealable storage pouch to keep the chocolate fresh, should you not finish a bar. Choose to receive only dark or milk chocolate, a mixture of the two or exclusively 100 per ceny cocoa chocolate. We enjoyed a mellow Jamaican dark chocolate from Pump Street, a 75 per cent and 80 per cent Madagascan and an Original Beans smooth milk chocolate from Ecuador. A really great way to discover exciting, high-quality, artisan chocolate from around the world.Buy now Paul A Young: From £200 for a six-month subscription, Paul A YoungWe were absolutely delighted with the bonkers flavours in our box but if you’re looking for something a little more classic this might not be for you. Feeling adventurous? How does peach, pear and pink peppercorn, fizzy ginger beer, sourdough, buttermilk and sea salt, or salt and vinegar “chip shop” caramel sound? Flavours change every six-nine weeks so even if you’re not sold on some of the more experimental flavours, you’ll always have something new to try. Each of the purple and gold boxes contains 16 unique chocolates, which is delivered at the beginning of each month. Aside from the seasonal flavours, the box will always include a couple of Paul’s award-winning sea salted caramels. Be warned, you only have a seven-day window to enjoy as these chocs are super fresh.Buy now The Chocolatier monthly club: £24.95, The ChocolatierThe Lion King may not be the most obvious theme for a box of chocolates, but that’s exactly what inspired The Chocolatier’s July box. From Simba (a chocolate ganache with sesame tahini) to Hakuna Matata’ (a smooth praline with sumac) flavours were tasty but more subtle than we tried elsewhere. Available in just one size, the box contains 18 chocolates across six flavours (so expect repeats) and can be ordered as a classic or vegan version. We’re told next month’s theme is Matilda – we can’t wait to see what Bruce’s Cake and Miss Trunchbull tastes like. Buy now Chococo chocolate club subscription: From £44.75 for three months, ChococoThis picture-perfect chocolate box contains either nine, 16 or 25 individual chocolates and truffles made with fresh Dorset cream. Stunningly presented, with various coloured blobs, dustings and garnishes, many flavours are seasonal – including the summery rhubarb and vanilla – and they vary from month to month but may not be completely new each time, with many flavours winning awards over the years. Particular highlights included the melting milk chocolates, rolled in chocolate flakes; Bob’s Bees made with honey from a local farm and the Dorset Conker gin-infused milk chocolate ganache topped with a locally produced lime marmalade. Choose from three, six or 12 months subscriptions.Buy now Hotel Chocolat monthly subscription boxes: £22.95, Hotel ChocolatWhether you go for the classic tasting box which offers a little bit of everything, the boozy fortified collection, the high cocoa box full of dark chocolate lovelies, the mellow tasting box with the best of milk or the rare and vintage subscription, you’ll pay exactly the same price. Delivered once a month, members are encouraged to score their chocolate, thereby shaping future boxes. Expect a mix of new flavours and old classics, delivered for either three, six or 12 months.Buy now Love Cocoa British icons original gift collection: £22.50, Love CocoaCreated by the great-great-great grandson of Mr Cadbury, Love Cocoa chocolate bars are all made in the UK, are palm oil free and organic. The subscription is slightly weighted towards dark bars (you’ll receive four of those and two milk chocolate bars), with the box fitting through the letterbox. Flavours include their popular gin and tonic dark chocolate bar, the dark Maldon sea salt and earl grey milk chocolate. Available as a three, six or 12-month subscription, with 10 per cent of profits going to the Rainforest Foundation.Buy now Cocoba Chocolate Collection Box: £19.95, Cocoba ChocolateHot chocolate, made from slowly melting real Belgian chocolate was the original concept for Cocoba, which has since moved into offering chocolate bars, truffles and fudge among other sweet treats. The monthly chocolate collection box offers a nice mix of all these products: we received three types of truffles – dark chocolate, praline and caramel – as well as a large bar of milk chocolate, studded with jelly hearts. Aside from that we tucked into a bag of caramel sea salt fudge (which has been awarded a great taste 2018 award) and a marshmallow salted caramel hot chocolate spoon. Fitting through the letterbox, you’ll receive one box each month on a rolling subscription.Buy now Choc on Choc 3 month chocolate box subscription: £52.75, Virgin Experience DaysFather and daughter duo Kerr and Flo set up Choc on Choc back in 2003, hand-making everything in Somerset from Belgian chocolate. Although this chocolate wasn’t the best we tried taste-wise, it was certainly the most inventive when it came to presentation. Our selection included a white chocolate fruit selection – with everything from a banana, a bunch of grapes, apple, strawberry and an orange. A mini box of chocolates made to resemble well-known biscuits and a rather impressive box of “cheese and crackers” which had the most convincing oozing wedge of brie – all made out of chocolate. There was also a more conventional mini box of marc de champagne truffles with all subscriptions lasting three months – the ideal gift.Buy now Green & Black’s velvet edition chocolate club subscription: £36, Green & Black’sEverything in the Green & Black’s velvet edition collection is made with 70 per cent super smooth dark chocolate. It includes two 90g bars from the range, delivered once a month for six months. Flavours include mint dark chocolate, raspberry and hazelnut, orange and almond and our favourite – sea salt dark chocolate. With seven flavours in total, you will get some repeats but it’s a great way for dark chocolate lovers to ensure they never run out of their favourite bar.Buy now Wicked & Wonderful truffle club: From £32.95 for three months, Benjamin ChocolatierSmall and perfectly formed, each month you’ll receive one petite little box of nine chocolate truffles from Benjamin Chocolatier. Intensely rich, you’ll only need one or two to sate your chocolate craving though. Flavours vary from month to month but could include chilli milk chocolate, champagne white or sea salt dark. You’ll also get to play guinea pig, trying new exclusive flavours before they make it into the main range. Choose from either three, six, nine or 12 months subscriptions.Buy now The verdict: Chocolate subscriptions This was a particularly hard one to call, but if you’re in the market for a pretty box of chocolates we think The Chocolate Society box of the month was utterly delicious, good value and had plenty of flexibility. However, if bars of chocolate are more your thing. Cocoa Runners is truly unbeatable for its vast and premium selection.
If you love a freebie and regularly find yourself in need of an iced caffeinated beverage to quench your thirst, you’ll want to head down to Pret A Manger this week.On Friday, selected shops around the UK will be giving away free, yes free, iced coffees to its customers.The choices on offer include iced Americanos and iced lattes, made with organic coffee. Alternative milk options are available. Better yet, customers will also have the chance to try the stores’ new Cold Brew, which has been brewed for over 14 hours with coffee beans from Peru, for free.But, like the majority of things in life, there’s a catch for those wanting to nab this offer.To claim a free iced coffee, customers are instructed to head to their nearest participating Pret store and quote a not-so-secret password to a member of staff behind the counter.On Thursday, the eatery revealed the password is “ice to meet you”.However, you'll want to be quick as the promotion lasts just one hour, between 10 and 11am, and use of the password allows for only one free iced coffee per person.“Given we are set to see some sunshine this week, we wanted to ease our customers into the weekend with an iced coffee on us,” Briony Raven, head of coffee and packaging at Pret, said of the deal.Find out where your nearest participating Pret shop is here.
The task of buying thank you gifts for teachers is an annual piece of parental admin that enters your life when your first child is four or five and doesn’t go away for over a decade (or at least for the seven years of primary school if you decide to neglect those poor secondary teachers).It can be a chore, but good teachers are well worth thanking, and if you’re going to spend money on the person who has been educating your offspring for an academic year, you at least want to get them something they will appreciate.Teachers are of course a diverse bunch, and the same gift isn’t going to work for everyone, but here we have tried to gather a range of options that will appeal to different sorts.We’ve looked for a mixture of personalised, teacher-specific things and stuff that will work for those who would rather just have a little civilian luxury.We have included things that would be affordable for many parents to buy solo, and a couple of ideas for bigger things that could be bought as joint gifts between classmates.We have canvassed teachers and used our own experience as parents in a bid to avoid any duds, so hopefully there is something to appeal to even the pickiest person here.You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent. Moleskine 18 month planner: £17.62, AmazonOk, so there are probably some bog standard planners in the school stationery cupboard, but most people whose lives are governed by timetables and the academic year will recognise the nerdy delight that comes from having something a bit nicer with which to do their planning. This Moleskine journal is practical – a ruled A5 page per day gives plenty of room for lists without making it too big to carry around – but it also provides a touch of gift-worthy luxury. The paper is high quality, there are pockets at the back for stashing notes or receipts, and there are both a ribbon for marking the right page and elastic to keep it shut. A teacher-friendly gift that will surely get heaps of use, and should hopefully be a little daily pleasure for them to use and carry around.Buy now Hotel Chocolat simply thanks box: £8, Hotel ChocolatWhile the 1980s Cadbury’s advert might no longer be with us – “Thank you very much, thank you very, very much” – chocolates remain a sure fire and cost-effective way to demonstrate gratitude. Luckily for teachers, there are choices beyond the standard box of Roses these days, not least from the champions of quality high street chocolate, Hotel Chocolat. This little box, with a thank you message written in gold on its lid, contains eight delicious treats and zero duds. There are two each of four of Hotel Chocolat’s biggest hitters; our favourite was the rich dark truffle.Buy now ‘A Little, Aloud for Children’, edited by Angela MacMillan, published by Random House Children's Publishers: £11.34, The Book DepositoryThe luckiest of primary school children, including some of our mini-testers, still get story time at the end of each day. For teachers delivering these short sessions of shared reading pleasure, this book would be a welcome gift full of inspiration and time-saving, pre-packaged ideas. It is a lovely anthology of extracts from stories and poetry, complete with approximate reading times for each one. Not all are from children’s books – there’s the brief ‘Ariel’s Song’ from The Tempest, as well as bits of The Secret Garden, Wind in the Willows and others both familiar and not so. All the extracts have been chosen because they will appeal to and hopefully inspire young imaginations. If your teacher has their own children, in fact, you might find that they take it home to enjoy there too. All proceeds go to The Reader, a charity that promotes shared reading to improve well-being.Buy now The Literary Gift Company origami bird earrings: £12.99, The Literary Gift CompanyIf you’re looking for something a little more personal than wine or chocolates, but don’t want to break the bank, these little bird earrings could well be the answer. Made from upcycled pages of old books, they offer a nod to teacher’s day job, but are also a gift that will hopefully bring pleasure and get use outside the classroom too.Buy now Rock Design personalised rainbow print: £18.95, Not on the High StreetPrimary school teachers spend almost their entire working week in one classroom, so a gift that brightens up that space and offers a reminder that their work is appreciated is likely to be welcome. This fun rainbow print from a small new company, which comes installed in a white frame, can be personalised with the recipient’s name and also a brief message, for example: “Mrs Elm’s classroom. Play, learn, grow.” A lasting and thoughtful way of saying thank you.Buy now John Lewis & Partners vouchers: From £10, John Lewis & PartnersA teensy bit mercenary perhaps, but many teachers will tell you that they would far rather choose their own gift than receive 30 that they’re not so keen on. If your class is one of those that likes to club together for one big present, John Lewis & Partners gift cards are a good option as they can be spent on such a wide variety of things. Pupils could always add a human touch by hand-making a card or small gift at little cost to go alongside the vouchers.Buy now Rex London periodic table bamboo travel mug: £9.95, Rex LondonWe found at least one teachers’ forum on which debates about good thank you presents featured the sentiment: “Please God, no more mugs”. But a good travel mug is an altogether more useful thing now that we are all quite rightly trying to eschew single use cups. Better still, this one is made from bamboo and is both recyclable and biodegradable, so if a teacher really does have too many, they can turn it into something else. Which science teacher wouldn’t love the periodic table printed on their coffee receptacle?Buy now ‘The Writer’s Map: An Atlas of Imaginary Lands’, edited by Huw Lewis-Jones, published by Thames & Hudson Ltd: £18.05, WorderyThis is an absolutely gorgeous tome that would be a lovely gift for an English or drama teacher, or really anyone who loves literature or beautiful coffee table books. It features images of original maps drawn by authors to illustrate their works – such as CS Lewis’s drawings of Narnia – as well as lyrical essays on maps, landscapes and the creation of new worlds, by the likes of Robert Macfarlane and Chris Riddell. A lasting gift for a thoughtful teacher. Buy now Jackeraca personalised card: From £3.50, EtsySo this is a card rather than a gift, but it is a card that is nice enough to be framed as a keepsake of a particular year’s class, and is certainly among the most thoughtful of the endless personalised products we’ve scrolled through. One nice version of this card used the names of all the pupils in a given class, and one word that each child had chosen to describe their teacher, to make up the image of an apple.Buy now Jo Malone grapefruit home candle: £47, Jo MaloneThis is a level of gift that few families would purchase by themselves, unless a teacher needed some serious buttering up, but it also isn’t the sort of thing that many teachers would splash out on for themselves, which makes it a pleasingly indulgent way for a few parents to club together and say thank you. This refreshing grapefruit scent is perfect for summer and – while scented candles are admittedly a more common present for women – is unisex enough to work for anyone. The base can be engraved (£15) for those who like a personalised touch.Buy now The verdict: Gifts for teachersIf your budget can stretch to it, or you have someone to chip in with, the Moleskine planner is a lasting and useful gift. Failing that, you’re unlikely to go wrong with a thank you message atop some scrumptious Hotel Chocolat, and A Little, Aloud is a charming option for a teacher that does story-telling or has young kids of their own.
Trying to avoid the excesses of winter? We feel you. While the majority of new year’s resolutions are hard to stick to, a short, sharp juice cleanse might provide just the kick-start to a new health regime that your body is crying out for. So what exactly can you expect from a juice cleanse?The severe all-green juice cleanses you may remember celebs raving about in the early noughties have morphed into something a lot more manageable. Nowadays you can expect most plans to include more satisfying nut milks and even warming soups, which we found really helpful in terms of feeling satisfied and full. While we wouldn’t advocate juice cleansing for any prolonged amount of time, we can see the benefits of a one-off cleanse, especially if you have a big event coming up for which you’d like to lose the bloat and feel your best. Taking away any decision making, you’ll be sent a selection of drinks and an order in which to consume them to reap the biggest rewards. Very helpful, especially if like us, you tend to succumb to the first sign of a cheese toastie when in the queue at Pret.It’s important to note this is not about deprivation; the aim is to get more of the good stuff into your body, so you can function at your optimum levels. Clearer skin, better sleep and boosted immunity were all side effects promised from these cleanses. Our liver and kidneys are already effective at eliminating toxins, however, having a day or two without any junk food or alcohol can only be a good thing.We recommend preparing for the days pre- and post-cleanse. A last supper mentality is only going to make the first day that much harder, so scale back on the caffeine and have a light dinner the day before. There’s also little point in sticking to the juice only to binge on huge portions of fatty food washed down with glasses of wine the very next day. Instead, ease yourself back onto solid foods and be mindful of how they make you feel.While juicing, we’d recommend taking it easy on the exercise front. There’s often no need to skip it altogether (you might actually find you have more energy as your body isn’t busy digesting your food), but you probably won’t be able to bench-press your personal best either. Instead give your body a bit of TLC – energising walks, body brushing, face masks and meditation are all great cleanse activities.Remember, there’s no right or wrong way to cleanse. If you feel you need to supplement your chosen cleanse with light meals, go for it. Do what feels right for your body and enjoy.You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent. Purearth Medicinal Cleanse: From £58.33 (3 x 250ml, 5 x 500ml, plus Purearth’s superfood greens powder, herbal teas and Epsom salts baths), PurearthThis was the only cleanse that gave us two big bottles of deliciously creamy nut milk right in the middle of the day, which definitely helped to keep us full. As well as tasty green juices, there was also a berry and apple cider vinegar shot which put hairs on our chest and a bottle of medicinal tea which needed to be heated up before bed. To help support the digestive system, you’ll end your cleanse with a water-based kefir which contains 10 billion live cultures per ml (the good kind of bacteria). Nice added extras included Epsom bath salts for luxuriating in when we got home. Ingredients felt well considered, with a focus on using the roots, seeds and berries of various plants to support digestion.Buy now Presscription Signature Cleanse: From £65 for a one-day cleanse (5 x 500ml cold-pressed juices, 1 x 500ml nut milk, 2 x 30ml booster shots), PresscriptionPresscription don’t use HPP (high pressure pasteurisation) to extend the shelf-life of its juices, so if you order a five-day cleanse you’ll get two separate deliveries, meaning everything stays super-fresh. Glass bottles are numbered so you know which order to drink them in and they can be picked up and reused once you’re done. We really liked the medicinal style labels which detailed each juice’s health benefits.Supporting colon, liver and stomach health we woke up with the tangy Green Revive, a combination of cucumber, celery, apple, romaine, lemon, ginger and cayenne. Our niggly little cold was promptly nipped in the bud with the Amber Boost – a truly spicy hit of red chilli, softened out with sweet coconut blossom nectar. You’ll also receive a booklet with pre- and post-cleanse guidance, as well as a schedule for which to consume your juice. A great all-rounder with exciting ingredients that tasted delicious.Buy now Plenish Level 4 Cleanse: From £59 for a one-day cleanse (5 x 500ml juices, 1 x 500ml nut milk), PlenishOne of the first ever cold-pressed juice and juice cleanse companies to launch in the UK, Plenish has recently added a hardcore “Level 4” cleanse aimed at those wishing to lose weight. We say hardcore because this cleanse contains the least sugar – however we actually preferred this, as after a whole day of juicing we were craving something savoury. Being mindful of the environment, each cleanse comes with a glass straw so you’re not contributing to unnecessary single-use plastics (bottles are plastic but widely recyclable), as well as a handy booklet offering guidance.Each day you’ll have six large juices to consume, all weighing in at 500ml, which kept us full between meals. Plenish suggests starting your day with hot water and lemon at 6am, with juices spread out every couple of hours before an early dinner. One of our favourites was Elevate which contained turmeric, almonds, coconut nectar, ginger and pepper. Deliciously creamy and sweet tasting, it felt like a substantial meal. The full day’s cleanse clocks in at 790 calories, so it’s very much aimed at those wanting to kick-start weight loss.Buy now Botanic Lab The Clean Up: From £45 for a one-day cleanse (5 x 250ml juices, 1 x 250ml nut milk, 3 x 100ml shots), Botanic LabThe name of this says it all – it’s a one-day cleanse aimed to clean up your act and allow your body a break from all the heavy digestion it’s been doing – we’re looking at you, second helping of Christmas pudding. Whether as a one-off or more regularly as part of the 5:2 diet, the juices add up to 611 calories and can be drunk alone or alongside light food. There’s an order in which to drink your juices but no times are suggested, so it can fit around your routine. We found that the combination of juices, boosters and plant milks (who can resist chocolate milk) left us feeling satisfied.Buy now Daily Dose Colour Cleanse: From £45 for a one day cleanse (7 x 500ml juices, 1 x 330ml nut milk), Daily DoseThis cleanse is a rainbow of large juices varying from the bright green to the sweetest pink, ending with a smaller bottle of nut milk as a “treat” in the evening. All are vegan, raw and cold-pressed, some with a longer shelf life in case you can’t start immediately. Flavours were really delicious, the Zenzero being one of our favourites with apple, ginger, lemon and fragrant thyme, but overall we did find them on the sweeter side – ideal if you’re new to juicing. Bottles are plastic which makes transporting them easier, but they will need to be recycled accordingly.Buy now Juicy Tox 2 Day Platinum Cleanse: From £64.99 (12 x 250ml juices, 6 teabags, 2 x shots, 2 x lemons), Juicy ToxThis is another brand that only provides the freshest juice (no HPP here). As well as the selection of drinks we also received individually wrapped tea bags to drink in between juices, as well as fiery lemon and ginger shots to wake us up in the morning. Like many of the programmes, you’re encouraged to start the day with warm water and lemon, yet Juicy Tox was one of the only brands to actually provide the fresh lemons which was a nice touch. Packages do currently come with plastic straws, but you can request for these to be left out.Buy now Nosh Detox Juice Fast Diet: From £55 for a one-day cleanse (4 x 500ml juices, 1 x tonic), Nosh DetoxYou’ll start the cleanse with a lemon and ginger water before moving on to the larger juices. With names like the Rehydrator which contains orange, carrots, mango and flaxseeds for omega 3 and 6, and the protein-packed Eliminator with raspberry, grapes and acai, these juices mean business. Containing more pulp than other cleanses we tried, the Nosh Detox juices tasted more like a smoothie, increasing our fibre intake as a result. Despite containing plenty of fruit, we didn’t find any of them overly sweet. Each plastic bottle is printed with a time and a philosophy, providing helpful snippets and motivation to remind you what to expect from the cleanse.Buy now Juice Master Delivered 5:2 Juice Diet: From £94.99 for a two-week box (16 x 420ml drinks), Juice Master DeliveredJason Vale (or The Juice Master to those in the know) has helped many a celeb look and feel their best. He’s the (sometimes controversial) guy behind the Super Juice Me documentary and claims that his juices will not only help you lose weight, but will cure pretty much any other complaint you can think of. Juices are balanced, containing fresh ingredients (think fennel, ginger and lime) before being blitzed and frozen – they’ll last up to a month in the freezer.This particular plan contains enough juices for two weeks, based on you taking part two days of each week (with four juices a day). Juice flavours differ across the two days and can be split up to give you a rest, or drunk consecutively. Either way it’s a great option for those that would rather not count calories on their fasting days.Buy now The Verdict: Juice cleansesWith its innovative ingredients and bounty of added extras, we felt the Purearth Medicinal cleanse represents great value and left us feeling wonderfully refreshed.Stacey Smith is the founder of food and drink website Crummbs
The mixologists favourite, a good vodka is the backbone of any home bar, so it’s important to make it one to remember for all the right reasons. Super versatile, vodka is delicious served chilled and drunk neat as the Russians do, over ice with a slice of lemon or in a wide variety of cocktails. As such, we think it’s about time vodka shakes off its reputation as a bland, flavourless spirit.You can expect a good vodka to have a creamy mouthfeel, a balance of citrus notes and pepper or spice, and a clean, smooth finish (it shouldn’t burn the throat). And that’s just for starters. Many factors, from location to infusions will add something special and unique to each given vodka.Potato, rye, and even old grape skins have been utilised to impart their specific flavours but arguably a good vodka needs an exceptional water source and only the purest and freshest will do.We’ve included brands with long, rich histories, to new emerging small batch producers creating amazing spirits in tiny distilleries and found vodka from across the world, including the most obvious Russia and Poland, as well as ones from much closer to home – even right here in the UK.From breakfast bloody marys through to late night espresso martinis, vodka is at the heart of a wide range of cocktails. So when testing our vodka selection, we tried all of them neat, before mixing up a few classic cocktails to see how they blended with other ingredients. Reyka vodka, 70cl, 40%: £26.95, Master of MaltMade from a blend of wheat and barley, Reyka claims to be the world’s first green vodka. It utilises Icelandic’s pure glacial water and is distilled in a coastal village with air so clean C02 levels are actually falling. It’s made in small batches and the distillery is powered by geothermal energy from underground volcanoes. So far, so trendy. But it turns out all of that stuff makes for really tasty vodka. Clean, peppery and with the faintest touch of aniseed, it’s particularly impressive given the price. Buy now Chapel Down chardonnay vodka, 70cl, 40%: £32, Chapel DownNot content with being one of the leading names in English winemaking, Chapel Down have turned their attention to spirits, adding both gin and this vodka to the range. Utilising the previous year’s harvest, the vodka is made with leftover grape skins and has the same fresh, zingy profile as we’ve come to expect from the brand’s wine. Light and smooth with subtle vanilla and citrus notes along with an aniseed finish, this would work in all the classic cocktails. They recommend it in a winemaker’s martini: one-part Chapel Down vodka, one-part vermouth, shaken and strained, garnished with a chilled olive and a frozen grape. If it all goes wrong you could just pour yourself a glass of their wine. Buy now Absolut vodka limited edition ‘drop’ bottle, 1L, 40%: £26.95, AmazonTravelling to anti-LGBT+ and racist protests around the world, Absolut collected ink from the hateful signs they encountered and used it in the artwork for this limited edition bottle. Each vessel contains a drop of ink within the mint and pink bottle design, turning something awful into a positive message of love in celebration of LGBT+ History Month. Inside you’ll find the same Absolut vodka we’ve come to expect from the Swedish brand. Rich, with a full mouthfeel and notes of grain and vanilla. Buy now Kavka vodka, 70cl, 40%: £37.51, The Drink ShopThis Polish rye and wheat based vodka draws inspiration from the production methods used in the 18th and 19th century, a period in which vodka tasted truly flavoursome – according to Kavka. The antithesis of a neutral spirit which was designed to blend into the background of drinks, this has had a small amount of aged apple and plum spirits added to the mix, which delivers welcome complexity. The bottle depicts a jackdaw or “kawka” which is also the phrase people used during the prohibition when popping out for an illicit drink. Buy now Zubrowka bison grass vodka, 70cl, 40%: £16, Waitrose & PartnersWith each bottle containing a single blade of handpicked bison grass, this Polish grain-based vodka has a smooth, clean flavour profile, with distinctive herbaceous and vanilla notes. Emitting a green-tinged hue, the most popular way of serving in Poland is with cloudy apple juice, a suggestion we’d heartily second if you’re in the mood for a long, sweet drink.Buy now Belvedere vodka, 70cl, 40%: £32.95, The Whiskey ExchangeYou’ll probably be familiar with this bar cart staple, a smooth, crisp and precise vodka which works well in a multitude of cocktails. Quadruple-distilled and made from one particular strain of rye, the hard-working spirit has a creamy mouthfeel and notes of vanilla and white pepper. Consistently good, it’s the perfect base for a martini, straight up or with espresso. Buy now Beluga noble summer vodka, 70cl, 40%: £42, Harvey NicholsThis Russian vodka has been given a makeover for summer, with a new art deco-inspired bottling. It’s still a relative newbie in the world of vodka, first being released back in 2002, but in that time it’s garnered a legion of fans. Using Siberian water, it’s triple filtered through quartz and silver before being left to rest for 30 days which allows the spirit to mellow and develop a smooth, honeyed finish. You want to drink this ice cold, preferably straight from the freezer with a twist of lemon peel or shaken up in summery cocktails. Buy now Mamont vodka, 70cl, 40%: £34, OcadoWith a bottle shaped to resemble a mammoth’s tusk, this really is one for pride of place in your drinks cabinet. Created with both Siberian water and wheat, it’s triple filtered through birch charcoal for a crystal clear, extra smooth finish. The thick, creamy mouthfeel gives way to hints of liquorice and a lovely sweetness, particularly when served super cold. Buy now Pur vodka, 70cl, 46%: £46.99, SelfridgesThis exciting new Canadian vodka is picking up awards left, right and centre – it’s won World's Best Vodka an impressive five times. It’s said the quality of the Canadian water is what’s to thank for the fresh notes of mint and warming spice of cinnamon and ginger. We enjoyed it in a canada mule, a twist on the classic cocktail, made with fresh ginger and maple syrup. Buy now Konik’s Tail vodka, 70cl, 40%: £33.45, The Whiskey ExchangeMade in small batches from a combination of spelt, rye and wheat, this Polish vodka gets its name from the Polish horse depicted on the bottle. Again, silver birch charcoal is used for filtration which results in a fresh and balanced spirit. Creamy butterscotch notes make this particularly good in dessert cocktails but a dose of warm spice and black pepper add complexity. Buy now Chase original potato vodka, 70cl, 40%: £37, Chase DistilleryWhen they’re not turning their spuds into Tyrell's crisps, the Chase team are creating award-winning vodka, all from their Herefordshire, family owned farm. Each bottle contains a whopping 250 potatoes, and there is an unmistakable hint of the humble veg on the nose but overall this is a very clean, fresh spirit, albeit one with a creamy mouthfeel. Try in a ginger & honey collins by mixing vodka, lemon juice and honey with cubed ice before topping with ginger ale.Buy now Ketel One vodka, 70cl, 40%: £20, AmazonIf the only way you’re interested in drinking vodka is shaken up in a cocktail then there’s no point spending a fortune. Ketel One is a dependable base for a plethora of cocktails, thanks to its clean, mineral nose and citrusy, black pepper notes on the palate. With over 300 years under their belt, the Dutch brand consistently delivers when it comes to affordable vodka. Buy now Grey Goose vodka, 70cl, 40%: £30, SainsburysDistilled and bottled in France, Grey Goose vodka is made with just two simple ingredients, wheat from Picardie in northern France and spring water from a limestone well in Cognac. There’s a reason this premium vodka is so popular. Oh-so-creamy, it’s a delight drunk neat when well chilled but equally blends seamlessly with ingredients – we’d recommend trying it in a classic gimlet. Buy now The verdict: VodkasGiven the price, we feel that the Reyka vodka really over delivers. Not only is it making use of Iceland’s natural resources in a unique way, but it’s also super smooth, versatile and delicious. Kavka are also one to watch if you’re interested in trading in your neutral spirit for a flavoursome, traditional vodka.
Found in artisan wine bars and at industry fairs, orange wines were once only available to indie producers and trendy restaurant goers alike. However, slowly that’s changing, with many supermarkets now stocking a version. But what exactly is it?Don’t be fooled, no oranges are involved in the making of this wine. Orange wine (sometimes called skin-contact wine) is made with white grapes and left to ferment with the skins and seeds, which gives the liquid the deeper colour and textural complexity. Think of it as the red wine version of a white wine. However, rather confusingly, orange wine can vary dramatically in colour too. From cloudy lemon to dark amber, it’s a low intervention style of wine-making that’s a world away from mainstream white wines. Although recently seeing a resurgence, this style of wine making dates back thousands of years, with Georgia being a particularly big player. However, these skin-contact wines can be found all around the world, as our roundup below shows. The taste can vary considerably but generally you can expect a slightly sour and more intense flavour profile – and we find it can be quite the room divider. For that reason, orange wines can be hard to come by, with many wine merchants avoiding the tricky explanations they need to sell it to their customers. Often they could be considered as flawed. So why would we touch them? For their incredible structure, intense aromas, high tannins for starters. While these wines tend to surprise if you’re not expecting them, they are always exciting.And it’s precisely these big, bold flavours that make orange wines so incredibly food friendly. Pair it with equally strong flavours that are normally a nightmare with wine – spicy nutty curries, Moroccan spices & tagines, dishes heavy on the garlic or mustard, mature cheese, you name it, orange wine can manage it. We’ve tried to include a range of price points below, but for now, orange wines can be more on the steeper side. If you’re new to this style of wine, perhaps start with one of the entry price points and work your way up if you’re a fan – which we're confident you will be.You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent. Tblvino qvevris 2016, 12%: £60 for case of six, Marks & SpencerThis orange-tinted dry wine is made from white rkatsiteli grapes and aged in Qveri, a traditional Georgian clay vessel. Pairing well with full flavoured chicken curries, thanks to its rich, textural complexity, it’s one of the darker orange wines we put to the test. Aromatic stone fruit comes to the fore, with an underlying savoury spice element that makes this disappear extremely quickly. Georgia produces excellent quality orange wines and this is no exception. We couldn’t ask for a better example at this price.Buy now Savage Grace orange gewurztraminer, 12.5%: £17.49, The Fizz CompanyNamed after winemaker Michael Savage and his wife Grace Hearn, Savage Grace comes from organic vines in America’s Washington state. Light amber in colour, this dry gewurztraminer has all the wonderfully aromatic lychee you’d expect, along with a distinctly spiced, herbal undertone. Created using sustainable farming practices in extremely small quantities, with natural yeast and minimal sulphur, it’s also suitable for vegans.Buy now Cramele Recas orange natural wine, 12.5%: £6, AsdaThe largest winery in Romania, Cramele Recas, have made their orange wine with the local, organic grape varieties of feteasca alba, tamaioasa romaneasca, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc. These white grape skins have been left in contact with the juice for three weeks, in which time, complex flavours have developed which belie the price. Well structured with attractively fruity notes of pear and quince which provide freshness, this is a great introduction to orange wine if you’re new to the genre.Buy now Antonelli anteprima tonda, 2016: £24.95, JeroboamsSavoury, spicy and ever so moreish, this golden beauty dances with notes of lemon peel, plums and a touch of bitter almonds. Golden straw in colour, the wine is produced by one of the most renowned winemakers in Umbria, with 100 per cent trebbiano grapes. Well structured with refreshing acidity, it could be paired with a variety of red and white meat dishes, or equally drunk alone to enjoy its long, dry finish.Buy now Eschenhof Holzer invader orange, 2017, 12.5%: £19, WinebuyersMore wine bottles should have space invaders on the label in our opinion, however the contents doesn’t disappoint either. At just 22-years-old, Arnold Holzer took over the family vineyard and (perhaps unintentionally) left the skins on for a few weeks. Happily, it resulted in this wine with bite. Making waves in the Austrian wine scene, it’s unapologetically unusual, with a depth of earthy flavour, freshened up with orange peel and pepper. Try it with a spiced lamb dish or an equally earthy goats milk cheese with a similar tanginess.Buy now Renegade London wine bacchus on skins, 2017, 11.5%: £34, Harvey NicholsAlthough this wine is made under a railway arch in east London, the bacchus grapes themselves come from the Sixteen Ridges vineyard in Ledbury. Spending two months on skins, they’re treated to an extra four months in French oak during which time the sauvignon blanc-esque qualities will develop further, with floral, honeyed and herbaceous notes all being teased out. A big, memorable wine that’s worth the splurge.Buy now Le Soula la macération blanc no 16 vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes, 13.5%: £29.95, Berry Bros & RuddPredominantly made up of vermentino and macabeu grapes with just a touch of sauvignon blanc and malvoisie du roussillon, the biodynamic La Soula vineyard can be found in the foothills of the Pyrénées where the soil is poor and the climate extreme. As such the organic vineyard has to work hard, coming through with notes of aromatic apricot, orange skin and earl grey tea. Golden orange, it displays a wonderful minerality that lifts and refreshes.Buy now Remhoogte ‘free to be’ chenin blanc, 13%: £20.99, Wanderlust WineNot overly deep in colour, this hazy orange wine gets treated to two weeks skin contact before some time in oak where it matures before bottling. Fresh and smooth apricots and peaches pop out of the glass with notes of orange zest present on the palate. However, an underlying salinity and touch of spice keep this on the savoury side. For the price, we think it’s a real crowd-pleaser when it comes to skin-contact styles.Buy now Cullen Wines amber, 12.5%: £31, Bottle ApostleCulinary goddess Nigella Lawson is said to be a fan of this biodynamically produced orange wine, calling it “utterly fabulous” during a visit to Australia. Orange peel and honeysuckle come to the fore with an elegant minerality and structure. Deliciously complex, expect honeyed ripe oranges and a floral aroma backed up with grippy texture. Carbon neutral, the Cullen estate is naturally powered and one of the oldest and most awarded family wineries in western Australia’s famous Margaret River region.Buy now Litmus orange, 11%: £17.50, Harvey NicholsBased here in the UK, Litmus are another English wine producer using bacchus grapes to create their gorgeous orange wines. Or should that be pale gold? Notes of liquorice, creamy hazelnuts and honeyed almonds contrast with a fresh grassy, citrus quality with great acidity and a decadent long finish. This happily holds its own against fatty duck, and spicy Thai dishes.Buy now The verdict: Orange winesTaking into consideration, price, complexity and drinkability, we think Marks & Spencer have hit the nail on the head with their Georgian Tblvino qvevris. Even those new to orange wines will be won over.
The independent coffee scene continues to boom, and with many of us conscious of the environmental impact of disposable cups we’re keener than ever to get in on the act at home. Whether you brew with a barista-worthy coffee machine, cafetiere, stovetop or good old drip-filter, you can grab yourself a piece of the coffee shop action with some great coffee and do your bit for the farmers and the planet.Independent, or “speciality” coffee differs from commercial coffee as it tends to be traceable and pays the farmer a fair price, while large brands sold in bulk may be driven by their bottom line leading to less favourable conditions for both the coffee and the growers.Thomas Haigh, Head of Tate coffee and Certified Q Grader (the highest certification in coffee requiring 22 sensory exams) runs the Tate roastery and sources coffee worldwide. “Better coffee comes through more direct trading; relationships between growers and roasters are key to sustainability and coffee is becoming increasingly more delicious as a result. But the industry is fragile: 80 per cent of the world’s production is grown by smallholders facing increasing challenges due to the climate crisis, migration, conflict and social inequity. Investing in these farmers’ coffee can contribute to the development and sustainability of these communities,” he says.As Thomas mentions, these coffees are traceable, so more information ont the packaging helps you determine what kind of cup to expect. Look for 100 per cent arabica beans, but there are varietal differences, details of provenance, processing method and roast level which alter the experience.Colombian coffee, for example, is often sweetly nutty, whereas Brazil’s sits the creamy, chocolatey end of the spectrum, but other factors can influence this.“Some people prefer syrupy natural processed coffees while others go for cleaner, washed processed coffee but it’s important to discover which coffees are right for you. Roast level will also impact the flavour, so if you like a brighter coffee err towards a lighter roast. For sweeter, rounder coffees try medium,” Thomas suggests.We tested 30 coffees to whittle down this shortlist and used different brewing methods over a month to see which made the grade. The final coffees were whole beans which we ground or ready-ground coffee. Each was brewed using filtered water, given the same brew time and coffee:water ratio and tasted as instructed by a Q Grader (skimmed for excess grounds then tasted black from a spoon using an aerated sip, like a wine). We were looking for fragrance, aroma, the taste profile and sustainability efforts from the brand. Put the kettle on and read on for our pick of the top of the coffee crops… You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent. Lost Sheep Coffee, Sulawesi ~ Toraja coffee: £9.95 for 250g, Lost Sheep CoffeeLost Sheep Coffee won’t look at a coffee with fewer than 80 points on the scale. As a result, its coffees are fully traceable, farmers will have been paid fairly via the direct trading model and your chosen bean is probably going to be something quite special. All of Lost Sheep’s beans receive only a light roast to showcase their natural profiles, such as this Indonesian Sulawesi Toraja variety. Indonesian coffee is famous, though not usually lauded in the speciality coffee arena as it tends to be too savoury and strong. This, conversely, is like a tropical explosion of pineapple and mango – really. This is a remarkable cup of coffee: there is a startling amount of pineapple on the nose and the whole experience is sweetly fruity and fresh with an overall tropical vibe which should convince anyone into the benefits of a light roast. This is so unusual that it’s, probably, not for anyone looking for a run-of-the-mill cup, but we can’t get enough of it.Buy now Cafédirect, D. R. Congo ground coffee: £5.50 for 200g, WaitroseCafédirect invests over half of its profits back into farming communities and pays a premium for beans in order to drive positive environmental and social change. This particular coffee is sourced from the Muungano co-operative, situated in Eastern D.R. Congo – an emerging coffee growing region. Muungano translates as togetherness in Swahili, as this cooperative unites farmers of various ethnicities that were previously divided by the civil war and seeks to address gender equality (they run workshops on gender justice and recently elected two female farmers onto the board). This single origin arabica is a bourbon variety ( a sub variety of arabica), grown on lush volcanic soil which offers ideal conditions for growing sweet, bright, and complex coffee beans. The coffee is small-batch roasted in Cafédirect’s London Fields roastery and it boasts a full-on flavour with delicate acidity. We’d agree. We found it had a powerful heady aroma considering its light roast that went over to burnt butter, which they characterise as a honeycomb note. There is a very pleasant limey citrus finish which lifts this coffee to an elevated status. Pleasingly, its London Fields range is 100 per cent plastic free and packaged in kraft bags suitable for your home compost or food waste bin. Good news all round.Buy now Grind, house blend coffee and tin: £10 for 227g, GrindIf you’ve been to any of Grind’s London café-restaurant-cum-bars you’ll recognise the House Blend coffee as its go-to flat white or latte blend. Grind works with farmers across the globe, paying significantly more than the Fairtrade price to ensure quality can be maintained alongside being environmentally responsible and sustainable by investing in projects to improve the communities they rely on for their beans. Grind produces two coffee varieties, the house blend and the black blend, though other than being 100 per cent arabica, Grind does not give more information on the beans’ provenance, but says it works with a team of boutique importers to keep a consistent overall flavour profile, season to season. The house blend is roasted, ground and tasted daily at its converted Shoreditch warehouse ready for you to buy in its Instagrammable millennial pink tins. We found the house blend to be straightforward and crowd pleasing with a light, bright roast but perhaps a lack of interest for serious coffee buffs.Buy now Dear Green, Kenya tano ndogo ab: £10.75 for 250g, Dear GreenDear Green – a roastery taking its name from its Glasgow home, The Dear Green Place, roasts and supplies speciality coffee alongside training baristas and coffee lovers alike in sensory and technical classes.Ethical sourcing is a big focus, as is organic and Dear Green tries to visit every coffee farm to see that the beans are sourced fairly and sustainably with each smallholder. As with most truly ethical coffee brands, Dear Green pays over the odds for beans to encourage further sustainable agricultural methods and benefits for the coffee communities. Coffees are super seasonal and may only be on the site for a short while, so grab them while you can. We tried the Kenyan Tano Ndogo coffee, from a newly formed group of farmers from Gitwe, Kenya which has been awarded a cup score of 88.50/100, so this is a special one. Dear Green says there are fruity notes of guava and clementine, and often with things like this it’s just about detectable, but this coffee has an incredibly forward flavour of both in the initial hit and then in the aftertaste. We loved it, but it’s so lively and zippy with oranges that it could be a divisive one for others.Buy now Union, Bobolink Brazil coffee: £6.25 for 200g, UnionUnion began roasting in 2001 after its founders visited San Francisco and became set on bringing the same buzzing artisanal coffee scene to the UK. They gave up their day jobs as scientists and set about redressing some of the devastation faced by coffee farmers after the world commodity price dropped by sourcing coffee using a newly direct trading approach and paying a premium price allowing farmers to invest in their land and work. Today, Union works across 14 countries to source impeccable small batches of coffee – blends, single origins or unique microlots – to be roasted in its east London roastery by roastmasters keen to show off each bean to its best ability.We tested the Bobolink Brazil which is reported to be a favourite at the roastery. Union says it’s “beautifully smooth with a rich aftertaste that lasts and lasts” and we’re minded to agree; it’s exceptionally creamy with a noticeably rounded mouthfeel thanks to a macadamia note. Some ever-popular milk chocolate hues thrown into the mix, plus its lightness mean that most people would enjoy this coffee.Union should be commended for its environmental efforts too: coffee chaff (husks) is recycled into bedding for barista-milk producing cattle, coffee grounds become bio-fuel and it has invested in a single burner roaster which cuts energy consumption by 80 per cent and is smoke-free. Impressive stuff.Buy now Revolver World, Honduras fairtrade and organic coffee: £3.99 for 200g, Revolver WorldThis multinational co‐operative aims to maximise opportunities and income for producers and members alongside campaigning on human rights issues and supporting NGO’s. A quarter of profits are reinvested into producer communities, such as the two Honduran cooperatives who produce this coffee from its base near to the country’s highest mountain, Cerro Las Minas.Both cooperatives are committed to growing sustainable and organic coffee in a way that benefits their communities and families – one has recently built a library for the farming neighbourhood and a sports centre and playing fields are in progress. Revolver World don’t do coffee blends, preferring to showcase cooperatives’ efforts through individual country instead: all are 100 per cent arabica and organic, you just need to choose whether you’d like your coffee from Costa Rica, Cuba, Ethopia, Peru, the list goes on. We really liked this Honduras coffee, which is billed as a medium bodied number with mild acidity and distinctive caramel and apricot flavours. This is a wake you up coffee if we ever saw one; we found an overriding and delicious taste of dark caramel finished with French apricot tart. This coffee is one of the only ones to deliver a buzz after one cup, if you like that kind of thing. We do.Buy now Pact, house coffee: £7.99 for 250g, PactPact offers subscription based or one-off purchases of coffee from a roster of beans that have been awarded an international Coffee Quality Score of 80 or above. Pact, like other good guys, invests fully in the direct trade model in an effort to be a positive force: going straight to the source of the beans, paying above the Fairtrade rate and supporting farmers with ongoing investments and training with the goal of improving local economies and benefitting communities.This house coffee of mixed arabica from South and Central America, goes through rigorous standards of green coffee sorting and includes smaller beans than most buyers would usually pay for; meaning the farmer achieves a higher price for the yield. These beans are grouped, blended and roasted at the HQ in Bermondsey to achieve a consistently high flavour profile which Pact says is “toffee-like with rich cocoa and mild acidity”. On tasting, we were surprised this wasn’t an espresso-specific blend as there is a very intensely sweet chocolatey aroma that turns into a reassuring bitterness once on the palate. It would make a fabulous espresso regardless or we’re equally happy to drink it long and black.Buy now Eat Your Hat, zesty monkey ground coffee: £5.90 for 200g, Eat Your HatThis brand is all about sustainably-grown, organic and ethically traded chocolate and coffee, with a big emphasis on soil health and caring for the environment; almost everything it makes is recyclable and compostable. The coffee beans are sourced from smallholder farmers across the world, are all pesticide, fertiliser and toxin-free with the aim of making the purest cup of coffee possible. Eat Your Hat currently has five coffee varieties available, all of which are graded 80 points or above on the standard 100-point scale. We plumped for the zesty monkey ground above others, sold by its claims of caramel, citrus and apricot aromas and found it was dangerously easy-drinking. We liked the subtle lemon and lime notes with a silky caramel backdrop just before it turns to burnt toffee.Buy now Paddy & Scott’s, jerry can coffee: £5.49 for 227g, Paddy & Scott’sThe jerry can is the brand’s flagship coffee, so-called because Kenyan children in the coffee communities carried jerry cans of water along a busy road to school. Paddy & Scott's work in farming regions funded a fresh-water pipeline allowing children to swap the jerry cans for the classroom and today has its own coffee farm where it works with a local Meru family to cut out any middle-men and give more profit back to the coffee-growing community.The Meru Farm coffee arrives at the Suffolk roastery for a series of expert roasts and taste tests before being delivered fresh to homes, businesses and starry events. On the nose, this coffee smells like some kind of deeply fruited cake – almost Christmassy. There’s a faint smokiness but the medium roast means that some dark fruit elements can still be found flavour-wise as a good compromise. Buy now Roasting Plant, Ethiopian reserve coffee: £12.50 for 250g, Roasting PlantBringing the coffee culture of NYC over to Borough Market and beyond, Roasting Plant has a high tech set-up, using its “javabot” machine which roasts and grinds beans at calculated conditions, tailored to each varietal. Beans are hand sourced from small farms across the coffee communities – which are then delivered to your door. There’s a constantly changing seasonal array of beans, but we settled on a stunning Ethiopian reserve blend. Known as the birthplace of arabica, Ethiopia’s coffee is diverse and until recently Ethiopian smallholders were required to be sold through the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange which meant quality and traceability were lost. Reform in 2017 meant farmers could separate their top lots, improving quality and achieving higher prices for their goods. This particular variety hails from the Yirgacheffe forests which is characterised by a floral, creamy coffee with clear acidity. Roasting Plant says this bean has notes of stone fruit, with cacao and floral notes and a smooth mouthfeel; we loved the unique fruity floral mix and noticed a healthy whack of chocolate and a sweet light citrus too.Buy now Coaltown Coffee, pit prop No. 1 signature blend: £7.50 for 227g, Coaltown CoffeeCoaltown Coffee was born from a desire to restore a former Welsh mining town to its industrial glory after the last colliery closed in 2003, causing extensive unemployment. Since then a roastery and academy was was set up to help bring locals into coffee culture and possibly a new career path. Coaltown exclusively deals with specialty coffee and focus on sustainable and transparent trade with small farms from across the coffee growing regions of the world. The resulting crops are hand-roasted in small batches using timing and temperature to drawing out personality and complexity from each coffee. Coaltown offers a range of interesting blends, single origins and subscription based packages, but we were drawn to the signature coffee, pit prop no1. It’s an espresso blend of Nicaraguan, Guatemalan and Sumatran arabica that has already bagged a Great Taste Award thanks to its deep, dark chocolate orange flavours. Coaltown says this is for coffee fans who enjoy new flavours and though it wasn’t the most out-there of the coffees we tried in this test, we noted how luxurious it felt. The profile is darkly sweet, smokey and savoury making it a persuasive double shot, but we particularly enjoyed the tobacco note which is prominent with a satisfying tang.Buy now Common Coffee, birght: £9 for 250g, Common CoffeeCommon Coffee was started by a group of festival-loving entrepreneurs with a penchant for coffee. After travelling the country serving up coffee and nitro-cocktails at events, Common began its own roastery out of Edinburgh with the expertise of a self-taught coffee roaster, taster and profiler. It now produces four coffee varieties, sold by their overriding profile: strong, sweet, bright and complex. We really like the bright roast, which is made using a washed red bourbon arabica from the Kayanza region of Burundi and grown by a smallholder who sun-dries the coffee on raised African beds. Common says it tastes like cherry, mandarin and honey and we do get the cherry notes along with a definite citrus feel, though it feels more like grapefruit to us – plus a nice hum of something floral and heady. It’s an excellent coffee and one we’d very much like to drink again. It’s also worth knowing that Common’s packaging is omnidegrabable, so bags and labels are fully compostable and biodegradable in any environment – water, compost or landfill. Buy now The verdict: Independent coffee brandsCoffee is such a personal choice, but for us, any coffee lover would do well to try Lost Sheep’s Sulawesi ~ Toraja as the beans really do have a tropical personality all of their own. We feel the same way about Dear Green’s deliciously aromatic Kenyan number; both have a seriously unique profile that coffee nerds will enjoy but Lost Sheep’s is more pocket-friendly. For an every day cup, we’d turn to Cafédirect’s D.R. Congo which is handily in Waitrose, but for an enlivening espresso we’ll take Pact’s house coffee.
Who doesn’t love a cocktail? Whether it’s a jug of Pimm’s at your summer barbecue, an after dinner martini garnished with an all-important olive, or a retro snowball at Christmas, there’s a drink for every occasion.And the market is certainly booming, especially with the continued rise in popularity of gin, plus a renewed interest in spirits such as vermouth and Campari (negroni, we’re looking at you!).Recent consumer shifts towards more health-conscious lifestyles have seen an increased demand for lower alcohol or alcohol-free beverages, and in turn it’s not uncommon to be offered shrubs (drinking vinegars), kombucha or alcohol-free spirits such as Seedlip in lieu of boozier counterparts in bars.Cocktails needn’t remain the trusted secrets of bartenders, either; whether you like yours shaken, stirred, boozy or healthy, the following books have you covered. Bottoms up!You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent. ‘A Mixologist’s Guide to Making Cocktails' by Jordan Spence, published by Carlton Books: £6.95, AmazonPart of the appeal of a cocktail, aside from its delicious taste, lies in its appearance – and this no-nonsense guide illustrates each recipe with a wonderfully-straightforward at-a-glance diagram which handily details precise components and proportions for each drink. What’s more, thanks to these articulate and colourful diagrams – which take up the majority of the page – recipes are so concisely written they’re often no longer than a sentence or two, making it an easily accessible, even if you’ve had a few!Whether you’re a vodka, gin, brandy, rum, whisky, tequila, champagne or liqueur enthusiast, there are aperitifs for every taste, handily divided into chapters for each spirit. There’s also a section dedicated to shots at the back, covering everything from Alabama slammers to slippery nipples, if short drinks are more your thing.Buy now ‘Fever-Tree – The Art of Mixing’ by Fever-Tree Limited, published by Mitchell Beazley: £10.60, WorderyUtter the words "Fever-Tree" and thoughts of a refreshing gin and tonic are bound to swiftly follow. The popular premium mixer is now stocked in bars and restaurants around the world, and this 224-page guide to long drinks and cocktails features more than 125 recipes from some of the world’s best bars and bartenders. Recipes are refreshingly straightforward and chapters are divided according to the type of mixer you intend to use: from quinine-heavy tonic water to ginger ale, floral and fruity cordials and botanical-inspired mixers. Look out for the rising sun fizz from London’s City Social – a riot of yuzu, lemon and whisky. The book is nicely compact, with fetching gold embossing on brown paper – one to keep out on the coffee table or liquor trolley.Buy now ‘Fizz' by Olly Smith, published by Ebury Press: £12.99, WaterstonesAward-winning wine writer and broadcaster Olly Smith certainly knows his tipples; on top of being a regular wine expert on BBC1’s Saturday Kitchen, he regularly appears on BBC Radio 2, presents his own podcast, A Glass With, and has scooped up an impressive number of awards and accolades to boot. And his new book, Fizz, is positively buzzing with enthusiasm and energy for all things bubbly.It features over 80 cocktail and mocktail recipes, and each one comes with a handy icon denoting the type of glass it should be served in. There are ample options for the non-drinkers too, all clearly marked booze-free; the bees crumble (featuring freshly-squeezed rhubarb and Granny Smith apple juice) and ginger kombucha are ones to savour in particular.Buy now ‘Redemption Bar – Alcoholic-Free Cocktails with Benefits' by Andrea Waters & Catherine Salway, published by Kyle Books: £8.57, AmazonWith chapters divided into: classics, martinis, mojitos, long drinks and fizz, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was a regular guide to cocktail making. From the brains behind London’s popular Redemption Bar group, this book is a tasty tour de force of all things non-alcoholic – plus there’s recipes for canapés, too. Many of the most popular intoxicants served at Redemption Bar have made it into the book, including the apple mockjito, fro-co-rita and the flu fighters martini, alongside some new inventions. Recipes include detailed introductions explaining the inventive and experimental cocktails and their health benefits, and the accompanying photography is luscious and seductive, enough to make anyone forgo the booze.Buy now 'Around The World in 80 Cocktails' by Chad Parkhill, published by Hardie Grant: £9.35, WHSmithCocktails are synonymous with holidays – so how about a book that combines the two? On top of detailing how to make 80 delicious brews, this colourfully-illustrated guide also describes the history of the respective concoctions, as well as fun facts about the countries where they originate. Around The World In 80 Cocktails features all of the classics you’d expect, from Ernest Hemingway’s much-loved daiquiri to New York’s manhatten and Lima’s pisco sours, as well as lesser-known gems such as a stone crush from Iceland.Buy now ‘Tequila Mockingbird' by Tim Federle, published by Running Press: £6.83, AmazonThis one’s for the literature lovers out there. While Tequila Mockingbird is not a new release – it was first published in 2013 – it’s nonetheless one that deserves returning to time and time again, just like a favourite novel. Offering "cocktails with a literary twist", this book is as much a celebration of some of history’s classic works of literature as the classic drinks themselves. It’s packed with puns – One Flew Over The Cosmo’s Nest, anyone? – but there’s substance among the wit too, as demonstrated in the detailed introduction, glossary and recipes.Buy now ‘Free The Tipple: Kickass Cocktails Inspired by Iconic Women' by Jennifer Croll, published by Prestel: £7.19, WHSmithWhat do Frida Kahlo, Beyoncé, Margaret Atwood and Simone de Beauvoir all have in common? On top of being inspiring and influential women, they each have a cocktail dedicated to them in Free The Tipple. Bright, vibrant and fun, this entertaining book features some seriously impressive and colourful portraits of some of the world’s most iconic women, alongside the recipes for the beverages inspired by them. Each recipe also comes with a short biography of each featured muse, as well as a description of how the creation suits their respective personalities – makes for a nice read when sipping on your chosen tipple.Buy now 'The Cocktail Guy – Infusions, Distillations and Innovative Combinations' by Rich Woods, published by Pavilion Books: £12.10, AmazonThis is just the book for anyone looking to take their mixology skills to the next level – and to learn a secret or two from award-winning bartender Rich Woods. On top of shaking and straining ingredients and cocktails, this informative book also covers techniques such as infusing, clarifying, dehydrating and sous vide – certainly things to impress the guests. For budding distillers, there’s a chapter at the back which covers infusions such as coriander gin, beetroot and chocolate liqueur and bay and vanilla vodka – yum! Don’t be put off by the adventurous nature of this book; each recipe is clearly labelled with preparation and mixing time, plus a difficulty rating.Buy now ‘The Modern Cocktail: Innovation + Flavour' by Matt Whiley, published by Jacqui Small: £25, FoylesIn this beautifully-photographed 224-page compendium, bartender Matt While – AKA The Talented Mr Fox – provides an almost scientific approach, breaking down to practically DNA-level – looking at everything from flavour profile to the provenance of ingredients.Recipes are fun and inventive and there are some curious yet classy takes on classics, including a monster munch gibson, which comprises gin, spring onion and a homemade monster munch-infused vermouth!Buy now ‘The Healthy Hedonist: 40 Naughty but Nourishing Cocktails' by Nicole Herft, published by Kyle Books: £9.99, WHSmithLike the sound of a book that turns your alcohol consumption into an opportunity to imbibe some of your five-a-day? Look no further than The Healthy Hedonist, which does just what it says on the book jacket. In this creative book, author Nicole Herft provides alternative suggestions to the often-used sugary syrups, in turn replacing them with superfoods. With recipes such as peach and chia bellini, kombucha Pimm’s punch, kale and pineapple daiquiri and kefir mango lassi, Nicole shows that it is possible to enjoy a cocktail, guilt on the side.Buy now The verdict: Cocktail recipe booksFor an overall survey of the classics, A Mixologist’s Guide to Making Cocktails is a recommended go-to, especially thanks to its handy drawings which detail parts and measurements. Special mention needs to go to Free The Tipple: Kickass Cocktails Inspired by Iconic Women for its colourful illustrations and inventive libations, while Fever-Tree – The Art of Mixing is a must-have for any gin lover.
Rosé started off as a wine you might sample when you were in the South of France. It went with the blue skies and endless sun. Back in the rain-lashed UK the only rosé you were likely to encounter came from Portugal in a funny-shaped bottle and tended to be slightly sweet and slightly sparkling.But things have changed. Britain’s now experiencing the sort of weather most of us went to the Mediterranean to find and sales of rosé wines have risen as consumers discover that it’s the ideal accompaniment to an al fresco meal or a long summer’s day.And now it’s not only Provence where you can find excellent rosés. Europe, Spain, Italy, Germany and even the UK produce some first-class wines, while further afield, South Africa, Chile, Australia and New Zealand have all got in on the act.So, put your feet up, say hello to Mr Blue Sky and pour yourself a glass of liquid sunshine. Lalomba de Ramón Bilbao rosado 2018, 75cl, 13%: £23.50, Great Western WineFrom mature garnacha (grenache) vines planted on the Lalomba hillside, 700 metres above sea level on stony clay and limestone soils in the Rioja Alta region of Spain comes what Ramón Bilbao consider to be the jewel in their crown. “Rosés should just be as expressive of their provenance as reds and whites,” says chief winemaker Rodolfo Bastida and this pale blush rosé made from only perfect, hand-picked berries is exactly that. Orchard and red fruit flavours are tempered by mineral notes and an elegant acidity in a wine that’s as perfect as a sunny Spanish evening.Buy now Miguel Torres Las Mulas cabernet sauvignon organic rosé 2018, 75cl, 13%: £9.39, WaitroseA certified organic and vegan rosé from the Torres family of Chile, who make wine using traditional methods without herbicides or pesticides. Produced from cabernet sauvignon grapes grown in the Rapel region of the country’s Central Valley, it’s a dry wine for those who like big flavours. Lots of intense cherry and red berries on the palate with a pleasing but not too overwhelming acidity.Buy now Barone Ricasoli Albia rosé toscano 2017, 75cl, 13.5%: £14.99, FlagshipFrom a Tuscan family famous for its chianti, whose links to the wine trade date back to the 12th century comes a beautifully pale and fragrant rosé made from a blend of sangiovese and merlot. An initial sip brings strawberries, cherry and red fruits to the tongue, balanced with a pleasing minerality and a lasting finish. One to be enjoyed lightly chilled with any classic Italian dish.Buy now Rustenberg stellenbosch petit rerdot rosé 2018, 75cl, 13.5%: £8.99, WaitroseThe Rustenberg Estate in the valley of the Simonsberg Mountain in South Africa’s premium Stellenbosch wine region was established in 1682. But it was in the 1940s that the Barlow family took it over and established an outstanding portfolio of wines. One of the newer additions is this rosé made from the small-berried and thick-skinned petit verdot grape. Bright pink in colour with strawberry and cherry flavours come to the fore, making it the ideal accompaniment to a summer barbecue.Buy now Simpsons Railway Hill rosé 2018, 75cl, 12.5%: £19, RobersonBefore you do anything else, just admire the bottle. A beautiful club-shaped vision of blushing rosé loveliness with an exquisite glass stopper. And, happily after that build up the wine doesn’t disappoint. An English rosé from the North Downs of Kent, it’s crisp, bright and fruity with notes of peach and stone fruits and a balanced but delicate allure. Summer was made for wines like this.Buy now Proudly Vegan Chile Valle Central rosé 2018, 75cl, 12%: £6.99 OcadoFrom the UK-based Broadland Wineries comes a Chilean wine that’s not afraid to boast about its main selling point – a rosé so vegan that even the printing ink and the label glue have no animal-related products in them. What you get is a soft and well-balanced wine with plenty of fruity flavour – all plum and red berries – which could partner baked vegetables, a quinoa salad or a simple olive crostini.Buy now Waitrose Côtes de Provence rosé 2018, 75cl, 12.5%: £9.99, WaitroseFrom their Blueprint range of wines, here’s a Waitrose product that does exactly what it says on the tin, or in this case, label – ie, delivers an impressive rosé from the French region that’s the established and spiritual home of this summer staple. Chock-a-block with cherry and red fruit flavours, it’s a blend of cinsault and grenache grapes and was made to enjoy with a salad niçoise.Buy now Bird in Hand pinot noir rosé 2018, 75cl, 12%: £14.25, FrontierOne of a range of limited release wines from an Australian winery built by the Nugent family on the site of an old gold mine in South Australia’s Adelaide Hills. The pinot noir grapes were picked during the coolest part of the day. They were then destemmed and spent up four hours on skins, before being tank fermented, giving the wine it’s delicate blush hue. Strawberry and soft fruit flavours along with floral notes make it an ideal outdoor aperitif or an accompaniment to a picnic lunch.Buy now Adnams marlborough rosé 2016, 75cl: 9.5%, £8.99, AdnamsThe grapes for this blush rosé, produced for Adnams in New Zealand by WineWorks, were picked slightly earlier than usual, so that wine has a more modest 9.5% ABV compared with similar wines. That doesn’t detract from the taste, though, as winemaker John Forrest has made sure that the red fruit and elderflower flavour, balanced by a pleasant acidity, is as potent as ever. Fine to drink on its own or with light salads.Buy now El Coto rosado 2018, 75cl, 13%: £4.39, VinissimusThis won’t break the bank and for under a fiver you get a good everyday Spanish rosé made from grenache and tempranillo grapes grown in Spain’s Rioja Alavesa region. Pink and colourful in the glass, it has plenty of upfront red fruit and red berry flavours and a fresh acidity. Enjoy it on its own as a summer aperitif or as an accompaniment to light fish or rice dishes.Buy now Coteaux Varois en Provence rosé 2017, 75cl, 12.5%: £9 (£54 for a case of six), Marks & SpencersFrom the Provençal region of Var, this is a light but fruity rosé made from grenache, cinsault and syrah grapes, with a dash of mourvèdre and carignan added to the blend too. There are red fruit and strawberries on the palate with floral hints and an acidity that’s balanced without being overpowering. Like many rosés it’s not a wine to be kept for too long and needs to be consumed within 12 months.Buy now London Cru Rosaville Rd pinot noir rosé 2018, 75cl, 12%: £15, RobersonFrom London’s first ever winery, launched six years ago by Cliff Roberson, comes a succulent pinot noir rosé made from grapes grown in a Surrey vineyard. Some 90 per cent of the wine was fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks while the rest was put in oak barrels resulting in a creamy yet delicate wine with a citrus aroma and notes of red fruit and strawberries. Best enjoyed young as a superb aperitif or to complement light salad dishes.Buy now Mas de Cadenet Côtes de Provence Sainte Victoire rosé 2018, 75cl, 12% : £16.20, TannicoOne for art lovers, since the grapes for this very more-ish rosé were picked in a vineyard at the base of Sainte Victoire, the mountain that famously features in many of Cézanne’s landscapes. Now a recognised sub-appellation of the Côtes de Provence AOC, it’s home to some of the region’s finest rosés. Made from 45 per cent grenache, 45 per cent cinsault and 10 per cent syrah, it had a slightly more balanced texture and a lengthier fruit-filled finish than other Provençal rosés, thanks to the mountain’s micro climate and notable terroir.Buy now Villa Wolf pinot noir rosé 2017, 75cl, 12%: £9.90, The Bottle ClubA German rosé from the well-established Villa Wolf winery in Pfalz, Germany’s second largest wine-growing area, where the sunny and equable conditions resemble Tuscany. As a result, it’s an ideal location for all varieties of pinot grapes and this lovely pink-hued rosé is light, crisp, full of red fruit flavour and an ideal accompaniment to al fresco lunches or meals. It’s great value, too, at under £10.Buy now Château des Muraires Séduction Côtes de Provence rosé 2018, 75cl, 13%: £16.99, Laithwaite’sThis is a seduction that starts with the colour – the most wonderful pale rosé – and continues with that sniff of perfumed Provençal promise that’s released as it’s poured into the glass. Winemaker Bernard Magrez’s Provençal estate, mid-way between Nice and Aix-en-Provence may be small - only 1.3 hectares – but it produces some outstanding wines including this blend of grenache, cinsault, syrah and the local rolle grape. There are strawberries and red berries in each sip plus a deft acidity that makes the wine an ideal partner for any Mediterranean fish dish.Buy now The verdict: Rosé winesWines such as Simpsons Railway Hill rosé from the UK or the Bird in Hand pinot noir rosé from Australia are worthy contenders. But if you really want to splash out, go for the best buy, Lalomba de Ramón Bilbao Rosado, a Spanish wine that's everything a magnificent rosé should be – fruity, mouth-watering, refreshing and satisfying. Summer wouldn't be the same without it.
If your experience with tequila so far has been with a wedge of lime and a lick of salt – stop what you’re doing and think again.Tequila may feel like a pretty stiff drink to serve neat, however, with an average 40% ABV, it’s no stronger than other sipping spirits, like, whisky.If that’s a step too far for now, try it in a cocktail – you can’t go wrong with a refreshing margarita.Made from the juice of the blue agave plant which takes at least seven years to reach maturity, it must be produced in one of five designated regions in Mexico (with Jalisco probably the most well-known) in order for it to officially bear the tequila label.It’s then fermented with yeast and generally distilled twice in a copper pot. So now you know how much work goes into each sip, you might be less willing to down it in one shot next time.We tested our tequila samples in multiple ways. First up, we sipped these neat to allow the more nuanced flavours to shine through.After that we tried it using the brand's signature serve – sometimes that was simply with tonic, others in a straight up margarita. Regardless of the aging each spirit had undertaken, we were looking for a complex flavour profile and a long smooth finish for it to warrant its place on this list. When selecting your tequila there are four main types you should be aware of:Blanco – this is unaged and usually bottled shortly after distillation. Reposado – this will be aged for up to a year. Anejo – aged for anywhere between 1-3 years. Extra Anejo – as the name suggests, this is aged for 3 years +You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent. Casamigos reposado tequila, 70cl, 40%: £59.25, The Whisky ExchangeSilky smooth with notes of caramel, vanilla and smoke, but then what else would you expect from the suave movie star, George Clooney. Yes, the actor has created this spirit with American businessmen Rande Gerber under the name Casamigos which roughly translates as “house of friends”. Best sipped neat to really appreciate the nuanced flavours imparted from the seven months of ageing in American oak, the agave is fermented for twice as long as normal and roasted for 10 times longer. In this case, slow and steady wins the race.Buy now El Rayo reposado, 70cl, 40%: £43.75, Master of MaltTry switching the G for T and teaming this tequila with your favourite tonic (this one from Sekforde is specially created for tequila). An easy, refreshing serve, the Reposado from Tequila El Rayo has benefited from seven months in whisky barrels before bottling. The beautiful label depicts the folkloric tale El Rayo takes its name from. The story goes that a lightning bolt struck the blue agave plant which was then seen glowing by a local farmer who followed it and discovered the cooked agave and hence, tequila was born. We’re grateful he did otherwise we may never have discovered the smooth caramel, nuts and earthy notes in this tequila. Buy now Fortaleza blanco tequila, 70cl, 40%: £56.75, The Whisky ExchangeDon’t be fooled into thinking an unaged tequila will lack complexity. This is a fabulous example of a blanco with notes of lime, vanilla, herbaceous basil, earthy olive and a crack of black pepper. Small batches are made using the traditional method, with a fifth generation family member overseeing production. From slow-cooking the agave in their old stone oven right through to decanting into hand-blown bottles, there’s nothing about this process that is rushed.Buy now Tapatio anejo tequila, 50cl, 38%: £33.75, The Whisky ExchangeThis sipping tequila is aged for around 18 months in old bourbon barrels, which have imparted their lovely rich spicy flavours into the spirit. This extended time in the cask really smooths everything over, bringing out the sweet vanilla notes and long chocolate-flecked finish. The perfect nightcap, simply team with a square of Mexican dark chocolate.Buy now Código 1530 rosa tequila, 70cl, 40%: £65.50, Harvey NicholsYou can always rely on Harvey Nichols for something a little special, and this pale pink number is definitely that. The spirit gets its rosy hue from its time in ultra-premium uncharred cabernet French white oak barrels from a top-secret wine producer in California's Napa Valley. As such you can expect a delightfully delicate floral finish. Completely unique, and one that must be tried, it’s particularly good over ice with nothing more than a wedge of orange or pink grapefruit to garnish.Buy now Patron silver tequila, 35cl, 40%: £25, AsdaCrisp, fresh and crystal clear, this straight forward tequila is all about the zesty citrus notes which make it the perfect partner for a margarita. There’s a smooth, sweet undertone on the palate, with white pepper on the finish and overall a bright purity. We love that each bottle is signed, numbered and bottled by hand, despite coming from one of the most famous tequila houses in Mexico.Buy now Tequila Clase Azul plata reposado tequila, 70cl, 40%: £160, SelfridgesThis blow-the-budget tequila will surely take pride of place on your bar cart, presented in a stunning, hand-painted ceramic vessel, decorated by local Mexican artists. Although, rest assured this is so much more than just a pretty bottle. The award-winning tequila is aged for a minimum of eight months, before bottling, imparting silky smooth notes of creamy toffee, vanilla and honeyed tropical fruit. A very special gift for the true tequila aficionado, we’d recommend sipping this like you would a single malt whisky.Buy now Herradura reposado, 70cl, 40%: £43.63, Master of MaltThis moreish tipple has a complex palate with sweet toffee and gingerbread reflected in the deep copper hued spirit. It’s rather strangely aged for 11 months (one more and it could have been a classed as an Anejo!) but the flavours are very well integrated with a long memorable spicy finish. Perhaps this explains why the Herradura brand is the most gold-awarded tequila in the world.Buy now Ocho 8 tequila, 50cl, 40%: £18.50, WaitroseA great value spirit to kick start your agave obsession. We’ll be rustling up cocktails a plenty with this bright 100 per cent agave silver tequila boasting mint and pine on the nose and candied orange and white pepper on the finish. It’s a single estate, meaning the agave all comes from one specific field and that allows each locations distinctive characteristics to be appreciated. Ocho allow the agave to grow for eight years before cutting, and as such, batches are small and made slowly in the traditional way.Buy now The verdict: Tequilas It’s not the cheapest bottle out there, but we’re big fans of the versatility of Casamigos reposado tequila which we found delicious drunk neat and in cocktails. If you’re looking for an unaged version, we’d recommend the Fortaleza blanco tequila which provides a lot of bang for your buck.
For the western palate, sake’s unique mix of sweet and fruity, floral flavours with savoury hints of soy can be a challenging experience, but get to know this highly-prized, rice-based booze and you’ll discover a drink spanning a huge flavour spectrum, and one that is almost unrivalled in its food pairing abilities. Before we plunge headlong into the wonderful world of sake though, it’s worth getting to grips with the basics.Sake is made in a similar way to beer – polished rice is washed, steamed and cooled before the addition of koji, a mould culture that breaks down the enzyme-rich rice into fermentable sugars.It also drives that all important umami flavour. The quality of sake is determined by the polishing ratio of the rice used. The polishing (or milling) process removes the husk and outer portion of the rice kernel – part of the grain that can produce undesirable flavours in the finished brew. Generally speaking, a sake made from a highly polished grain will be of a higher quality, and subsequently sold for a higher premium.Sake styles manifest in many forms, and bottle labels can be confusing for the aspiring koji connoisseur. Here’s what to look for...Daiginjo: A super-premium sake with minimum 50 per cent polishing ratio. This style is often bolstered by the addition of a small amount of distilled alcohol to enhance the floral, fruity flavours. Best served chilled.Ginjo: A premium fragrant sake with minimum 40 per cent polishing ratio. Best served chilled.Honjozo: A light, mildly fragrant premium sake polished to a minimum of 70 per cent with a small amount of distilled alcohol added to extract aroma and flavour. Can be served chilled or warm. (Heat gently to 45-50C)Junmai: Sake made without additions and with no minimum polishing ratio. Can be served chilled or warm, (heat gently to 45-50C). A Junmai followed with either daiginjo and ginjo means that no alcohol has been added.There’s a sake out there for all tastes – here’s ten of the best.You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent. Akashi-Tai shiraume ginjo umeshu, 14%, 500ml: £17.48, AmazonBreathe in the sherry-like aroma of this super sake and you’ll immediately get an inkling of its dessert wine qualities. The initial honey hit is balanced by the gentle acidity from the plum and finishes with subtle notes of soy. Serve it as an accompaniment to rich toffee puddings and fruit cake. Its cocktail game is pretty strong too – try using it as a vermouth replacement and mix with a Japanese blended whisky for a mighty fine Manhattan.Buy now Yauemon Snow Blossom daiginjo muroka nama genshu, 16%, 720ml: £32, Tengu SakeThis premium daiginjo is a namazake, a sake left in its natural state, unsullied by the potential flavour-inhibiting preservation process of pasteurisation. Yauemon Snow Blossom is a vibrant and lively drink, with a distinct robust sharpness enhancing the flavours of melon, apple and pineapple. Just remember that an unpasteurised brew such as this has limited shelf life, so keep it in the fridge and drink it quick.Buy now Akashi-Tai ginjo yuzushu, 10%, 500ml: £20.83, AmazonThis citrus, fruit forward sake has been infused with macerated yuzu, bringing with it maximum mouth-puckering tartness and a cloudy lemon hue. Serve it neat – straight from the fridge – or mix it with soda water for a thirst quenching, low ABV super summer spritzer.Buy now Kanpai Fizu sparkling sake, 11.5%, 380ml: £14.95, Master of MaltThere are currently two sake breweries in the UK, each operating at polar ends of the sake market. Fordham Abbey, Cambridgeshire is home to the Dojima brewery who produce cellar-aged, wallet-worrying sake for £1000 a bottle. Kanpai – a small-batch brewery operating out of a warehouse in Peckham – produce sakes that are touch more affordable but no less authentic. Seek out their small batch Fizu, a sake with craft beer credentials having been infused with mosaic hops. It’s a satisfying, moreish sake with a bright, clean citrus finish.Buy now Gekkeikan nouvelle junmai ginjo, 15-16%, 720ml: £31.80, The Japan CentreThis accessible, well-balanced sake hails from Japan’s hugely popular Gekkeikan brewery. It’s light, bright and flinty with a rice-forward flavour and gentle acidity, perfect for food pairing. The quality of this sake is no surprise – Gekkeikan have been brewing sake since 1637; they’ve had a long time to perfect their technique.Buy now Dassai 50 junmai daiginjo, 16%, 300ml: £20.25, AmazonThe family owned Dassai brewery regularly scoop up prizes for their superior range of sakes. Dassai 50 is our pick of the crop – it’s a fruity, easy drinking number, perfect for sake novices who want to dip a tentative toe into the world of rice-based booze. You can gently warm this brew for supping on cooler evenings, but to fully appreciate the nuanced flavours of red berries and anise, it’s a drink best served cold.Buy now Sohomare junmai ginjo, 15%, 720ml: £35.95, The Whisky ExchangeSohomare’s junami ginjo is a premium, grain-forward sake, made using the “kimoto method”. The sake and koji (rice mould) are stirred with long poles to encourage lactic acid to form naturally – a process that almost doubles the brewing time. The fruits of this labour intensive process is an extremely mellow, smooth sipping brew with gentle floral notes and moreish minerality.Buy now Hanatomoe sugi barrel,15%, 720ml: £42, Japan GourmetThe Hanatomoe brewery are known for their modern, complex sakes made with traditional brewing methods. Hanatomoe sugi (or “cedar”) is made by using the yamahai method – a part wild ferment sped up by the early introduction of lactic acid. The sake is then left to mature in cedar barrels, imparting spicy hints of sandalwood and green tea to the smooth, characterful brew.Buy now Shichiken sparkling dry, 11%, 720ml: £46, Japan GourmetFancy some fizz but bored of brut? This dry, sparkling treat is made using the traditional method, where live yeast is left in the bottle to give the sake secondary ferment. The result is a light, peachy sake with a beautifully soft mouthfeel and delicate bready finish. Just be aware that when you pop the cap, your previously clear, bottle-bourne booze will turn cloudy when the bubbles are released and hit the yeast.Buy now Tamagawa Time Machine, 14%, 360ml: £23.45, The Whisky ExchangeMade from a 300 year old recipe (hence the time machine tag) this thick, viscous sake delivers umami by the bucket-load. Big mouthfuls of savoury soy meld with sweet rich molasses and tropical fruits. It’s not to everyone’s palate but is the closest you probably get to experiencing the true taste of an ancient Japanese brew.Buy now The verdict: SakesThere’s a sake for everyone. Fruit-forward fans, reach for the Akashi-Tai shiraume ginjo umeshu. Fearless sake warriors who want to challenge their taste buds should pour themselves a Tamagawa time machine and prepare to ride sweet waves of soy.
When we think of old world wine, France, Italy and Spain probably spring to mind long before Greece does. However, this is a country that has been producing outstanding wine for centuries. Yet with its hard to pronounce grape varieties and sometimes limited availability (in contrast to say, New Zealand’s sauvignon blanc), Greek wine can often be overlooked. That’s something that is slowly starting to change, especially with such outstanding crisp, bone-dry white wines coming from the volcanic soil of Santorini.Red wine doesn’t disappoint either with everything from refreshing, easy drinking reds to the dark and brooding types.The savoury notes so often found in wines from this part of the world make them an absolute belter when it comes to matching with food. In short, both mainland Greece and its islands are a treasure trove of wines offering something exciting for every occasion. Santo Wines, Santorini PDO, Nykteri 13.9%: £17.90, Maltby&GreekAs the quality of wine from Santorini becomes more well-known, prices have been increasing year on year, with some comparing it to white burgundy. Wine is selling faster than it can be aged so a great value Santorini may soon be a thing of the past. However, we think we’ve found one that ticks all the boxes while coming in at under £20. Opening up with a fragrant floral nose, the palate is crisp, dry and refreshing, balanced with just a touch of oak which gives way to an impressive long finish.Buy now Oenops Wines Apla white 2017 13%: £22, Roberson WineCombining the thirst quenching minerality found in Santorini’s assyrtiko with the perfumed, stone fruit more familiar in the malagouzia grape, is this fantastically refreshing white wine from northern Greece. Again, there’s a whiff of herbs here which lends a savoury edge, making it bold enough to drink by itself or pair with everything from salty cheese, grilled prawns or spicy curries.Buy now Domaine Lyrarakis, Dafni Psarades vineyard 2017 12.5%: £13.25, Berry BrosIt’s a bit of a gamble including this in a roundup of the very best Greek wines because it’s certainly unusual. However, it’s the unique savoury notes that made this stick in our mind long after we’d finished the bottle. Aptly named after the native “laurel” tree – the plant which produces bay leaves often used to flavour cooking in this part of the world – this is a complex wine with herbaceous notes, a full well-rounded creamy mouthfeel and bright, fresh acidity. Versatile enough to match with a variety of food, but exciting enough to be enjoyed as a standalone glass of wine. Buy now Atlantis Santorini 13%: £72 (case of six), Marks & SpencerSantorini is an exceptional island for wine production, thanks to its arid volcanic ash-rich soil, hot days and cooler nights. This is a wonderful example which showcases the infamous minerality you’d expect, along with tingling-acidity and just a touch of honeyed fruit which ensures a fine balance. Made predominantly with the indigenous old-vine assyrtiko grapes, this refreshing white wine is great at cutting through salty food – try it with a halloumi souvlaki.Buy now Lyrarakis 'voila' assyrtiko 2018 13.5%: £9.99, MajesticEven wine giants Majestic don’t stock a huge amount of Greek wine, but this multi-award-winning bottle managed to earn its place on the line-up. Bone-dry and perfectly refreshing, this is best drunk nice and cold on a hot summer’s day. The family-run winery discovered that the assyrtiko grape is very happy growing in east Crete, and we think this represents great value with its infamous minerality, crunchy apple notes and thirst-quenching acidity.Buy now Ktima Vourvoukelis limnio 2016 13%: £22.75, Harvey NicholsLimnio is an ancient grape, produced on the coast of Thrace in northern Greece for this rich luxurious organic red. Available in limited quantities, expect savoury herbaceous notes – particularly rosemary – fresh, young red fruit and a touch of black pepper on the finish. It works well with slow-cooked stews, barbecued steak and hard cheeses. Buy now Kokotos Three Hills agiorgitiko-cabernet sauvignon 2017 12%: £12, Pull the CorkA lot of the red wines found across Greece are rich and decadently heavy, but this light, refreshing style shows they are more than a one trick pony. Made predominantly with the agiorgitiko grape from the Nemea region, it has spent six months in French oak but retains fresh floral notes and good acidity. We’ll be enjoying this with barbequed food this summer.Buy now Domaine Skouras Saint George, aghiorghitiko, 2014 12.5%: £15.95, JeroboamsThis cherry-hued red is bursting with ripe juicy fruit – think blackberries, mulberries, raspberries and strawberries – with the added complexity of spices such as aniseed, cinnamon and black pepper. Medium-bodied with a nice long finish and just a touch of sweet vanilla on the palate, we’ll be pairing this with lamb every which way – grilled cutlets, kebabs or in slow-cooked stews would all work a treat.Buy now Vassaltis Santorini assyrtiko 2017 14%: £30, Virgin WinesThis fragrant white may look pricey but on the recommendation of many in the wine business we gave it a go and found it to be worth every penny. Wonderfully complex with notes of sun-baked dried fruit, alongside fresh minerality and vibrant citrus, this would be a treat with lobster or crab in creamy sauces. Another winner from Santorini-grown assyrtiko grapes.Buy now T-OINOS Clos Stegasta assyrtiko 2017 14%: £44.95, Master of MaltT-OINOS are the first wines in 3000 years to be produced from the volcanic soil of Tinos, a World Heritage-listed island of the Cyclades. Expressing the character of the T-OINOS vines, as well as the soil in which they grow and the climate they are immersed in, this is well worth splashing out for on special occasions. Expect lemon zest, fabulous minerality and a slightly creamy note which gives each sip a wonderful richness. Created with organic assyrtiko grapes, this elegant white works well with spicier dishes (thanks to the salinity) and of course, a variety of seafood.Buy now Domaine Zafeirakis limniona red 2015 13%: £27, Roberson WinePinot-noir fans, listen up! We think you’ll love this easy-drinking red from the foothills of Mount Olympus in Thessaly, central Greece. Well rounded and silky smooth, the savoury notes make this particularly moreish and one that will only get better with age. There is already oak present however and that’s balanced with fresh red berries and the subtlest notes of rose petals. Slow-cooked beef and tomato based dishes will make this shine.Buy now Domaine Kalathas 'Sainte-Obeissance' Aspro Potamisi-Rozaki, 2016 14%: £32, Maltby&GreekPurveyors of the very finest Greek produce, it’s really no surprise we found so many gems from Maltby&Greek. This exciting biodynamic wine encapsulates the sun and sea of the Aegean islands. Despite its appearance, this isn’t classed as an orange wine, but rather is a natural style, made with minimal intervention and no added sulphur. The salinity found on the finish of this wine means it can take a little spice so don’t be afraid of pairing with Asian cuisine.Buy now Thymiopoulos Atma xinomavro 13%: £11.99, WaitroseDespite the fact that xinomavro translates as acid black this is surprisingly approachable. Ruby red and super smooth, this is far from aggressive or astringent. In fact the winning combination of young red fruit, floral notes, coffee and spice mean that this is the sort of bottle to savour alongside a long, lazy, mezze.Buy now Adnams ‘Anthemis’ Vin de Liqueur 15%: £11.99, AdnamsSo you’ve had white wine with your seafood starter and red with your meaty main, but there’s no need to abandon Greece when it comes to dessert. Adnams have sourced this rich, smooth as honey dessert wine from the island of Samos which has been aged in oak for an impressive five years. Treacle, toffee and raisin notes are crying out to be paired with an exciting cheese board.Buy now The verdict: Greek winesFor us, the perfect example of Greek wine encapsulates the minerality found in Santorini’s assyrtiko grapes along with an underlying savoury note – all wrapped up in bone-dry, lip-smacking acidity. With that in mind, we think Maltby&Greek’s Santo Wines manages to deliver all of that for a very reasonable price.
Heard in every note of every ancient song belted on Burns Night, raised in loving memory on the distant coasts of Ireland, warming the chest of an isolated fisherman in Canada, rousing memories of yesteryear on a porch in Tennessee, toasting well-earned retirement in a boardroom in Tokyo; whisky is a spirit that has woven itself into life stories, traditions and cultures the world over in thousands of unique instances.Whisky is a broad church with innumerable denominations prescribed by style or geography; for instance scotch is specific to being distilled in Scotland whereas bourbon is defined by its 51 per cent corn content and maturation in oak barrels.Scotch has an array of regions that typically identify specific characteristics, perhaps most notably the sophisticated smokiness of Islay whiskies that is owed to the island’s high peat content – peat smoke contains phenol, the amount of this phenol that is absorbed by the malted barley in the kiln is measured in “phenol parts per million” (PPM) to indicate how smoky a whisky will taste.While scotch whisky varies region to region, other distilling nations have their own characteristics: Japanese whisky usually has much fruitier and floral notes, American whiskies boast more decadent, sweeter flavours and Irish whiskies are silky smooth.Further to their unmistakable smoothness, the Irish spell it whiskey as opposed to the more universally used spelling of whisky.With so many styles and regions to choose from, we have rounded up the best whiskies the world has to offer. There are drams for all budgets and palettes, and we recommend drinking each of them neat unless specified otherwise. Although “scotch on the rocks” may make you feel rather James Bond when you order it, the ice can compromise the quality of your whisky, more complex whiskies with bigger and deeper flavours are incredibly tightly woven on a molecular level, a drop or two of water is advisable to help open up these flavours for better appreciation, a cube of ice will serve to contract these flavours further. A drop of ice is perfect for some whiskies and of course, different strokes for different folks. Forest Whisky blend number two, 47%: £59.50, Forest DistilleryOwing it's name to Macclesfield Forest, this a small but celebrated distillery known for consistently churning out the freshest spirits, employing locally foraged ingredients to create clean-as-a-whistle offerings of gin and whisky. Its acclaimed forest gin is the only gin to win two separate double golds at the San Francisco World Spirit Awards and the whisky blend number one sold out within a week – people love its products and it is clear to see why.Whisky blend number two incorporates a blend of malts all aged at least eight years, this blend is then finished in oloroso sherry casks. Sherry cask aging is a popular method that invites the fruity and spicy character of sherry into the whisky. The nose of this expression is deep and sweet with orchard fruit and caramel, the palette is a pleasing mixture of cereal and spice, moderated by vanilla and smoke with sophisticated oak notes taking the reins and gliding the liquid into a lingering finish of burnt wood and orange.Buy now Nikka Days, 40%: £39.95, The Whisky ExchangeWe are longstanding advocates of the Nikka distillery which is at the forefront of Japanese whisky and rightly so, constantly releasing fine whiskies that tastefully combine its admiration of scotch whisky tradition with flavour profiles unique to modern Japanese whisky distilling. The highland influence on Japanese distilling is no secret with many distilleries buying its stills from ancient scotch companies, though the resulting liquid is always fresh and exciting. Nikka Days is a fabulous blend of some of Nikka’s most revered expressions, including the Yoichi, Miyagikyo and Coffey bottles. The nose is typical of the distillery, busting with fresh apples, barley and citrus. The palette is immensely smooth and carries through the orchard fruit but emphasises a complex alignment of liquorice, citrus, oak and chocolate, the finish is decadently sweet and creamy with a peppering of spice.Buy now Michter’s US*1 original sour mash, 43%: £49.95, The Whisky ExchangeAlthough in centuries past it was also known as Shenk’s and later Bomberger’s, it’s now known as Michter’s and carriers the title of America’s first whisky company. Surviving prohibition, which can’t have been great for the industry, and bankruptcy, the distillery is still producing whiskies loved the world over and its US*1 sour mash is no exception. Sour mash whiskies traditionally employed a portion of a previous mash to begin the next batch, much like sourdough bread baking. This bottle is once again a firm favourite following immense popularity in the Seventies, the nose is inviting and comforting, a profile of home baking and summer fruits, the palette is rich, encompassing and fruit forward with a delicate amount of spice to temper the sweetness, the finish is sharp and carries through the yin and yang balance of fruit and spice.Buy now Clynelish 14 year old, 46%: £43.90, Master of MaltClynelish is a highland distillery with a reputation to match its ancient history, replacing the Brora distillery opposite in the 1980s, this brand is a highland heavyweight and is hosting this year’s Highland Whisky Festival. The Clynelish 14 year old its flagship expression and a firm favourite for scotch stalwarts.The nose is almost rakish in nature, thick smoke shrouds delicate notes of orange peel and vanilla. The palette follows through on the vanilla and pairs these notes with a basket of fruit and a whisper of tobacco. The finish is long, satisfying and grows into crisp oakiness.Buy now Amrut Fusion, 50%: £53.95, The Whisky ExchangeJim Murray’s word is nigh on gospel in the whisky world and in 2010 he named Amrut Fusion the third finest whisky on earth. This bottle’s name is derived from the fusion of both Indian and Scottish barley in the distillation process, distilled and matured in separate American oak casks for at least four years, the malts are then married and matured in a single cask. Although India may not be the first place you think of when you think of the world’s top three whiskies, this distillery has gone from strength to strength since its foundation in 1948 in an India finding its independent feet.The nose is dominated by a pairing of peat and warming spices with a sweet suggestion of cardamom. The palette is mature and not over complicated, cocoa and roasted coffee beans meet oak by way of a peat introduction, the finish is long and spicy with a whisper of orange.Buy now Spirit of Hven 7 stars no.2 merak, 45%: £94.65, Master of MaltA distillery with a background that is romantic on an almost Disney scale, Spirit of Hven on the minute island of Hven (3 square miles, 350 people) was founded in 2008 and is Sweden’s third ever pot still distillery. As with many whiskies, the distillery’s landscape is a cornerstone of the flavour profile, with each bottle infused with a whistle of salty sea breeze. The nose is made up of orchard fruits over a campfire, the palette mingles warm spices with candied orange peel, leading into a peaty and lasting finish. Definitely worth a drop or two of water to coax out more subtle flavours that are buried in soluble peat.Buy now Mackmyra svensk ek, 46.1%: £41.25, Master of MaltAnother Swedish inclusion, this time from the renowned Mackmyra distillery. Blessed by crystal clear water and sun-kissed barley, the distillery’s offerings consistently ooze an organic body that makes each drop more drinkable than the last. This bottle is all about the barrel and as such is aptly named Swedish oak, with the barrels coopered out of centuries old oak trees, cut and dried for at least a year, meaning the bottle is bursting with character. The overall profile is sweet and peppery, where the nose is dominated by oak and gentle citrus. It’s an ideal opener for a complex palette of nuts, caramel and berries. The finish leans in to the oak, introducing vanilla notes so often found with oak.Buy now Kyro Malt, 47.2%: £39.99, MuazoThe Kyro distillery is bold, brave and brash and is making a lot of noise in the spirit world from its distant base out in Finland, seemingly light years away from the comparatively quaint mothership of the Scottish highlands. Having gained a reputation for a signature freshness in its spirits, be it whisky or gin, this particular bottle is made of 100 per cent malted Finnish whole grain rye. One thing that sets Kyro apart is its stubborn commitment to rye, not only does this bleed the personality of Finland into the bottle (the country consume three times the European average of rye) but also exemplifies its passion for distillation as whole grain rye is notoriously hard to distil due to its tendency to over boil. This bottle’s nose is big but smooth and buttery, the spiciness you’d expect from a rye bubbles under the surface, the palette forefronts a punchy spiciness alongside dark liquorice and salted caramel, the finish is long and peppery.Buy now Penderyn Portwood finish, 46%: £55.90, Master of MaltThis superlative offering from Welsh distillery Penderyn was awarded gold in the 2016 World Whisky Masters’ European Premium category. With a dry, rich nose full of summer fruits and a palette that is silkily smooth due to its abundance of honey and strings of candied citrus, this is a full bodied whisky worthy of its reputation. The finish is long and soft and balances dry burnt wood with baking spices and a reappearance of honey.Buy now The Balvenie 14 year old Caribbean cask, 43%: £49.90, Master of MaltThe Balvenie is a gigantic name in whisky: a distillery that still grows its own malts with the revered David Stewart (the most experienced malt master in Scotland) at the helm. Stewart was one of the cask finishing pioneers and in 2012 celebrated 50 years with The Balvenie. This bottle is aged 14 years in traditional oak whisky casks before finishing maturation in casks that previously held Caribbean rum. The nose is brimming with fresh fruit and cream, the palette is incredibly smooth and carries through the fruit flavours, vanilla drags these fruits towards the tropics before a gentle and lingering finish that emphasises sweet oak. The use of Caribbean rum casks brings a satisfying spicy sweetness and richness that compliments the smoothness of the whisky.Buy now English Whisky Company, English virgin oak, 46%: £51.95, Master of MaltRarity is rather ubiquitous in the whisky world, particularly when it comes to celebrated but youthful distilleries, and this virgin oak expression from the English Whisky Company is limited to 2,689 bottles, a sparse amount for a distillery shipping globally. The Nelstrop family have farmed in England for over 600 years, finally emerging from the chrysalis in 2006 as the first registered English distillery since 1902.The vitality of adolescent curiosity has afforded the company the ability to experiment with different casks and wood types, with the Virgin Oak cask being the latest single malt added to their small batch range. The nose is thick with treacle and dark chocolate notes, balanced against rejuvenating spices, and cloves coming to the fore. The virgin oak maturation is evident in the palette, the dryness of the oak almost baits out the spices, providing the ideal base to mingle toffee with spicy punches with a long finish where cloves rear their head again.Buy now Teeling Small Batch Whiskey, 46%: £32, Master of MaltIrish whisky is as smooth as they come. And we mean it is super smooth, like cashmere smooth. In 2015, the Teeling distillery became the first new distillery to open in Dublin in more than 125 years, since then it has been constantly innovating, drawing on old porter recipes and working with a variation of barley blends. The nose is incredibly fresh, invigoratingly so, aromas of vanilla and dark berries are brought to the fore. Vanilla reappears in the palette in a smooth, creamy mash of cinnamon and citrus. The finish is Irish: it is rich, smooth, satisfying and no spicier than it needs to be.Buy now The verdict: World whiskiesWith consumer choice at an all-time high in the whisky industry, it has become immensely hard to decide which dram for your dollar. A budding enthusiast as well as a curmudgeonous grandfather may well turn to Scotland, while coffee shop beard hipsters will likely have their heads spun by the mountains of bottles available out of Japan. In the spirit of pushing you to try something brilliant yet fresh (in every sense of the word) we don’t think you can beat Forest’s Whisky blend number two. Not only does the whisky show signs of distilling maturity well beyond the brand’s youthful years, the bottle itself is a stunning addition to any home, handcrafted by Wade Ceramics in Stoke-on-Trent it features a papercut by artist Georgia Low, glazed in real gold onto the bottle.