• 10 best vodkas: Smooth spirits to sip neat or mix in a cocktail
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    The Independent

    10 best vodkas: Smooth spirits to sip neat or mix in a cocktail

    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.

  • 10 best orange wines that celebrate the resurging wine-making trend
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    The Independent

    10 best orange wines that celebrate the resurging wine-making trend

    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.

  • 10 best independent coffee brands to please any aficionado
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    10 best independent coffee brands to please any aficionado

    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.

  • 10 best cocktail books for creating tantalizing tinctures
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    The Independent

    10 best cocktail books for creating tantalizing tinctures

    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.

  • 15 best rosé wines to sip all summer long
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    The Independent

    15 best rosé wines to sip all summer long

    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.

  • 9 best tequilas that are made for sipping not slamming
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    The Independent

    9 best tequilas that are made for sipping not slamming

    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.

  • Whether you drink red or white wine says a lot about your personality
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    Danielle Fowler

    Whether you drink red or white wine says a lot about your personality

    Does your personality match up to your drinking habits?

  • 10 best sakes of all styles to inspire your inner koji connoisseur
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    The Independent

    10 best sakes of all styles to inspire your inner koji connoisseur

    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.

  • 13 best Greek wines that you shouldn't overlook this summer
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    The Independent

    13 best Greek wines that you shouldn't overlook this summer

    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.

  • 12 best world whiskies: Find a dram to suit all budgets
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    The Independent

    12 best world whiskies: Find a dram to suit all budgets

    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.

  • 12 best English sparkling wines to drink this summer
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    The Independent

    12 best English sparkling wines to drink this summer

    Sparkling wines sales in Britain are on the up, with UK producers proving that they can compete with the best in the world when it comes to a great glass of bubbly. International prizes are being awarded and winners at sporting events such as the Grand National and the Boat Race are now officially toasting their success with a glass of English sparkling wine rather than champagne.With summer on its way we look at the English fizz that will help you to celebrate any occasion, large or small.From chardonnay to pinot noir, here are our favourites.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. Leckford Estate brut 2014, 75cl, 12%: £19.99, WaitroseA traditional blend of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier grapes grown on Waitrose’s own vineyard on the Leckford Estate in Hampshire and crafted at the Ridgeview wine estate in the South Downs. Beautifully toasty with a hint of hazelnuts to begin with, it settles down to and orchard and soft fruit flavours with a long and layered finish and a wonderful mousse.Buy now Nyetimber rosé NV, 75cl, 12%: £29.99, OcadoWest Chiltington is mentioned in the Domesday Book, but it is the more recent history of this West Sussex vineyard that has excited sparkling wine enthusiasts. Using the holy trinity of sparkling wine grapes – chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier – the estate has produced some outstanding wines including this rose that’s bursting with raspberry and red fruit flavours. A blend of pinot noir (52 per cent) and chardonnay (48 per cent) you can find the key dates in each individual bottle’s production by entering the code number on the back label on the Nyetimber website.Buy now Ridgeview cuvée merret bloomsbury, 75cl, 12%: £28.99, OcadoFrom the winners of the coveted Winemaker of the Year title in 2018’s International Wine & Spirit Competition comes a beautifully balanced but vibrant blend of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier. There are oodles of soft fruit and honey flavours here, finessed by notes of citrus and melon. It’s an ideal accompaniment to fresh seafood or a celebratory wine to enjoy by itself now, or in a few years when the chardonnay matures even more.Buy now Jenkyn Place rosé brut 2014, 75cl, 12%: £31, Hawkins BrosFrom Jenkyn Place, the family-run Hampshire winery founded in 2004, comes one of their very desirable vintage rosés – they’re only produced when it’s been a good year and the pinot noir grapes which make up 52 per cent of it are really ripe. Clean, bright and delicate with notes of red berries and toasted brioche, it’s made in the traditional champagne method with the chardonnay grapes providing a lengthy finish.Buy now Raimes English sparkling classic 2014, 75cl, 12.5%: £27.99, Fareham Wine CellarAn International Wine Challenge gold-medal winning wine from the Hampshire winery that has the same underlying layers of chalk you find in the best Champagne vineyards. That gives the wine – a blend of 51 per cent chardonnay grapes, 29 per cent pinot noir and 20 per cent pinot meunier, a zesty minerality that complements its apple, citrus and toasty flavours.Buy now Plumpton Estate brut classic NV, 75cl, 12%: £22.99, WaitroseThis wine is produced from grapes grown on the Plumpton College Estate, a Sussex-based educational centre that offers undergraduate degrees in wine business and production. Crafted by students with professional help from viticulture and oenology staff, it’s a lovely, balanced yet exuberant wine with fresh-from-the-orchard apple flavours and a welcome toasted brioche-like finish. Only 2,123 bottles have been produced, so get it while you can.Buy now Denbies cubitt blanc de noirs 2013, 75cl, 12%: £33.50, Champagne CompanyThe first blanc de noirs from the famous Surrey vineyard is a golden taste of summer with orchard and floral notes allied to hints of baked apples, soft fruit and an underlying minerality. Made from pinot noir grapes hand-picked from at the Hillside vineyard on the Denbie estate, it’s aged on the lees for six months and then again in the bottle for a further 40 months.Buy now Simpsons Beora brut 2016, 75cl, 12%: £32.99, Naked WinesFrom the north downs of Kent comes a sparkling wine that proudly bears the name of the Saxon chief after whom the village of Barham is named. It’s there that winemakers Charles and Ruth Simpson created this special blend of chardonnay and pinot noir that beautifully reflects the forested and chalky terroir of this corner of the garden of England. Lots of citrussy flavours as you’d expect but not too much acidity and an excellent mousse.Buy now Sixteen Ridges signature cuvée sparkling white 2013, 75cl, 10.5%: £24.95, Slurp“We let the fruit do the talking”, claim Haygrove Evolution, the makers of this exuberant blend of pinot noir and seyval blanc grapes. And it’s worth taking a listen. The vineyard occupies an ancient ridge and furrow field (hence the name) in Worcestershire which, with its natural ampitheatre shape, captures lots of sunlight. Baked apple and citrus flavours combine with a long and pleasing finish. It may be low on alcohol but it’s big on flavour.Buy now Winbirri vineyards vintage reserve 2013, 75cl, 12%: £28.50, WaitroseNorfolk may have been renowned for turkeys and for the Broads but it wasn’t necessarily considered the home of great wine. But that was until winemaker Lee Dyer came along and won a clutch of prizes for wines made from grapes grown at his Surlingham vineyards. This 2013 vintage reserve, made in the traditional champagne way has a precise and direct freshness with brioche and citrus flavours and a lasting finish.Buy now Simpsons chalklands classic cuvée 2016, 75cl, 12%: £28, SimpsonsFrom the chalky terroir of the North Downs of Kent comes the second sparkling wine to be released from inaugural 2016 harvest at Simpsons’ wine estate in Elham Valley. A traditional blend of chardonnay and pinot noir it has all the balanced fruitiness and toasted notes you’d expect from a classic cuvée. The vineyards are in a designated area of outstanding natural beauty, so it’s no surprise that the wine is a charmer, too.Buy now Furnace Projects wren 2013 brut 75cl, 11%: £20, WanderlustA welcome newcomer to the English sparkling wine scene, Furnace Projects is based in south Herefordshire, where Beth Derbyshire, the daughter of a local cider farmer, produces this outstanding brut from the seyval blanc grape. Appropriately enough, there’s a refreshing apple orchard flavour here with hints of citrus and floral notes. And while you sip it you can also appreciate art teacher Beth’s beautiful impression of a wren on the very attractive label.Buy now The verdict: English sparkling winesOur best buy is Waitrose's elegant and delicious Leckford Estate brut 2014\. The Ridgeview cuvée merret bloomsbury is also the perfect drink for a summer’s day – vibrant, fruity and refreshing. But if you like your sparkling with a touch of pink, then why not try the Jenkyn Place rosé brut – sunshine in a glass on even the cloudiest day.

  • 10 best hip flasks that are the perfect companion for drinking on the go
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    The Independent

    10 best hip flasks that are the perfect companion for drinking on the go

    In today’s throwaway society there aren’t many accessories that are purchases for life, but get yourself a quality hip flask and you’ll want to treasure it forever.They gently shift shape and texture through repeat usage which makes each one unique and personal, elevating it to treasured possession status.So choosing a hip flask, whether for yourself or as a gift, takes some serious thought. How will it be used? As an occasional provider of warming booze on outdoor trips during the colder months?Or perhaps for those who enjoy a cheering swig to ease a long train journey. Are they to be swigged from in secret, or will they be passed around and shown off among friends on a long hike or beside the camp fire?To help you narrow down your choice of hip flask we’ve been busy filling and swigging from the best of them, so whether you’re looking for a practical vessel that is built to last, or something with a personal touch for a treasured gift, we think there’s something in this list for everyone. English Pewter Company flask with black leather sleeve, 6oz: £64, Farrar & TannerFew retailers have such an impressive line-up of hip flasks as Farrar & Tanner, with a range that should suit most tastes and styles. Our tastes drew us to the classic curves of this 6oz flask by the English Pewter Company, housed in luxury dark leather and with a captive top to prevent you from losing it. Pewter is a material that was used for kitchenware back in the bronze age, and its relative softness is ideal for hip flasks, with those smooth curves gaining extra polish the more its used. For an extra touch of class, Farrar & Tanner also provide a pewter engraving and leather embossing service.Buy now The Gift Experience engraved stainless steel hip flask set, 4oz: £26.99, The Gift ExperienceOne of the most popular products among The Gift Experience’s range of personalised hip flasks is one that’s designed to look like a gun cartridge. For those less keen on giving out imitation weapons of war we’ve picked out a more sober gift set – a 4oz stainless steel flask with a pouring funnel and two cups that comes packaged in a smart box. The flask itself is highly polished and extremely robust so should be suitable for a lifetime of use and, despite its more compact size, there’s still plenty of room for an engraved personal message of up to 100 characters.Buy now Aspinal of London double hip flask, 6oz: £85, House of FraserAspinal of London are renowned for their luxury leather goods and this double flask set, wrapped in black leather with a cobalt suede lining, certainly has the feel of quality. The two screw-top bottles, also individually resplendent in matching leather, are kept in place with straps that hook over the tops and are fastened with poppers, so you can easily remove one at a time. It’s a smart and beautifully made set that gives you the option of carrying two different spirits for a choice of swigs, or generously handing one to your traveling companion.Buy now Bar Craft hip flask, 6oz: £7.96, Harts of SturBar Craft’s 6oz bottle may be cheap but it has everything you would look for in a hip flask. Its gently arched curve is designed so it nestles snugly against your body when tucked into a pocket; the polished stainless steel gives it shiny good looks and the ideal protection for your booze; and the screw top has lanyard attachment that prevents you from losing it during secretive sips. A tried and tested design that’s perfectly suited for your booze-on-the-go needs.Buy now Stanley pocket flask, 148ml: £16.46, AmazonStanley’s classic rectangular flasks come in two sizes, 236ml and 148ml, and while they probably had water in mind for the larger bottle we reckon the smaller option is well suited to booze. It’s made of tough stainless steel with a green hammerton finish and has a secure green lanyard attachment. The whole package is sturdy and compact, well suited to a life in a backpack pocket.Buy now Zippo leather wrapped hip flask, 6oz: £17.95, Whitby & CoFew companies have a better reputation for pocket accessories than Zippo, who have produced over 400 million lighters since starting out in the 1930s. The company also puts its skills to a few hip flask designs and this good value leather-wrapped item impressed us. It’s made of stainless steel with black leather fixed around its waist, giving its gently curved shape some extra grip. It comes with a captive top and has a solid feel to it making it a practical choice for the outdoor type.Buy now Ettinger leather bound hip flask, 6oz: £90, EttingerEttinger’s hip flasks aren’t cheap but their fancy leather wraps are designed to cut a dash in the highest of fashion circles. Their sterling collection features the archetypal stainless steel flask design (with a pouring funnel) comes in a choice of four vibrant colours: purple, red, orange and, our favourite, turquoise. They’re so colourful that you can not only feel and smell the leather luxury but also see it a mile off. Not one to hide away – this is a hip flask for the fashionably hip.Buy now Ted Baker hip flask and shot cups, 300ml: £40, John Lewis & PartnersThis Ted Baker hip flask has the cylindrical shape of the classic Thermos hot drinks flask, but its leather-wrapped, stainless steel sophisticated looks mean it’s definitely designed for booze. With a large 300ml capacity and two cups that sit neatly beneath a detachable hood, it’s an ideal choice for those who like to share their drinks. Buy now London Transport Museum hidden London hip flask, 5oz: £5, London Transport MuseumHip flasks make for excellent travel companions. They offer you regular shots of your favourite booze and don’t hog much space. For souvenir hunters we rather like this 5oz stainless steel offering from London Transport Museum. Its circular design echoes the “Hidden London” logo that you’ll see engraved on both sides, besides making it easy to shift in and out of tight pocket spaces, while a flat bottom enables it to stand upright while filling. A simple but functional gift for the city commuter. Buy now Rex London garden birds hip flask, 6oz: £8.95, Rex LondonThe classic 6oz stainless steel flask design, as featured in Bar Craft’s entry above, is well suited to decorative adornment and it’s possible to find attractive covers to suit all tastes. We’ve taken a liking to this flask decorated with illustrations of garden birds, providing you with a splash of colour while taking a swig of spirit – find a garden bench to relax and enjoy the flask’s contents and it will almost certainly bring out your hidden twitcher.Buy now The verdict: Hip flasksYou don’t need to spend much to get a quality hip flask, but if you’ve got a bit more cash for the investment then we recommend the English Pewter Company’s combination of leather and pewter.

  • 10 best armagnacs that are sure to be your new favourite tipple
    Style
    The Independent

    10 best armagnacs that are sure to be your new favourite tipple

    It may not have the bling factor of cognac, but this characterful and historic French brandy is certainly rich in flavour.With its status as the beloved tipple of hip hop stars and rap moguls, cognac has long stolen the spotlight and claimed a place as perhaps one of the most well known types of brandy. But armagnac – known for being France’s first brandy – can rightly claim to be one of the most flavoursome.So, what’s the difference? Made in the Gascony region of France typically by small producers, ten different grape varieties are allowed to be used in armagnac production, though four – baco 22A, colombard, folle blanche and ugni blanc – are most common.And while both cognac and armagnac are French brandies distilled from white wine grapes, armagnac is crucially distilled just once, keeping the idiosyncrasies of the wines rather than smoothing them out. Cognac must be distilled twice.What are should you be looking for when you buy it? And why is there such a vast different in price between some armagnacs? To add extra character the resulting spirit is aged in oak barrels.As a general rule, the longer the ageing, the higher the price and more complex the flavour. Classifications include VS, a mix of several armagnacs aged for at least two years, VSOP, aged at least three years, and XO, aged for at least ten.In short, a flavoursome armagnac needn’t break the bank; we’ve focused on the best value options as well as the best tasting in our roundup of some 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 us to fund journalism across The Independent. Chateau Pellehaut XO la fleur de l'age armagnac, 40%: £54.99 for 700ml, Drinks FinderThis beautiful brandy has spent 20 years in cask, slowly developing its rich flavour. Produced by the Béraut family, who have over 300 years of history at the Chateau Pellehaut, at the heart of the Armagnac appellation, this blend of ugni blanc is nutty with a tangy sweetness upfront. Rich, thick and complex, there’s dried fruit, vanilla of course, and a long lingering peppery finish.Buy now Baron de Sigognac VS armagnac, 40%: £29.45 for 700ml, The Whisky ExchangeThough this is the entry-level Armagnac from this esteemed producer, we think it stands out as representing particularly great value for money. Aged for a minimum of two years, we love how approachable this expression is. Fruity, there’s hints of stewed apples, toasted nuts, and a soft, cinnamon-laced finish. Though a little thinner in body from many others on our list, it’s still utterly delicious.Buy now Delord bas-armagnac l'authentique, 45.9%: £95 for 700ml, AmazonSomething truly special, of course, comes with a special price tag. We’re not suggesting this is the armagnac for you if you’re new to the spirit. But if you’re already a brandy fan and looking for something that’s a real treat, then look no further. This brandy is a blend of very old armagnacs that have been aged an average of 30 years in oak barrels selected to represent the most typical flavour notes from Delord. There’s almost something grassy about the nose, followed by a heavy waft of vanilla, and a smidge of coffee. To sip, you get creamy fudge, a little banana, prunes and roasted notes, all with an exceptionally long, smooth but chewy finish. Yum.Buy now Château de Laubade VSOP bas armagnac, 40%: £36.95 for 700ml, Master of MaltThe historic Château de Laubade stands out for a few reasons. One, the brand’s wines come from its own 260 acres of single vineyard. And secondly, it is the only armagnac house coopering its own casks. Their VSOP is a blend of more than 20 different eaux de vie, from ugni blanc and folle blanche, completed with colombard and baco, and aged from 6 to 12 years. There’s something slightly funky on the nose, akin to dried tobacco. Sweeter than many others, but also very fruity, the thick, smooth brandy has comforting notes of spiced fig and honey. Buy now Janneau grand XO armagnac, 40%: £66 for 700ml, WaitroseThis much lauded tipple comes from what is claimed to be the world's most awarded armagnac house. International spirit competitions have awarded Janneau more medals than any other producer. Though Janneau has many armagnac’s in its arsenal, we’ve chosen this one for its accessibility. Taste-wise that is. No, this brandy deservedly doesn’t come cheap. This flagship blend marries eau de vie aged in French Limousin oak casks for at least 12 years, resulting in beautiful lemon notes, and a hint of caramel.Buy now Castarède XO 20 years old armagnac, 40%: £59.45 for 700ml, Whisky ExchangeOnce voted the world’s best Armagnac, at the World Armagnac Awards, we think this rich, full-bodied brandy represents excellent value, considering it’s sat in casks for twenty years. Powerful, nutty, and a little oily, there’s satisfying and moreish notes of chocolate, marzipan, plums and cinnamon. We especially like its long dry finish. This is one to truly sip and savour.Buy now Comte de Lauvia fine armagnac, 40%: £29.83 for 700ml, Master Of MaltYou can’t argue with the price of this entry-level expression from the award-winning producer, Comte de Lauvia. Made from a blend of eaux de vie from ugni blanc, baco blanc and folle blanche grapes, aged from four to seven years. This is a lively brandy, with notes of caramel, toffee and burnt sugar upfront, with some smooth vanilla notes and a hint of acidity with a touch of lemon, and a little spice.Buy now Francois Darroze les grands assemblages 8-year-old armagnac, 43%: £59.99 for 700ml, SelfridgesFor the true armagnac fan, Darroze has some exceptionally smooth and delectable liquids in their repertoire, including their rather special 30-year-old tipple. However, we’re particular fans of this relatively young, 8-year-old vintage. With fruity, almost tropical qualities, there’s mellow flavours of tea, apricots and a little nuttiness too.Buy now The verdict: Armagnacs The right armagnac for you is going to very much depend on whether you’re an aficionado or an enthusiast. But for a great mid-price choice, you can’t go wrong with the beautifully rich and satisfying Chateau Pellehaut XO la fleur de l’age. An excellent option for anyone looking to learn more about these historic French brandies is Drinks by the Dram armagnac tasting set which includes five expressions from many of the producers above, including a few long-aged treats.

  • 17 best beer and cider subscription boxes that deliver the perfect brew to your door
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    The Independent

    17 best beer and cider subscription boxes that deliver the perfect brew to your door

    Good beer is everywhere. Supermarkets have upped their game and now have vast sections dedicated to local and international beers; specialist bottles shops are opening up in towns and cities across the land; cafés and restaurants are beginning to realise the importance of offering decent beer with their food; and pubs, joined on the high street by newer craft bars, have started to lengthen the list of ales available from behind the bar. And it’s not just malt and hops that are flavouring this new booze passion: cider is also getting in on the act.This boom in beer and cider means there are now more discerning drinkers who are eager to seek out the latest brews and start assembling shelves of their own favourite styles at home; and, for an increasing number, the best way to do this is through a subscription club.Operating along similar lines to their wine club cousins, these services provide regular deliveries of top notch beer and cider, much of which is sourced from suppliers with limited UK distribution. Each one of these clubs provides slight variations on the basic model. This may be in the type of booze on offer, how much you can tailor your selection, the frequency of delivery or the inclusion of a few extra goodies, so it’s worth spending a little time to check the options before settling on the club that suits you best.And don’t forget to check the small print for cancellation considerations – in the majority of cases, monthly subscriptions can be paused or cancelled at any time.Some breweries, such as BrewDog, have even started running their own clubs, delivering regular supplies of their latest brews. But for this selection we’ve picked out our favourite multi-brewery beer subscription clubs, along with a few cidery options.So sign up, sit back and wait for those first boxes of precious nectar to arrive on your doorstep.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. Honest Brew honesty box subscription: 12 beers for £36.90 per monthHonest Brew’s six, nine or 12-beer-box deliveries are a great way to explore the latest craft ales. It’s a rapidly growing company that’s building great relationships with a large number of the most exciting breweries around the world, so when you’re up and running with your subscription you’ll be treated to regular supplies that’ll be the envy of your beer-drinking mates. 8-Wired, Boundary and Burning Sky are some of the star names you might encounter in your next box and, besides a regular subscription, you can also sign up to the Honest Brew Bank which rewards members with exclusive offers and discounts.Buy now Beer Merchants Club Box: 10 beers for £28 per month on a yearly contract or £30 per month on a rolling contractBeer Merchants is one of the UK’s leading online beer retailers and the subscription service has a more global offering than most of its competitors, with some classic ales nestling alongside modern beers. Each box is themed, from country-specific selections to choices based on style, with our most recent delivery containing booze from small new breweries with bright futures, including Elusive, Left Handed Giant and Belgium’s Verzet. Additionally, members receive discounts across the site and invitations to beery events.Buy now BeerBods: 12 beers every 3 months for £36BeerBods claims to be the UK’s first beer subscription club and its offering is still unique, providing a level of online social drinking unmatched by any other business. Subscribers are encouraged to drink a specific bottle from their box each Thursday and share their drinking experience across social media for a mass live-tasting – tasting notes are emailed in advance and the story behind each beer is published on the website. The beers are mostly British and of an excellent quality, with a new gems regularly cropping up to spark excited online debate.Buy now Flavourly Craft Beer Club: 8 beers for £19.90 per monthSubscribers to Flavourly’s bargain boxes can choose from a selection of dark beers, light beers, or a mix of both. The quality of booze is excellent, with a mostly modern British offering complemented by a few international choices, some snacks and a free magazine (with beer and gin features to double up with Flavourly’s gin club). Our latest box was mostly assembled from Scottish breweries and included excellent beers from Tempest and newcomers Merchant City, along with three bags of crisps. Subscribers can rate the beers to receive more of what they like.Buy now EeBria Brewery Club: 12 beers for £28 per month (first box £18)EeBria acts as an online shop for a rapidly growing number of British breweries and cider makers. Its Discovery Club (£32 per month, with the first box costing £22) features a selection of beers from its partners (our box included fine efforts by Black Flag, Crafty Devil and Forest Road) while the Brewery Club offers a more in-depth introduction to its breweries, with each delivery showcasing beers from a single provider. This approach guarantees a range of styles, with limited editions alongside core products, and comes with extensive tasting notes on each of the beers provided. Money-saving options are available by paying for more boxes up front.Buy now Best of British Beer for a Year: 12 beers, 4 times a year, £155Only 500ml bottles make it into these cases, guaranteeing an excellent volume of beer every month. The UK-only bottles include tasting notes, a free glass with your first box, and more traditionally styled beers than the other clubs – our most recently delivery featured ales from Windsor and Eton, Oakham and Allendale. Recipients can choose their delivery dates and are invited to provide feedback to help tailor future selections. Best of British also offers other beer club options, along with a decent Craft Cider Club (6 x 500ml bottles at £27 per month), but for the committed real ale drinker, the Beer for a Year choice is hard to beat.Buy now Hop Burns & Black sub club: From £49.95 for 12 beers per monthHop Burns & Black’s subs boxes aren’t cheap, but if you’re a beer nerd keen on tasting the most eagerly sought-out beers on the planet then you’ll find it well worth the dosh. You’ll discover some beery delights from breweries such as 3 Fonteinen, Verdant and Cloudwater, the combined price will save you money on buying them individually. Some of these beers are so hard to come by that subs box numbers are limited, so get on board while you can. There are monthly, three, six and 12-monthly subscriptions available.Buy now Craft Metropolis: 12 beers for £34.50 per monthWith London breweries multiplying at an electrifying rate, it’s no surprise there’s a box scheme dedicated to the city’s beery output. Craft Metropolis showers its monthly subscribers with exceptional beer from the capital supplemented by a few choice cans and bottles from further afield. We suggest you let the team pick your box for you each month and you’ll be guzzling booze from brewing stars such as Brockley, Five Points and Gipsy Hill, but if you’re determined to choose your own goods then an extra £1.50 will afford you this option.Buy now Beer52 craft beer discovery club: 8 beers for £24 per monthBeer52 sources some of the most exciting new beers from around the world for its popular subscription boxes (the bottles in a recent delivery all came from Korea) and serves them up with a snack and copy of Ferment magazine, one of the better beer publications around. Subscribers are encouraged to rate and review the booze to earn “taster points” and be rewarded with gifts and discounts. Add two more beers to your monthly supply for an extra fiver.Buy now BelgiBeer: 8 beers for £27.99 per monthLike Belgian beer? Of course you do. So check out this special subs service: a regular supply of top-quality booze from a different brewery every month. Not only will subscribers be slurping some of the world’s best beer, they’ll also be rewarded with a brewery glass, Golden Hops magazine, discounts and a surprise gift. The most recent brewery to discover was De Ranke, one of our all-time favourites, and there’s more information about its beers and brewing on the BelgiBeer website. It’s a great way to immerse yourself in booze from the best brewing nation in the world. Delivery is £4.90 extra, or you can opt to pick your case up from designated collection points for £2.Buy now Crafty Nectar craft cider discovery club: £28.50 for 6 ciders per month, or £47 for 12 premium ciders per monthNo beer here – this box is strictly for cider heads. Crafty Nectar offers up hassle-free deliveries of cider and perry from the UK’s finest cidermakers. Only full juice, no-concentrate ciders are allowed in the box, and tasting notes for each cider are available on the website for you to scrutinise while supping. All boxes are gluten-free and suitable for vegans.Buy now Eebria cider discovery club: £32 for 12 ciders per month (first box £22)Eebria has pulled off a smart trick by partnering with cider producers as well as breweries, and its Cider Discovery Club is an excellent way to get a constant supply of some amazing booze. Start off with a six-bottle taster box for £10 before progressing to the 12-a-month deliveries and you’ll quickly appreciate the increasingly large range of ciders currently available. Our latest box featured ciders from six breweries, including Kentish Pip, Yarde and some delicious Italian Angioletti sparkling ciders. Longer subscription plans are available if you so please, and delivery is £5.99.Buy now Beer Me Now: 8 beers per month for £25Beer Me Now is one of the newest subscription services on the market and the Essex business has hit the ground running with some superb selections. You’ll find familiar, contemporary brewing aces in each box (the likes of Cloudwater and Pressure Drop are on board) but we’re particularly impressed by their ability to seek out excellent new beers from breweries we’ve not heard of before – Lost Pier, Claverley’s and Ampersand being examples from the most recent delivery. It’s a selection that should appeal to traditionalists and craft connoisseurs alike, with a snack or two thrown in for good measure.Buy now Belgian Beer and Food beerseeker subscription: €​120 (£104) for 3 boxes of 6 beers per year plus deliveryThese three-per-year boxes contain some of the most eagerly sought-after Belgian beers and, with a high proportion of them being limited editions shipped straight from Belgium, you’ll struggle to get better booze unless you emigrate to Brussels. There’s a hefty price to pay for this luxury (and you also need to factor in overseas delivery) but you’ll find a few 75cl bottles among them that would cost a small fortune on their own. Recent deliveries have included special beers from De Cam, Struise, Alvinne and L’Ermitage, plus you’ll also receive three copies per year of the informative Belgian Beer and Food magazine.Buy now Ghost Whale Crowler Club: £30 per month for 6 x 500ml cansGhost Whale runs a beer delivery club along similar lines to others in this list (£47.99 for 8 to 10 beers) but its unique offering is the Crowler Club which provides fresh beer straight from keg to can and delivered to your door. Ghost Whale’s Brixton tap room serves its customers some of the rarest (and most expensive) beers you can find, and they generously share these brews with their subscribers, allowing them to create their own tap-room experience at home. Recent breweries have included Chorlton, Cascade, DEYA and Moscow’s Zagovor, each responsible for some of the most outstanding (and experimental) modern creations you’re likely to encounter, which can now be enjoyed in the comforts of your own home.Buy now Craved craft beer and jerky club: £34 per month for 6 beers and 2 bags of jerkyBags of snacks feature in a few of the deliveries we’ve mentioned but none can match the quality of grazing presented in the boxes from Craved. With two bags of hand made British jerky each month your teeth will get a good workout, making you feel like you’ve really earned those beers. And with some of London’s finest breweries including Kew, Partizan and Five Points providing the liquid refreshment you can be sure the drinking quality is a perfect match for the snacking.Buy now Bristol Cider Shop cider club: 6 bottles per month £28Bristol is arguably the UK’s most cider-friendly city and, in the Bristol Cider Shop, it has one of the best specialist retailers in the land, chock full of excellent ciders that attract customers from far and wide. For those people unable to make it over to Bristol on a regular basis the shop has recently launched a subscription club, sending out six or 12 bottle deliveries containing shop favourites, new releases and small batch ciders. And if you are within apple-throwing distance of Bristol you can save a tenner on delivery by collecting the box in person.Buy now The verdict: Beer and cider subscriptionsThere’s something in this list for all beer and cider fans, with each club offering its own USP. Over the past year we’ve become increasingly impressed with Honest Brew’s expanding range of beers and for that reason we’re awarding it our Best Buy accolade.

  • BBC's Fleabag increases the sales of Marks And Spencer gin and tonics
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    Caroline Allen

    BBC's Fleabag increases the sales of Marks And Spencer gin and tonics

    Marks And Spencer reported that sales were up 24% since the episode aired on 11 March.

  • 14 best meat boxes from ethical farms to help you eat better-quality food
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    The Independent

    14 best meat boxes from ethical farms to help you eat better-quality food

    British farming is revered the world over – and for good reason. Farming in tune with nature means native breeds have evolved to grow strong and healthy on the landscapes where they were born.This type of farming creates the healthiest, most nutritious and best-tasting meat. Sheep fatten up nicely by simply foraging in fields. They traditionally graze on land that doesn’t have much other agricultural use – such as poor-quality hillsides – which means it usually makes economic sense to allow them to roam free.Free-roaming, pasture-fed cows have evolved naturally to forage and are not forced onto grains. This means their meat is generally higher in vitamin E, which provides protection against toxins and neurological diseases, and beta carotene – which is good for the immune system.Truly free range and organic chickens are meatier because they have developed good muscles. They also offer more complex flavours because of their healthier lifestyle and feed. There are less of the bad fats and more of the good fats in this chicken, and they are not routinely fed antibiotics.Organic and truly free-range pigs are reared without the routine use of drugs, antibiotics and wormers common in intensive farming. This is especially important in light of reports highlighting how the overuse of antibiotics in farming is undermining the treatment of infections in humans. When it comes to eating, the firmness of texture and depth of flavour is unparalleled in pigs that have been free to roam and fed a healthy diet.Buying directly from farms is the best way to achieve this quality in taste and nutrition. Of course, not all of us are lucky enough to live near farms or have easy access to farmers’ markets. Fortunately, the food is now being brought directly to our doors as meat boxes become ever more popular. Here, we recommend some of our favourite meat boxes on offer at the moment – in no particular order, it just depends on what you’re looking for. You can order to your office or home because the meat arrives chilled or frozen and will stay that way all day.Each brand offers a selection of meat boxes, so if you like the sound of one then click on the link to find more.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. Pipers Farm family favourites: £55Devon-based Pipers Farm is a 50-acre family farm working in tune with nature and 25 other family farms in the surrounding areas – and they butcher onsite. One roast chicken from here will not only easily serve a family of four, but you’ll also have enough left over for a curry and to use the carcass to create a tasty soup or stock. Tasty being the key word here – these genuinely free-ranging chickens have a depth of flavour you will have forgotten they could have.The same can be said for the other selections in this meat box, which really does include a lot of meat. But each portion is not huge, encouraging you to eat a little less and a lot better.Family favourites meat box includes: 1.5kg properly free-range whole chicken, four free-range chicken burgers, 1kg grass-fed beef mince, 1kg​ saddleback breakfast sausages, 200g unsmoked saddle back bacon, 250g properly free-range chicken fillets, four grass-fed sandwich steaks, four award-winning saddleback pork steaks.Buy now Farmdrop BBQ meat box: £22.40Farmdrop is like an ethical grocer, bridging the gap between farmers and city-dwellers – it’s still fairly early days so it only delivers to London-ish postcodes at the moment, and is beginning to expand outside the M25.The company only champions farmers who really care about the environment, animal welfare and quality – but allow you to make the choice of whether you want organic or free-range produce, providing great biographies of each farm to make that decision easy.There’s a minimum order delivery of £40 so you can stock up on vegetables or household goods, all created by different suppliers but with the same ethos in mind. We also love that they deliver to your kitchen with a smile every time, and take away the crates so there’s minimal packaging left behind.The BBQ meat box includes: six beef burgers, six sausages, six lamb riblets and six pork ribs. Hands down some of the best sausages we’ve ever tasted.Buy now Rosewood Farm all week Dexter beef box: £53Rosewood Farm maintains its meat is a by-product of their wildlife conservation work in Yorkshire’s Lower Derwent Valley; as such they farm very much in-line with the standards of organic and 100 per cent grass-fed meat, even though the farm is not officially certified.The meat boxes are all about the beef and offer very good value, including a mixture of cuts representative of the whole animal to ensure none is wasted. We cooked a chuck steak in a pressure cooker and it was melt-in-the-mouth with a real richness of flavour. The website or photography might not be as polished as some of the others in this list but they’re professional farmers, not marketers, so this almost adds to their authenticity.The all-week Dexter beef box includes: a mixture of cuts (excluding offal!) including hind (1.25kg) and forequarter (1.25kg) joints, diced stewing steak (1.0kg), mince (1.0kg) and steaks (0.5kg).Buy now Abel & Cole fabulous meat and fish box: £17.50Abel & Cole were one of the pioneering food box schemes, starting with organic vegetables more than 30 years ago. Its ethics are still strong, with a family feel in the HQ and suppliers extolling the values of working with them. This weekly subscription box includes two cuts of organic meat and one sustainable fish that changes weekly. The company offers recipes to help with its promise to stop you always cooking the same meals – and it works.If your aim is to eat less meat and better quality, this box is a no-brainer. And the fish is a good way to change things up even more. Buy now Primal Meats monthly surprise meat box: £50Primal Meats promotes the eco-omnivore diet – and is all about pasture for life and regenerative farming that balances the social, economic and ecological needs of farms and land managers.The meat boxes are ideal for people who care about animal welfare (it’s Pasture for Life certified) and those following diets based on ancestral wisdom, as the meat is as close as possible to meats from the wild – and you can genuinely taste the grass in the steaks. If you subscribe to this hamper, you not only get seasonal favourites and discounted specials but also the chance to be a guinea pig for new products, free of charge.An example monthly surprise meat box includes: lamb shoulder, 1kg + 2 x 350g beef mince, 350g beef shin, 2 x 250g lamb chops, 500g pork sausages, 250g beefburgers, 500g chicken thighs, 350g pork stripsBuy now Riverford small everyday meat box: £18.45When it comes to ethics, Riverford offers some of the strongest on the market – it’s organic, British and 100 per cent grass fed. Riverford are arable farmers so they work with a small group of West Country farmers to source their organic meat, and prepare it at their butchery.This box includes easy-cooking cuts such as mince, diced meat, prime steaks, chicken breasts and the occasional roasting joint that serves two people for three dinners. It’s easy to cook and offers good flavour. Subscribe to one of their weekly vegetable boxes, and making quick dinner decisions will never have been so easy.Buy now Farmison favourite steak and chops for two: £73.95Farmison customers are more like Farmison fans, and it’s easy to understand why. First up, the meat is good. Really good. It is juicy, succulent and has a depth of flavour not easy to find, and this is because their goal of getting people to “eat better meat” goes hand-in-hand with their support of farmers who are preserving ancient and important British breeds.The favourite steak and chops for two box includes: 2 x 250g 32 day dry-aged heritage grass-fed rib eye steak; 1 x 700g 32 day dry-aged porterhouse steak; 2 x 200g 32 day aged grass-fed rump pave steak; 2 x 250g 14 day dry-aged native breed lamb barnsley chop; 2 x 180g ripon cathedral black bacon steaks; 2 x 330g outdoor reared pork T-bone steakBuy now Coombe Farm Organic fitness meat box: £32As you would expect from a fitness box, the meat from Coombe Farm Organic is pretty lean but it has good flavour. The box also represents great value, and their mince beef comes rolled rather than flat, which is space-saving for the freezer.Coombe Farm is relatively new to meat farming and as such is still building up its processes. Even so, it knows its customers well and offers a selection of meat boxes to cater for most dietary requirements.The fitness meat box includes: two beef burgers, 250g beef mince, 225g beef rump steak, 200g chicken breast fillet, 250g chicken mince, 170g beef picanha steak, 200g pork leg steak, 180g turkey breast steak, 250g turkey minceBuy now Eversfield Organic mega BBQ box: £75Wow. This box is a treat for meat lovers. If you’re hosting BBQs this summer, then this box truly provides a meat feast. This family-run farm in Devon has transformed commercial farmland into organic pasture filled with trees, hedgerows and wildlife. Their meat is organic and grass fed, and you can taste the difference. The lamb, especially, is not to be missed.The mega BBQ box includes: 620g chicken wings; 400g chicken drumsticks; 460g beef burgers (GF); 400g farmhouse pork sausages; 500g minute steaks; 1kg butterflied lamb shoulder; 500g sweet chilli pork belly strips; 400g pork chipolatas; 400g lamb kebab pieces; 460g lamb minted burgersBuy now Horned Beef Company beef en primeur: £84.99The Horned Beef Company is great because it rears native breed cattle outside all-year round in tune with nature. This means the beef is generally only available from June to December.The company was founded by a young couple who moved to the Lake District and decided to try their hand at owning their own farm in 2015. They are part of the new generation of farmers who are transforming the farm-to-fork journey by prioritising wildlife and animal welfare, which goes hand-in-hand with quality. The couple ask you to become part of their story and to order a 5kg beef selection box “en primeur” – like the finest French wine, before it is bottled so to speak. And this certainly is some fine British beef.A 5kg beef en primeur box includes: steaks, a roasting joint, minced beef, diced beef and sausagesBuy now Peelham Farm organic economy box for two: £20.66This is both an organic and Pasture for Life-certified farm, which are two of the highest standards you can get in the UK. This 607-acre Scottish farm is doing some truly innovative things, which has the environment and animal welfare at its heart. Peelham Farm supports an organic cow-and-calf dairy farm by taking the bulls and rearing them for ethically-produced ruby veal. The farm is ahead of the curve with their onsite butchery, smoker and charcuterie – producing great British salami that’s fragrant and intense in flavour.The meat options change seasonally but the organic economy box for two includes: 300g minced meat, 300g diced meat, 2 x 200g steaks, 250g​ burgers, 300g sausagesBuy now Field & Flower big BBQ box: £39.50There’s a few things that really make this box standout. First of all, the variety of the selection. Then there’s the quality of the meat, which is far superior to your average BBQ meat. Plus, the knowledge that James Field and James Flower (Field & Flower, geddit?) farm themselves and personally source and approve all other suppliers. The day before delivery a butcher trims each cut to order and the kitchen teams press the burgers by hand and hand-tie the sausages, which is a nice touch.Big BBQ box includes: two packs of four gourmet burgers, six pork and black pepper sausages, six chicken garlic, lemon and thyme sausages, 350g hoisin pork belly strips, 200g harissa bavette steak, 450g chipotle chicken mini fillets, two lamb skewers with olive oil, lemon and garlicAvailable soon The Dorset Meat Company introductory meat box: £44.95Most customers build their own boxes at The Dorset Meat Company – as you can do for all of the companies listed here – but we opted for the introductory meat box to get a full flavour of what this company, which brings together produce from farms across Dorset and Wiltshire, has to offer. And it has a lot to offer – all farms pride themselves on rearing animals outside, on grass-fed diets which is better for them and more nutritionally rich for us. An especially nice touch is that this box comes with condiments. We definitely recommend tasting this meat that’s farmed with minimal intervention.The introductory meat box includes: 1kg beef topside roasting joint, 2 x 225g rump steaks, 500g diced lamb, 500g beef mince, 2 x 250g pork chops, 6 farmhouse pork sausages, 1 jar of Tracklements smooth dijon mustard (140G), 1 jar of Tracklements strong horseradish creamBuy now Primrose Herd taster box: £45Pork is the speciality of this family-run farm that has been keeping traditional breed pigs for more than 20 years. The pigs are reared outdoors, which is where they like to be, and there’s no teeth clipping, tail docking or castrating. They are eight to 10 months old by the time they are turned into meat, which is much slower growing than intensively reared pigs. Therefore they have a more substantial texture and deeper flavour. Their smoked bacon reminded us of how bacon used to taste (in the good ol’ days!).A Primrose Herd taster box includes: 1 x shoulder joint (boned and rolled approx 1kg), 4 x leg steaks (approx 800gm), 500g diced pork, 500g minced pork, 1kg sausages, 500g dry cured back baconBuy now The verdict: Meat boxesYou can’t go wrong with any meat box from this list. If you’re really making us choose, then Pipers Farm’s family favourites box is our favourite for offering top quality and a healthy variety. The Farmison favourite steak and chops box feels more indulgent, and there’ll always be a place for this at our table. Primal Meats’ monthly surprise box is really at the forefront of a new style of agriculture that’s truly farming in tune with nature, so they are the ones to watch.Lizzie Rivera is the founder of ethical lifestyle website BICBIM.CO.UK

  • 12 best recipe boxes that deliver meal inspiration straight to your door
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    The Independent

    12 best recipe boxes that deliver meal inspiration straight to your door

    * * *We’re all well versed on the benefits of a recipe box by now. Not only do they save you a trip to the shops, provide you with a dose of midweek inspiration and ensure you don’t waste any food, they’re also incredibly convenient, with everything shipped straight to your door (or even through your letterbox).And while on the face of it, they may seem similar, each brand has very different strengths. So whether you’re cooking for a family, have a specific dietary requirement such as gluten-free or perhaps you’re trying to only eat organic grub, there’s a box for that.Another thing to consider is packaging. We were looking for boxes that used the least amount of single-use plastic possible. We’d much rather see a big brown paper bag, stuffed to the brim with great-quality, fresh seasonal veggies.So who will win the battle of the box? We’ve put them to the test, here are our favourites.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. Gousto: From £24.99 for two meals for two people, Gousto Feeds: Two people, or two adults and two to three children Delivery options: Every week, fortnight or month, delivered seven days a week Of all the recipes we tried Gousto’s were some of the tastiest and they happened to be some of the quickest to throw together too. They also offer one of the largest menus, with up to 40 recipes to choose from each week. The 10-minute meals were a midweek lifesaver, everyday favourites appealed to the whole family and the new Joe Wicks range was reliably healthy whilst still filling us up. Nutritional info was nice and clear, especially useful if you’re watching your calories, are plant-based or follow a gluten-free diet. We loved the cheesy cod and spinach gratin with crispy potatoes on a drizzly Sunday night and we’ll definitely be making the satay chicken lettuce wraps again. Recipes were very easy to follow, with step by step guides including photos. Buy now Simply Cook: £9.99 for four recipe kits, Simply Cook Delivery options: Weekly, fortnightly or monthly Feeds: Two or four people-plus Unlike some of the other boxes, a Simply Cook kit fits straight through the letterbox and all that’s left for you to do is grab between four and six easy-to-find fresh ingredients from your local shop. Each kit contains the herbs, spices and marinades to make your mid-week meals really zing. There about 100 core recipes to choose from (which should take you a while to get through before repeating yourself) but the website is nice and easy to use, with filters including family-friendly, vegetarian, low-calorie and gluten-free. Each month it removes the lowest rated kits and adds a couple of newbies, so the range is constantly improving. Once you’ve collected your extra ingredients, a recipe should take you about 20 minutes to put together. Buy now Riverford recipe box: From £11.20 for one meal for two, Riverford Feeds: Two people Delivery options: Weekly, fortnightly, every three weeks or every four weeks If we were giving out awards for the friendliest delivery drivers, Riverford would be top of the league (they don’t use couriers). Having visited the Riverford farm personally, we can really vouch for the incredible-quality, 100 per cent organic ingredients which go into each recipe, arriving still muddy in your box. With some of the longest use-by dates we encountered, we enjoyed cooking with items we’d never normally pop in our shopping trolley. Pork medallions, apples and kohlrabi made their way into a tasty Vietnamese pork and pickle salad, whilst beautifully tender beef strips, gherkins and sriracha sauce spruced up our stir-fry. There are 12 new recipes to choose from each week, spanning everything from vegan through to prime cuts of meat. Delivery dates are dependent on your postcode. Buy now Hello Fresh: From £29.99 for three meals for two people, Hello Fresh Delivery options: Weekly Feeds: Two to four people Hello Fresh recipes were incredibly easy to follow thanks to the large photo-card with step-by-step instructions. We enjoyed all of our meals, from the dukkah spiced chicken with herby lentil salad, to the healthy but filling garlicky prawns with mini roast potatoes and walnut parsley pesto. Individual recipes are bagged up which makes it easy to find ingredients when you’re in a rush after work, but within that we would like to see a reduction of plastic. We’d recommend these simple yet flavourful recipes to those that don’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen or aren’t interested in attempting anything too challenging. Buy now Abel & Cole recipe box: From £12, Abel & Cole Delivery options: Every week, fortnightly, every three weeks, every four weeks or every eight weeks Feeds: Two or four people Each Abel & Cole recipe box will only ever contain 100 per cent organic or wild ingredients, with two of the recipes we tried (gnocchi with creamed kalettes and shepherdess pie with celeriac and parsnip mash) featuring seasonal veg, which means you’re tasting ingredients at their very best. We tried an easy-to-make fish pie/gratin-hybrid which, although comforting thanks to the nutmeg-scented creme fraiche sauce, was seriously calorific at 971 per portion. Thankfully there are 15 new recipes each week to choose from, which can be filtered by meat, fish, veggie, vegan, foodie (for those more confident), simple (if you’d rather something quick and easy) and light (with dishes under 500 calories). You can pick however many recipes you like, with portions for either two or four people and your delivery date is dependent on your postcode. We found all the recipes easy enough to follow but would like to see a reduction in the plastic used. Buy now Mindful Chef: From £20 for two meals for two people, Mindful Chef Delivery options: Weekly or twice weekly with deliveries on Sunday, Monday, Thursday and Friday across the country. Feeds: One, two or four people. If health is a priority when cooking, you’ll appreciate the Mindful Chef box which only ever offers organic recipes without refined carbohydrates. From the veggie-friendly spicy chickpea taco bowl to the balsamic and mustard beef with sweet potato mash, all recipes can be made in under 30 minutes. They work with healthy experts such as Madeline Shaw and Olympic champion Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill and source ingredients from award-winning suppliers. Not only that but with every meal you buy, they’ll donate a school meal to a child in poverty through the charity One Feeds Two. Buy now Pasta Evangelists: From £13.90, Pasta Evangelists Delivery options: Weekly, fortnightly or monthly, delivered seven days a week Feeds: You can order as many portions as you like. No one makes a plate of pasta like nonna, but if you don’t have an Italian grandmother in your life, Pasta Evangelists is a very good substitute. These boxes fit through your letterbox with eight recipes of pasta perfection to try and decide from. Recipes really are incredibly simple as the pasta is made for you, so it’s really a case of assembling rather than cooking, with each dish taking no longer than five minutes to create. Portions aren’t huge but are incredibly delicious and far superior to anything you can buy in the supermarket. The pulled pork stracotto with cavolo nero ragu had a wonderful depth of flavour you’d associate with restaurant cooking. We like the sound of a monthly subscription which we’ll be saving for date night. Buy now Fish for Thought: From £32 for two meals for two people, Fish for Thought Delivery options: Every week, every two weeks, every month or every two months (delivered Tuesday-Friday) Feeds: Two, four, six or eight people Oh we do like to be beside the seaside – but sadly living in central London, we’re a little far away from the nearest daily catch. Solving that problem is Fish for Thought, a delightful recipe box showcasing all that the Cornish coast has to offer. With nine sustainable seafood recipes to choose from each week, pescatarians will be delighted by these fishy suppers. We often order a big bowl of mussels when we’re out at a restaurant but we’re ashamed to say we’ve never tried cooking them for ourselves – until now. Some instructions could have been more clearly explained, such as “debeard the mussels” but thanks to the pre-prepared components, like a pouch of butter-bean mash and Thai fish soup, overall this box made cooking shellfish and seafood a total doddle. Buy now Little Cooks Co: £8.99 a month, Little Cooks Co Delivery options: Once a month Feeds: Each box makes between 12-24 portions of the recipe, so enough for a whole family to get stuck into If you’re looking to get your kids more involved in the kitchen, Little Cooks Co is the one for you. Aimed at three- to 10-year-olds, boxes fit through the letterbox once a month and include a healthy snack recipe such as lemon and poppy seed energy balls (which will always be free from refined sugar) and the dry, organic ingredients to make them. You’ll also receive a dinner recipe card (without ingredients) so they can get used to cooking savoury food as well – our veggie nuggets went down a treat. Cute added extras might include a packet of vegetable seeds so your kids can try planting and growing their own food. Not only is this a great activity for families to do together, for each Little Cooks Co box sold, a vulnerable schoolchild in the UK will receive a healthy breakfast through the charity Magic Breakfast. No kids yourself? Boxes can also be gifted, with Little Cooks Co recently winning Children’s Gift of the Year 2019. Buy now Box’d Fresh: From £48 for three meals for two people, Box’d Fresh Delivery options: Weekly, delivered on a Friday Feeds: One, two or four people While most recipe boxes aim to make things simpler and promise a meal on the table in minutes, Box’d Fresh does things a little differently. All the recipes are created by Michelin-star chefs, so expect less step by step guidance and a more impressive result at the end of it. These are recipes for the keen cook, those who are happy to spend a little extra time and effort slaving over a hot stove. We loved that ingredients arrived loose in a large brown-paper bag, almost all of which come straight from the same small, organic farms and sustainable suppliers that the top chefs use. Vegetables were great quality and impressive in size with portions on the generous side – we received a whole block of butter to slather our crusty bread with. The menu changes weekly with six new recipes on offer, we tried our hand at a rustic ratatouille (which served four) crafted by Galton Blackiston and the date-night worthy duck breast with root vegetables and beetroot puree by Adam Simmonds. Buy now Morrisons Eat Fresh recipe box: From £20, Morrisons Delivery options: One off, weekly, every fortnight or once a month, delivered seven days a week Feeds: Two or four people Morrison’s is targeting the time-poor and as such, all of its recipes can be rustled up in under 30 minutes. We tried a lighter chicken katsu dish which was so spicy we think we must have made a mistake somewhere, as well as the more successful lean turkey meatballs with a side of healthy cauliflower rice. There were 18 recipes for us to choose from, although these aren’t updated every week. As one of the only supermarkets to offer a recipe box, it uses own-brand ingredients which you might be familiar with from your weekly shop. Buy now Feast Box: From £20 for two meals for two people, Feast Box Delivery options: Weekly Feeds: Two or four people If you’re keen to get out of a rut and try ingredients that would never normally make it into your shopping trolley, Feast Box is the one for you. Recipes are all inspired by authentic Asian and Middle Eastern flavours and as such our box contained ingredients we’d never find in our local supermarket. Crispy jackfruit pancakes anyone? As with the other boxes, ingredients are pre-measured so there’s no waste – but this is particularly useful with such interesting herbs and spices which you might not necessarily find you use often. Of the 12 recipes on offer each week, four will always be vegan. Buy now The verdict: recipe boxes We’ve awarded our best buy to Gousto who we felt offered the most well-rounded box. However, if organic ingredients are a must (and we’d argue they should be!) then Riverford is your best bet. Its dedication to bringing customers the best organic meat and veg at a great price for everyone is truly inspirational. Lastly, we’re really big fans of what Fish for Thought is doing – a great concept, bringing quality seafood to you wherever you are in the country. It’s just a small company at the moment, but we hope to see it grow.

  • Pancake Day 2019: Five best pancake recipes for vegans and gluten-free diets
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    The Independent

    Pancake Day 2019: Five best pancake recipes for vegans and gluten-free diets

    Pancake Day can be a trying time for recent converts to veganism or those with Coeliac disease. An evening flipping pancakes with friends can quickly become a test of willpower or worse – one that results in fielding numerous questions about your life choices.

  • 10 best beers brewed by women to celebrate International Women's Day with
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    The Independent

    10 best beers brewed by women to celebrate International Women's Day with

    When Brewdog released a special women's edition of its famous Punk IPA, renamed “Pink IPA” and emblazoned with a violet label marked “beer for girls”, the backlash was swift and merciless. Dea Latis, a network for women in beer, currently lists 240 female brewers or brewery owners in the UK.

  • 12 best wines by women to drink this International Women's Day
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    The Independent

    12 best wines by women to drink this International Women's Day

    International Women’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate some of the great achievements made by women, while also striving for equality in all areas. Head winemaker at Nyetimber, Cherie Spriggs has been with the estate since arriving from her native Canada in 2007. It was the first time the title was awarded to someone from outside Champagne and, appropriately for International Women’s Day, it was also the first time a woman won.

  • 9 best food colourings
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    The Independent

    9 best food colourings

    The struggle of finding a perfect food colouring is something that every baker experiences. While most food dyes usually lack in one of these properties, there are a handful that deliver on all accounts. This range of food colouring offers such variation, it’s hard to choose just one.

  • 10 best sprinkles for cake decorating
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    The Independent

    10 best sprinkles for cake decorating

    No matter how old you are, these tiny little edible decorations will light up your eyes and make your mouth water. Consequently, the colours are pastel rather than fluorescent, making them a little more appetising as well as tastier to eat.

  • 8 best palette knives for baking
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    The Independent

    8 best palette knives for baking

    Palette knives to cakes are the equivalent of pens to paper in the baking world. For those who have never handled a palette knife before, it may take some time getting used to. Whether is spreading batter, levelling a cake or painting on buttercream, a trusty palette knife is a must-have in the kitchen.