Saturday, 17 December 2016

The best drink subscription boxes

Over the past few years, subscription boxes have sprung up out of nowhere. You can pretty much get anything delivered to your door on a regular basis now, from bacon to mysteries, and moss of the month to cheese toasties.

So it probably comes as no surprise that there are plenty of drinks subscription services out there now too. But which one to choose? Here's our pick of the best.

Drop Secret drinks club – the best of all worlds


If you’re indecisive like me, independent wine merchants The Secret Cellar, based in Tunbridge Wells, have come up with a pretty novel idea for a boozy subscription box… Drop Secret.

They’re combining all the boozy clubs. For £40 (with free delivery), you get either bottles of small production wine, an artisan spirit, craft beers, or anything else that goes. And it remains top secret until it arrives at your door. 

You can choose whether you want deliveries to be monthly, bi-monthly, or quarterly, and start, stop and pause deliveries whenever you choose.

They kindly sent me over the first month’s delivery to see how it all worked. It came with three bottles of wine.




The Flower and the Bee, Treixadura 2015, Galicia, NW Spain
This Treixadura was a first for me. It’s very bright yellow, almost gold, and is a great, full-flavoured white wine. It packs a punch, with a fruity intensity, herbs, and a bit of spice. It’s certainly not heavy though, just really, really fresh.

Sibiliano, Nero d’Avola 2015, Sicily, Italy
This is a lovely deeply-coloured, medium bodied red. There’s plenty of cherry on the nose, and forest fruits and muted spice flavours. A bit savoury on the finish.

Alto de la Ballena, Tannat/Merlot/Cabernet Franc 2009, Maldonado, Uruguay
This is a very successful blend of 40% Merlot, 30% Tannat and 30% Cabernet Franc from Uruguay, so a bit different from the usual Argentina/Chile wines you may be used to. The Tannat is aged in the barrel for nine months to soften the tannins, before being blended. It’s really delicious: big, dark and fruity, and relatively limited too, as only 12,000 bottles have been produced.

Of course, you won’t be getting those if you sign up, that will be kept a mystery, but it’s hopefully given you a taster of the quality of products you’ll be receiving.

Sign me up 

True Tea Club



If the thought of constant booze through the post makes you want to detox, then perhaps True Tea Club is the one for you?

They’re based up in York and specialise in seven loose leaf teas.

In each box you get four different loose leaf teas which change every month, and four empty tea bags, along with a welcome card, business card, and tailor card.

There are three different levels of subscription: Standard gives you 40 teas for £10 per month; Premium will make you 60 cups for £15 per month; or Deluxe makes 80 teas for £20 per month.

Each month’s box is released on the 20th of the month, but the boxes are sent out throughout the month. Delivery is free, and you can get international delivery for £3.75, if you want your tea fix from further afield.

In the box I was sent, I had Vanilla Cupcake rooibos, Earl Grey Rebel black tea, the wonderfully-named Rainbow Chaser herbal blend, and Mighty Mango green tea to try.

Mighty Mango was my absolute favourite. Despite instructions saying to only brew it for 10-20secs, the smell and flavour was quite intense and really delicious. But I am a sucker for a fruit tea. I also really enjoyed the Earl Grey Rebel and Rainbow Chaser, which was as brightly coloured and flavoured as the name would suggest. Vanilla Cupcake was a bit sweet for my liking, but the flavour was of real vanilla, rather than the synthetic taste you often get from vanilla flavoured things.

Sign me up, and get 50% off your first subscription box using code 'LOVE' on checkout.

Craft Gin Club 



Every month you get a small-batch gin, sometimes a rare and exclusive bottling not available anywhere else, and it’s sent out with complementary foodie treats and a copy of the Ginned! magazine. I know several people that have signed up to this one and it always looks like a really exciting bit of post to receive.

£40 a month, including postage (you can also do bi-monthly and quarterly, and you get £10 off your first box)
Sign me up

The Whisky Tasting Club 




You can get tastings as and when you want them, whether that’s a one off, or regular monthly tastings. Most contain five 50ml measures and cost £30, including postage. However if you sign up for the regular tastings, you get a 10% discount, first call on special limited edition sets, and bonus extra samples.

From £30, including postage
Sign me up 


Tipple Box: cocktails in the post



Small-batch spirits and exclusive ingredients sent through the post every month, so you can make your own cocktails at home. You get two recipes, four 50ml spirits, and other exclusive ingredients.

£24 a month, including postage
Sign me up 

My Vitibox: Wine



With My Vitibox, you get one or two bottles of wine, a magazine with tasting cards (and a welcome gift with your first box). The ‘colours and flavours’ package is £20 a month, with the ‘red passion’ box featuring two wines chosen by Alain Gousse (former sommelier at starred restaurant La Tour D'Argent) for £30 a month.

£20/£30 a month
Sign me up

Beer 52



If hops are more your thing, then perhaps Beer 52 is for you? Each month you get eight beers, a magazine, and bonus snacks for £24. All the beers are delivered to you within four-six weeks of being brewed, and you can order more if you run out. You can also send a one off gift box.

£24 a month, including postage
Sign me up

Beer Merchants



Or there’s Beer Merchants. They offer ten seasonal beers a month for £30 (or £28 if you sign up for a year), and mixed cases focusing on countries, breweries and styles. On top of that there’s discounts across the site, and invites to beer events.

£28/£30 a month, including postage.
Sign me up

Orchard Box


Every month you get sent eight craft ciders, two snacks, and various other goodies (you can specify vegan and gluten free too). All the ciders chosen are made with real juice, not from concentrate, and they promise you’ll never find anything in their boxes that you could find in a supermarket. 

£28.99, including postage
Sign me up

Crafty Nectar


Depending on whether you fancy six or 12 bottles of craft cider a month, Crafty Nectar has got you covered. All their ciders are handpicked from around the UK, and again, you won't be finding any of these in supermarkets. The subscription is flexible so you can skip a month, or cancel anytime.

6 bottles, £28.50, including postage / 12 bottles, £41.50, including postage 

Saturday, 10 December 2016

The best gifts for whisky lovers: Stocking fillers and secret santa




Although it seems like the people of Britain just can’t get enough of their gin, believe it or not, whisky (and vodka) still outsell the juniper stuff. In that case, it’s pretty likely that you know a whisky fan or two. If you’re struggling with what to buy them for Christmas, here’s a round up of the best stocking fillers and secret santa gifts for whisky lovers.


Stocking fillers and secret santa gifts for whisky lovers


1. Drink it right: Glencairn whisky glass

Glencairn whisky glass - best gifts for whisky lovers

Recognised as the 'definitive glass for whisky', these are a must for any whisky lover. The glass even won The Queens Award for Innovation. The tapered sides help to enhance the nosing experience, and there's a solid base so it's hard to knock over, even after you've had a few. (£4.95, The Whisky Exchange)


2. Ballin’: Whale ice ball maker

Whale ice baller -  Best whisky gifts for budget Christmas
Image copyright: Kikkerland

Know someone who loves an Old Fashioned, and er, whales? Then it won’t get more perfect than this whale-shaped ice ball maker (£9.99 Amazon).


3. The knowledge: '101 whiskies to try before you die' book

Whisky book -  Best whisky gifts for budget Christmas
Image copyright: Amazon

Author Ian Buxton has been working in the Scotch whisky industry since 1987 and there aren’t many people that know more about it than him. For anyone who really loves their whisky, but wants to try something new, ‘101 whiskies to try before you die’ is the one to get (£9.09, Amazon).


4. Boozy cheese: Amber Mist

Whisky cheese - Best whisky gifts for budget Christmas
Image copyright: Snowdonia Cheese Company


Everyone likes cheese right? Well how about cheese with added booze? The Snowdonia Cheese Company’s ‘Amber Mist’ combines smoky peaty Scotch with mature cheddar. It’s £4.50 for a 200g truckle, or £35 for a whole 2kg wheel if you’re feeling generous/really hungry.


5. Feeling frisky: Whisky condiment kit



If whisky cheese isn’t enough on its own, then it’s time to talk condiments. You can now make your own whisky mustard with this kit. Or if that's too much effort, there’s a huge range of whiskey/bourbon glazes, sauces, and marinades in most supermarkets now.


6. Whisky beer

Whisky beer -  Best whisky gifts for budget Christmas
Image copyright: Tennent's

Can’t decide whether to get a beer related present, or a whisky one. Well, now there’s no need to compromise. You could go for the 1488 premium whisky beer (£1.95, Waitrose), or Tennent’s beer aged with whisky oak (£2.50, The Whisky Shop).


7. Nuts for whisky: Candied whisky nuts


Candied whisky nuts - Best whisky gifts for budget Christmas
Image copyright: Fireball Whisky

If you want to make a homemade gift, you can’t go wrong with candied whisky nuts. All you’ll need is some nuts, water, sugar, and whisky. This recipe suggests Fireball Whisky, but if you’re not a fan of the cinnamon then simply use something else.


8. Alcohol-free aftershave

Whisky aftershave - best gifts for whisky lovers
Image copyright: Nervermore Body Company

When you're looking for a new fragrance, you may not immediately think, 'I definitely want to smell like booze', but the folks at Nevermore Body Company have bottled whisky in a whole different way. The aftershave is alcohol free, so it's unlikely anyone will be wandering around smelling like they had a heavy night the night before. It's apparently their most popular scent. (£9.96, Etsy).


9. Whisky wedge

Whisky wedge - best gifts for whisky lovers
Image copyright: Amazon


We've already seen a wedge of whisky cheese, but now for the whisky wedge (as seen on This Morning!). For friends that love angles, slow melting ice, and drinking whisky in a triangle shape, look no further. (£18, Amazon).

10. A wee dram, or three



If you want your gift receiver to be able to drink some whisky, but you don't quite have the budget to stretch to a whole bottle, this little taster set of Glenfiddich whiskys is the one to go for. (£10, Sainsbury's)


As you've been so thoughtful thinking of lovely gifts to buy all your whisky loving friends, I think you deserve a drink. 

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Weird and wonderful wine racks



Wine racks tend to be at best boring and at worst unsightly. If you're going to go to the trouble to lay your favourite bottles on display, just begging to be picked up and their corks popped, you might at least go to the effort of finding a wine rack with a bit of character.

We've searched high and low for some of the best, prettiest, and downright brilliant wine racks around:


Take, for instance, this completely original, eye-poppingly stunning wooden gnarly tree wine rack from Paul Williams Design on Etsy. It may only hold six bottles (he can make different sizes on request), but it's worth the £140 price tag just on beauty alone.


If you like your design more minimal, Black + Blum have created the metal flow wine rack, which is all swirly but so subtle you hardly notice it's there. It's £30.00.



Okay, so it only holds one bottle, but I heart the Wine for Your Life bottle holder so much. You can pick it up from Bouf for £11.50.


I'm trying really hard to be reasonable and not include this because the shipping it so expensive, but OH MY GOD IT'S A WINEOSAUR BOTTLE HOLDER! It's made from gorgeous birch wood and stained with either walnut or a mixture of beeswax and orange oil. I love it so much I'd happily pay £32.64 for it, but as it's from the States the shipping is an extra £26.75. May just move to the States so I can buy all of The Backpack Shoppe's stuff.

Another silly design which is actually available in the UK is this genius cactus wine rack. Not one for those that like their furnishings subtle, it is still pretty cool in my books. It's available from £123.30 on Amazon.

Red Thumb Print on Not On The High Street do some seriously sexy wooden furnishings, but they don't come cheap. Still, I do adore this whopping 150cm tall oak wine rack for its simple, understated style. It holds an impressive 16 bottles, however it is £160... They do a 6 bottle one that starts at £85.


I love the simplicity of this honeycomb wine rack from Habitat. It's on trend in a gold finish, and simple enough not to offend anyone. Practical and classy, what more could you want? Also, it's £30.



If you're planning to spend a bit more, but still like things relatively simple, then how about this handmade copper wine rack from Proper Copper Design? It's not the cheapest at £240, but it's really rather lovely. 

We have some other epic bottle storage design companies coming your way over the next few weeks, so I'd start saving now.

*This post has been updated for 2016 with new links, prices, and one or two completely new ideas*