Monday, 29 May 2017

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.

£40 a month
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.

£10/£15/£20 a month,
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

Your Sommelier

If you want to learn more about French wine in particular, or if you just love French wine (and who doesn’t?), then Your Sommelier will be your subscription box of choice.

Every month you’ll receive three bottles of French wine in the post. Each box comes with tasting cards for each of the wines, which includes plenty of info about the wine, food pairing suggestions, and facts about the region and appellation. You’ll also get a binder with the first month’s box, so you can keep all your cards neatly together.

If you’re taken with any of the wines in your box, you can order them again with a 20% discount.

You can choose between an Amateur box (£36 a month), and an Expert box (£60 a month). The Amateur box gets you three wines from independent domains, and the Expert box contains upmarket appellations and cuvées.

I was sent an Amateur box, with three wines from Bordeaux.

Château Lamartine 2011, Castillon Côtes de BordeauxCastillon Côtes de Bordeaux is on the right bank, close to Saint Emilion (which is where you find a lot of easy-drinking Bordeaux). This is similar in character: it’s light, fresh and fruity. I paired it with a Thai rare beef salad.

Château Dubois Gramont 2015, AOC Bordeaux Blanc This is a blend of 70% Sauvignon Blanc, and 30% Semillon, so you get the fruity minerality from the Sauvignon, and an interesting aroma from the Semillon. Super fresh, and best enjoyed in the sunshine.

Château du Relai de la Poste 2012, Bordeaux Côtes de Bourg This is a classic Bordeaux Blend from the Cotes de Bourg appellation. It’s 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 40% Merlot. The Cab Sauv brings structure to the wine, and you get fruit and softness from the Merlot. It’s a good wine to bring out alongside your roast on a Sunday. 

£36/£60 a month
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
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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
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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
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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.
Sign me up

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