The Artisan Gin Maker’s Kit – review

This is in the same “homemade” camp as sloe gin – I’m obviously not distilling my own spirit, just flavouring some existing booze.

gin kitThis is the box, I got it for my birthday

gin kit contents

Contents: vodka, empty bottle, funnel, tea strainer, and two little tins. One has juniper berries, the other has “aromatics”. I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t get to pick and choose my aromatics, and that the individual dried flowers and seeds were not named.Cardamom was definitely involved. Possibly fennel seeds. Some flower petals. And some other stuff.


gin kit step 1

I put the juniper berries in, shook the bottle, waited a bit (maybe longer than I was supposed to), then added the other seeds and flowers and things.

gin kit step 2Filtered through the tea strainer into the bottle, this is much yellower than most gin.

Side note – how many other people were disappointed on discovering that Bombay Sapphire was in a blue bottle and not actually blue?

gin kit testing

This definitely tastes of gin. Quite strongly fragranced, with mainly spices. One for people who like a robust gin.

Verdict: This is a good gift. You don’t “get your money’s worth” in terms of ingredients, but the box and setup and giftyness makes it nice. And I do have some nice gin now.

One thing I’d change: Split the aromatics into a couple of tins and let people choose to infuse them for different amounts of time to vary the flavour.

Make it yourself: You could get a bottle of generic vodka, a selection of seeds and flowers (juniper mandatory, everything else optional), a tea strainer, a funnel, and a pretty bottle and put into a nice gift bag. It would basically work just as well.



2015 Book Challenge – #18 – The Versions of Us

First post of the 2015 book challenge is here

The Versions of Us, by Laura Barnett, was recommended by a friend who actually knows the author. This is her first book, and my friend’s excitement was quite infectious. I was excited too when I saw an advert on the tube.

If I were pitching this, I would say this is part Sliding Doors, part One Day, and part Life After Life. The lives of two people (and many of their friends and family) and how they progress over 60-odd years, through three variations on one starting point.

I liked: seeing how experience changes people, poignant descriptions of relationships, that there is no “good version” of the world (each had positives and negatives), the Cambridge references in the early years.

I disliked: characters thinking “I feel like I should know you” – as far as I’m concerned that’s not how multiple universe work, no more books to read by this author (yet!).


2015 Book Challenge – #17 – Station Eleven

First post of the 2015 book challenge is here

Station Eleven, by Emily St John Mandel, was recommended on Twitter. Actually it wasn’t even directly recommended, I just overhead a conversation and had to join in.

How could I resist?

How could I resist?

Station Eleven is not set on a station of any kind. It’s set slightly before, and 20 years after, a flu epidemic has killed 99% of the world’s population. The station of the title is one in a science fiction comic that we see coming in to being, passing from hand to hand, and linking some of our characters in unintended ways.

I love a bit of post-apocalypse, and I like it when we know how the apocalypse came about – or at least that we try to find out about it. If the story is set after-the-end in our world I always feel a little disappointed if we don’t get a glimpse of how it happened.

The links between the people we know “now” and the people we see “then” start off tenuous and then become more entwined.

I don’t want to say any more other than that if you like this sort of thing even a bit, you should read it. If you know anyone who likes this sort of thing, and they are aged 12 or over, they should read it. (in terms of suitability it’s less violent or sexual than the Gone series by Michael Grant, which is definitely deliberately aimed at kids).

2015 Book Challenge – #16 – My Family and Other Animals

First post of the 2015 book challenge is here

My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell was recommended to me without any particular explanation, so I started it “cold”.

I only really glanced at the cover – if I had paid attention I would have noticed the “50 year anniversary edition” badge. When I read The Goldfinch, I stopped a little way through to look at when it was set, because I felt that it could be any time from 1950 to the present. In this book I also stopped to check the time – 1930s.

This is a very pleasant and nicely-described story without much going on. It reminded me rather a lot of the early parts of Life of Pi (before they get on the boat), where Pi is dabbling in every religion going.

The eccentric family and Greek “peasants” feel a little over-the-top, but exaggeration can be forgiven in reminiscences.

The anthropomorphizing about of all of the animals (particularly dogs, and magpies) is by turns amusing and just a bit too much for me.

Things I have made in my Nutribullet that do NOT contain “at least half green veggies”

In order of “closest to the original intent” to “really not what they want me to use it for”

  • Gazpacho
  • Carrot, ginger, and orange juice
  • Hummus-like dip
  • Homemade lemonade
  • Chocolate and banana milkshake
  • Frozen margaritas
  • Cake mix

This is not an advert. Other brands of “blend directly into the cup” powerful small blenders are available.

The first thing I did when buying a Nurtibullet was throw away the instruction leaflet.

The second thing was buy some straws.

I highly recommend both.

Green blended vegetables instead of a meal? You can do that if you like, but I am not recommending it more than “meh, if you feel like it”. Eating more veg is generally good. You might lose weight if you’re eating this INSTEAD of something else with higher calories. It’s not magic though.

2015 Book Challenge – #15 – The Pillars of the Earth

First post of the 2015 book challenge is here

This book was recommended by a friend who knows I like historical fiction, and knows that I like books that are thick.

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett is apparently 980 pages long

I was lent a physical copy of this book – normally I read everything on my Kindle – and as such it took me until I went on holiday to get into it. I started it a couple of times before and only got as far as and then the family had their pig stolen before putting it down and not feeling inclined to pick it up again.

I was glad that I did pick it up again. While it can most easily be described as a book about building a cathedral, this is really a multi-generation family drama set in the 12th century, during a time of political unrest where if you had a horse and a sword and a bunch of friends with horses and swords you could pretty much do as you pleased, because nobody was really in power to tell you off.

Our protagonists do not have horses and swords, and plenty of people nearly die of starvation. Everything seems very precarious.

The sex scenes are admittedly excruciating, but elsewhere the over-the-top detail is great for knowing what people’s houses were like, where they slept, what they ate, etc. I love this kind of thing and much prefer a museum of everyday objects to one of fancy pieces. I’d rather see the cup you really drink out of than the vase that sits on a shelf.

Amazon says something about a TV adaptation, so I’m now off to look that up!

2015 Book Challenge – #14 – The Children of Men

First post of the 2015 book challenge is here

I picked this book up in a charity shop, having spotted the title and wondered if it was the same as the film. I’ve not read much PD James but I know her as a crime author and also as the author of Death Comes To Pemberley (which I do recommend if it sounds at all like the kind of thing you would enjoy).

The Children of Men by P D James has much more to it than the film that it inspired.

I am not even sure I can say “the film that was based on the book”. I spent the first half of the book wondering if the film was based on the second half, and the second half realising that even the denouement played out quite differently.

This is a very thoughtful book, with a wonderful examination of what it’s like to be in the middle of a slowly-happening gentle apocalypse. The world outside of Britain is not revealed to us but I suspect that it is rather unpleasant. Inside, things seem reasonably pleasant as long as you. Dystopia-implied or dystopia-light rather than a full-on disaster, but the clues are there if you look for them.