Spreading the festive cheer
The Christmas period is a minefield. As you get caught up in the elaborate dance of sidestepping the numerous invitations that start to pile up, there’s the danger you’ll also fall victim to panic present buying. We’ve all been there: last-minute gift for the hosts who are ‘kindly’ having you for dinner on the 22nd, the ‘what do you get the inlaws’ trauma, the ‘small but don’t want to look stingy’ thank yous for every school teacher, football or tennis coach and music teacher you cross paths with in your daily life. As I said, a minefield!
This year, though, I’m taking a different approach. And it’s largely due to all the fantastic local drinks producers on our doorstep. If, like me, you struggle to buy presents, a locallymade bottle of booze ticks all the right boxes – expensive enough to feel special but not the sort of crazy prices that would break the bank, it’s thoughtful and personal, and, most importantly, comes with a huge dose of the feel-good factor.
Here’s what’s top of my gift list this year: 1. Sibling Winter Edition Gin
As with all Sibling gins, this winter edition is made from scratch at the Sibling distillery in Cheltenham. Infused with fresh cranberries and clementine peel, it has heady bittersweet flavours and makes the perfect winter G&T, served with orange peel and ginger ale over lots of ice. These distinctive square bottles would fit neatly into the suitcase of any houseguest – and be much appreciated (hint hint!) siblingdistillery.com, also available at Warner’s Budgens stores and Stroud Farmers’ Market
2. Gift Pack of Stroud Brewery Beer
These organic, vegan beers are top of my list for the hard-working sports coaches who give up their weekends, no matter what the weather, so our children can harbour dreams of becoming the next Ronaldo or Federer. They come in attractive selection boxes with either three bottles of beer or two bottles and a glass. The best thing is that you can personalise each gift by choosing the beers you’d like to include. stroudbrewery.co.uk, also available at Stroud Farmers’ Market
3. Cotswolds Distillery Single Malt Whisky
Launched last November, the first whisky to be distilled in the Cotswolds is a corker and just the ticket to coax any bah humbug father-in-law into the festive mood. The whisky contains Odyssey barley, grown in the Cotswolds, and is full of honey and butterscotch sweetness, with spicy, tannin-rich notes and a hint of treacle on the finish. The 700ml bottle comes with a presentation box, or you could opt for the gift box containing 12 miniature bottles. cotswoldsdistillery.com, also available at Warner’s Budgens stores
4. Tipsy Fruit Damson Gin
Home-made damson gin is always a winner, but if you haven’t got round to making it yourself this year, this is your best bet. The damsons are picked from Tipsage Farm’s own orchards and the liqueur is made to an old family recipe dating back from 1848. The fruit is mixed with a little sugar and then left to mature for at least a year to produce a rich, smooth liqueur with a great balance of flavour. The mini Christmas tree-shaped bottles are sure to bring some festive cheer to any long-suffering teachers out there! tipsyfruitgins.co.uk, also available at Warner’s Budgens stores
5. Woodchester Valley Cotswold Premium Selection
Once upon a time, giving a gift of English wine was unthinkable, but these awardwinners are just the thing to intrigue party hosts this season. Woodchester Valley wines are going from strength to strength, with this year’s Sauvignon Blanc (the only UK single varietal Sauv Blanc) and Pinot Rosé both winning Silver at the International Wine and Spirit Competition, while the Bacchus won Best in Show at this year’s SWVA competition. Sophisticated labeling just adds to the appeal. woodchestervalleyvineyard.co.uk