How are you celebrating Robert Burns night on 25th Jan?

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With less than a week to go you don’t have to be Scottish to celebrate the life and works of Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns, on the 25th of January.  Why not invite friends and family over for a Burns Night party? Include a mix of traditional dishes such as cock-a-leekie soup and spiced haggis, neeps and tatties followed by clootie dumpling or crannachan for dessert washed down with a small glass of warming malt whisky. And don’t forget some shortbread or Scottish tablet to nibble on whilst you all recite your favourite Burns poems.

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Here at Sugar & Spice we have a selection of whiskies and Scottish produce to help you add that all-important finishing touch to your supper table.  Our Burns Supper recommendations are as follows:-

Robert Burns Single Malt
This is the official Isle of Arran Distillery Single Malt endorsed by The Robert Burns World Federation. Made from 70% Bourbon Casks and 30% Sherry Casks, this light aromatic Single Malt is ideal for drinking with your haggis.

Robert Burns Malt

Walkers Shortbread 
With a vast range to choose from, our favourite as a ‘gift tae gie’ to your host or to your guests ‘tae go’ is their classic Keepsake Tin of four of their most popular mini shortbread varieties.

Keepsake Tin

Arran Handmade Chocolates
Keeping with an Ayrshire theme doesn’t everyone love some chocolates with their coffee after dinner? The Arran Chocolate Factory produce chocolates for Arran and chocolates for us.  If you haven’t tried them already we have 12 to choose from, all hand picked and boxed while you wait.

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If you’re still stuck for ideas on holding your own Burns Supper then download this handy eBook for all you need to know.  All that’s left to do is have fun and enjoy!

Slainte!

Robert Burns World Federation Dinner

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Recently I was asked to produce a Whisky Ice Cream for 300 people attending the inaugural dinner of the Robert Burns World Federation.

Dignitaries from around Ayrshire and beyond attended the event at Greenwood Academy in Dreghorn on Saturday, 13th Sept 2014 after holding their AGM and conference in the Menzies Hotel in Irvine.  North Ayrshire’s Facilities Manager, Ken Campbell, asked me to prepare a Whisky Ice Cream of my own choosing for the occasion so it had to be something special.  I’m slowly getting to grips with the complexities of the many fantastic whiskies out there but this was the first time I’d tried mixing it with ice cream.

After discussing some options with one of the ice cream industry’s advisors, I personally decided on the Bowmore 12YO Malt from Islay.  The late, great whisky writer, Michael Jackson, proclaimed it as “remarkably long and complex.”  For me, that was exactly what I wanted to achieve with my ice cream; a taste sensation that really lingered.  I wasn’t disappointed.  Even the distillery, one of the oldest in Scotland, say their Bowmore 12 YO is like vanilla ice cream at a beach bonfire.

I couldn’t have got a better combination.  My ice cream is almost 10% full cream and I needed something to cut through that without being too overpowering.  Bowmore’s trademark peaty smokiness balanced with a subtle taste of honey and lemon was ideal. The end result was a very intensely whisky flavoured ice cream (4% alcohol) with a light ripple of caramelised whisky sauce.

After posting some pics and and tweets of the resultant flavour, I have to say that customers have responded with requests for more, more, more!  It’s been on sale in my cabinet (at no extra cost) for the last few days and has been a huge success.  This one’s adults only of course (sorry kids) but has inspired me to try some more combinations as we start to go into the autumn/winter.  Any suggestions?

Sláinte!

It’s World Whisky Day Today!

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Today’s the day that invites everyone to try a dram and celebrate the water of life.

If you’ve never tasted Whisky before then get yourself along to Sugar & Spice today and allow me to offer you some assistance to help you celebrate World Whisky Day. Here’s a quick rundown on the regions first and, being a purveyor of handmade chocolates, a few suggestions to taste and try with your tipple. (Whisky and chocolate is fab btw):-

Lowlands – roughly between Dundee and Glasgow producing a lighter style of Whisky; fragrant, floral and fruity. Try the Auchentoshan 12 year old with our Creme Brûlée Truffles.

Highlands – encompassing many areas north of the Highlands Boundary Fault Line producing a variety of styles from spicy, aromatic whiskies in the north to fuller, slightly peaty flavours from the south. Try the new style Old Pulteney Stroma Malt Whisky Liqueur with our Besilienne Caramels. Mmm!

Speyside – ooh, now for the Creme de la Creme! Soft Scottish water produces elegant fruity malts with a drying smokiness. Sorry, but I can’t stop going on about Aberlour a’Bunadh Batch 34. Combine with our milk chocolate praline truffles. Mwah!!

Islay – very pungent and not for the faint hearted. Peaty, medicinal, briny and tasting of seaweed but try an Ardbeg 10 year old with our dark chocolate chilli and lime ganache and you’ll be blown away with the taste sensation that hits your tastebuds. Wow!

Campbeltown – a cross between the lowlands and the highlands with a good sprinkling of sea salt to bring out the taste. Love the pale straw colour of the Springbank 10 year old and the aftertaste of a visit to the seaside on a warm summer’s day. You just have to try combining this after a light evening meal with my milk chocolate salted caramels. Oh my goodness, the words: “died and gone to heaven” will spring immediately to mind.

Have a dram good day everyone!

Celebrate World Whisky Day on Sat 17th May…

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The month of May heralds the season for Whisky Festivals all over Scotland starting with the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival this weekend and Islay’s Malt and Music Festival at the end of the month.

Launched in 2012 by Aberdeen student Blair Bowman, World Whisky Day, now officially the 3rd Sat in May, is gaining huge popularity worldwide as more people discover the complexities of this fantastic spirit.

My first dram was only a few years ago after a busy day’s trading one Saturday night when my brother popped in at closing time for a chat. Sitting behind my counter, with the shop door locked, he commented on my range of whiskies and suggested we try one. Glenmorangie was the choice that evening and so began my love affair with “the water of life” and the ultimate instigator for a great night’s conversation.

I’m no whisky snob although I prefer mine with just a dash of water, as is recommended, but my top tipple for now is Aberlour’s A’bunadh Cask Strength from Speyside aged in Oloroso sherry butts. It’s strong, smooth and creamy and the most delicious whisky I’ve tasted; a drink to cherish and enjoy slowly and keep permanently stocked in my shop.

Another favourite of mine and much closer to home is the Robert Burns Malt from the Arran Distillery and for those of you who are new to the delights of Whisky and want to try something a little creamier, the Arran Gold Liqueur is one of my top sellers.

As with everything at Sugar & Spice I like to stock and promote “all things nice” whether it’s Whisky, chocolate, ice cream or fine confectionery. Throughout May we’ll be carrying out tastings of some of my favourite whiskies from each of the regions along with Gardiner’s of Scotland Whisky Fudges (the best there is) and some speciality chocolate bars I believe perfectly compliment Whisky. If you’re not a lover of the very peaty Ardbeg just wait till you try it with chocolate. Amazing combination!!!

So pop in, try something different and get ready to celebrate.

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Slainte!

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Summer’s over! Autumn/Winter has arrived…

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And what a summer it’s been – great weather, lots of smiling, happy visitors and many great memories made. September is my favourite month of the year because business slows down a little and there’s lots to enjoy in Largs & Millport. From the Viking Festival at the start of the month to the Millport Illuminations during this last, September holiday weekend, coupled with some glorious days in between, it’s been wonderful.

As tonight has suddenly turned mighty chilly and I think I’ve seen the last of this summer’s sunsets, it seems appropriate to be writing this on the last day of September which, to me, has always signalled the end of the summer, (tourist season, that is!) Having owned and operated my own businesses in Largs for 13+ years now I’m like every other business owner in a seaside town where a good summer season makes it just that wee bit easier (I said wee!) to enter the winter months without the pressure to juggle finances and “make it through to Spring!” The next quarter, as they say in the financial world, is all about Christmas and what we as retailers can do to capitalise on the busiest spending time of the year. There is soooo much to do!!

But first, Halloween is just around the corner and our party stock and ghoulish treats for kids is all in stock now along with liqueur chocolates and chocolate covered nutty nibbles for the bigger party monsters. You can buy some of the range from our website but we have lots of other scary little treats that are packaged in-house and only available from the shop.

Christmas stock is now starting to arrive and many of the products I’ve selected this year also make great occasion gifts such as birthday, thank you, dinner party etc., so don’t wait till Christmas because once it’s gone, it’s gone!!

At this time of year the chocolate season is at its busiest. Don’t forget that ‘Chocolate Week’ runs from the 14th of October to the 20th and is a week-long celebration of all things chocolate throughout the UK, with tastings, demonstrations, promotions and new products being showcased just in time for Christmas. I’ll keep you posted.

Finally, my loooooong opening hours at Sugar & Spice have changed slightly. A huge thank you to everyone who comes in at night after the trip back from work in Glasgow or a longer day at the office and is really appreciative of my late night opening hours but now you’re all in too much of a hurry to get home, get warm and put your feet up. I don’t blame you! However, I’ll still be opening until 9pm from Thurs to Sat every week right up to Christmas so if you’re in the mood to nip out in your PJ’s for a bottle of wine, ice cream or chocolate so that you can cosy up in front of the TV then don’t forget that “I’m OPEN!”.

I’ll be the one un-packing boxes and re-organising stock trying to fit everything in for Christmas and if the TV is really rubbish, you can always pop in and give me a hand. Full payment of course in chocolate or ice cream; take your pick!

Largs Viking Festival: Meet Magnus!

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It doesn’t seem like 3 weeks since the glorious weather we experienced during this year’s 750th anniversary of the Battle of Largs was celebrated in all its glory.

My “babies” and I took part in the opening parade which started at the south entrance of the town and culminated at the Viking Village on the promenade. Largs was full of visitors on the day and I’ve never seen the prom so busy in a long time. There was all sorts of entertainment going on and ‘Sugar’ & ‘Spice’ joined in on every photo opportunity to delight many of the festival goers.

If you haven’t already taken a trip to Largs this year, don’t forget to say hello to Magnus, our new, 16ft high giant Viking sculpture presented to the town by North Ayrshire Council. He was definitely the most-talked about spectacle of the festival and, despite the controversy on where he should be sited, he stood defiantly right in the middle of the promenade beside the fairground attractions, the food and craft tents and the Viking and Scots Villages. Apparently this is a temporary position but no matter where they decide to site him, you can’t miss him.

As always, those Vikings sure know how to party and this year was their biggest celebration to date with over 100 of them staying in the purpose-built villages keeping the night chill at bay with their favourite Moniack Mead – purchased, of course, from Sugar & Spice. The event drew to a close on Saturday, 7th Sept 2013 with the ‘Party at the Pencil’ firework display and the Viking Battle re-enactment on the shore. What a fantastic week it was.

Don’t forget to visit the Vikingar Visitor Centre in Largs if you’re in town and try out the Viking Experience then you can pop in to Sugar & Spice, pick up a bottle of Mead and try out your own Battle re-enactment when you get home.

Haha! Joking of course, but do visit some time and say hello to Magnus!

View the Supermoon tonight

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Wow! Did you know that tonight, 23rd of June 2013, the full Moon will be at its closest point to Earth of the entire year? It’s known as a perigee syzygy Moon and will appear about 12% larger in diameter than usual.

It’s happening just two days after the Summer Solstice so it’s also a ‘solstitial Moon’ and visually it’ll make this the lowest-down full Moon of 2013.

Since lower Moons tend to be orangey yellow or amber in colour, this should give us a true ‘honey moon’ all night long.

You can view it anywhere but we’re planning to view it from Largs Bay with a traditional glass of Moniack Mead in hand, otherwise known as: ‘Honeymoon Mead!’