Kristina Foster

Kristina FosterSeptember 1, 2014


With the cold months looming darkly ahead, Balblair Single Malt Scotch Whisky is the essential bottle to have in your drinks cabinet to warm your bones this winter.

We caught up with Distillery Manager, John MacDonald to talk about what makes Balblair so special.









So I see the Balblair brand started in 1790, could you tell us a bit about the history of the brand and why you think it stood the test of time?

The Distillery was established in 1790, which makes us one of the oldest working distilleries in Scotland and the oldest in the Scottish Highlands. We’ve been doing this for almost 225 years, so if we can’t do right by now we never will.


Can you give us a quick idiot’s guide to how whisky is made?

Whisky comprises of three core ingredients being water, malted barley and yeast. You’re governed by these, Scottish law dictates that to call yourself a Single Malt Scotch Whisky, it has to be made at one single distillery comprising of only malted barley, it then has to go through copper stills which are 99 percent pure copper, yeast and water are then added and it is laid down to be matured in an oak cask in a Scottish warehouse for at least three years. There’s no getting away from these rules.


Has the process changed at all over the years?

Well science and technology have obviously helped in the last thirty or forty years but the process itself is essentially the same as it has ever been. Every year I taste, judge and select our whiskies straight from the cask and they are only bottled when at the peak of perfection.


What’s your background and what does your job entail as a Distillery Manager?

I started my career at Glenmorangie Distillery as a Warehouse Manager and worked my way up through the different departments in the production, I managed to bluff my way into the office and became Assistant Manager at Glenmorangie until 2006 and then the position for manager was made available at Balblair which was a real no brainer, I applied for it immediately. I love the Distillery, it’s beautiful, the location is fantastic and I was always a big admirer of the whisky in the first place.


Could you tell us a bit more about the location of the distillery, how does the Scottish Highlands effect the whisky that is made there, would you say that this location is what makes it so special?

I think it does, Highland whiskies tend to be light, delicate, peated characters, they’re not smokey whiskies at all. The climate up here can be very changeable but the air quality is absolutely superb because it’s such a remote location. We’re about seven miles from Tain and 45 miles north of Inverness which gives you an idea of how far north we actually are, and we’re right by the coast as well. Balblair is situated by the beautiful Dornoch Firth and on the sweep of the Cambuscurrie Bay. It is close to the original source of its pure water contributing to the delicious taste.


How many different types of whisky does Balblair have and which ones are the most popular?

Balblair is the only whisky to be released exclusively in Vintages, each Vintage is only released when I feel the balance between the age and character is just right. This year we have a core range of four whiskies on offer, the Balblair 2003, 1999, 1990 and 1983 Vintages. Our whiskies are named after the year they are laid down in cask, so range from younger Vintages such as the Balblair 2003 to older Vintages such as the 1983 Vintage. The whiskies are very different from each other but each of them has the essential Balblair core characteristics and long, warming full bodied finish, the house style so to speak. The 2003 Vintage has been very popular, priced at £42, whilst the older Vintages £200 and up are usually purchased on special occasions.

How many retailers do you supply to in the UK and globally?

We supply whisky all over the world. It can be purchased in specialist outlets globally, actually even in the UK you’ll have to go to specialist shops, you won’t find it in supermarkets. But you can order it online for shipping within the UK.

Find more about Balblair whisky or purchase online at

Kristina FosterAugust 19, 2014


From the creators of The Handbook, one of the biggest databases for celebrity contacts and your daily update of what’s what in London, comes a new website- The Earlybird. The Earlybird is a new way of keeping people up to date with what’s happening in this buzzing capital by sending out a daily newsletter.


We had our own little birdie to tell us what all the excitement was about in an interview with The Handbook founder, Elly Stancliffe…


Firstly, could you tell us the idea behind The Handbook, who came up with the idea?

I came up with the idea seven years ago. Essentially I wanted to create a resource that had all venues and events in one place but also a place where people could get key industry contacts such as celebrity contact details. We also have a diary with all the top London events such as press days, launches and premiers. It’s a place where people can get that information which otherwise is pretty difficult to source themselves and we have it all under one roof.


Can you explain the concept behind The Earlybird?

Since The Handbook has been running, people send us some really exciting venue openings, everyday we write about a new venue opening in London. A lot of people were sending us really cool stuff but some wasn’t quite right for The Handbook so for example a new pop-up cake shop in Pimlico. But because The Handbook is more for restaurants, bars and clubs, that kind of thing didn’t really fit onto the website. We wanted to keep the focus of this on The Handbook so we decided to create a new site which gave you that ‘one cool new thing’, something that no-one else has covered. The Earlybird sends an email with a cool, quirky illustration about what’s new and what’s cool in London.


‘One cool new thing’ a day sounds very competitive for people who want to get their news out there, how do you choose what you send out?

You can’t buy your way into that newsletter, so we get hundreds of emails each day and we go through and choose the best thing that interests us and what would interest our readers. We’re thinking about doing a blog on the site and covering some of the other stuff.


Talk us through about how you write about a new product or opening. 

There are three of us that look through all the press releases each day and we schedule things for the following days. If we do send out a product we need to see what it’s like and try it ourselves before we can write about it. We want a lot of diversity on there: See, Buy, Do, Wear, Look, Eat are the categories. It’s hard getting it all done in time. Each feature has to have an illustration so we have an in-house illustrator.

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Who are your target audiences for The Handbook and The Earlybird?

The Handbook is obviously very venues and events focused, so the audience are people looking to organize parties or find places to go out in London and who want to know about cool new openings. The celebrity diary section is for people who are organizing events and want celebrities there, they can also use the diary to check whether there are event clashes. A lot of the industry insiders use it: media press, events companies, PR and even just the general public who want to be kept up to date with events and openings.

The Earlybird is anyone and everyone, it appeals to a wider audience because the stuff is more affordable. Anything from the latest pair of adidas to something a bit more high-end like a new Mulberry handbag, but we also do a lot of quirky stuff. We’re trying to do a lot for smaller companies, we don’t want to just be writing about the big boys. We love small companies that come to us and want to launch a new product or clothing line. We ask them to come to us first even before the press release is written.


Get your daily London dose at

Have a look at what’s happening on The Handbook at

Kristina FosterAugust 13, 2014


This year the nation’s favourite television shows The Apprentice, Dragon’s Den , Strictly Come Dancing, Britain’s Got Talent, The Voice, The Great British Bake Off, Child Genius, One Born Every Minute, Mary’s Silver Service, Goggle Box, Come Dine With Me and Grand Designs all battle it out at the 4th annual National Reality Television Awards taking place on the 22nd of September 2014.

The National Reality Television Academy (NRTA) today announced the nominations for the 4th annual National Reality Television Awards; the only awards ceremony worldwide to re-define the sub genres that make up the whole industry of Reality TV with all categories nominated and voted for by television fans.

Child Genius, receives an incredible four nominations for Best Docu- Soap, Best Reality Competition Show , Best Entertainment Show and Most Inspiring TV Show.

Previous NRTA winners, The Apprentice and Dragons Den who are both up against each other as they both grab an amazing five nominations. Both shows are up for the heavily contested Best Entertainment Show, Best Business Show, Most Inspiring TV Show, with Alan Sugar (Apprentice) and Theo Pathitis( Dragon’s Den) up for Best Male Personality 2014 , whilst Karren Brady and Dragon’s Den entrepreneur, Peter Jones go head to head for the Best Reality TV Judge category.

Other nominees battling it out for the Best Reality TV Judge category include; Will -i-am (The Voice) (BBC1) , Bruno Tonioli (Strictly Come Dancing) (BBC1) , Kimberley Wyatt (Got To Dance) (Sky1), Naomi Campbell (The Face) (Sky Living) , Paul Hollywood (The Great British Bake Off) (BBC2), Alesha Dixon (Britain’s Got Talent) (ITV1) , Nigella Lawson (The Taste) Len Goodman (Strictly Come Dancing) (BBC 1) and Kylie Minogue (The Voice)

The Great British Bake Off is nominated for three categories: Best Reality Competition show 2014 , Best Entertainment Show, Best Self-Improvement/Makeover show category whilst newcomer, Good Morning Britain bags a nomination for Best News/Factual Programme going up against The Wight Stuff , The One Show , Channel 4 News , Keeping Britain Alive: The NHS in a Day , Dispatches: The Hunt for Britain’s Sex Gangs and David Attenborough’s Natural History Museum Alive

The Best Entertainment Show category in association with St. Moriz sees The Apprentice (BBC1) go head to head with The Great British Bake Off , Made in Chelsea (E4) , Britain’s Got Talent (ITV1) , I’m a Celebrity Get me out of here (ITV1) , Strictly Come Dancing (BBC1) , TOWIE (ITV2) , Troy (Channel 4) , The Face UK (Sky Living) , The Big Reunion (ITV2) ,Dragon’s Den (BBC2), Child Genius , Goggle Box (Channel 4)

This year over 1.7 million reality TV fans cast their votes on the official NRTA for the 20 categories from the beginning of January. Voting officially commences on on the 19th of August 2014 till the 20th of September 2014. The winners of each category will be announced by actress and TV Presenter, Louise Gookey at the prestigious awards ceremony which will be televised for broadcast on Sky 192 on the 1st of October.

Dragon Den star, Peter Jones (winner of 2012′s Reality TV Personality of the year) commented “The National Reality TV Awards are authentic and just what the industry needs. It is the first awards ceremony of its kind to finally re-define the whole reality TV industry into genres and the fact that millions of TV viewers are in charge of determining the outcome only adds to its credibility”

His comments were echoed by fellow NRTA nominee, Strictly come Dancing judge , Len Goodman who in an interview for the NRTA added “I am proud to be nominated for the National Reality Television Awards as it is the only awards ceremony to finally open up the whole industry as a whole. Talk shows, game shows, dancing competitions and docu-soaps all form part of the bigger industry that form reality television which is often not explored in its entirety”.

Kristina FosterAugust 13, 2014


Everyone needs that accent of colour to make their interiors pop. The new colour-blocking range of luxury furniture designer, Christopher Guy offers a plethora of statement pieces which are sure to induce living-room envy.

Christopher Guy’s furniture epitomizes the spirit of luxury, furnishing some of the finest residences, hotels and resorts in the world, including the Mayfair Hotel in London and the Venetian in Las Vegas. Chairs are upholstered by Dedar, the Italian textile editor therefore offering furniture of the finest quality.

Reclining Ottomans, jacquard armchairs and one-of-a-kind coffee tables are sure to bring a touch of elegance, opulence and style to any room. Still retaining those classic shapes for which he is so renowned, Christopher Guy also introduces a boldness to this new collection with clean, geometric shapes that give an art-deco appearance lending itself to both modern and traditional interiors and sure to brighten any colour scheme.

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Kristina FosterAugust 13, 2014


I see another hipster walking down the street wearing non-prescription glass frames. I control the urge to grab them and stamp them into the ground shouting, ‘you don’t even need these!’. From ‘GEEK’ slogan t-shirts in TopShop to clunky mannish brogues that your Sunday-school teacher was repping before you were even born, why have nerd aesthetics taken over and- dare I say it, become ‘cool’?

Of course, geek fashion is just a bi-product of the technological frenzy that has taken the modern world by storm in the last fifteen years. Apple’s ‘Think Different’ campaign, instilled the view in people that the brains behind such technology were on the same level of Einstein and possessed the same creativity as Picasso.

The death of Steve Jobs in 2011 turned him into an entrepreneurial deity and had the world in admiration as we studied his achievements as a business man in the technological field. Within the first week of his biography’s release, 370,000 copies were sold in the US, making it the top-selling book in the country book in the country in terms of weekly sales.


Money, music and even art are now made on computers and of course that kind of makes the person making computers a musician or artist- kind of. An interesting study done on the website Techcitement, also shows the rise of terms such as ‘geek’, ‘nerd’, ‘geeky’

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As you can see there’s an incredible surge in the use of the words ‘nerd’ and ‘geek’ from 1980 to 2008, it seems that the noun is the center of everyday language just as the words ‘Facebook’, ‘Snapchat’ and ‘Instagram’ have all become part of our vocabulary. Our very language is indeed defined by our technological interaction, terms such as: ‘LOL’, ‘OMG’, ‘BFF’, all text/ internet abbreviations have even been added to the Oxford English Dictionary. If you tried to explain that to an alien, they would probably think the human race were a bunch of raging nerds.

With films like ‘The Social Network’ coming out about Facebook and ‘The Internship’ about Google, and the new HBO series ‘Silicon Valley’, the subject of bio-epics and the heroes of the screen are the men that pioneer the internet and social media. As Jan Koum (Whatsapp founder), Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Google founders) and Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook founder, of course) enter the world’s richest list, these are not only the men of the future but those we want as future husbands. Women swoon at men saying ‘ I just released a new app’ over ‘I just bought a new car’. It’s not because we want them to set our e-mails up on our iPhones, it’s the well-known and natural attraction of women to power, (and sexy tech support is just a benefit).

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Another huge factor is that as 90s kids we were the first generation exposed to the pixely beauty of video games: Gameboys, Nintendos, Tamagotchis and to this day I still proudly mention my level 90 Charzard. Even model Cara Delevigne makes gaming fashionable by claiming to be an avid X-box fan. There’s a reason why we spend hours crouching over our parent’s shoulders trying to teach them how to attach a photo to an email. It’s because as we grew up, computers grew with us. Before you were passing notes, then suddenly you could chat over to your friends over this thing called the internet (we all remember those long MSN sessions). Suddenly you could send your ‘crush’ a smiley face, an xoxo, and even-gasp-a love heart just by the touch of a button. We are the technology generation, it’s as simple as that.

Kristina FosterJuly 17, 2014


We’re falling madly in love with the monochrome wonders of Éthologie’s SS15 pre-collection by Jasper Garvida. The look varies from feminine dresses with soft colours of egg-shell white to bold statement dresses with geometric panelling. Although the designs are clean cut and slick, the intricate beading within them gives a unique balance of simplicity and detail.

Garvida experiments with different metallic sheens to create different scopes of colour which are contrasted against lighter hues. The use of amazing materials such as oyster shells create a dramatic texture which also reflect the light to add a new dimension to the clothing. But Éthologie (meaning the study of animal behaviour) really returns to their etymological routes with their gorgeous animal print dresses which are carved up with black panelling. The prints definitely add a bit of fun to the seriousness of monochrome and has a bit of that vintage, 60s vibe to it whilst being updated for the modern women- definitely the vibe of the entire collection.







Kristina FosterJuly 15, 2014


At a place where the view supersedes the food and drink, you could stick a shed in The Shard and people would still take the elevator up to it. But the Shangri-La Hotel’s, Gong bar makes that 52 floor ascension infinitely more appealing. Dizziness is a common side-affect of a bar experience, but that is redefined with Gong’s unbelievable view of London. Just as the most beautiful Chinese temples are found at the top of mountains, Gong’s zen-like, modern Asian decor means that it can boast to be one of the highest and most stylish bars in London. Try one of their signature cocktails, vintage champagnes or ironically ask for a Shard-onnay and see if the bartender laughs.

Gong has been nominated this year for the National Luxury & Lifestyle Awards in the best bars category. You can vote for them from the 19th of July 2014 here.

Kristina FosterJuly 15, 2014


London needs as many rooftop bars as it can get during the summer, having only a small window to enjoy those blazing hot days and steamy nights. This is perhaps why the French Provincial restaurant, Orrery, Marylebone, does so well as we need people who understand sunshine to know the dynamics of rooftop sunning. Their roof terrace doubles up as a beautiful bar taking inspiration from the back gardens of Provence. It’s dotted with tea-lamps, olive trees, and of course those familiar lavender rows that we cannot help but associate with the smell of French sun. As the wine boxes cum plant-pots suggest, there is an array of amazing wines and of course champagne that you can sip and enjoy in the open air.

The Orrery Terrace Rooftop has been nominated this year for the National Luxury & Lifestyle Awards in the best bar category. You can vote for them from the 19th of July 2014 here.

Kristina FosterJuly 15, 2014


Situated in the pastoral New Forest in Hampshire, The Lime Wood spa, The Herb House breathes relaxation and simplicity from its roof-top herb garden down to its wooden floor boards to the all-round fragrance of lavender, rosemary and thyme. The spa designers have tried their best and succeeded in delivering an out-of the-box spa experience, it quite literally tears down walls and puts up glass windows so that you can take in the forest views from the sauna and 16 metre lap-pool. The steaming hot tub looks like a bubbling natural spring caged in wooden decking. The rooftop herbs of course also go into the food at their Raw & Cured restaurant which serves up fresh vegetarian delights such as a tomato and date salad but also cured meat from their own ‘Smoke House’. The epitome of laid-back luxury and a natural invigorating experience.


The Lime Wood’s Herb House has been nominated this year for the National Luxury & Lifestyle Awards in the luxury spas category. You can vote for them from the 19th of July 2014 here.

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