Review: John Lewis fine food and drink

John Lewis Christmas hamper and giftsHave you started your Christmas shopping yet? I’ve had the chance to review some of John Lewis’s new collection of Christmas hampers and fine food and drink gifts, and thought you might like to know what they taste like.

I always have a look in this section when the festive season starts, and I’m in a John Lewis store. It’s a good place to get inspired, and I’ve always found the quality to be great, along with the presentation and packaging.

The new goodies arrived here yesterday, so I’ve set about tasting a few of them already. Here goes…

Coole Swan Irish Cream Liqueur Set (£25.00)

This is a full size bottle of premium cream liqueur, attractively packaged with a cocktail shaker. We tried this shaken with a little ice, and were very impressed by the quality of the drink. It has real single malt whiskey in it, unlike pretty much all the cheaper alternatives, plus Madagascan vanilla, cocoa and chocolate. It’s smooth and creamy, and avoids being sickly sweet. It’s the nicest Irish cream liqueur that I’ve ever tasted, and I’m fussy.

Spiced Orange Edinburgh Gin (£18.00 for 50cl)

A very easy-drinking gin, flavoured with Valencia and Seville oranges, lime, cinnamon and other spices. This has a lovely complex flavour, and would be ideal for adding to sparkling wine or grown up cocktails. I’ve already invented a Christmassy martini using this gin, some sweet red vermouth and creole bitters. Not as alcoholic as some gins, clocking in at 20% vol, but I think even non gin lovers might like this.

The Lawn Rose Garden Fruit Tea (£8.00)

You get a decent-sized reusable canister and a decent amount of tea in it, so that’s a good start. It’s a very attractive, feminine gift, and the tea’s a pretty pale pink and well balanced in its flavour. It’s caffeine free, and made from a mixture of rosebuds, hibiscus, lemongrass and orange flowers. Am now tempted to try some of the other teas in the range, and if someone gave this to me as a gift, I’d be very happy.

Holdsworth The Turkish Delight Collection (£12.00)

These handmade Turkish delight cubes are flavoured with rose and lemon, and dipped in white, milk or dark chocolate. They come very well packaged in a ballotin, plus some airtight wrap to keep them really fresh. The texture is just right, not too chewy or starchy, and the chocolate is good quality. I’d be happy to have a couple of these generously-sized sweets with a coffee at the end of a meal instead of dessert, but they also make a nice sneaky treat when nobody else is around.

Wildly Delicious Bread Dippers (3 bottles for £14.00)

I must confess that I would not have thought to buy these for myself, but now I’ve tasted them I do think that they’d be very well received as a foodie gift. They’re like thin sauces or vinaigrettes that are the right consistency for dipping small pieces of crusty bread into, which makes a very easy starter for anyone who’s entertaining – ideal when the festive season is in full swing and frazzling you. They can also be used in cooking, and to drizzle over meat, fish or vegetables. Lots of interesting ingredients and savoury flavours.

Unfortunately we haven’t had time to check out everything else in the box yet, but I can vouch for the attractiveness of the personalised tawny port and prosecco bottles, and I can’t wait to try the Cheddleton Christmas Ale from the Staffordshire brewery (available in large or extra-large bottles) when we have friends around soon. I’ll update you as we go along!

Full disclosure: I have been given these John Lewis products for review purposes. All thoughts, comments and opinions are my own.

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