20 May 2019

Steph, East Horton Golf Club

Steph, East Horton Golf Club

I volunteered myself as unofficial outfit photographer at my friends Paige & Chris' wedding, and it felt so good to be behind the camera and shooting street style again. (That is, if wedding attire can be considered "street style"?) I was introduced to Steph at the very same Bristol blogger meet-up that I met Paige, but I hadn't seen her since Camp Bestival 2012. Steph is now an accomplished wedding photographer, blogs about her family of Spaniels, and looks pretty damn snazzy in a sage-green corduroy suit.

Steph, East Horton Golf Club

17 May 2019

Sammy, Regent Street

Sammy, Regent Street

Sammy is a part-time model and works at fashion retailer Weekday on Regent Street. Catching him on his cigarette break, my attention had been drawn to the numerous and varied tattoos decorating his face and hands - "I have 'gentle' on my face, and 'lover'," he explains, "because people covered in tattoos are perceived as like... thugs. But no, I'm twenty-one and a nice normal person. The other tattoos are just my love for art." Sammy also wears a Carharrt t-shirt, Dickies trousers, Topman overcoat, and vintage Dr Martens boots.

Sammy, Regent Street

2 May 2019

Spring in my Step

Arkk Copenhagen Asymtrix
Ray Ban sunglasses | Hawes & Curtis shirt | ASOS jeans | Arkk Copenhagen Asymtrix Mesh F-PRO90 [gifted]

I used to be hesitant of wearing white trainers. The thought that I might potentially tarnish their pristine glow with even the smallest of smudges would set me on edge. But they've become a staple accessory for many of my spring/summer ensembles - a flash of tasteful streetwear that completes a coloured suit or, as in this instance, complements a floral shirt.

After putting my all-white ASOS hi-tops through their paces, I thought it was time for another style to join the ranks, and I couldn't help falling for these Asymtrix sneakers from Arkk Copenhagen's newest collection. As is typical of Scandinavian design, there is cleanness and simplicity in their neutral colourway, combined with the comfort and utility of the mesh and leather upper with a chunky F-PRO90 sole. Arkk describe them as a "90s-inspired reinterpretation of the dad shoe", yet I think the minimalist design is almost futuristic in appearance.

I chose to wear my sneakers as part of a smart-casual look over the recent Easter weekend, teamed with black skinny jeans, statement socks to make my ankles pop, and one of my favourite Hawes & Curtis patterned shirts that superbly mirrors the blossom and spring blooms. There's a distinct spring in my step as I amble along my sister and brother-in-law's street in Royston, Hertfordshire - it may be my soaking up the sunshine and readying myself for summer to officially commence (that February heatwave was a right tease), or perhaps it's the simple truth that my new sneakers are terrifically comfortable?

Arkk Copenhagen Asymtrix Arkk Copenhagen Asymtrix Arkk Copenhagen Asymtrix Arkk Copenhagen Asymtrix

Shoes courtesy of Arkk Copenhagen, however all views are my own | Photos shot lovingly by Leanne Kent

23 April 2019

Sandhills Gin

Sandhills Gin

The gin industry has expanded at astonishing speed since small-batch distilling was legalised a decade ago, during which time hundreds of enterprising individuals have eagerly set about producing their own spirits for commercial release. Of course, such creative freedom does harbour the risk that one's palate may be prejudiced by their own enthusiasm for the product, but sometimes these budding distillers surprise us with tantalising tipples worthy of a spot on our drinks trolley.

Among such company is Sandhills Distillery, who, having launched their namesake Sandhills Gin in December of last year, are Surrey's youngest offering to the gin community. While the lustrously yellow bottle steals your attention from across the bar, the impeccable pairing of citrus and spice ensures an enjoyable sip, and perhaps even a second round.

"The reality is the world doesn't need another gin," begins Tom Bird, co-founder of Sandhills Distillery alongside his wife, Jeanette, and their family friend, Brian. "For years we've loved gin, we drink gin and tonics quite happily at the start of an evening, and we've got about thirty gins on our gin shelf at home. But of those thirty, there are only three we'll buy again. So actually, even though you've got a market that has hundreds and hundreds of gins, a lot of them don't stand out."

Sandhills Gin

It's a grey and drizzly January morning, and I'm sat opposite Tom and Jeanette in the window of The Godalming Food Company, where they officially introduced their gin only a month prior. Other customers are ordering coffees from the counter, or perusing local produce from the shelves. Across the shop floor, a chalkboard sign identifies a "try before you buy" sample bar, comprising twenty different spirits clustered together on a wooden barrel. Sandhills Gin stands loudly and proudly at the front of the pack.

Tom explains to me the inspiration for wanting to make his own gin - a bar in Hong Kong that re-distills existing gins with alternative botanicals to create new and intriguing flavours. "I had one that was kaffir, lime and basil, and it was glorious," he says. "And so that opened my eyes to think, well, if that's what this bar is doing, we could experiment with gin. So I came home, we bought a little three litre copper pot just to play around with, and we started experimenting."

But after deciding on the criteria for their perfect gin (a juniper forward blend of citrus and spicy components), the trio's main challenge was ensuring the flavours of their chosen botanicals wouldn't be unduly lost in the sweltering distillation process. It's an understandable quandary - how often do you try a new gin, yet are unable to identify the botanicals listed on the label? As all sensible folk do, Sandhills Distillery turned to science for their solution.

Sandhills Gin

"Gin is done in a copper pot, as you probably know," explains Tom. "You've got a big copper pot, you put your alcohol in with your botanicals, and you heat that to about seventy-nine degrees. The alcohol evaporates and takes on the character of the botanicals, and then what condenses out is gin. And that is great for juniper and coriander, because the heavier oils in those botanicals need the heat to release them. But when you put in honey, lemon balm, yuzu, and some of these other botanicals that we wanted to use, that heat can begin to taint the flavour."

"So we got into something called a rotary evaporator," he continues, "which is a piece of science equipment. It essentially works in the same way as a copper pot, but what you do is you put the whole system under vacuum. And when you put liquid under vacuum, it reduces the boiling point. So instead of boiling alcohol at seventy-nine degrees, with the rotary evaporator, we can distill botanicals at thirty-seven degrees, and therefore you don't harm them. You keep the very nature of the flavours."

As I listen to Tom's explanation, I imagine this rotary evaporator as some kind of fancy space-age still with all manner of lights and buttons, however an image search following the interview presents what appears to be a oversized and overly complicated thermometer leaning over a slow cooker. Admittedly it doesn't have the same beauty of a gleaming copper still, nonetheless the method is a stroke of innovation in ensuring greater depth of flavour in a small-batch gin.

Sandhills Gin

Accordingly, it's the unique collaboration of traditional and modern distillation methods which has inspired Sandhills Distillery to adopt the symbol for alchemy into its branding. The symbol not only forms the loop in the letter "g" of "gin", but features also in the bottle's bizarre embossing. "Have you felt the bottle?" asks Jeanette, "I get over-excited, because it's very tactile." The bottle is translucent too, therefore it will glow when perched on a backlit bar.

The choice of yellow reflects two of the botanicals used in the recipe: honey and gorse flower, both sourced locally in the village of Sandhills. Likewise, Douglas Fir pine needles are harvested from Tom and Jeanette's own garden. Other ingredients are more far-flung, such as yuzu (an Asian citrus fruit), black cardamom and Tazmanian pepper berry. Altogether, the finished product reminds me of Thai food - bursting with flavour, led by refreshing citrus and warming spices. Sandhills Distillery recommend a zest of orange as a garnish.

"If you were drinking a gin and tonic because it's what you enjoy sipping," says Tom, "you're not drinking it to get drunk, you're not drinking five or six and evening, then what you really want is to be able to sip it and have an experience of different flavours - on the nose, on the palate - and that's what we try to craft."

Sandhills Gin

Even with an exceptional gin, I have to ask Tom and Jeanette if they were worried about launching their product in an already inundated market. Jeanette laughs nervously, "Worried? I think aware, in that we knew we needed to do something different. We haven't had the best of sleeps the last six months, but we were very sure of our brand and our story, and most importantly our gin. We're very proud of that."

"There's nothing out there that we've found with this hybrid distillation that's getting the fresh, pure flavour," she continues. "You've got to go in with your eyes open, but we feel we could be a strong presence in the market. We launched here [The Goldaming Food Company] just before December, and we've been very busy since." I make note to speak with Kevin, owner of the deli, who reveals to me that Sandhills Gin is outselling its more established Surrey Hills cousin, Silent Pool Gin, which says a lot for this vibrant newcomer.

Although the team are equally committed to full-time work elsewhere (Tom, an author of business books; Jeanette, in marketing; Brian, a firefighter), their ambition for Sandhills Gin is unwavering. Having established contracts with pubs in Surrey and Kent, as well as having attracted the interest of a reputable wine merchant, their focus now shifts towards introducing the product to larger stores in London and building on the brand's early success. There is also the team's side venture, Bespoke by Sandhills, which offers tailor-made spirits for weddings and special events, private organisations, or even as a unique gift. 

Quickly becoming a local success story, I anticipate an exciting year for Tom, Jeanette and Brian, who continue to demonstrate the love they have for their product - "Without a doubt, it's my favourite gin," says Tom. If you're passing through Godalming, be sure to stop off at The Godalming Food Company and try a sip from the sample bar. Otherwise you can purchase 70cl bottles either from Master of Malt, or directly from the Sandhills Distillery online shop.

Sandhills Gin

25 March 2019

Rocky Star AW19

Rocky Star AW19

Indian designer Rocky Star lives up to the name of his self-titled fashion label with regal rock star couture befitting glamorous a-listers, the fashion elite, and those who love to strut the streets in contemporary chic. Much like his previous works, the AW19 collection is an exemplar of opulence (you own everythiiiiing) with an exquisite arrangement of glitter, sequins, feathers and jewels over digital print, velvet, lace and metallic fabrics. Each ensemble shimmers and shines beneath the spotlights, drawing the eye to every pattern, embellishment and material detail, and suddenly you're left contemplating the apparent tediousness of your own wardrobe back at home. This is a fashion label for the modern-day goddess.

Rocky Star AW19 Rocky Star AW19 Rocky Star AW19 Rocky Star AW19 Rocky Star AW19 Rocky Star AW19 Rocky Star AW19 Rocky Star AW19 Rocky Star AW19 Rocky Star AW19 Rocky Star AW19 Rocky Star AW19 Rocky Star AW19 Rocky Star AW19 Rocky Star AW19 Rocky Star AW19 Rocky Star AW19 Rocky Star AW19 Rocky Star AW19 Rocky Star AW19

© Joseph Kent / www.unlimitedbyjk.com

All photographs are subject to copyright law, and must not be reproduced without express permission.

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