As anticipated as the first flutter of a seasonal snowflake and heralded as any harking angels might sing at this time of year, it is, of course, the Arb’s unmistakable festive gift guide. This year we’ve done away with jet-packs and riot control kits and concentrated on some principal needs to see one through Christmas and prepare for the year ahead. So, here, indulge yourselves, and may Santa grace your stocking with at least one of these delectable items…Happy Shopping!
For the aspiring writer / consummate note-taker, Tom L recommends…
Pocket Memo Jotter from Aspinal of London
There is a common complaint among my loved ones: that I’m difficult to buy for. On the contrary, I protest, I may have the world’s least grateful face (I have to practice sounding and looking appreciative on receipt of a gift), but anything crafted in leather from Aspinal of London is sure to raise an authentic smile. Their products have just the right amount of understated swankiness to appeal to me and won’t break the bank either.
Last year I was lucky enough to be gifted their brown leather coin wallet, but I’m making my first foray in to the world of creative writing and their pocket memo jotter would go down very well as I attempt to capture those brilliant thoughts that flash before me on my morning commute.
The Aspinal pocket memo jotter, £50. www.aspinaloflondon.com.
And for the lover of the perfect negroni…
Martini Reserva Speciale Bitters
Let’s be honest, one of the joys of Christmas is being able to crack open the cocktail cabinet on what is basically Monday afternoon at 2pm and let your imagination run wild. But with the cornucopia of highly-flavoured and rich-as-Croesus food on most Christmas menus, the choice of drink has to be carefully thought through. To my mind you need something bitter, something appetite-inducing and something with enough festive bling to get the party started. To this end, the scarlet tinted negroni must be close to the top of the list.
To make one you’ll need a quality bottle of bitters and Martini have just launched their new Riserva Speciale version, which shares the same botanicals as their brand of Riserva Speciale vermouths, and is designed to be part of the perfect negroni. And as I’m a sucker for anything Italian and they have designed a beautiful bottle for it too, I won’t be complaining if Santa leaves one under the tree for me come Christmas morning.
£19.75 Available from www.thewhiskyexchange.com.
For the perennial bookworm, Matt recommends…
Mr B’s Book Emporium
Buying books for people who read a lot is a minefield. That’s why reading subscriptions from Mr B’s Book Emporium are such a great idea. Mrs. B has a chat with the recipient to find out what they do (and don’t!) like, so everyone gets their own unique, personalised choices. The service is lovely.
I’ve given a couple of these and people love getting something regularly for a few months.
From £45 for 3 paperbacks per month, for more details visit www.mrbsemporium.com.
For the spa guru, Anna recommends…
In a word, Caudalie
Luxe beauty beautifully presented – what could be better for Christmas morning? Caudalie has this one sewn up and uses so many of my favourite ingredients – sesame, grape, hibiscus and almond oil – in its deservedly named Divine Scrub and Divine Oil that come in a gift set (£29). They have a perfect stocking filler with shower gel, body lotion and fragrance in a stylish Christmas cracker (£10) – inspired by “dusk falling on sweet grapevines”. Who knew? And there’s a gorgeous Christmas box, too, with a tinted lip balm (French Kiss) that smells of cherries along with a beauty elixir that its creator based on the elixir of youth of Queen Isabelle of Hungary – a mist that visibly tightens and smoothes the skin (£32). www.caudalie.com
For those who like a little dram, Tom B has two suggestions…
Ardbeg An Oa
Nothing brightens up Christmas day – any day – like a fine single malt, and the buccaneers at Ardbeg have got you covered with this fiery rocket fuel, named after the Mull of Oa close to the Ardbeg distillery. It’s got the smoke-battered peat stench you’d expect from the Isla maestros, and a soft, long finish to bear your tipsy Uncle through the Queen’s speech. There’s a reason Ardbeg racks up the world whisky gongs year after year – why not share their uncompromising might with someone special? £48.95 Available from www.thewhiskyexchange.com.
Glenmorangie’s Midwinter Night’s Dram
Of course, not every whisky enthusiast – casual or committed – enjoys the singularly arresting experience of being slapped in the palette by Ardbeg. If the sweet and smooth end of the spectrum is more up your street, I recommend this from Glenmorangie. The nose is seasonally oriented – raisins, chocolate, Christmas cake, it’s all in there – and goes down so easily, your only challenge will be making it last beyond the Only Fools Christmas special. For more information, visit www.glenmorangie.com.
For the new parent, Jess recommends…
If you have really sensitive skin, finding suitable products can be a nightmare. Purepotions was founded for this very reason – by a mother whose daughter had very dry, itchy skin. Made in their Brighton workshop, the range uses mostly organic, local products with absolutely nothing added that could cause a reaction. So core ingredients include olive, hemp and safflower oils and salves and tinctures based on calendula, chamomile, nettle and chickweed. There are moisturisers, body oils and hand cream and a sensational intensive facial oil to use at night – ingredients include rosehip, lavender, palmarosa and chamomile and, being rich in Vits A and C, as well as Omega-3 and 6, it delivers essential nutrients straight to the skin to support the production of new skin cells.
There’s a new range for babies with no soap, no sodium laurel sulphates, no parabens, no petrochemicals, no synthetic perfumes or paraffin. So supersafe for delicate baby skin. On offer is a lavender nappy salve and a lovely chamomile baby oil available at Holland & Barrett as buy one, get one half price or as a gift set from Purepotions’ own webstore for £17.99. www.purepotioins.co.uk
For the skincare-conscious traveller, Angelina recommends…
Connock’s Travel Skin Care range
Have Connock will travel? Well, maybe. The founder, Amanda Connock, has been on the trail of skincare heroes all over the world and has launched ranges that include Kukui Oil from Hawaii, Andiroba Oil (a South American tree) and Manuka Honey from Australia. They come with travellers in mind, too. So each set is in an airport friendly transparent bag and features a hand and body wash, a hand and body lotion plus a fragrance – so everything you could possibly need and all in 30ml or 75ml sizes (all sets £39).
Available at Fortnum & Mason or from www.connocklondon.com.
For the definitive stocking filler, Lydia recommends…
The Joy of Socks
It makes no sense at all that socks are thought of as a lazy gift. Warm feet at midwinter is the dream, the Christmas dream. Own the cliche. Give socks. Make somebody’s feet warm and they will reverence you for it.
If you want to go high luxury it’s hard to bear the William Abraham socks range for men – look as good or better on women – but you can’t go wrong with anything soft, long and thick enough to keep the winter out.
But don’t be in any doubt, those just accessorise the socks, not the other way around.
Sexy underwear is one of those Christmas staples that’s a bit passe. So let’s turn it on its head and go for the male version. OK, this isn’t exactly sexy but it’s probably the most wonderful underwear to actually wear. And it’s made of bamboo. Now every time I mention this, people look at me in disbelief. But why? Where do you think cotton and linen come from? Bamboo is better than both of them. It feels like silk, it’s thermo-regulating (keeps you cool in summer, warm in winter), hypo-allergenic, organic and sustainable.
And, as I said, it feels wonderful to wear. I’ve been a devotee for a while but this year the menfolk are going to find some Boody in their Christmas stockings, too.
Boxers £9.56, bras from £7.17, briefs from £7.16, and for babies: bibs, beanies and booties, plus blankets and babygrows from £8. For more info: www.boody.co.uk
To conclude your festivities, Larry recommends…
Remy Martin XO
When it comes to wrapping up the big meal, there’s nothing better than settling into a well-worn armchair to listen to the Queen whilst gently warming a glass of fine cognac in your palm. And when it comes to fine cognac, there is but one name that springs to mind: Remy Martin.
Appreciated neat, or on ice, Remy’s ‘Extra Old’ is the very essence of Christmas with candied orange and cinnamon balanced with summer fruits, floral jasmine and woody tobacco. From its delicate, complex nose to the long-lasting finish, there’s a nuance in there for every connoisseur’s palette.
Priced £150, Remy Martin XO is available from premium retailers such as Selfridges and The Whisky Exchange. For more information, visit www.remymartin.com.
Paxton & Whitfield Cheese Society
Cheese lovers, your yearly needs are met with an annual membership to P&W’s Cheese Society. Trading as a partnership from 1797 and operating from the same Jermyn Street store for nearly two hundred years, Queen Victoria’s personal cheesemongers offer a monthly selection of four seasonal cheeses carefully selected and delivered to your door. The gift that keeps on giving for any cheese aficionado.
An annual membership to Paxton & Whitfield’s Cheese Society £420. Visit www.paxtonandwhitfield.co.uk.
Finally, from our editor, it wouldn’t be an Arb gift guide without something like…
Limited Edition Seabob from Princess Yachts and Cayago
Princess Yachts have partnered with renowned high-performance water toy specialists, Cayago, to create a zero emissions, limited edition F5 S Seabob ‘Volcano’ – the perfect water sports gadget to accompany your superyacht for fun on, or indeed in, the open water. Featuring artwork by renowned artist, Jaume Vilardell, €345 from the sale of each Seabob is being donated to the Marine Conservation Society (in an industry first), helping the charity to support and sustain marine environments for future generations.
It is the ultimate gadget for fun and adventure, particularly when planning that skip over to the Caribbean in the new year. A mere snip at €11,255, and available from Princess Yachts. For more information, visit www.princess.co.uk
And there it is. Happy hunting, bon courage, and remember, Christmas shopping should be an enjoyable experience. If you’re getting stressed about it, you’re doing it wrong!