As the cobwebs, witch hats and fake blood return to the dress-up box for another year, Christmas is all around us already, with prime time TV brimming with festive advertising campaigns, seasonal supermarket aisles full of festive treats and fruitcake preparations happening in households all around us.
The team at The Duke love nothing more than the festive lead-up to the big day and they are looking forward to another buzzing and busy November and December full of special events, Christmas jumpers and seasonal dishes and drinks that fill the air with festive nostalgia…
Festive Workshops at The Duke
If you’re still looking to celebrate the festive season with friends, have you considered getting the gang together for a Christmas meal with a difference here at The Duke? We have an exciting schedule of guest-hosts who will be leading interactive workshops where you get to eat our delicious food and learn a new skill or try new drink brands, ranging from designing your own jewellery or festive wreath to learning about artisan gins including Hawthorne’s Gin and Nibbs Elderflower Gin, to a delicious food & drink paired evening led by Grape & Grain founder, Joel Eastman.
Spotlight on the Supplier:
After a super busy and successful season of drink tours throughout Surrey and Hampshire earlier this year, we turn our Spotlight on the Supplier to one of our favourite industry friends, Joel Eastman of Grape & Grain Tours.
Originally from the suburbs of Sydney in Australia, Joel came to the UK nearly seven years ago to expand his drinks knowledge and, during this time, he has worked as a gin distiller, a whisky ambassador, managed a specialist wine and beer merchant and found a beautiful English wife (phew)! We caught up with Joel over a dram of whisky to ask him a few questions for you to get to know a bit more about him:
What made you first wet your toe in the world of drinks and what led you to set up your own tour company in Hampshire and the Surrey Hills?
When I was growing up in Australia, my Dad ran wine tours to the Hunter Valley and Mudgee and would often bring home some great bottles of Shiraz, Chardonnay and Semillon, which I was lucky enough to taste. His passion for wine is infectious so when I got my first drinks job at 18, working the checkouts at a local liquor store in Sydney, I soon talked my way into the fine wine department and my career really launched from there.
It eventually brought me to the UK where I am now settled with my wife, Kirsty who grew up near Winchester. Together we’ve come to know and love the wonderful drinks produced in the area. I’ve always enjoyed sharing good quality wines, beers and spirits with customers in shops that I’ve managed and telling them the stories behind them so launching our tour business was the perfect fit!
You seem to have one of the best jobs in the world, in talking about and drinking the finest of wines and such, what is your favourite tipple when you come home and put your feet up:
That’s like asking someone to choose a favourite child! Craft beers are a real passion of mine and I love that it’s possible to find a style of beer to suit any occasion, so we often drop by the Hogs Back Brewery Shop to stock up. Over the summer months, we are partial to a G&T, then as the seasons turn it’s got to be a dram of whisky or whisky cocktail.
What do you get up to during the winter months when your tours come to a close?
Whilst our monthly public tours don’t run over the winter months it’s still a busy time for us, right up to Christmas, with numerous tasting events and private tours to host, not to mention exhibiting at food, drink and Christmas festivals and planning the following year’s tours. Come January we’re well and truly ready for a break and usually head to Australia for a few weeks to see family and friends (and thaw out!).
What will you be asking Santa for this year and where will you be celebrating?
We’ll no doubt be celebrating the run up to Christmas with meals at some of our favourite local gastropubs as we tend to arrange catch-ups with friends over meals and drinks instead of exchanging gifts. It’s our turn to host the family this year so Christmas Day will be spent at home. I expect Santa will be fairly busy with presents for our toddler son, but perhaps there will be some room in his sack for a home-brewing kit…I’ve always fancied doing a little bit of brewing at home!
If you could offer one tip for being the perfect host, what would it be?
When we entertain guests, we want to make sure we get to spend as much time with them as possible, rather than being stuck in the kitchen. The key is preparation! My tip is to prepare as much of the food beforehand as possible (you can do this with drinks too by making a punch) and know exactly when to start cooking. I’ve been known to write a cooking timetable! I take the same approach to my tours. I love to chat with and get to know my guests throughout the day, so I always make sure I have enough time to do so. It means I thoroughly enjoy every tour too.
What can we expect from your upcoming workshop at The Duke?
A fun, relaxed evening of delicious food paired with a range of locally made drinks, some festive food and drink tips, cocktail recipes and hopefully the chance to make some new friends.
We look forward to seeing you over the coming months whether for a festive tipple, catch up with friends or celebration. Don’t forget, if you and your friends fancy joining one of our workshops, book your tickets here.