Archive | December, 2014

Gift Guide – Tech

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Gift Guide – Tech

Posted on 16 December 2014 by Chris Ford

As the year closes here are some of our favourite bits of tech from 2014, and if you are still looking for that last minute Christmas present then hopefully you will find some inspiration for your tech appreciating loved one here…

 

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Ultimate Ears Mini Boom Bluetooth Speaker – £55.51
There are a lot of contenders in the wireless speaker market at the moment but very few of the sub- £100 speakers really delivery much punch and substance to the music and end up being a loud but tinny mess. The UE Mini Boom on the other hand has a massive expansive sound for such a small device.
Specs include a 10hour battery, NFC connectivity, and a 50ft range, and comes in a choice of five colour schemes.

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Gigaset QV830 Tablet – £69.99
the 8” tablet comes in on the budget end of the market currently selling for a rather reasonable £69.99 but certainly first impressions don’t lead me to believe there is anything budget about the QV830.
he top and the bottom edges are metal which was a surprise given the price and this does lend a premium air to the unit straight away, I also like the fact its thin, very thin in fact and with a very small bezel around the screen its compact too, in fact it’s the ideal size for taking on the tube and has left my full size IPAD somewhat redundant ever since I received the Gigaset.
I have used the QV830 for a varity of tasks, reading books on the kindle app, online streaming from things like Iplayer and 4OD as well as viewing my own videos via apps like VLC player all of which it handled flawlessly with no issues.
Ports wise you have a micro usb for charging and data transfer, headphone socket and a micro SD slot.
The Gigaset QV830 only has 8GB of memory which while fine for the average user that just wants to surf the web or read a book wasn’t enough for me and I found myself upgrading the memory with a 32gb micro SD carde which can be had for just over £10 on Amazon so not a major outlay is needed to really upgrade this tablet to be able to store a decent amount of tv and movies if like me you travel a lot this is a must

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George Foreman 5 Portion Family Grill – £34.95
Yes I know these are nothing new but I recently bought a new George Foreman after my cleaner destroyed my last one many years ago and I have totally fallen in love with it once again.
The main advantage and selling feature is of course that the fatty juices from meat will roll right off the grill as you are cooking which great but I have really come to love my grill for the way it cools my meat, chicken, steak, Salmon you name it, mine taste so much better when cooked on the George Foreman.

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Epson Pulsense PS-500 Activity Monitor Watch – £151.89
Much like the Bluetooth speakers there are a lot of activity monitors on the market but not are all made equal. Most that come with a heart rate monitor for a start will require you to wear a band around your chest when training, this I have always found too annoying and distracting, the Epson on the other hand uses technology they have developed themselves with use reflections on the skin to measure your heart rate, clever huh?
The Epson also does things like counts your daily steps and tracks your sleep patterns. The watch can also be linked up to a smart phone where the figures recorded really come into their own.

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Jabra Step – Wireless Bluetooh Earbuds – £39.55
When at the gym wires can be distracting, weights get caught on them, wires get tangled and it’s all a bit of a mess. These are my go to ear buds for the gym, you can work out without any worries and I feel a lot more free on the treadmill. As these are earbuds I also get a nice tight seal in my ear, most Bluetooth headphones are the over ear kind and at least for me they are no good, they fall off to easily and wont drown out the gyms own speaker system, these on the other hand do perfectly.

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Gift Guide – Beers of the World

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Gift Guide – Beers of the World

Posted on 15 December 2014 by Chris Ford

There’s a new trend of giving beer boxes as gifts with lots of companies popping up offering international selections but at a premium, why not put something together yourself for that last minute gift?
Below I list some of my international favourites in the beer world :

England

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Beavertown Gamma Ray – There are many London based breweries popping up producing some amazing beer but I keep coming back to Gamma Ray, this big, hoppy and fresh beer is full of juicy American hops giving it a heavy floral aroma full of hibiscus, passion flowers and grapefruit.

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Oddbins No. 4 – produced by inventive West London-based brewery, Moncada. A beer reminiscent of a Belgian style wheat beer in body and flavour, complemented by the hoppy notes and bitterness produced as a result of being brewed using traditional IPA techniques.

 

Scotland

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Brew Dog Punk IPA – this light, golden classic has been subverted with new world hops to create a devastating explosion of flavour. With bursts of caramel, tropical fruit and an all-out riot of grapefruit, pineapple and lychee, before a spiky bitter finish.

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Oddbins No 3 – another Oddbins collaboration, Alechemy Brewery who have teamed up with Oddbins to brew Oddbins No 3). A rich and well-balanced black IPA that combines all the hoppy characteristics of a traditional IPA with a fuller body and a hint of roasted malt.

Spain

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Estrella Damm – Brewed in Barcelona for 130 years. Balanced & hoppy with a clean, dry finish the number one choice for a sunny day on the beach, refreshing and beautiful ice cold and one of my favourite lager type beers.

Japan

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Kirin Ichiban – Ichiban Shibori is a process by which beer is made from a single first pressing of the finest ingredients, giving you the sweetest, most flavoursome beer every time.
Only Kirin Ichiban is made with this process resulting in sweet yet refreshing beer.

USA

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Anchor Steam – Full of citrus, fruity goodness Anchor Steam gets its name from its uinuqe brewing processing in steam baths over in San Francisco , my go to US beer.

Czech Republic

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Pilsner Urquell – The Czech Republics number one export and for good reason, this is the original Pilsner and under the right conditions is the most divine thing in the world, hands down the best Pilsner out there today in my opinion.

 

Belgium

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Affligem – Winner of numerous awards and international tasting sessions
Brewed in the Flemish village, of Opwijk, this top-fermenting Belgian Blond beer is still brewed according to the original recipe. Well balanced, with a sweetish, refreshing fruity

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Stella Artois – Yes its not a typo, your humble Stella Artois, when it’s done right in a good pub or fresh out a ice cold bottle into a equally ice cold glass there is nothing like It.
Talking of Stella for Christmas the classic Stella Artois chalice has gone over a bit of a Christmas makeover, which is rather clever of them, what better way to toast your Christmas day feast?

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If you would like your own Christmas Chalice head over to the  Stella Artois Chalice Shop

 

Soft Drinks….
Ok if you must Ive got you covered, sick of all non-alcoholic beers tasting terrible? Well here’s a tip give Soft Brew a go, its probably the best tasting non-alcoholic beer I’ve tried and I have tried most of them!

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A Mans Guide To Buying Lingerie

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A Mans Guide To Buying Lingerie

Posted on 12 December 2014 by Chris Ford

Its one of those tricky things often lampooned in tv and film but quite true, us men for the most part while well intentioned really haven’t got a clue what to look for when buying lingerie for our loved ones.

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First off the bat  size,  I mean what size actually is she? we cant walk into a store holding up our hands saying ” this big”  you actually need to know!  then there’s style yes you might want to go for the sexy looking red and black silk number but will she actually wear or want it?

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but fear not women’s  lingerie retailer Boux Avenue have put together a guide to help you through this tricky purchase and hopefully get something she will love and appreciate

Boux Aveune’s Lingerie Buying Guide for Men

 

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Curling with Lacoste fragrances

Posted on 10 December 2014 by Chris Ford

Curling, is a Sport of Scottish origin in which players slide stones on a sheet of ice towards a target area which is segmented into four concentric circles. So a bit like bowls but on ice. Recently Lacoste Fragrances invited me and some other bloggers down to England’s only Curling rink in Kent to give curling a bash.IMG_2887

 

Having only recently recovered from two fractured elbows I was a little wary of this and had visions of falling over but when we got there I found out we don’t actually wear skates when curling you just wear special trainers , they are actually really easy to walk on the ice once you get used to it.

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While I may not be joining the Olympic team any time soon the two hours we were there whizzed by, Curling was so much fun, and really isn’t as easy as it looks, even if you push your stone at the right speed the other teams job is to brush the ice in front of your stone and make it over shoot the target which we had lots of fun trying!

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Lacoste Fragrances
It would be rude not to mention Lacoste our kind sponsors for the day, if you are looking for a gift Lacoste have you covered with a nice range of fragrances

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Lacoste L!VE Eau de Toilette (RRP 100ml £47 / €69 40ml £29 / €40)
LACOSTE L!VE a fresh yet deep fragrance with lime in the top note hits you first. The zesty touch reflects the unique nature of LACOSTE L!VE: energetic and bright, to awaken your senses.

EAU DE LACOSTE L.12.12 Collection (RRP 100ml £47 / €69 30ml £29 / €40)
Available in five bold editions – Blanc, Bleu, Rouge and Noir –find the scent tomatch his personality or gift the collection and let him play with the scents to suit his mood.

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BLANC: Pure and timeless, this classic fragrance has a clean and crisp scent, whilst Cedarwood and vetiver woody base notes ensure that the scent has a masculine appeal and direction.

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BLEU: The Powerful mood of this fragrance suits the focused man. The unique use of peppermint and water fruits creates a classic aquatic aromatic freshness.

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ROUGE: A triple blend of spices – ginger, black pepper and cardamom – stand out in this Energetic fragrance. Perfect for the playful man who injects a sense of excitement and dynamism into life.

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NOIR: An Intense fragrance of aromatic basil, dewy white floral magnolia, underpinned by intense, deep patchouli and chocolate notes. Perfect for the warm, sophisticated and deep man, who people find themselves drawn to.

 

Special thanks to Fentons Rink in Kent, for more info on booking your own day out Curling head over to www.fentonsrink.co.uk

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Timberland 5 Gifts for Christmas

Posted on 08 December 2014 by Eddie

 

What do you get the guy who has everything? This is the perennial problem this time of year. Here are some ideas from the guys at Timberland across a good selection of prices.

Men’s Oak Hill Beach Check Scarf (£36.00)

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Crafted from soft, pure-wool in an on-trend check, this Oak Hill Beach Scarf has a country-casual vibe – perfect for keeping out the cold on woodland walks or trips to the seaside. The lively pattern looks great teamed with plain jackets in a wide variety of situations.

Men’s Breakwater Beach Pattern Gift Box (£48.00)

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Going one better than a scarf is obviously a hat and scarf, this wool-blend Breakwater Beach matching hat and scarf fits the bill. The smart, patterned set looks as good on the daily commute as on adventurous day trips. Complete the coordinated winter look by matching with luxe-feel sweaters from the Timberland® winter collection.

Alton Tablet Sleeve (£8.00)

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If you are just after a stocking filler (the sort of stockings that can be opened in front of the rest of the family) The Alton accessories collection features water-resistant protection for your personal electronics in bright colours. Protect your tablet in sleek outdoor-inspired style with this padded and lined tablet sleeve.

Men’s Long Sleeve Claremont Oxford Shirt (£42.00)

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This basic oxford shirt’s easy to match, comfy to wear and crafted to last. For style that’s both casual and polished, button this up to greet the day with confidence. Classic shirts like this are timeless and should last ages.

Men’s Williams River V-Neck Sweater (£52.00)

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A great basic to slot into your winter wardrobe. This piece is given a distinctive edge by subtle attention to detail; a ribbed hem and cuffs and a flattering v-neck. The perfect layer between your tee and jacket to boost your warmth when the temperature drops, great for wearing in the office when the temperature drops (or when someone else has control of the AC).

 

http://www.timberlandonline.co.uk/en/gift-guide-men/

 

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The Book Of Everyone

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The Book Of Everyone

Posted on 08 December 2014 by Chris Ford

Did you know…You share 50% of your DNA with a banana? Which famous historical event you share your birthday with? What the number one single was the week you were born?

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The Book of Everyone is the perfect gift for someone you love. This one of a kind gift is a book full of stunning artwork, glorious personalised facts and fun statistics. The Book of Everyone can be made in minutes, customised, previewed right away, printed and dispatched to you in under one week!

This Christmas the wonderful people at The Book of Everyone have teamed up with the charity Age UK and with every book you buy it goes towards the “gifting” of a book for an elderly person who may not receive a gift. Helping to bring a smile to an elderly person’s face this Christmas (a time which can be lonely for some) because after all amazing people deserve an amazing gift.

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The Book of Everyone is a nostalgic, beautifully designed 50 page book that offers options that are affordable for all budgets from, Digital £7.50, Paperback £19.50, Hardback £29.50 and Deluxe £49.50.

The Book of Everyone also offers the option for you to add personal touches of photos and quotes along the way, ensuring that the gift is truly unique. Unlike any other gift on the market each person that receives the book gets an ant named in his or her honour, from The Book of Everyone’s ant farm where they are said to perform a special naming ceremony with honey and water!

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To make The Book of Everyone as a gift for someone, all you need is their full name and date of birth. If you can not remember their exact birth date, don’t worry as the clever inbuilt Facebook feature can help find the details for you. For a free preview just enter the details of the person you would like to make the book for (this t

akes under ONE minute!) and you can see what each page of their book will look like in seconds.

The Book of Everyone is available via their website www.thebookofeveryone.com

 

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The iRudolph Christmas Jumper

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The iRudolph Christmas Jumper

Posted on 05 December 2014 by Chris Ford

All Christmas jumpers are not made equal, and while Im sure many will be sitting around the dinner table in their Rudolph jumpers how many of them will have a light up pattern changing nose?  well you could be that person!

 

MorphCostumes, the brains behind the famous Morphsuit, has joined forces with Save the Children’s Christmas Jumper Day to launch a knitted Christmas jumper with a digital twist.

The “Snowglobe Rudolph Nose Knitted Christmas Jumper” has been designed specifically for Save the Children’s Christmas Jumper Day on Friday 12th December in a bid to ‘make the world better with a sweater’ this festive season. MorphCostumes will donate £2.50 from the sale of every jumper sold online via the Morph Costumes website, and £1.50 from the sale of every jumper sold through trade to Save the Children.

The tech savvy seasonal sweater can be brought to life through the use of integrated smartphone wearable technology. A pouch located on the inner lining allows users to slot a smartphone in to the jumper to reveal an animation of Rudolph’s magical ‘snowglobe’ nose. In order to activate the ‘snowglobe’ animation, users simply need to download the free MorphCostumes ‘Digital Dudz’ app, available on android and iPhone devices, and select from the list of pre-set animations.  

The “Snowglobe Rudolph Nose Knitted Christmas Jumper” is available to purchase for £35.99 via the MorphCostumes website: http://www.morphsuits.co.uk/snowglobe-rudolph-christmas-sweater

 

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Smokes & Tipples at Hotel Xenia

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Smokes & Tipples at Hotel Xenia

Posted on 05 December 2014 by Chris Ford

The introduction of the smoking ban back in July 2007 pretty much snuffed out the London cigar scene overnight.  But then the cigar world fought back. The last few years has seen more and more covered cigar terraces opening on a seemingly monthly basis, with many so expertly crafted that it’s hard to believe that you’re actually outside.

So when I heard that the latest cigar terrace opening was holding its first cigar night, I felt it would be rude not to attend and check out the facilities.

Hotel Xenia

The Hotel Xenia, a short walk from both Earls Court and Gloucester Road tube stations, certainly looks the part. It’s slick and modern, thanks to a recent multi-million pound refurbishment.

I arrived early for the cigar evening, so wandered into the bar for a drink while I was waiting.

First impressions?  The barman knew his stuff. I mentioned I would be smoking a short cigar before the main event started and he instantly suggested rums and whiskies would complement my cigar of choice. Honestly this is very rare in my experience so I was already very impressed with the Xenia.

Cigar Humidor

Smokes & Tipples 

So onto the actual event. An hour or so later the Hotel Xenia’s first cigar event began. Everyone made their way to the beautiful outside smoking terrace where the representative from Hunters and Frankau (the UK’s only Habano importer) was waiting to greet us.

Some of the Gentlemen enjoying the event

Some of the Gentlemen enjoying the event

Our cigar that had been chosen for the evening was a Romeo Y Julieta Short Churchill which would be paired with a flight of specially selected rums from Plantation Rum.

a selection of Plantation rum was sampled

a selection of Plantation rum was sampled

I think the evening worked well as it wasn’t too formal like some can be, and with the rep from Hunters and Frankau helping the first time smokers like my girlfriend, cut and light their cigar. As we enjoyed our smoke, the rep gave us the odd nugget of information about Cigars and Cuba in general but we weren’t smothered, instead we were left to chat freely which resulted in a relaxed evening.

When it came to the rums, the representative from the hotel was on hand to talk us through each choice, and the flavours we might expect when trying them. Being a bit of a rum novice this part of the evening I found particularly interesting and informative. In fact, I have since bought my first bottle of Plantation Rum and urge you to try the brand yourselves.

The Xenia plans to hold regular ‘Smokes and Tipples’ evenings.

Dinner at Evoluzione

After the smoking session we were booked in Evoluzione, Xenia’s restaurant for dinner. Like the rest of the hotel, the conservatory style room was bright and classy. Once we’d made our orders, me and my girlfriend were both charmed when the attentive waiter brought us out a ‘welcome’ from Michelin Star awarded Italian chef Andrea Angeletti – a delicious carbonara sauce served in the shell of an egg. Soon after, our orders arrived.

 a delicious carbonara sauce served in the shell of an egg.

a delicious carbonara sauce served in the shell of an egg.

My girlfriend said her starter of roasted octopus with aubergine and potato was delicious and perfectly cooked. I opted for the nicely textured and beautifully presented beef tartare. Afterwards came the main event was just that, an event. I’d ordered the grilled lobster served with a potato filled with thyme prawns. It arrived propped up and dressed in a metal frame making it a feast for the eyes before I’d even taken a mouthful.

Beef Tartare

Beef Tartare

The Lobster was beautifully presented

The Lobster was beautifully presented

My girlfriend chose a simpler pasta dish, served in a Romano cheese sauce with tuna carpaccio but even then it was delivered with flair and was the sort of quality you’d expect from such a high class Italian restaurant. We both had the chocolate fondant for dessert and like the rest of the meal it was spot on.  After we’d eaten, the waiter was happy to let us linger and enjoy the rest of our bottle of Merlot. The perfect chilled out ending to a perfect chilled out night.

 

Cherry Coke Cocktail

Cherry Coke Cocktail

Before we left I spied on the bars cocktail menu a’Cherry Coke’ I just had to have one, and Ive been craving another ever since,  amazing!

 

The Hotel 

With regards to the hotel itself I was so impressed by the staff, they were both friendly and knowledgeable.  No request was too much trouble and they went out of their way to make our time there memorable. While I have no real need to stay in a hotel in London myself I will certainly recommend the Xenia to friends in the future, with its good transport links, friendly welcome and excellent restaurant it really is the ideal choice for a hotel just outside the centre.

one of the Xenias many rooms

one of the Xenias many rooms

The Next Smokes and Tipples event at the Hotel Xenia will be held on Thursday 30th April to book email sales@hotelxenia.co.uk

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Diamonds  a guide for the clueless (like me!)

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Diamonds a guide for the clueless (like me!)

Posted on 04 December 2014 by Chris Ford

Like I imagine the majority of men I really haven’t a clue when it comes to diamonds, but if you are thinking of proposing to that someone special you better start getting clued up! And here with the kind help of Vashi Diamonds we guide you through the basics and what to look for.

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Non Certified Diamonds vs Certified Diamonds
Certifying diamonds is not an exact science
There are different bodies and different brands who may grade exactly the same diamond differently
Also, diamonds that have been graded exactly the same, may look quite different!
At Vashi, Vashi Dominguez certifies every single Vashi diamond
Ensure you receive a certificate with any diamond you buy.

 

The Four C’s

diamonds can then be graded scientifically using the 4Cs…
Carat
Cut
Colour
Clarity

Carat

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Carat = 0.2g (standard unit of diamond weight)
Magic Weights and Under Sizes

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The greater the weight of the diamond, the greater its value!

 

Cut

The most important factor when determining value
Allows the diamond to handle light well and emit sparkle
Not to be confused with diamond shape e.g. Round or Princess

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Colour

Diamonds range from D (colourless) to Z (yellow tint)   The whiter the diamond, the greater its value!

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Clarity

Describes how flawless or clear a diamond is Affected by flaws or ‘inclusions’ on or in the stone

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Ranges from FL (flawless – the most valuable) to I3 (visible inclusions) ,  Vashi.com  only sell diamonds from FL to SI1

 

 

Shape

One last thing you will need to know is what shape of stone would the lady like?  there are ten to choose from

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Vashi.com is the result of 15 years becoming a diamond expert; incessantly sourcing the highest quality diamonds at the lowest prices, directly from the mines & cutters themselves.

For more info  head over to www.vashi.com

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GQ Tobaccos

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GQ Tobaccos

Posted on 03 December 2014 by Eddie

GQ Tobaccos

Your Samlples Logo

These pipe tobaccos are produced by Glynn for his online tobacconist. Glynn has been in the trade for years, formally at Gauntlys and has now taken the brave move of setting out on his own.

Most tobacconists these days stock commercial blends which may be rebranded, but Glynn has taken the traditional approach and revived the lost art of doing his own blends from scratch. He also seems to have negotiated some unique offerings from some of the major producers of pipe tobacco.

For this review I received: his new Christmas 2014 Blend, Peach & Apple, Sugar & Spice, and his Askwith Kake. This was Glynn’s recommendation based on needing a nice room note due to my other half complaining if something smells like burnt tyres (even if I enjoy it). The first 3 are aromatics and the latter is a VaPer.

I always find that drying a new tobacco just the right amount takes a bit of guess work so my reviews are based on me being new to these blends. They come a little moist, but nowhere as near as damp as some blends arrive.

The Christmas blend was the first that I eagerly tried, the smell as the bag is opened is divine and certainly lives up to the Christmas title. This is a blend of Sliced Brown (English) twist, with the addition of Cavendish, Virginia and Burley. This is a nice change to the usual mix that aromatics are blended from. The casing that makes this smell like Christmas comes from cinnamon, All Spice, Nutmeg, Clove, Star Anise orange and of course it has to have some booze in there so brandy was added for that final hint of Christmas. On packing and lighting there was a subtle hint of the casing that wasn’t over powering like some American style aros. Under the spices there is a good tobacco flavor with a nice nicotine hit from the brown twist. These twists are renowned for being quite strong in the nic department, so smoke slowly and in a small bowl and be ready with a sugary drink just in case.

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The next I fired up was the Peach & Apple, this was similar to the above, with a good blend underneath the casing. Once again the casing is subtle and the base tobacco is the dominant flavor. The casing is peach and apple with a hint of cinamon.

The third sample that I packed was the Sugar and Spice, this has an even more subtle casing that is easy to lose if dried too much or puffed too hard. The underlying tobacco is composed of Oriental Izmir, American Black Cavendish, Gold & Mahogany flue-cured Virginias. This once again gave a reasonably strong blend. Don’t dry this too much and puff slow and you’ll be rewarded with the Cinnamon, Rose & Nutmeg toppings in addition to the nutty base.

The fourth blend I tried was the Askwith Kake. This was blended for Askwith Pipes and was intended to be a “big boys VaPer”. This was achieved by using 20% Perique instead of the usual 5%. I like this idea as when you are starting out it is hard to work out the flavours of the different leaves, so by bumping the Perique it makes it less subtle and easier to detect. This is then pressed into a crumble kake, unlike plug tobacco where it is sliced into flakes, the way to prepare this is to break off the required amount and then rub break it up. This is a nice novel preparation that is uncommon in the UK, but more common in the US.

In summary these tobaccos are good blends that are cased which is the right way of doing this style of tobacco and not too anaemic on the nicotine either. The casings are a little muted so if you are used to tobacco that tastes like a candy bar don’t go there, but if you are after a good tobacco that is pleasing to those around you then get your samples ordered asap and fire up the briar.

http://www.gqtobaccos.com/pipe-tobaccos/gq-blends/

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