The adventurous pair behind BLACKLION vodka

Round & About


Tim & Tam Spittle tell us about the vodka made from sheep’s milk thanks to their friendly “Black Lions” on the family farm and summer walks, tours and tastings to enjoy

Vodka is typically made from potato, grain, even grapes. But sheep’s milk? This was the challenge Tim & Tan Spittle couldn’t wait to climb.

“Sheaf House Farm, which Tim’s mum and dad bought over 50 years ago, would simply never survive today as a small Cotswold sheep farm if we didn’t also try new things,” explains Tan.

“We’ve always loved vodka. We were thinking of alternative diversifications and thought it needed to be niche. Knowing about cow’s milk vodkas, we wondered why no one had ever done it with sheep’s milk. That’s where it began.”

Milk for the vodka comes from Tim and Tan’s beloved flock of Black Lion sheep, all crossbred from Swiss Valais Blacknose and grazed on what has been the family farm for two generations. BLACKLION was created as a premium sipping vodka using the sugar-rich whey left over after cheese-making that would otherwise go to waste. “Creating BLACKLION took us on a four-year adventure working with amazingly talented and patient local distillers to perfect a vodka we love.” says Tim.

Since launching, the vodka has legions of fans, as well as winning a galaxy of gold star reviews and was featured on Gordon Ramsay’s last episode of Future Food Stars last month (above). “Gordon was incredibly genuine and inspiring,” adds Tan, “and we were just so pleased with his enthusiastic review, after tasting BLACKLION.”

The vodka’s unique and crisp, full-bodied flavour also serves a smooth with a warming aftertaste and a hint of edelweiss.

As for the beautiful sheep behind the creation, this iconic breed originated in the mountains of Switzerland, explaining why the Matterhorn appears on every bottle. “When we came up with the idea, we thought we needed to make our vodka doubly rare; so we created our own breed of sheep the “Black Lions”. A cross between the Swiss Valais Blacknose and a British milking sheep, they have an unbelievable temperament – they’re almost too quiet; too friendly!”

Tim & Tan will start their own farm walks, tours and tastings over the summer, offering guests the chance to meet the sheep and taste the vodka.  “We’ll have a mixologist making different cocktails and it will just be a lovely day out for everyone to enjoy,” adds Tim.

“This part of the world remains to be the one of the most beautiful regions of Great Britain with its rolling hills, spectacular views and majestic towns and villages. It’s also home to some incredibly talented chefs, local producers and craft drink distillers making it a fantastic destination for foodies!”

For more info visit Blacklion Vodka

The Crown, Church Enstone, December delights

Round & About


You’re sure of a friendly welcome & fantastic food at The Crown in Church Enstone which has lots of December delights on the menu…

This year the news has been mainly doom gloom, debt and rising prices. But the good news is that nothing feels as though it’s in short supply at The Crown in Church Enstone.

From the moment you step inside the flagstone bar you feel your shoulders dropping, especially once you’ve cosied yourself up next to the roaring fire with a perfectly mixed cocktail in your hand.

There are many easy excuses you can make for making a night of it and booking into one of the five lavishly appointed rooms (from £130 a night on a B&B basis). For one thing, the hearty breakfast served up by the friendly team are legendary, with Cacklebean eggs (any way you like) given a starring role, as well as incredible local sausages and bacon. As this pretty Cotswold village is perfect walking territory, a breakfast like this is the perfect fuel for a stroll across the fields to Soho Farm House at Great Tew.

The Crown, a picture-perfect honey-hued pub dating back to the 17th century, is as charming and gorgeous as a tourist’s dream but it’s been lavished in modern luxury, with all mod cons and stunning details. It it now under the new ownership of Matt and Kate Beamish, who also run the two acclaimed dining pubs with rooms The Kingham Plough and The Hare at Milton-under-Wychwood.

As you’d expect from these gastro geniuses The Crown’s food offering is top-notch, featuring a monthly changing seasonal and locally sourced a la carte menu offering modern British dishes with innovate twists and re-imagined pub classics.

To whet your appetite, here are some of the December delights from the menu… How about a starter of oysters with apple and horseradish dressing (healthy and punchy) or else chicken liver parfait, cranberry, fig marmalade, with chef Mark’s brioche?

If you can tear yourself away from the very tempting rib-eye steak (with peppercorn, red wine or chimichurri sauce) other main course specials for this month include turkey pie with mash, greens and red wine jus or else, a rare vegetarian treat, beetroot wellington with chestnut puree, greens.

Pudding fans… The desserts are too tempting, so here’s a head start to mull over. French lemon tart with meringue; Christmas pudding with brandy sauce; chocolate tart with double cream; sticky toffee pudding with butterscotch sauce & vanilla ice cream; Greek yoghurt with white chocolate ganache, passionfruit pulp; Baked Alaska; affogato with vanilla ice cream & espresso; Black bomber mature cheddar, house chutney, Membrillo & crackers; chocolate, vanilla, mint choc chip, or pistachio ice cream or mango, lemon or raspberry sorbet.

I’ll leave that conundrum with you.. Or maybe make a few return trips?

Please visit

Fox & Pheasant review

Round & About


I’m a country bumpkin at heart, and when I moved to Fulham nearly three years ago all my edgy East London pals rolled their eyes and said it was highly predictable, the obvious choice for a Gloucestershire gal like me.

It’s true, there’s something about the leafy streets, parks and plentiful dog owners in SW6 that felt like home. But what I always missed was a cozy country pub, with roaring fires and stuffed foxes, the sort you’d turn up to in wellies after a long walk. That is until my little brother moved up to London a couple of months ago, and sniffed out the Fox and Pheasant. Hidden in a charming little mews called The Billings, a short walk from Fulham Broadway and Stamford Bridge, I’m embarrassed to say I’d walked past the faded Victorian exterior, with its green tiles and hanging baskets, a hundred times without a second glance.

This is probably exactly what James Blunt and wife Sofia Wellesley wanted, when they decided to buy their local boozer and save it from being turned into apartments back. It’s understated, and no expense has been spared in retaining the original charm of the 17th century pub. When I walked in, I was transported with a jolt to my favourite Cotswold pubs, and half expected to recognise the faces at the bar.

We plonk ourselves at the bar for a pint of the Fox and Fez, their house lager, and chat to charming manager Toby. The decor is so quintessentially British it feels a bit like a film set, with vintage wallpaper and original 1930’s oak panels and locals playing darts. The walled garden is divine, with ivy and jasmine and pot-plants galore, and a Wimbledon-style glass roof ready to pull over in case of rain. We sit here for supper, which blows us away with its quality and freshness and attention to detail. You can have your usual pub classics – scotch eggs; burger and chips; honey & mustard chipolatas; a killer roast with all the trimmings on Sundays.

Alternatively you can go off-piste and order soft shell crab tacos with sriracha mayo, or an Ottolenghi-esque roast cauliflower with rocket and dates, sprinkled with dukka grains and toasted almonds. For pudding, don’t miss the sticky toffee pudding soufflé, served with ice cream of the same flavour, which was mind-bogglingly delicious. The Fox and Pheasant is the perfect country escape, while barely having to leave SW6.

Find them

The Fox and Pheasant, 1 Billing Road, Chelsea, SW10 9UJ.

Call 0207 352 2943 or email [email protected]