A Charity Bee-vening with Olly Smith
There are lots of ways in which we can help bees. Sometimes it may involve getting down and dirty in the garden, or traipsing around a cold, wet piece of land identifying and counting bees. Other times, it is as simple as buying a ticket to a charity dinner and indulging a little.
Olly with a bottle of Ambriel, Gill Perkins CEO of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, & his gin cocktail from the Garden Shed Drinks Co.
Olly Smith (you may recognise him from Saturday Kitchen, or the Three Wine Men) is one of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust's patrons, having eagerly jumped on board last year, wanting to do what he can to help our precious pollinators. As he knows his stuff where wine is concerned he seemed the perfect host for the evening, which was held at Corney & Barrow's head office in London. C&B is a fine wine merchant and has been a business member of the Trust for just over a year.
Tickets were £195 each, which included canapés, a four course meal showcasing some bee friendly produce curated by The Gatherers, served with bee friendly wines, as well as a couple of cracking reception drinks. We had gin kindly donated by The Garden Shed Drinks Co. and Wendy and Charles Outhwaite of Ambriel gave us some of their beautiful Sussex sparkler, Ambriel Classic Cuvée Brut Traditional Method NV.
Given Olly's mixology skills (check out his book 'Fizz', which he kindly gave us all signed copies of), we asked him to come up with a gin cocktail for the evening, and he certainly came through for us, with 'Bee Kind'. Although bumblebees do not make honey, and the main meal avoided its inclusion, Olly is a keen apiarist and keeps his own jolly little honeybees, hence the touch of honey in the recipe.
The bee-friendly wines we enjoyed during the dinner were:
Psi Bodegas y Vinedos Alnardo 2013 by Peter Sisseck, a personal hero of Olly's
Doisy Daene 2009 Halves
The aim of the evening was to ensure everyone had an enjoyable time whilst learning about bumblebees, and raising awareness of their plight as well as funds to help the Trust continue their excellent work. Throughout the evening Gill would tell us more about how fascinating and important bumblebees are (did you know that a number of our soft fruit farms have to import bumblebee colonies because we just don't have enough?) and Olly made a perfect tag-team with Corney & Barrow's MD Adam Brett-Smith to talk about the wines and the importance of producers working in an organic/biodynamic way.
When Olly mentioned he'd be delighted to join us for another beevening, perhaps over the summer, I started to get ideas - you could say I got a bee in my bonnet, so watch this space. C&B will be putting together a bee-friendly selection of wines, so I'm sure that their doors will once again be opened to fellow bee supporters.
The night finished with two whiskies donated by Douglas Laing; Xtra Old Particular Strathclyde 30YO and the Old Particular Braeval 18YO Sherry Cask (pictured); the sustainable way in which their whiskies are produced has a synergy with organic wine production and generally being a good egg about the environment.
I hope I'm not being presumptuous by claiming that everyone had an enjoyable evening. People certainly seemed to.
Anyone who perhaps had wanted to come to the dinner but couldn't make it can of course make a one-off donation should they wish by clicking here - in the reason box if you write 'Tree made me' the Trust will understand.
I couldn't possibly finish this piece without doffing my cap to Olly's choice of shirt for the night. I'm not sure which of us wore the most bees, but you can never have enough of the buzzy beauties as far as I'm concerned. Thanks to Olly and everyone else mentioned, and some who I didn't (Wayne - you were a fabulous mixologist on the night!) for such a wonderful time.