The 2020-specific efforts in cities everywhere to square the highly precarious circle of festive entertainment and public safety has led Cardiff to rename its Winter Wonderland attraction to Christmas At The Castle, relocate it to the area suggested by the name, and seemingly find its feet as it goes. Appropriate phrasing, given that the ‘Ice Walk’ built to fill in for the popular skating rink has had to be canned due to health concerns. All the same, it is a very agreeable vista inside Cardiff Castle – and, crucially, it’s outdoors – so one suggestion for a pleasant diversion in the coming weeks is an Experience, as offered by its on-site bar, Lone Stag.

The bar sells a variety of drinks and food, as bars tend to, but takes its name from a range of luxury infused spirits created by Leanne Johns. That’s ‘created’ in the sense that she founded the company seven years ago (it’s part of an overarching ‘lifestyle brand’, Sloane Home), and also still makes them all herself in comparatively tiny batches of five litres at a time. Each of those batches will have five litres of (local) fruit in it, an almost unheard-of ratio for this sort of thing: you may be thoroughly jaded by the endless procession of flavoured gins and suchlike out there, most of which are very easy and cheap to make, but this is a different ball game. Proof is in the seeing – just peer into one of the shot glasses you get with the Experience and see how fruity these potions are – and, natch, the tasting.


This taster was especially taken with two gin infusions, strawberry and wild mint plus cherry and black pepper – and a raspberry and rosebud vodka concoction, but there are eight to choose from in total, with five shots coming as part of the package. You also get a prosecco cocktail or gin and mixer plus three handmade truffles, which by the sound of it are just as spendy on the economy-of-scale side of things: a smoked sea salted caramel number and another strawberry/mint combo are both rolled in some sort of gold dust, and made me feel decadent where life in general cannot.

All this takes place inside one of the wooden cabins which have been put up near the Lone Stag bar and are a very nice place to while away an hour or two. As we pondered while sampling, current circumstances perhaps point to a shift away from drinking indiscriminately and to excess, towards things more like this, where you’re encouraged to actually savour what’s in front of you at a leisurely pace.

Lone Stag Experience, Cardiff Castle, until Sun 3 Jan. Info: here

words and photos NOEL GARDNER