Don't you just love it when summer starts? It constantly amazes me how suddenly it seems to appear - one minute you're shivering in a miserable September; the next, it's a blazing start to December and the air is filled with the rustle of tinsel and the frazzling hiss of nerves as the malls become packed.
One of the things I love most about this time of year is that, with Christmas on the way, a lot of new products hit the market, as well as a few of the early-release wines from the latest vintages hitting the shelves, which should make buying presents a little easier.
One of the most interesting things I've tried has also been the one I didn't think I'd like, to be honest.
The newly released DB Export Citrus might seem like a strange beast - it's effectively a lager flavoured with lemon juice and delivered at 2 per cent alcohol - but the taste is fantastic. It's like a really lemony shandy.
Flavoured beers are growing in popularity overseas so it was only a matter of time before one of the big boys here cottoned on to it and I suppose I'm grateful that it's a smart product.
Other new products that have caught my attention have been a trio of whiskies from the Vintage Malt Whisky Company, available here in New Zealand online through The Whiskey Boutique (www.thewhiskeyboutique.co.nz).
The first is a vintage blended malt called Glenalmond Vintage 2002. It's a blend of Highland malts and tastes fantastic - a lovely soft nose and a clean, sweet flavour and finish.
On the next level up is the Tantallan 10-Year-Old Malt, from one of Speyside's oldest distilleries and one we haven't seen here for a while.
It's a powerful whisky, with a lovely sweet character, full of butterscotch and dark fruit, not unlike a good Bourbon. If you like Werther's Originals, this whisky is for you.
My favourite, however, was the Glenandrew 10-year-old, a whisky of such sweet appeal that you'd have to have a heart of stone not to be charmed by it.
Again, it's a Highland malt, but with a lovely smoky note that combines with a rich sweetness to offer a salty, smoky, sweet character that is just gorgeous.
None of these whiskies is outlandishly priced either, making them ideal Christmas presents, so perhaps you might think about giving the special person in your life something they might actually like this year, instead of something they feel duty-bound to look pleased about getting.
And if I might expand a bit here, a bottle of something nice - whether it be wine, beer or spirits - is a perfectly acceptable Christmas present, despite what my relatives seem to think. Quite where this idea that people would prefer a sweater to a bottle of Cognac sprang from eludes me, but I wish it would go away again.
Perhaps there are people out there who look forward to receiving ill-considered gifts at this time of the year, but remember that a well-chosen bottle has never been known to fail as a present. And it is the season to be jolly, after all ...