2018 was an exceptionally hot and dry year, with a protracted drought lasting from late spring through until August, when there was just enough rain to keep everything growing until harvest. Sugar levels across the board were high, in some cases extremely high, and crops were good too. In some varieties tannin levels were very high and in the case of Ashton Brown Jersey and Chisel Jersey, the tannin was very hard and woody. As our first season of 'full time' cider making it was a big learning experience for us, jumping from 800 litres in 2017 to about 6,500 in 2018. Ciders were very slow to ferment, which we again would put down to the hot summer, perhaps affecting the apple's nitrogen levels. For the most part we are pleased with the results of the fermentations and though we have sold out of all of these, some will still be in the shops. Our advice is to drink now for most of them, the Chisel Jersey blend and the Remnant could cellar for a little longer.
Commix is an easy drinking table cider. A multi orchard blend of fruit from the 2018 season, the blend was made up over multiple pressings from the first of the season to the last. This is nearly bone dry, with soft tannins, fresh acidity and plenty of fruit on the nose. Perfect with food. Varieties are: Yarlington Mill, Brown’s Apple, Stoke Red, Herefordshire Russet, Dabinett, Harry Masters Jersey and Porter’s Perfection. Some sediment (pour carefully)
Reasons To Be Cheerful 2018
A rich, complex and tropical fruit forward cider, with natural residual sugar after cold racking through the winter. The fruit for this cider was pressed on the last pressing day of the season in Decemnber 2018. Good firm tannins keep the sugar and fruit in balance. Aromas of passionfruit, lychee, wood, orchard floor.
Varieties are: Ashton Brown Jersey, Improved Hangdown, Porter's Perfection, Cider Lady's Finger, Dabinett.
Stoke Red 2018
Single variety Stoke Red from a single orchard, this is a pure expression of variety, of the season and of the orchard. Fermented extremely slowly, racking twice over the winter the fermentation slowed to an imperceptible pace before bottling in late August. A slight bit of fermentation has continued in the bottle to keep it fresh but essentially this is still, lusciously sweet cider with exceptional balance of sugar, tannin and acid. Displaying typical Stoke Red aromas of rose, strawberries and cream, the old trees in Abbot's Leigh have given impressive fullness of aroma and ripeness of tannin. Drink with soft, fresh cheeses at room temperature, or chill and drink with apple based puddings.
Ditcheat Hill 2018
We wanted to reimagine the single orchard cider not as a 'field blend' where everything goes into the one tank, but 'orchard selections' where a one tank blend is made up using the best fruit from the orchard in proportions which seem to make sense for balance while reflecting the identity of the orchard. We used Browns (40%) for acidity, Harry Masters (25%) as the principle bitter sweet with Red Jersey(7%), Ashton Brown's Jersey(7%) and Yarlington Mill (5%) in supporting roles, and Sweet Coppin (7%) as a sweet to add aroma and keep tannin levels appropriate. The result is full bodied and complex, a voluptuous and well balanced expression of Somerset cider and a reflection of what we think is extraordinary terroir.
Yarlington Mill, Sweet Coppin, Porter's Perfection 7.2% ABV 75cl
An equal parts blend of three varieties, a bittersweet (Yarlington MIll), a bittersharp (Porter's Perfection) and a pure sweet (Sweet Coppin). The result is well balanced, with soft elegant tannins, light acidity and aromas of green apple, leather, blossom. Just slightly off dry and very lightly sparkling. LIght sediment. We picked the fruit for this blend from Abbot's Leigh and Smith Hayne near Tiverton. Fermented in stainless steel and finished in the bottle.
Chisel Jersey, Dabinett, Porter's Perfection 7.8% ABV 75cl
Something a bit special: This cider arose as an experiment in how to build a cider around Chisel Jersey. Chisel jersey can be very tannic with bitter and astringent tannin, and is certainly too much to handle by itself. We paired Chisel Jersey from our own orchard with its half sister Dabinett from the historic Abbot's Leigh orchard, and just enough bittersharp Porter's Perfection from Smith Hayne in Devon to bring some freshness and keep the fermentation safe. The juice was co-fermented in stainless steel for an initial 7 months before transferring into old red wine casks to mature for a further 9 months on average (two casks filled at different times). The result of the barrel time was extraordinary. The cider cleared quickly and the tannins softened and integrated to an amazing extent. What went in was a big tannic beast, almost undrinkable, has come out with impressive structure, depth and complexity. Bottled in early July 2020, this is drinking very well now, or could be cellared for 1-2 years we think. No sulphites at any stage, no fining or filtration, may develop a light sediment over time.
Remnant 6.4% ABV 75cl
Remnant is made with the best fruit from the surviving trees in old, mostly derelict orchards. We took fruit from six different orchards around North Somerset. Several unknown varieties included but quite a bit of Ashton Brown Jersey and Kingston Black. The sugar levels and tannins were very high in the fruit due to the hot summer, and we cold racked during the winter to retain sugar in the finished cider. Very full bodied, with astringent and bitter tannins in a fascinating balance. Quality acidity and well balanced sugar levels. Aromas of wood, orchard floor, tobacco and smoke, butterscotch, apple pie. Good to drink with rich food, game, mellow hard cheese and surprisingly good with bitter chocolate.
Perry Lane 6.5% ABV 75cl
An experiment in perry making for us! We wanted to see what the potential of the Newbridge pear is, it turns out it's very soft, low in tannin and acid but with lovely gentle floral aromatics. The addition of 3.5% Foxwhelp just lifts it on the tongue and brings some tension. Low tannin, just off dry. Plenty of delicate aromas: light fruit, floral, blossom, honey, gooseberry. The fruit came from old trees which were part of Long Ashton Research Station, they are now an avenue in the middle of a housing development.
Orchard Spirit 2018 ABV 40% 35cl
Our first exploration into the world of distilling; 2018 fruit had a long and slow fermentation followed by 6 months of maturation before we took it down to Bristol's Circumstance Distillery to be distilled into spirit. 1,000 litres of cider yielded 249 precious bottles, each of which contain the distillation of nearly 7kg of apples, hand picked from the floor of traditional orchards in the old way.
The spirit is very smooth and sweet on the tongue and noticeably unctuous. Aromas are extremely clean and refined: toffee, fennel seed, orchard floor, ripe apples, raisins. The finish is long and sweet with liquorice.
Orchard Spirit is in 35cl bottles with a wooden cap and yellow wax. Letterpress printed label by Nick and Ellen of The Letterpress Collective.