The heady aromas of fermenting apples is the first thing to hit as you stumble up the bevelled stone steps and push your way through the solid oak door to enter the dully-lit cider house. Every barn seeps history, tradition and a rich and prolonged love affair with Somerset’s most quintessential crop – the apple.
Nestled in 160 acres of abundant apple orchards, The Somerset Cider Brandy Company sits at the root of Burrow Hill. The stand alone Sycamore that looks proudly over the expansive Somerset Levels has become the iconic symbol of this exceptional British brandy.
Sitting at the heart of the farm but enclosed in a thick glass house, Josephine and Fifi oversee the process from orchard to eau de vie. These copper continuous tower stills, protected by customs and excise lock and seal, operate a highly-controlled double-distillation process, blending and distilling a range of dry cider to achieve a full-bodied, distinct brandy.
For every 11 litres of cider, around just 1 litre of cider brandy is produced. This golden liquor is then stored in oak casks for up to 20 years to permeate and mature into a beautifully smooth and aromatic product.
After a long and arduous battle, Somerset Cider Brandy was awarded Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) in 2010 and become the first official licensees to produce cider brandy in England. Closely and intensely monitored by head distillers Tim Stoddart and Julian Temperley, the art behind the perfect distillation is said to be the mixing of a cacophony of apple varieties, all with their very own distinct characteristics. Over time, these mature and blend together harmoniously to arrive at the most beautifully rounded English Calvados.
Not only can this product be sipped in its unadulterated form at anything from three to 20 year maturity, it has subsequently been blended with rough cider to produce a lighter aperitif for easy drinking! The Kingston Black apple aperitif is a balance of heady cider brandy and cider made from the legendary West Country vintage cider apple variety, the Kingston Black.
Alternatively, a secret blend of brandy and juice matured for an additional two years has developed GrowEatGather’s favourite tipple – Somerset Pomona. With a little more body and clout than the Kingston Black, its rich, sweet caramel flavours makes it a great alternative to dessert wine or port as the perfect pairing to a mature cheese board.
THE SOMERSET BRANDY COMPANY
Words by Helen Upshall