Due to the reliably cool climate we enjoy up here, our apples ripen at least a month later than in the south meaning we start pressing anywhere from late November to late December…last year it was minus 2 degrees with a refreshing 26mph breeze. Character building weather. As a consequence of our later harvests we ferment through the deep and often unforgiving winters where again our cooler climate means our fermentations take about three months longer than almost any other cider maker. In fact it’s not uncommon for the juice to freeze solid for a few days at a time. Our cider apple orchards are, we believe, the most northerly in the UK and quite possibly the whole European continent.
But, as the brave yeast slowly works away on the sugars converting them to alcohol, the juice becomes more resilient to the frosts and gradually, as the temperatures begin to rise for spring the juice finally, and indeed triumphantly, becomes a cider.
We ferment and mature all our ciders in locally sourced oak whisky casks. We leave it alone until about Spring when, enthusiastically we start tasting the casks and planning our blends for the year. We either just leave the juice to ferment using natural yeast from the apples themselves or add several different novel yeast strains for our fermentations which in addition to the different apple varieties used gives us even greater variation and choice when it comes to creating our products. One of our more ‘exotic’ yeast strains was captured near the Muir of Ord where it was minding its own business on a sprig of heather. It gives a complex, piney earthy aroma which can be really interesting at low levels in a big, rustic style Highland Scrumpy.
So that’s it, that’s what we do. Probably the biggest thing we’ve learned since starting this cider soaked adventure is that when you’re up in the Highlands you have to work as closely as possible with both the environment and the climate, the Highlands, in one way or another, influences and helps shape everything we do here. A bit like a frequently grumpy, occasionally belligerent but always brilliant friend.
I suppose you could call it terroir…