Making cider in the highlands comes with its own unique set of challenges and I think for the most part we’ve managed to turn them to our advantage and put out some really interesting ciders over the last few years. However, this season has presented us with the biggest obstacle yet. The overnight temperatures in the big orchards at Tore and Kiltarlity (which grow the bulk of the apples we use for cider making) dropped below zero on the 7th, 12th and 29th of May effectively wiping out this years apple crop. Only a handful of our late blossoming cider varieties and our reliable old Katy have managed to produce any apples.
So when that happens as a cider maker you’re left with just two options, take a year off or source fruit from elsewhere. So after much deliberation and general head scratching we’ve decided to do both. We won’t be producing any of our core range (North Shore, Strange Bru and Local Rocket) this year as the use of our locally grown fruit is so vital to not just the flavour but also the integrity of these purely Highland ciders.
But the good news is that we’ve also decided that we much prefer making cider to not making cider so to that end we’re very excited to say that we’ll be collaborating with Ross Mangles, a third generation Somerset orchardist who will be sending up a whole load of unsprayed, classic bittersweet cider apples from his orchard in Haselbury Plucknett for us to press into juice and transform into cider. The plan is to blend these Somerset grown apples with what we have of our own Highland grown varieties this year to create a small range of new ciders for 2020. Our production practices will remain completely unchanged, all wild fermented in whisky casks, a proportion of the juice being keeved and the rest allowed to ferment dry with these casks then being blended to produce ciders naturally ranging from dry to sweet.
We are obviously hoping for more favourable weather next May which will allow us to get back to making our core local range but in the meantime we’re really looking forward to experimenting with the Somerset fruit and we’ve got some great varieties to play with. A fascinating fusion of old and new cider terroir.
At the moment we’re tentatively referring to the cider as “North and South” and we’ll hopefully end up with something that reflects its roots in both the orchards of Somerset and the cold whisky casks of the Highlands.
So if you’re a fan of our current ciders hopefully you’ll enjoy next years too and with a wee bit of luck we’ll see North Shore returning again for 2021.