Now an East Lothian cider maker and a Perthshire distiller have joined forces to create the world’s first Scottish cider brandy*.
At a launch in Edinburgh’s 56 North bar, they launched a Scottish cider brandy which had been matured in a virgin American oak cask and one which had been matured in French oak.
Small batch distilling
At present, there are only 200 bottles of each but further small batches are in the making.
Ingredients in the spirit are sourced locally from the Scottish countryside and made into cider at Thistly Cross in East Lothian before being sent to Strathearn Distillery in Perthshire to be transformed into the final spirit.
‘Distilling cider was something I’d always been interested in,’ said Tony Reeman-Clark, founder of Strathearn Distillery.
‘The plan started to come together when I passed Thistly Cross on a train. I hadn’t realised that there was a cider maker in Scotland so, from that point, everything clicked into place.’
‘A few months later, Peter (Peter Stuart, Head Cider Maker at Thistly Cross Cider) and I bumped into each other at an event in London and that’s when our cider brandy journey began.’
Peter Stuart added: ‘Cider brandy tends to be produced in parts of the world with strong cider making heritage, such as the Calvados region in Normandy.
‘Traditionally, Scotland hasn’t been thought of as a big producer of cider, but we’ve changed that perception in recent years. This, along with Scotland’s world-renowned spirits industry, spurred us on to try something new. We are both proud to be contributing to Scotland’s distilling heritage.’
Thistly Cross Cider and Strathearn Distillery are innovative producers of craft products with small batch production at the heart of the companies’ philosophies. Both companies have a wealth of experience in working with casks and maturation.
What’s in a name?
Which leads us on to a quirky labelling conundrum and one which is cast into relief by tomorrow’s Brexit referendum.
* Under EU labelling laws, ‘cider brandy’ is not an approved product name. Instead, the approved descriptor is the rather less sexy ‘cider spirit’.
Tony argues that cider spirit is the clear, unoaked liquid that comes from the stills at the end of the distilling process.
Cider brandy is the product which you get after that spirit has matured in a cask and taken on some of the characteristics of the oak it has been aged in.
Unfortunately, according to the EU, there is no such thing as cider brandy. The term was accidentally left out when the specific EU directive was drawn up.
The 5pm Dining blog is not the place to ponder EU food and drink policy so we will simply raise a glass to Thistle Cross and Strathearn Distillery.
Their new product makes a spectacular after dinner drink by any name.