The Somersert Cider Brandy L'Ortolan
Our latest addition on the bar list - The Somerset Cider Brandy
It has long been recognised that for growing apples for fermenting, England has three "vintage" areas where the soil conditions and climate are deemed best for growing cider apples, known as "terroir". All of these areas are in Somerset, Burrow Hill, Kingsbury Episcopi, is right in the middle of one while the others being around Wedmore and Baltonsborough.
At Burrow Hill it is considered vital to know the origins of apples, which are starting point for both cider and Somerset Cider Brandy. All the apples come from Somerset, the majority from estates own orchards but also from small local growers. Burrow Hill grow more than 40 varieties of vintage cider apples with names such as Brown Snout, Stoke Red, Harry Masters and the legendary - Kingston Black.
Last records for distilling Cider Brandy in England date back to 1678. The Somerset Cider Brandy Company revived the tradition in 1987 when they obtained the first commercial distilling license in English recorded history.
Much like their French cousins, Calvados, they also have a protected name ( Protected Geographical Indication ) that will forever be tied to Somerset. Since winning a PGI in 2010, Somerset Cider Brandy was re-instated as a legal term, giving them an "appellation controlee".
The process is very straight forward, yet it most certainly requires a lot of precision and experience in order to maintain the standard and achieve desired quality. Apple Eau de Vie is pumped into oak casks in the bonded warehouse. The barrels are carefully selected for the qualities and flavours they impart while giving the wonderful golden colour to the brandy. As it mellows, it grows richer with age taking on the complex flavours from the wood.
The art of distilling is in the blending, not just of the apples but the selection of barrels used to mature the Somerset Cider Brandy. Burrow Hill takes greats care looking after their barrels and nurturing the brandy over the years. According to their distillers, the desired product reaches its zenith at 20 years and that's when they stop the maturation process.