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Somerset Cider Brandy 5 Year Old is made at Pass Vale Farm in Burrow Hill near Martock. It is made by the Somerset Cider Brandy Company which was founded, and is owned by, Julian Temperley who has over thirty vintages to his credit. The Somerset Cider Brandy Company was granted the first full cider distilling licence in recorded history in 1989 and, after a four year battle with Brussels, on October 22nd 2011, Somerset Cider Brandy was granted a precious European Union Protected Geographical Indication status (PGI).
Apples have been grown for cider productions at Burrow Hill for over 200 years and there are some 180 acres of apple orchards with over 40 different varieties of apple grown. Varieties include Kingston Black, Dabinett, Stoke Red, Yarlington Mill and Harry Masters. The blending of these different varieties is the key to cider production. Apples are gathered in the Autumn, pressed and the juice is blended prior to fermentation in large oak vats. After three months the cider is then distilled in one of two continuous Coffey Stills (two column copper stills from Calvados named Josephine and Fifi), with no additions made to the cider. The first and last parts of the distilling are discarded and only the heart of the distillation is used – this is the very best, pure, clean alcoholic spirit. The then clear, colourless spirit, at this stage technically an eau-de-vie, is then transferred into combination of old sherry casks, new oak barrels from Hungary or French oak Limousin or Alliers barrels for maturation. It takes 11 litres of cider to make 1 litre of spirit and 7 tonnes of apples to fill one small barrel!
Somerset Cider Brandy 5 Year Old is aged for 5 years in a mixture of these barrels at one of two bonded warehouses in Burrow Hill village. It is in the barrel where the transformation from young spirit to cider brandy takes place. The spirit interacts with the oak barrels, some is lost due to evaporation (the angel’s share) and, with time, the brandy takes on tannins, colour, flavour and character from the oak barrels and becomes softer and mellower. With its complexity, velvety palate and intriguing spicy aftertaste it makes a super after dinner drink, perhaps matched with a Cuban Cigar.