A couple of months ago I had the pleasure of visiting the Bristol Cider Salon (thanks to Crafty Nectar) to see a showcase of sixty different ciders from twenty producers. Some were sharing tasters of long established products, but for many it was a chance to launch new and innovative ones. So that’s where I met Barny Butterfield, Chief Cidermaker at Sandford Orchards. Barny was there with a cider made from an entirely new technique: ‘on leaf fermenting’.
Barny is open about his obsession with cider-making history and tradition, and thanks to a comment on a trial of adding leaves to the cider-making process that he came across, his experiment began. I’m simplifying here, but he took leaves form a ten year old Sweet Alford cider apple tree, tied them in a press cloth and added them to Yarlington Mill juice. In reality there was a lot more to it than that and you can read more about it using the link at the bottom. Barny describes the result as “astonishing” and the small taste I sampled on the day at the Cider Salon was fantastic. Thanks to Barny’s generosity, I was able to bring a bottle home of this first very limited batch of only 100 cases and give it a thorough tasting.
As I open the bottle, I’m greeted with a cheesy dry smell, with underlying scents of fresh wood and wet leaves. It pours a gorgeous amber colour with a wondrous amount of bubbles. The initial taste is of slight acidity and the fizz comes through, this is followed by that cheesiness which is almost oaky smokiness. The finish is really complex; woody and dry then yeasty with a sweet acidity right at the end. Yarlington Mill is already a bold flavoured cider apple, but the on leaf fermentation adds a whole other level of complexity to this fine cider. Comparing to Yarlington Mill single variety ciders I’ve drunk before; the flavours seem deeper and more reminiscent of a blue cheese, like the stilton of ciders. I wonder if the extra yeast strains introduced by the addition of the leaves has brought this complexity out…?
So how do I summarise? Well firstly to congratulate Barny and Sandford Orchards on a really special, innovative and unique fine cider. The depth of character and complexity rivals any robust red wine, I’m not comparing, but I’m saying drunk with a rich pork dish, this fine cider will give you so much more to your meal. It was a joy to sample.
You can read more about Barny’s innovative process and his collaborative work with Exeter University here: