Sandford Orchards – Yarlington Mill ‘On Leaf Fermentation’

5308FB94-80EC-4734-82FD-C7B76981D2F5A 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. 

9894089F-88CB-4F75-AE43-428C84AF19D3As 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:

James Finch

Lyme Bay Winery’s Ammonite Range


For anyone who’s visited Devon or an English Heritage site or indeed your local large farm shop, chances are you’ve come across some of the many wines, liqueurs or ciders that Lyme Bay Winery produce. They are a multi (and I mean MULTI) award-winning producer, including from the International Cider Challenge. 

They have been making cider from their home in Devon’s Axe Valley for over twenty years. Starting with traditional more simple varieties, such as their Jack Ratt Scrumpy or Vintage and now expanding it to more innovative flavours and combinations. Firstly a few years ago by expanding into the fruit cider arena with their Annings range, named after Mary Anning the world famous paleontologist who’s fossil finds along the Jurrasic Coast adorn the walls of the Natural History Museum in London. More recently they have launched a range of flavoured ciders called the Ammonite range, so named after the plentiful fossil of a long extinct marine mollusc. There is a theme here and it’s one of history and heritage that Lyme Bay Winery are rightly proud of. 

So on to the three ciders of the Ammonite Range…well they all use Jack Ratt cider as their base, which is made from nothing but freshly pressed local cider apples, including Dabinett, Yarlington Mill and Kingston Black varieties. 

719F4984-A9D3-4DDC-AA75-DE14AE10673F1. Botanicals

I started with the Botanicals and opening the bottle I’m met with floral and citrus notes; to me it seemed predominantly orange scents, blossom, juice and pith. My initial taste is one of acidity and fizz, which then leads into those citrus notes but is followed by the distinct flavour of juniper. The finish feels slightly dry but full of spice and cider apple bite. This then is a really complex cider, where each mouthful is like a journey of taste. As I made my way through the 330 ml bottle, I found myself picking up extra notes, some I couldn’t quite work out, so it was a shame the bottle was small as I wanted to continue to explore. The finish seemed to develop into sweetness the more I drank. 

My verdict then on this one is a refreshing, innovative and complex cider. One which challenges the palate in a really good way and makes you re-think the art of the possible in terms of flavour combinations. This feels like the perfect cider to start a Gin enthusiast on and convert them over to appley goodness

240DE4B1-E02C-4433-9A3D-012618109F3B2. Hops

Second was the Hops cider, which had really distinct bitter citrus scents on the nose. Not surprising when the hops used are the classic American Simcoe and Cascade IPA varieties. The first taste is mildly bitter and has a sharp astringency with a quite a bit of fizz, which is then followed by a burst of those citrus hops. The finish is very clean and feels medium dry, but the dryness is only slight. So it’s a little sweeter on the finish than the Botanicals and appears to have a tad more carbonation; there was a larger head when poured but it dissipated very quickly. 

My verdict is that this is a clean, crisp and wonderfully palate-cleansing drink. I’m not normally a fan of hopped ciders, I don’t drink beer and I find the citrus hop flavour a bit too bitter for me. That being said I’ve tried quite a few different ones and the balance Lyme Bay Winery have achieved here is spot on. I think it slightly overpowers the cider apple taste compared to the Botanicals version, but if you like hopped ciders then this is a premium example.

26B76A64-E9B7-4D3A-AC50-EF4912C213103. Sour Cherry

Third and lastly was the Sour Cherry version which as you can see from the picture has much more rose colouring compared to the other two. I’m not sure exactly what has been added to the cider to create this but I can imagine some juice and cherry stones given the flavours. The smell is distinctly of apple at first with an after hit of cherry bakewell, which is quite subtle, I had to get my nose right into the glass to pick it up. The taste starts with a really fizzy fizz…the bubbles run along your tongue. You then get this wonderful almond almost marzipan taste with cherry starting to come through. The final taste becomes a sour sharp tang which is almost sherbet-like and then becomes a dry finish. 

My verdict for this final cider is that it is a sweet, desert-like fizzy hit with a sour twang to put a smile on your face. I’ve had the misfortune of trying some very artificial tasting cherry ciders in the past but there is no comparison to this creation from Lyme Bay Winery. If you want a sugar loaded artificial fruit cider then this is not for you. If on the other hand you’d like a more sophisticated nostalgic trip through a classic british dessert followed by a childhood sweet treat with an underlying cider apple taste, then you don’t want to miss this one.

In summary, I have to say I wasn’t sure what to expect with this range of ciders from Lyme Bay Winery. I’ve had many of their Jack Ratt and Annings range and all have been very good, so I’m not surprised in the quality of this new Ammonite range. I am however astounded at how well the flavours have combined with traditional cider, particularly in the Botanicals and Sour Cherry. I would certainly drink both of those again and hope to see them available near me soon. 


The Cider Critic