Scotland’s first cider brandy from Thistly Cross

Thistly Cross cider and Strathearn Distillery brandy have been blended to make the first Scottish cider brandy.
Thistly Cross cider and Strathearn Distillery brandy have been blended to make the first Scottish cider brandy.

Scotland has a new drink, cider brandy, and Thistly Cross cider makers at Dunbar are one half of the team that has produced it.

The new Scottish produced drink came about after the founder of Strathearn Distillery passed Thistly Cross while on a train and realised for the first time that Scotland had a cider maker.

“Distilling cider was something I’d always been interested in, so I applied for a cider licence when I built the whisky distillery, just in case”, 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,” he said.

A few months later he bumped into Peter Stuart, Thistly Cross’s head cider maker, at an event in London and their cider brandy journey began.

Peter Stuart said: “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.”

Production begins at Thistly Cross Cider where the apples are pressed on a traditional apple press resulting in a crisp apple juice which is slow-fermented with a mixture of champagne yeasts, before being matured for a minimum of six months.

The cider then makes its way up to Strathearn Distillery in Perthshire where it is passed through copper stills, which causes a chemical reaction leading to subtle changes in aroma and flavour and it emerges as a cider spirit. It then spends the rest of its days quietly resting in oak casks.

The small batch quality philosophy is particularly popular in the American and German markets where both Thistly Cross and Strathearn Distillery products are already “take pride of place in the drinks cabinet”.

The spirit will be sold in small single cask batches of 200 bottles and launched on Summer Solstice.