It was Mike Jones's idea that we visit Somerset Cider Brandy. He, like many of us, had watched Country File on BBC1 and local news coverage about this very traditional business that has made the headlines for protecting the heritage of apple production and produce in the county.
Twenty one members arrived in a selection of cars, including Astons from DB6 to DB9, a Ferrari and a Triumph TR5.
Julian Temperley, the owner, might be described as something of an English eccentric (I write that as a compliment). He is passionate about the business and has taken the battle to protect Somerset Cider Brandy to the courts in Europe... and won. He has even managed to gain the support of the, initially very suspicious, French Calvados businesses to win the case for protecting Somerset Cider Brandy. His winning argument was "Do you want your produce to be with the brandies on the restaurant wine list or down at the bottom with Grappa?" They started to see things his way!
That's not the only argument he has won with Europe. In order to ensure the protected status, Somerset now ranks as a 'colony', in legal terms. He didn't counter my question about the next stop perhaps being full independence.
Julian demonstrates the process with one of his 'old lady' stills (named Josephine and Fifi).
Julian was surprised to discover that his brandy was the only spirit served at the recent Royal Wedding of Harry & Megan (Royal Warrant next, perhaps?).
Somerset Cider Brandy comes from very rustic origins.
Paws for thought. We were greeted very warmly on arrival.
This heritage apple press is typical of the old and quality engineering that maintains the business of cider making and ultimately, cider brandy.
After our first tasting in the shop, we retired to the bonded warehouse for many more tastings. That was good news for the non-drivers in our party!
"Ah, 007, we were expecting you., Mr. Bond(ed warehouse)."
This is where it all starts. Part of the 42 acres of apple orchard that generates 1,500 tons of apples every year, all processed on-site.
Julian Temperley told us many stories. One about the newer barrels behind him in this picture and the resultant bottle in his hand is one to hear in person, rather than be re-told through this website.
We then retired to the Lamb & Lion pub at nearby Hambridge. Owner, Jerry, had kindly arranged exclusive parking space for our cars outside the front door and a large table for dinner... an opportunity for some members to soak up the consumed brandies!
Dinner at the end of a jolly good evening event. Excellent food at the Lamb & Lion.
Your author, like a number of the attendees, will be returning to buy some of these excellent and local products. In the meantime, we can recommend a visit. It truly is an amazing place with some amazing output.
See Julian Temperley's Somerset Cider and Cider Brandy website here.
See the Lamb & Lion website here.
Thank you all for supporting this event. Thanks too especially to our venue hosts Julian and Jerry (and team).
There are more photographs via this link (sadly, this website doesn't allow portrait photographs on these reports!)