Last records for distilling Cider Brandy in England date back to 1678. The Somerset Cider Brandy Company revived the tradition in 1987 when we obtained the first commercial distilling license in English recorded history. Our two stills, Josephine and Fifi are copper continuous tower stills and sit behind a thick plate glass wall, protected by customs and excise lock and seal.
Much like our French cousins Calvados, we have a protected name (Protected Geographical Indication) that will forever be tied to Somerset.
The design for our two continuous tower stills, Josephine and Fifi was patented in 1831 by Irishman, Aeneas Coffey, former Inspector General of Excise in Ireland. Shortly after he formed Aeneas Coffey and Sons in London, a company still in operation under a new name and one we still use at the farm.
Tower stills behave like a series of pot stills, formed in a long vertical tube with layers of what we call “bubble plates”. Made of two columns, the first has steam rising and a wash descending through several levels. The rising vapour, which is low in alcohol, starts to condense in the cooler, higher level of the column. The temperature of each successively higher stage is slightly lower than the previous stage, so the vapour in equilibrium with the liquid at each stage is progressively more enriched with alcohol.
Apple Eau de Vie is pumped into oak casks in our bonded warehouse. The barrels are carefully selected for the qualities and flavours they impart while giving the wonderful golden colour to the brandy. As the brandy mellows and grows richer with age, it takes on complex flavours from the wood.
The art of distilling is in the blending, not just of the apples but the selection of barrels used to mature the Somerset Cider Brandy. At Burrow Hill, we take great care looking after our barrels and nurturing the Somerset Cider Brandy over the years. At 20 Years, we feel the Somerset Cider Brandy has reached its zenith so this is when we stop maturing.
The second column carries the alcohol from the wash, where it circulates until it can condense at the required strength, resulting in a clear liquid Apple Eau de Vie, discarding the waste “low wines” and “feints” along the way. Our distiller, Tim Edwards distills from the end of March throughout April using cider specially fermented from the previous autumn's pressing.