Husband and wife team, Neil and Katie Sime currently produce Vesperis Pictish Gin and Vodka at the distillery using locally sourced seasonal apples as one of the key botanicals, drawing on Scotland’s rich heritage in growing apple trees.
“There are over 40 Scottish varieties, many of which are in decline. Apples are a wonderfully versatile fruit, we originally used them as a botanical with the intention of distilling an apple-based spirit from scratch for our gin and vodka in the future, however, we’ve recently been getting into the craft cider scene. We were encouraged by my nephew, to try the new wave of craft ciders being produced, he is coeliac so was looking for gluten-free alternatives to beer. We were amazed by the variety of taste profiles available and have been trialling unusual yeast strains and botanicals due to our knowledge of gin, he has been very impressed with the results.”
They hope to commence cider production next year.
“2019 is going to be very exciting for us. We always planned to make the spirit ourselves, as a result we deliberately chose equipment that could be used for a variety of jobs. This is particularly the case with Genevieve, our iStill, we chose her because of her capability to ferment and distil with the temperature carefully controlled, which is essential for a consistent fermentation. Our production room is being built for the dual purpose of spirits and cider. Cider has a significantly lower abv, usually between 5.5% and 8.5%, so isn’t inherently sterile like gin, therefore we are planning to purchase specialist equipment such as a bottle pasteuriser and are ensuring our facilities meet all health and safety requirements.”
The planting of an orchard using heritage apple trees will enable the company to produce single estate spirits and cider which fits into their ‘branch to bottle’ philosophy.
“It will take a few years for the trees to mature, so in the meantime we will be relying on apples from the local community in return for cider or gin. Although production will be small scale to start with, we do hope to produce several hectolitres in autumn next year with the first release before Christmas 2019, and expanding over the next few years into bars, restaurants and shops. We are launching a ‘sponsor a tree’ initiative in November for the initial 30 trees, supporters can choose a variety of tree, either a British cider variety such as Slack Ma Girdle or a Scottish heritage tree like The Bloody Ploughman or Beauty of Moray. They can also name or dedicate the tree and even come and plant it in February 2019, if they wish. Our daughter’s nursery at Rothienorman Primary School will be helping with the planting of the trees next year, it’s great to get children in the community involved, I love the idea that the trees will grow as they do.”
There are 30 trees available to sponsor for the first part of the orchard, and packages start at £30. Potential supporters can contact the distillery on email@example.com for more information or attend one of their Christmas events which are listed on their Facebook page @blackfordcraftdistillery.