In Bruton they spell it ‘cyder’ – claiming it’s more traditional. While any boozer from Charterhouse to Cheddar will sing The Wurzels “drink up ya zider” – especially when they’ve had too much of it! Cider is so richly engrained into the culture of our Somerset neighbours you’d be forgiven for thinking they’d invented it.
Here at Isaac Cider however, we’re more inclined to trust the word of science rather than pub whispers (or jeers!). And recently, two cider-scientists (or, Pomologists) have heralded our very own West Dorset as the birthplace of modern cider…
THE DECLINE OF THE BRITISH CIDER ORCHARD
In their book Lost Orchards, Liz Copas and Nick Poole (legend local cider maker), claim that cider was invented in the very valley where we produce our own golden nectar.
Like a pair of West Country Indiana Joneses, Copas and Poole searched the South West for ancient apple trees. Which is easier said than done. As they make the case in their book over two thirds of Britain’s small orchards have been lost since 1960. With the South West having seen the biggest decline, losing over 24,000 hectares (that’s a whopping 59,305 acres) over the last 100 years. For context that’s an area five times the size of Bournemouth.
Copas, who earned her scientific stripes at the Long Ashton Research Station in Bristol, said, “We didn’t find many orchards but we found many old trees in the corner of fields and some of them had some really interesting apples”.
The best examples they said, were found in the village of Netherbury (less than half a mile from the Isaac farm). They also found trees near Loders (an apples throw from our front gates) on the site of an ancient Norman priory. It is here, in the sheltered hollows of Loders that Copas believes cider was first made.
In an interview, Copas admits, that our “Celtic ancestors were probably making cider long before this, that’s just what you do with apples”. However, “West Dorset”, she says, “is the place where cider was first made properly”.
In the last decade Dorset has seen a huge resurgence in craft cider makers, making inventive, delicious and sometimes dangerously good concoctions.
Despite having produced cider on our family farm for three generations Isaac Cider is one of these new-fangled producers. Born in response to big cider apple buyers ripping up our contracts. We decided it was time we used our apples to make our own cider. And so, Isaac Cider was born.
Next time you crack open a bottle of Isaac Refraction, and you smell the appley-tang, hear that mouth-watering fizz, think of those hard-working monks in that muddy priory, and know that you are part of a centuries-old tradition.