Photo credit : Simon Keitch
Kristy Jell sups cider with Julian Temperley
“It’s got a little bit of villainy which isn’t far from the cider makers heart”, says Julian Temperley of his Shipwreck cider brandy. And this is the feeling that pervades the Somerset Cider Brandy Company, set under the shadow of the magical Burrow Hill and run by the artisan cider maker.
Temperley is the man many credit for reviving the interest in artisan cider with his scrumptious Burrow Hill brand - which any self-respecting Glastonbury reveller will be all too familiar with as an integral part of the festival. In the middle of his yard, amongst the chickens, is the Somerset Cider Bus in all its understated glory, which also serves Orchard Mist at Glastonbury, a cider-based Pimms.
As I was taken on a tour by Julian, I spotted the renowned potter John Leach who designs flasks for Julian’s 10 year old cider brandy and I tried the delicious cherry brandy with “Pigeon Biter", a truly charming right hand man whose name belies him. He told a good tale and I soon realized that imagination and stories seemed to be a huge part of this fantastic place, with even the stills being given the rather chi chi names of Josephine and Fifi. As he says “there’s a hell of a lot happening in the back lanes of Somerset” and the area is full of creative people who all add to the magic
There’s a lot of history too - Somerset has a cider making tradition that goes back a thousand years, with children even being baptized in it in the C14th as it was felt to be cleaner then water. Apples have been grown here and cider pressed at the farm for at least 150 years. Pretty much all the apples fermented come from Somerset with most being picked from their own orchards and according to Julian it is “the soil climate and apple varieties which give the cider and cider brandy their unique quality.” They grow more than 40 varieties of vintage cider apples and it’s the blending of these different types of fruits that is the key to the art of cider making. It is a well kept secret.
Above the beautiful orchards, that stretch over 160 acres and often have alpacas roaming free is the mystical Burrow Hill, the landmark, where on Easter Sunday church goers scramble to the top of the hill for their service. If you're into lay lines this place is definitely bang in the middle - the positive energy is positively buzzing or was that the third glass of cider brandy I had just sampled...The importance of the hill can’t be overstated with Julian saying “if we didn’t actually own Burrow Hill it would be a very serious event”.
For Apple Day in October, the artist Damian Hirst has designed the label for Julian’s 20 year old cider brandy; it's not only going to taste good (and I can vouch for that, I did double check) it's going to look good too.
The Temperleys are a remarkable family. His daughter Alice is the fashion designer who made Pippa Middleton shine at the evening party for the royal wedding and has since designed a dress and the funky cowboy shirt that Kate wore on her recent North American tour. She has also recently designed the Gold Label collection for Barbour. One of his other daughters Matilda, is also an incredibly talented photographer who recently had an exhibition at Frome. With his wife, Diana and his other children, they’re a pretty creative and inspiring bunch.
With his blue hooded eyes, easy manner and endless stream of magical stories, Julian somehow embodied the way good cider (and his Burrow Hill bottled fermented dry cider has just won supreme champion at the Bath and West) and cider brandy should make you feel - generally pleased with life and determined to enjoy every last drop of it. You could still feel the thrill of scrumping at the farm and as he says “a little bit of looting is not far behind” for a cider maker. I look forward to returning for another illicit shot of the golden elixir for Apple Day.
Quad bike photo by Simon Keitch www.simonkeitch.com Other photos : Kristy Jell