Why Craft Scottish Cider?
Why craft Scottish cider? This is an exciting question because I believe Scotland has the potential to produce some of the best craft ciders in the world and hence why I set up Nøvar Cider.
If you have ever eaten a strawberry, gooseberry or blackberry from the Highlands of Scotland, the clues are all there! The fruits are indeed smaller, but they are bursting with flavour, making their southern cousins seem soulless by comparison. Some fruits do require intense heat for their flavours to come alive - a Sicilian tomato will make its English counterpart blush - but cider apples do not need extreme heat to grow!
Of course, warmer climates help fruit ripen faster. However, with +35oC heat waves in England, many historical cider varieties, such as Dabinett and Kingston Black, are now struggling to produce sustainable yields. Warm days followed by cool evenings are the perfect environment for these apples to thrive, but take away the fresh summer nights and the trees can't rest. It's like going for a marathon and, at the peak of exhaustion, being told to start again. If these once uncommon temperatures become the rule, it does not bode well for many historical UK cider varieties.
Almost ten years ago, I planted 3,000 cider trees in the Highlands of Scotland, with the help of John Worle from Herefordshire. Having supplied the majority of cider trees for some of the largest cider companies in the UK, John was sceptical about my ambitions and asked, multiple times, if I knew what I was doing. I was adamant that I did, and, with his help, I sourced twenty-two cider varieties. In 2019, I invited John to visit Nøvar's cider orchard, after many years of absence, and he could not believe how well the trees had grown.
He was surprised how far ahead the fruit crop was, being comparable to some of his nurseries in Herefordshire, and impressed with how far the Dabinett's and Kingston Black varieties had come.
If you were to drive from Cornwall to Inverness in a day (something I wouldn't necessarily advise you to do), you would notice something very specific. The further north you go, the later the harvest looks. It's almost like going back in time, and this is simply because colder climates slow the ripening process. This natural phenomenon of slower ripening or growth cycle is what intensifies the flavours of Scottish strawberries, wheat, barley, you name it. If you have ever wondered why Single Malt Scottish Whisky is revered as one of the best in the world, it's not necessarily the water. It's the slow growth cycle of the barley, and it is this simple principle that is at the forefront of my Scottish craft cider.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this summary of why I am confident Scotland will produce some of the best craft ciders is in the world, and if you have any questions, please feel free reach out.