The Geordie Roots of Cotswold Cider founder, Rory Souter
I grew up as far afield from ciderland as I could do in England – Northumberland with its unparalleled coastline and moors, and then as a teen in Newcastle, where the St James’ Park roar was in earshot and Scottish & Newcastle brewery wafted its Newkie Broon vapours across the Toon. Working the bars in the Bigg Market where “half a pint of cider and black, with a straw, Pet” was an exotic choice for the spangly boob-tubers. A perfect combination of the best countryside and epic nightlife. A great grounding in bars and clubs with a curiosity for what lay behind the counter.
THE APPLE DROPS…
But nature held my interest and off to agricultural college I went. Farming wasn’t in the family, but I had a yearning to make a living from the land with an ideal as a primary producer of some kind. A property career beckoned but it was in sales and marketing of emerging technologies that I learnt about the excitement of business. It wasn’t until marriage and the chance move to a property with a little orchard did the apple drop…
With Juliet my wife working for the National Trust in Oxfordshire, a 18th Century watermill came up for rent, a chance that we jumped at. It came with a small orchard of about six mature trees and I quickly became interested in the laden fruit that developed in our first year.
Omnipresent apples, that most magnificent fruit, falling to the floor, rotting across the country, unappreciated and unloved, our native fruit, what could we do? CIDER… let’s harvest and harness nature’s wonder. So we set about scrumping up apples from our local area, peering through hedgerows in search of more local fruit.
INTRODUCTION TO CIDER APPLES
It was time to get serious – books bought, web trawled, orchard groups attended. Our first ferment garnered polite comments from those unknown, and wild ribbing from best mates. Unabashed, I continued in my quest, pressing long into the night with head torch as I doubled production each year. There was no turning back, the passion had gripped me!
But how did I get cider to taste like other, proper ciders. It wasn’t until a chance meeting with Henry Chevalier-Guild of Aspall Cider was I given a lead to local bittersweet cider apples. Henry told me of a local grower who I should contact.
So I did for a couple of years until one year the apple grower, Peter Pitman of Pewsey, told me he was getting a bit old for the orchard and did I know of anyone who might like to take it on? I bit his hand off! Thereafter followed a love affair with this four-acre Dabinett and Browns cider apple orchard. Farm tenancy signed, the orchard was lovingly tended while I lapped up every seasonal activity needed – harvesting, pruning and mowing, and of course, developing a taste for its amazing golden nectar that so entranced me.
Rich in tannin with a zap to the mouthfeel and satisfying refreshment at the heart of it, friends’ feedback improved and I soon hatched a plan. If I as a northerner could fall in love with this flavour, then a wider audience than those from Ciderlands should – and could – also.
COTSWOLD CIDER CO ESTABLISHED
And so in 2009, The Cotswold Cider Co. was born with a mission to broaden the appeal of traditional cider and to give it a more modern and progressive feel that could complement the growing popularity of craft beer – a revolution was surely in the offing. Taking our fruit from around our local area.
We’re all about the deep, rich natural flavours of authentic cider, always fermented from 100% fresh cider apples and not from concentrate. Key to the deep rich flavours are a long fermentation in ambient temperatures and an extended maturation time in tank. We strive every day in our mission to bring these fresh flavours to a wider audience and make people as passionate about cider apples as we are.