Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Six Ciders for Christmas Day - Brandy, No Cigar

And so we come to the last knockings of what has been a long and indulgent day. Snuggled up in front of a crackling gas fire, stuffed to the gunnel's with rich Christmas Fayre (ahem!), fit for nowt but a family film of your choice or the welcome oblivion of an afternoon nap. At this stage of the day you're not likely to have room for another cider, so my final choice for the day is a generous schooner of Julian Temperley's finest Cider Brandy.

Somerset Cider Brandy is a real home-produced treat, created from the distillation of fine Somerset cider at Burrow Hill in deepest Somerset. When Julian Temperley wrestled a licence to distill from a highly reticent HM Customs in 1989, the scene was set for the recreation of a style of Brandy which had all but faded from memory in this country. The bottlings which have been released up to now have been exceptionally well received, and as time has crept by, older and more mature Brandies have been released, including most recently, the stunning 15 year old Somerset Alchemy.

For preference I favour the 5 year old brandy, less fiery than the youthful 3 year old, but retaining more appley flavour than the smoother 10 year old bottling. Unfortunately, we don't have any of the sublime 5 year old to hand, so we'll have to slum it with a limited release 10 year old Single Cask Somerset Royal Cider Brandy. This version has a slightly higher alcohol level at 45.8%, and was matured in new Limousin Oak which will probably give creamy vanilla notes in the flavour.

If you can't get hold of a bottle of Somerset's finest, I'd also recommend the much easier to find Sainsbury's Calvados Pays d'Auge XO. This 12 year old spirit is deep golden in colour, slightly medicinal on the nose, but beautifully smooth on the tongue. There's rosy apple, vanilla, spiciness, and a Rum-like demerara sugariness. A great way to end the day, and if you can find a little more room, pair these two with a generous slice of Christmas Cake. If you can't, perhaps the cake itself would appreciate a drop or two!

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