8 Dorset ciders to toast Apple Day

Some of the Dorset Nectar organic bottled cider range, made in West Dorset

Some of the Dorset Nectar organic bottled cider range, all made in West Dorset - Credit: dorsetnectar.co.uk

October 21 marks Apple Day - an event to celebrate local apples and orchards - including cider apples and cider orchards - across the country.

Cider apples in a West Country orchard, the number of orchards in Dorset is on the increase  

Cider apples in a West Country orchard, the number of orchards in Dorset is on the increase - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Launched in 1990 by the Dorset-based charity Common Ground, the aim of Apple Day was to create an annual autumn event that would be both a celebration and a demonstration of the variety we are in danger of losing, not simply in apples, but in the richness and diversity of landscape, ecology and culture too. Apple Day has also played a part in raising awareness in the provenance and traceability of food. So if you want to join in the celebrations here's our round-up of local ciders to sample, from the well-established to the new-kids-in-the-orchard - let's raise a glass of Dorset cider to Apple Day! 

Dorset Moonlight made by West Dorset cider maker Nick Poole at the West Milton Cider Company

Dorset Moonlight made by West Dorset's award-winning cider maker Nick Poole at the West Milton Cider Company - Credit: westmiltoncider.co.uk

West Milton Cider Company: Award-winning cider maker Nick Poole makes a range of ciders from his West Dorset HQ including Dorset Starlight, Dorset Twilight, Dorset Moonlight, Purple Haze (with blackcurrant) and Flowery Bottom (with elderflower). Lancombe Rising is worth seeking out, this champagne-style cider is made using a traditional method known as keeving, which involves removing a large element of the natural yeasts and nutrients prior to fermentation while retaining its natural sugars, producing a fine natural sparkle and a nutty, caramel background. No sulphites or other chemicals are used in any of the ciders, all made from Dorset-grown apples including Dabinett’s, Yarlington Mill and Chisel Jersey’s.

Available at outlets around Dorset and westmiltoncider.co.uk 

A champagne-style cider from West Milton Cider Company uses a traditional method known as keeving

Lacombe Rising, this champagne-style cider from West Milton Cider Company uses a traditional method known as keeving - Credit: Owen Vachell

Dorset Nectar: This award-winning family operation, run by Oliver and Penny Strong, uses 11 varieties of West Country cider apples including Dabinett, Coate Jerseys, Michelin, Tremletts Bitters, Taylor’s, Chesil Jerseys, Sweet Coppin, Harry Master’s Jersey, Yarlington Mills and Porter’s Perfection. They are all grown and pressed on their farm near Bridport to produce certified organic craft ciders, these include Sweet Maiden (Champion British Farmhouse Cider 2017), Old Harry Rocks (Champion British Organic Cider 2015) and Top O’ The Hill (British Champion Organic Cider Cup winner 2016). Available at outlets throughout Dorset, online or drop by their Tasting Room and Cider Garden. dorsetnectar.co.uk 

Some of the Dorset Nectar organic bottled cider range, made in West Dorset

Some of the Dorset Nectar organic bottled cider range, all made in West Dorset - Credit: dorsetnectar.co.uk

Purbeck Cider Company: Joe Hartle, whose family runs the renowned Purbeck Ice Cream Company, founded The Purbeck Cider Company in 2006 after travelling around New Zealand where he came up with the idea to combine cider making and sheep farming. He set to work planting an orchard of traditional cider apple varieties including Dorset ones Woodbine and Slack-Ma-Girdle, and is now one of the largest cider producers in Dorset. Their line-up includes a Dorset Range: Dorset Draft, Dorset Blush, Purbeck No. 10 (hints of toffee apple); Forgotten Orchard, inspired by Dorset’s cider apple orchards; and Purbeck Characters including Joe’s Farmhouse Dry, Posh Spice (mulled cider), Katy & Perry (a blend of apple and pear ciders), and the powerful Muddy Scamp (6.9%).

Available at outlets throughout Dorset, online or swing by their Press House Tap & Shop at The Dorset Cider Farm in Corfe Castle purbeckcidercompany.co.uk 

Harry Juniper cider jug from Bideford, one of the photographs in James Crowden's book Cider Country

Harry Juniper cider jug from Bideford in Devon, one of the photographs in James Crowden's book Cider Country - Credit: jamescrowden.co.uk

Cranborne Chase Cider: Based on the family farm at Minchington in the heart of the Cranborne Chase, the Meadens have been farming here since 1921. Cranborne Chase Cider is part of the farm's diversification providing full time employment for Bill, who is the fourth generation to work on the farm. Bill began learning the basics of cider making at the age of 15, when he helped press apples at The Square & Compass pub in Worth Matravers. Over 80% of the apples come from his orchard of 55 trees, located in the Cranborne Chase, and the resulting cider is then matured in oak barrels. The traditional still cider range - dry, medium, sweet and vintage ciders - use higher quantities of sharp cider fruit than other Dorset blends. The bottled range includes: Smuggler, General Pitt Rivers, Whitewigs, Shepherdess and Hurdlemaker. Of special note are his sparkling ciders including Dorsecco – a keeved medium-sweet cider. Find at outlets throughout Dorset cranbornechasecider.co.uk to click and collect from their Cider Shack originalcidershack.co.uk or for delivery to your door. 

Twister Cider Company: Up to 16 cider apple varieties are blended at Spring Farm at Longburton near Sherborne to create Twisted Cider’s Farmhouse Range which includes still (Wild Orchard, Misty, Sunset and Desert Dry) and sparkling ciders (Premium No.5) as well as trendy range with a fruity twist – Dark Spice, Stormy Lemonade and Bubblegum Burst. Find across Dorset and online, Twisted Barn open on selected days for click and collect twistedcider.co.uk 

Rollo Wood of Isaac Cider and friends on ’the big pick’ in the orchard of his family's West Dorset farm

Rollo Wood of Isaac Cider and his friends on ’the big pick’ where they collect all the apples they need for the following year and drink the last of the previous years cider - Credit: Bertie Wood

Isaac Cider: There’s been a cider orchard on the family farm at Coombe Down, Beaminster for over 60 years. It’s been the central focal point for the Wood family and their friends to come together to pick apples and then sell these to the big cider makers. But when they discovered that they were descendants of the great renaissance scientist Sir Isaac Newton – remember the falling apple and gravity – they also had a eureka moment. They stopped selling to the big boys and set up a local cider making enterprise - Isaac Cider. A noted rising star of the cider making scene, Rollo Wood was inspired by their illustrious ancestor and the ciders are called: Refraction (medium sweet sparkling), Calculus (medium dry sparkling, and Anti-Gravity (medium dry still)   
Oder online at isaaccider.com

One of the Isaac Cider range, its name is inspired by Isaac Newton, a family ancestor

One of the Isaac Cider range, its name is inspired by Isaac Newton, a family ancestor - Credit: isaaccider.com

Temple Cider: This new, small-scale craft cider maker in West Dorset, close to the borders of Devon and Somerset, creates cider the traditional way. Chief cider maker Paul converted an old milking parlour on their small farm near Beaminster into a cidery, bought a rack and cloth cider press and then found a supply of wonderful cider apples in an old orchard that was inaccessible for machine picking – so everything from picking to pressing is done by hand. They have also planted a new orchard of traditional varieties. They won two bronze awards in the International Wine & Spirit Competition’s 2021 - for Michelin single variety 2020 keeved, and Yarlington Mill single variety 2020 cider. Other ciders (named after their rescue dogs) include Milo’s Magic - a blend of  Yarlington Mill and Kingston Black, and Millie’s Magic features Dabinett, Yarlington Mill and Stoke Red, both include varieties of unidentified apples from the orchard.  Their wild fermented sparkling ciders include Kingston Black, Bramley & Chesil Jersey, and the award-winning Michelin. Their website gives details of local outlets, pubs and online retailers that stock their range or pick up by appointment templecider.co.uk 

Marshwood Vale Cider: Based on the Somerset/Dorset border at Thorncombe, Tim Beer uses top quality cider apples collected from Dorset, Somerset and Devon. He has also championed a local variety called The Mutton Street Marvel which he raised from a graft taken from an old apple tree spotted in a local hedge. He had noted how the apples would cling on well into the New Year. He sent an apple to the National Fruit Collection at Brogdale in Kent for identification which revealed this was an unknown variety and so the finder was allowed to name it - Tim called it The Mutton Street Marvel, a 100% Dorset apple, named after a local lane and in celebration of a tree that had survived hedge cutters and weather. Marshwood Vale Cider’s bijou range includes Dorset Tit - Yarlington Mill, Somerset Red Streak, Dabinett and Sweet Coppin. They also make mead.  

Order online or find locally marshwoodvalecider.com 

Dorset Apple Cake will keep well for a couple of days and it can be frozen

Dorset Apple Cake will keep well for a couple of days and it can be frozen - Credit: Archant

Click here for our exclusive recipe for Dorset Apple Cake