This year's Arran Whisky Festival will be hosted by Lagg Distillery!

The Apple of our Eye: Lagg Distillery Orchard Cider Now Available!

24 May 2024

The anticipation has been oh-so-sweet since we completed our first ever harvest of apples from our orchard, and now we’re thrilled to announce that our exclusive Lagg Distillery Cider is now on our shelves! Crafted in collaboration with the fantastic team at Ayrshire Riviera Cider, we’re hoping that this bottling will kick off a new tradition of producing craft cider with our orchard apples every year.

Cider in orchard tree

Graham Omand, distillery manager at Lagg Distillery, says ‘We’re thrilled to see the first bottles of Lagg Distillery orchard cider on our shelves. 

This is the first step in what will hopefully be a long journey of working with our apples - cider is the plan for the foreseeable, but we have long-term ambitions to create our own Scottish apple brandy right here on the Isle of Arran.’ 

Much like a good whisky, there’s a lot of work that goes into the creation of craft cider. If we’ve whet your appetite for a bit of a nerd-out over some apple varieties and cider processing, read on!

Our Orchards at Lagg Distillery

Nestled around the distillery, our three orchards feature approximately 2,000 trees, a harmonious blend of cider and dessert apple varieties.

Block A: The North Field

This field showcases our dessert apples, including early ripening varieties like Red Windsor, Fortune, and James Grieve, followed by later harvests of Ashmead’s Kernel and Orleans Reinette.

Block B: The South Field

Predominantly planted with cider apples, this block, along with smaller Blocks C, D, E, and F, features early varieties such as Tom Putt, Jane, and Amanda, and mid to late-season apples like Michelin and Dabinett.

Given the windy conditions typically experienced on the south of Arran, we’ve adapted our trees to grow wide rather than tall, resulting in charming apple hedges and rows.

From Orchard to Bottle

Apple harvest

Last year’s first harvest yielded a ton of apples, which were sent to the team at Riviera Cider. The result is a farmhouse-style dry cider with a 7-8% ABV. We’ve blended an assortment of exceptional apple varieties, from Ashmead’s Kernel to Tremlett’s Bitter, each contributing to the cider’s unique character.

The Michelin variety, making up about 50% of our blend, is a French bittersweet apple known for its high sugar and tannin content. It forms the foundation of our robust, dry cider, with other varieties adding nuanced flavours and sweetness.

Collected apples at Lagg

From pallet to pressing

The apples arrived at Ayrshire Riviera Cider’s headquarters in October for scratting and pressing. From the early stages, it was clear that the dryness of the Michelin apples better suited a 300 litre container rather than the typical 500 litre. To give you an idea - a typical pressing yields 18-20 litres, however the Michelins gave 10-12 litres. 

But good things come in small packages. Despite the dryness of the Michelins, the red varieties helped to strike a balance through the extra juice they yield. The resulting pressed apple juice,  when tested, had a very high sugar content.

Once pressed, champagne yeast was added to start the fermentation process. This is the only thing added to the juice during the process to produce cider. The juice was left over the long Ayrshire winter to fully ferment and once all the sugar had turned to alcohol it was racked. This is a process that removes the clear cider from the 'lees', the residue that drops by gravity out during the process. This is repeated until as much of the residue is removed and the cider is as clear as possible. After a final filter, the cider was hand-bottled and labelled at Ayrshire Riviera Cider then boxed for its journey home to Arran.

Allan Thomas of Ayrshire Riviera Cider said "We feel privileged to have been allowed to use our cider-making experience to produce a fabulous still cider in collaboration with our friends at Lagg Distillery. We hope the residents of, and visitors to, Arran enjoy the cider. It's fitting that an island once known as Apple Island has a cider worthy of that name."

The apple-y anticipation

Our long-time White Stag and friend of the distillery Jack Toye also happens to be a cider aficionado. He even makes his own cider and occasionally brings some along with him to share with us at the White Stag dinner during our annual Malt & Music festival. We reached out to him to get his thoughts on our cider. 

“At a time when some of the macro drink producers are ripping up orchards in the south west of the UK, it’s been so heartening to see apple trees going into the soil up here in the grounds surrounding Lagg Distillery.” he said.

“The trees that have flourished the best so far are the cider apple variety Michelin (also known as Bisquet) - a real powerhouse of the UK cider industry. That they enjoy growing up here in the South Orchard, whiplashed by the frequent storms coming off the Irish Sea, is a testament to both the tree’s genetics, as well as the care and attention lavished on them in their early years by the team at Lagg Distillery.

I can’t wait to try a bottle (or two) at the Arran Malt & Music Festival in June. It’s a great privilege to be able to try the resulting cider from this first ever harvest - here’s to many more in the years to come!”


Cider in glass orchard shot

As it’s a distillery exclusive, only our visitors will have the opportunity to pick up a bottle of our cider and try it for themselves. In the meantime, here’s what Graham has to say about it:

‘It’s incredibly light and sweet on the nose, like sweet apple juice, and goes down incredibly smooth. On the tongue there’s the hint of sharp stringency and dryness that you’d expect from the Michelin apples, but it’s beautifully balanced out by the sweetness of the eating apples.

‘It’s truly a perfect cider for a hot summers day.’

Priced at £13.99 for a 750ml bottle, this special release is available only at our distillery.  

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