North east cider plans take root

First phase of orchard planted at Aberdeenshire microdistillery

Neil and Katie Sime of the Blackford Craft Distillery in Aberdeenshire invited the local community to help plant the orchard

A DRINK synonymous with summer could soon be produced in rural Aberdeenshire after the first phase of a new orchard was planted.

Blackford Craft Distillery near Inverurie, which currently produces small-batch spirits Vesperis Pictish Vodka, Vesperis Pictish Gin and Vesperis Heather Honey Vodka using locally-sourced, organic ingredients, plans to extend its ‘branch to bottle’ philosophy to launch what’s claimed to be the north east’s first commercial cider.

Last month, 35 apple trees were planted at the site with the help of children from Rothienorman Nursery School as part of a spring project; the company also invited the local community to sponsor an apple tree and to plant their own tree.

A further 70 trees are due to be planted, with the orchard expected to bear its first fruit in the next two to three years, enabling Blackford Craft Distillery to produce cider.

Katie Sime, who owns the distillery with husband Neil, said it is the first stage of the firm’s “holistic environment-centred approach to business”.

“We plan to plant a further 70 apple trees on an acre of land at Maryfield over the next two years as part of our ‘branch to bottle’ philosophy,” she said. “When complete the orchard should offset approximately 35 tonnes of carbon a year.

“One of the key challenges for rural businesses is the distance at which ingredients must travel. Planting an orchard and growing key botanicals will minimise ‘food miles’ and, importantly, allow us to produce cider and a base spirit for our Vesperis Pictish spirits range with provenance from produce grown on site.”