British apple cider brandy gains EU protection

Move over Calvados, there's another formidable apple brandy in town. Somerset cider brandy in the UK has succeeded in securing EU protection and was granted Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status, putting the spirit in the same league as other protected heritage foods in Britain like Dorset blue cheese and Arbroath Smokies.

The new designation means that in order to be considered Somerset cider brandy, apples must come from one of 20 specified varieties of vintage cider apples. They must also be grown without the use of artificial nitrogen fertilizers and yield no more than 10 tons to the acre.

It's a big victory for a small, parochial industry. After years of fighting for protection with the help of the UK's Department for Food and Rural Affairs and The Wine and Spirit Trade Association, the group of producers was able to persuade the governing body to open the term ‘brandy' - traditionally restricted to spirits distilled with grapes - to apples.

Calvados, an apple brandy produced in the Lower Normandy region of France, is also protected by that country with an AOC - Appellation d'origine controlee - status.

The Somerset Cider Brandy Company is one of Britain's major producers and has carried on the tradition for 150 years. Their apple cider brandy is matured in small oak barrels where the spirit softens and mellows.

On October 16 - Apple Day - the distillery will be releasing one bottle of Somerset Twenty Year Old, which has been maturing for the last two decades and is described as having a concentrated apple, dense and warming flavor. The bottle will sell for £47 (€54).

The Somerset Ten Year Old is also described as being complex with a "Christmas pudding richness" of subtle bouquets and aromas. It sells for £36.40 (€40).

Other local producers include Cider Farm and Bollhayes Cider.

For a full list of apple cider brandy farms, visit

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