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Spirits next for Willie Smith’s on craft cider journey

March 11, 2016
Still with Barrels @ The Apple Shed

The new still at Willie Smith’s

Willie Smith’s will soon fire up its own distillery to make a Tasmanian version of the apple brandy Calvados, amid a massive schedule of special releases for the cider maker in 2016.

Tasmanian whisky pioneer Bill Lark advised the company on the setup of its new still, which Willie Smith’s co-founder Sam Reid says is a logical development for the state’s growing spirits industry.

“Obviously whisky has been a huge part of it, there’s a lot of people doing gin now and it just kind of makes sense that there should be an apple-specific charentais still pumping out great Calvados made from apples, since we are the Apple Isle,” Reid told Australian Brews News.

“We’re really looking forward to creating the next phase of this Tasmanian spirits story.”

Willie Smith’s will not be able to call its apple spirit Calvados, a name reserved under French appellation labelling laws for apple brandy produced in the Normandy region.

As such, the working title is Kalvados, with emphasis on Ocker pronunciation. Production techniques will however be much the same as in France, whereby the apple spirit is aged for two years in oak prior to release.

An initial batch distilled at Redlands Estate in Tasmania has been ageing for 2.5 years and is slated for release in July, according to Reid.

‘Proper craft cider’
The Kalvados is just one of the new products people can expect from Willie Smith’s during 2016, following the company’s launch of an innovative new cider called Sturmtrooper earlier this year.

Sturmtrooper was made from 22 different apple varieties with the Sturmer Pippin apple playing the lead role.

Future releases will include a new version of a cider aged in Lark Whisky barrels, undisclosed collaborations with Tasmania’s Moo Brew and another brewer, as well as a dark cider to be released in time for Hobart’s Dark Mofo in June and Huon Valley Mid-Winter Festival in July.

The Willie Smith's orchard in Huon Valley

The Willie Smith’s orchard in Huon Valley

There will also be a 2016 iteration of the ’18 Varieties’ cider that won Best in Show at last year’s cider awards, as well as a series of single variety ciders showcasing the growing array of English and French cider apples that Willie Smith’s has been grafting at its orchard.

“We want to get some of these cider apples on tap so that people who experience craft beer can experience craft cider in its fullest,” said Reid.

He said Willie Smith’s will have a different special release product every month for the remainder of 2016, which is the “proper craft cider” approach the company has long been striving for.

“It’s the first time we’ve been properly organised. I suppose having [cider maker] Tim Jones join us a year ago and get our core business under control, it’s meant that he’s had a licence to experiment a bit more and do some interesting stuff,” he said.

“It’s certainly got me excited.”

Swindler Summer Ale

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