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There’s been a great shortage of quality cider in Ireland until recently, especially south of the border – but, fortunately, this gaping gap in the market is gradually being closed with the introduction of a number of artisan ciders in the last few years.
These include Double L Irish Cider from natural Irish apple juice supremo David Llewellyn in Lusk Co Dublin; made entirely from Irish apples (“No water, no sugar, no pussy-footing!”), it is usually blended from several varieties including Dabnett and Bramley to produce two levels of sweetness (‘Bone Dry’ and ‘Medium Dry’) although single variety ciders are also sometimes made.
Double L Irish Cider is available from farmers’ markets (Temple Bar & Dun Laoghaire) and, in bulk, from the farm, by arrangement. Cider making courses are offered occasionally, and David also produces other fruit juices and some wine.
A more recent arrival is Longueville House Artisan Cider, which is made from their own apples by William & Aisling O’Callaghan of the renowned country house hotel and sporting estate, Longueville House, in Mallow, Co Cork. Famous for many things – the lamb from the estate, salmon from the river, wine (occasionally) from the small but picturesque vineyard - Longueville even produces (on an ongoing basis) Ireland’s only Vintage Apple Brandy.
It all started when William’s father, the late Michael O’Callaghan, planted 20 acres of Dabinett and Michelin cider apples at the north-west side of the property in 2000. He was a great wine lover, but he also loved Calvados and apples grow better than vines in Ireland.
Although not able to use the name, a similar product could be distilled in Ireland and the 40° Longueville Vintage Apple Brandy is now distilled annually and sold in 50cl bottles. William has recently rebranded the Apple Brandy and, having taken over from where his father left off, has brought the cider production to another level.
Once harvested each autumn, the Longueville apples are crushed and pressed in a cider press in the cider house on the farm. There are no colourings, additives or preservatives used at any stage during the production and manufacturing process - the pressed juice is just naturally fermented over time, to produce a rich amber coloured 5° strength cider which is then filtered, lightly carbonated and pasteurised. Medium-dry, with a fresh appley flavour, it is naturally thirst quenching and is best served chilled, without ice - the perfect summer drink.
Longueville House Artisan Cider can be purchased direct from Longueville House (www.longuevillehouse.ie; 5 cases or more) and it is retailed by off licences such as O’Brien’s, Redmond’s, Morton’s of Ranelagh, Donnybrook Fair Dublin aand Bradley’s Off Licence in Cork.