The limestone-rich soil of Co Kilkenny, where Rod and Julie Calder-Potts have farmed since 1969 (organically since 1994), is particularly suitable for apple growing. From the outset, they have grown apple varieties specifically selected for their juicing properties, used to make delicious single vintage apple juice with only ascorbic acid added for preservation.
Innovation comes naturally to Rod and Julie, and they have created some unusual products. Take their unique Orchard Syrup, for example, which is a very versatile culinary product and now widely used as an alternative to imported maple syrup.
The idea for this came about by chance, when one of their concoctions became accidentally concentrated on the Aga and, following two years' fine-tuning, the delicious Highbank Orchard Syrup was born; a delicious multi-purposes product that boasts a two-year shelf-life stored at room temperature, it was selected for an Irish Food Writers' Guild Food Award in 2013.
And, unwilling to waste the by-product, apple pulp, they found it could be used to make a fresh sparkling, non-alcoholic Driver’s Cider. And, similarly unwilling to waste the potential of natural wild yeasts, they also developed an alcoholic drink, which they call Proper Cider... There's also a seasonal product, 'Mulled Apple Juice', which comes with a spice pack to make your own healthy hot brew in winter.
December 2014 saw a major new introduction to Highbank Organic Orchards, however, with the opening of Ireland's smallest legal (and the only organic) spirit distillery - and also the only one to produce spirits from raw materials grown on their own farm. Visitors can see Rod and Julie's 'lovely machine', the beautiful copper still, in action from behind a glass viewing window, and 'behind the scenes' visits are sometimes available by arrangement.