Hip Hooray – Whisky Cask Cider Makes it to the USA!

It’s been a trying time navigating the nuts and bolts of the US import system but we’ve done it – Thistly Cross’ whisky cask cider has made it stateside.

First off, massive thanks to our collaborator and Scots-born cidermaker friend across the water, Bruce Wright, who with the Koan Family from Almar Orchards, Flushing Meadows, Michigan, make JK Scrumpy and are guardians of Thistly Cross in the US of A. Bruce has been instrumental in bringing whisky cask cider to the states as well as joining up smaller producers to beat ‘the big boys’ so raise a glass in his honour!

Now after traveling the Atlantic for two and a half weeks by boat and spending four days in customs, whisky cask cider is finally ready to make itself at home in your glass and become friends with your palette.

Matured for six months in oak casks from Glenglassaugh Distillery in Portsoy, Aberdeenshire, our whisky cider makes for the perfect winter warmer, wherever you are in the world.

Infact, 2012 has been a great year for whisky cask cider.

First scooping ‘Best Specialty Cider’ at the Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Festival in Michigan and then being voted ‘4th best cider in the world’ by Paste Magazine, we truly thought it couldn’t get any better.

That was until we were crowned ‘Most Innovative New Product’ by our home county at the annual East Lothian Food and Drinks Awards.

Whisky cask will initially be available in 34 states via distributors such as Poppin Wine in Washington DC, Speciality Imports in Alaska, Geyser Beverage Co and Mussetter Distributing, both in California.

You’ll also be able to get your mitts on Thistly Cross in outlets such as Hope General Stores in Maine, Bushwacker Cider in Portland and Whole Foods across the USA.

As ever, we need your help when it comes to cider sleuthing – helping us and other Thistly fans to find out when you can purchase our ciders.

You can let us know via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – simply snap a picture of yourself and your bottle of whisky cask cider (or any of our ciders for that matter), remembering to use the hashtag ‘#thistlycrosscider’ so we can repost!

In the meantime, here’s a video from Bruce and the lovely folks at Bushwacker cider sending us a video message from across the pond.

Message from Bruce and Bushwacker

The Cider A – Z: A is for Apple

Welcome to the A- Z of cider.

In this new feature we attempt to untangle and defangle the story of cider. So roll up, roll up as we get started with the humble letter ‘A’ which, luckily for us, indulges our passion for something which we wouldn’t be here without – apples.

Where did apples come from?

Space. OK, that’s a lie. The answer is, as far as historical records suggest, 12th century Europe. The funky monks brought apples to the UK shortly after this time – they promoted their robustness in the face of harsh weather conditions as well as the use of apples in drinks making and as a tasty food stuff too.

What’s a weird apple fact?

You have Genghis Khan to thank for your Granny Smith. Fact.

Apples are originally from Tibet / China / that rough geographic area but were brought into Europe by the horse tribes of Genghis Khan – horses ate the apples, the seeds fermented in the horses’ gut (which is required for germination) and so the apple journeyed across the silk trail into Europe.

How many different types of apples are there?

It’s thought there are around 7,500 different varieties of apples across the globe. Some of the apples we use give a glimmer of their individual history – Stirling Castle, Hawthornden and White Melrose as well as key people like James Grieve and Edinburgh Gardener.

What’s an apple made of?

What different varieties of apples have in common is their make-up – an apple is 90% water (take that fact to your next pub quiz!) The rest of the apple is a whirl of naturally occurring organic acids, tannins, nitrogenous compounds, minerals, salts and sugars. And that’s just on the inside. On the skin of an apple you should be able to find wild yeasts which – along with everything else – are integral to the cider making process.

What apples are best for cider?

Of course, not all apples taste the same so if you fancy having a stab at your own cider making session a good rule of thumb is a nice mix between cooking apples, dessert apples and juicing apples. Fruit should be in good condition (don’t rely purely on windfall) and you’ll know when an apple is ready to pick as you should be able to softly twist it off the stem. Remove any rot, clean the fruit – but not too much to ensure the presence of wild yeast – and add a quantity of sugar syrup to compensate for bad summer weather.

Help! Help! I’m overrun with apples!

Fear not, if your garden is over flowing with apples, Thistly Cross will gladly rehome them in our cidershed. Keep an eye on our Facebook page or our Twitter for more information on Thistly Cross Apple Amnesty.

Thistly Cross Cider Meets Audio Soup

A weekend of cider, summery vibes and facepaint…

What do you get if you cross a field in East Lothian with one thousand and something fancy dress wearing, face paint adorned festival-goers basking in the summer sun with enough Thistly Cross Cider to quench a small, thirsty army? The answer – Audio Soup.

We love small festivals, especially boutique festivals that just so happen to pop up on our doorstep which is why we jumped at the chance to cart along litres of delicious cider, as well as donating 80,000 litres of drinking water, to make sure the weekend and its family of party-hungry revellers never ran dry.

A best kept secret but set to become a regular feature on Scotland’s festival circuit, Audio Soup combines picturesque scenery, summery good time vibes and lashings of live music that transcend genre and – dare we say it – even sanity.

Back for their second year, the lovely people at Audio Soup succeeded in turning a bog standard field just outside Garvald into a mesmerising playground for the senses complete with wooden Stonehenge, Indian market stalls, thumping wubhut and bouncing main stage.

And with the Audio Soup campsite springing up early on Friday afternoon, this three day festival featured round the clock shenanigans, cider tasting, soup slurping and the odd bit of mud, just for old times’ sake!

So, with a cup of red, ginger or elderflower Thistly in hand, the rest of the weekend was spent peppered with appearances from a sterling line-up of bands – Dub Mafia, Bombskare and Mr Woodnote to name but a few as well as plenty of home grown talent.

Big love to the Audio Soup crew for having us along, we’re already prepping the apples for next year.

In the meantime, the crazy festival train doesn’t stop there. We’re in the process of gearing up for this weekend’s antics in the big blue shed at Belhaven Fruit Farm – a night of 3 awesome cover bands: The BlackBeez, Hurricane Jack and The Jammy Devils.

Covers include Kasbian, White Stripes, Kings of Leon, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, T-Rex, Creedance Clearwater Revival and many more.

Tickets are just £10 which includes a FREE pint of Thistly or double spirit before 9pm.

Doors from 7.30pm, bar until 1 – find out more here

Drop by, say hi and enjoy a cider with us as we celebrate one of the last nights of summer.

But for now, peace, love and cider x

Photo credits – Steven Ingle @ Iris Photography

Local Harvest

So all this August sunshine is great for the fruit that has survived the late spring frost, east coast wind and general rubbish summer…. At Thistly Cross, we have run a scheme over the last couple of years to give Landowners, smallholders and householders an incentive to maintain existing trees, plant new orchards and gather as much of the Scottish Harvest as possible. The fruit must come to us in good condition, clean, ripe without bruising or mould. It’s a tricky thing to organise and best done with friends and family. I think that’s why Community groups are keen to take up the offer – sourcing apples from a locality on behalf of some good cause, and using a school or hall as the collection point.

We are very happy to receive apples at the cidershed in box, trug, fishbox or tatties box ( by previous appointment). Poly bags tend to sweat the apples and bring them on a bit too much…and certainly we cannot trade in apples that are not up to scratch, as, at the end of the day, we are in the business of making good quality cider. Unfortunately we cannot pick the fruit ourselves as during autumn, we are busy with our own apples, pressing and juicing, amongst all the other jobs at Thistly HQ. So, for general guidance and enquiries, please feel free to contact me at peter@thistlycrosscider.co.uk, as despite our best efforts there are still apples left on the ground each year…

Here’s looking forward to a few more sunny weeks of late summer cider related pursuits!


Thistly Cross Cider presents ‘THISTLY FEST 2012′


 For one weekend this summer, Scotland’s only dedicated cider-makers will give their time and attention to some of Scotland’s most dedicated musicians, and they think you should too.

A mainstay at many of Scotland’s independent music festivals, the bond between Thistly Cross and good music is already a strong one, and now the people behind the cider are inviting you along to the shed where it all began to explore a little further.



Remember Remember / WITHERED HAND

TANGO IN THE ATTIC / Bwani Junction

Capitals/ FATHERSON / Kitty The Lion

 FRIGHTENED RABBIT (Scott Hutchison Solo Set)

Plus Other Guests




Arena will open at 11am (TBC) Tickets will be available from thistlyfest.eventbrite.co.uk and will be priced at £28. 


There will be a festival bus service running from central Edinburgh to the Dunbar site priced at £10 return, however numbers will be limited therefore seats must be booked in advance. This can again be done at thistlyfest.eventbrite.co.uk

Site Address: Belhaven Fruit Farm, South Belton, Dunbar, EH42 1RG


Organisers will also be running a competition for local musicians to come along and showcase their talents with four acoustic slots available on the big stage.

To be in with a chance of playing potential acts must upload what they think is their best track, along with name, contact and a little about themselves, to the drop box on the Thistly Fest Soundcloud by June 29th. From this the organisers will select their four favorites acts to play on the day and place a link to them on the official Facebook page where upon the running order will be decided by the number of ‘likes’ each track can get in the run up to the festival. Musicians of any genre are welcome to enter the competition but remember on the day it has to be an acoustic performance.

The Web address for the competition drop box is http://www.soundcloud.com/thistly-fest 


Cidermakers have matured cider in wooden vessels for a wee while now. The natural properties of the wood, combined with an element of oxidation, allows the cider to breathe and aid the natural proclivity of the conditioning cider. There are many flavours imbued by this process and it depends on the cask stock and the intention of the Cidermaker. At best, after an extended period of time, the cider can develop a rounded, full bodied flavour, with a soft mouth feel. This is a good example of desirable malolactic fermentation, as encouraged by most Red wine producers. However, the time spent in the wood, also increases the potential for other, more questionable characteristics to develop as the cider can turn to vinegar, whiff of the dung heap or peanuts!..Traditionally rum barrels were the currency of the Empire, as they would be used as an economical form of ballast. This has encouraged the accidental notion that it is acceptable for rum, or any other spirit characteristic to predominate over the cidery qualities.

 We have some vintage Scottish Cider from 2010 maturing in wooden casks now – (This will soon be released as ”Jaggy Thistle” and has been made to the CAMRA specifications of Real Cider, but more of that in a later blog ..) and are making progress with exporting the first of our 6.9% Cider matured in ex casks from Glenglassaugh Distillery, Portsoy. This should hit the shelves in the US sometime in the summer.

 At the end of the day, it is all down to luck and possibly… the skill of the Cidermaker ( ie frequent and regular tasting sessions!) and the quality and integrity of the cask stock. A little bit of background interference is no bad thing, whether the source is from the container, micro biological or something a wee bit more pronounce like a bucketful of fresh strawberries.

We, at Thistly Cross, have hopefully always had our eyes wide open to the full potential of such possibilities. The difference being now, perhaps, is that we have got one eye squarely focused on the proper legislation as well. Is that the sound of slapping wrists?


Look do not get us wrong – we care for Thistly (as much as you) and do not want to change anything about our great wee company. However, we have to face up to a couple of truths:

1. Although we love our original labels, they were designed over a couple of wet winter afternoons, a few years ago…They have done very well for us but perhaps they are in need of a bit of a tidy up. After all, not everyone has heard of Thistly and the bottles are our best (and only) form of advertising.

2. Thistly is a premium cider and we are not about to start making the cider in a different way. So it was important for us to achieve a naturally premium look for Thistly – and “justify” the hefty price tag in the eye of the consumer.

3. We’ve got a better idea of what we’re all about! It’s important for Thistly to be strong and assert our identity in the market place. Play to our strengths and clearly communicate who we are and what we are all about. Our thinking was if we make the branding robust enough, Thistly will come out top!  - whatever happens…

4. Use the opportunity to have some fun – I like to think that we make the most of all that comes our way, and if we were going to do something new, it should be up to our usual standards: ie a bit different, farmhouse rough and ready and a positive force for good (in a great big nasty world).

The Thistly DNA would be coded; Scottish, hand made, premium, small batch, fruity, slow matured, good flavour, quality ingredients, bold modern design, provenance, tradition, innovation, independent…( Suggestions on a postcard.)

Please see below some good examples of what we have been working with. We want to do this properly, but lack the resources of other companies. I believe we have one shot to get this right, so I would appreciate any time you might have to consider the designs properly and fill in the QA.

After all we would not exist without you – our loyal friend of Thistly Cross!

I’ll buy everyone who fills in QA a pint at our Cider Fest in July!

Many thanks,
yours sincerely

Peter Stuart

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

Please take some time to answer the questionnaire below




A Typical Thistly Night out in Edinburgh


Thistly is out and about in Edinburgh, sponsoring two crackin’ events. Firstly, earlier on in the evening, is the RSA New Contemporaries. It’s a curated annual exhibition which focuses on the finest emerging artists & architects in Scotland. It features 60 prize winning graduates selected from the 2012 Degree shows by a team of RSA Members and will be a  real showcase of talent with a selection of work from each exhibitor. The show runs from 17 March 2012 – 11 April 2012. visit website


Once our heads have been turned around by some good art, and turned inside out by some tasty cider, the plan is to shamble along from Princes Street out to the Corn Exchange for the Edinburgh Fight Night – where no doubt some heads will be rearranged again. As the speel reads (in a deep booming voice): ”On Monday 2 January 2012, 20 complete novices, will take to the boxing gym for 10 weeks of intensive boxing training, which will culminate in the night of their lives on Friday 16 March 2012. Each fighter will follow a professional boxer’s training programme, which will shake off the Christmas belly and help them evolve into the shape of their lives. Boxing fundamentals will be drilled into each fighter until throwing a punch, and taking one, will become second nature.It takes guts to step inside the ring. Many people talk a good game, but very few walk the walk.” All funds raised by the evening will support Edinburgh Community Rugby and Scotland Women’s Lacrosse. visit website

The whole world is turning Ginger..

Hot Off the Press!

Now, at Thistly Cross we have many friends and let’s hope that remains to be the case as the Cider travels further afield! If you’ve been out and about at events this year in Scotland, you’ve been likely to discover some chilled Thistly on tap in the beer tent. ( It’s all about promoting small makers and well made drink.)

We’re looking forward to bringing in the foremost Craft Cider from the USA – JK’s Scrumpy next year, and are not above championing some of our UK compatriots! On that note, please see the article below. It’s a few months old now and I have been sitting on it, wondering if we should have some fun with the contents…? We’d have a hard time proving that Thistly Cross Ginger was the first Ginger infused cider ever, ever ( first sold at The Sheep Heid Beer Fest, summer 2009 ) and lack the enthusiasm / legal fees to blah de blah. So sit back, read, enjoy and count the typo’s!

( Dedicated to Shona from Stirling who is having difficulty fulfilling her TC Ginger Cider longings..)

Brothers launches ginger cider brand

From The Publican
By Claire Dodd Claire, 24-Feb-2011

Cider brand Brothers has entered the booming alcoholic ginger drinks category with a new cider-ginger hybrid drink. Brothers Ginger Cider – the first drink to combine ginger with cider, rather than beer – uses a base of Brothers Bittersweet Apple with added ginger extract.

It is described as having a smooth flavour with an aftertaste of fiery ginger heat. Managing director Matthew Showering said the product was inspired by a Somerset tradition where pubs would stock ground ginger for drinkers to add to their cider, which would then be heated. It is recommended to be served chilled.

Showering said: “Our customers wanted us to go one step further to see if we could deliver a refreshing ginger flavour but with their favourite cider taste, so we did.

“The flavour fits with our proposition and is relevant, distinctive, fun and exciting and above all delivers something new to the cider category.”

The cider is the latest ginger-based product to hit the market following Halewood International’s highly successful launch of Crabbie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer in February 2009. Frank’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer from COS Brands (the company behind Kopparberg), St Helier Ginger Beer Shandy and Hollows Superior Alcoholic Ginger Beer from premium soft drinks maker Fentimans all launched last year.