Mulling about Christmas

glass xmas 2With Christmas week now upon us and the weather starting to get a little chilly (although it’s a lot milder than usual), we thought it was the perfect time to talk about mulling.  At Thistly we know part of the fun of mulled cider is experimenting with flavours and making your own – chucking in whatever spices and fruits you fancy, or a dash of your favourite spirit. Many of our ciders make a great base for mulling, from the warmth of the Whisky Cask cider, through to the fresh spice of the Real Ginger cider. And we love the idea that there could be hundreds of Thistly Cross mulled ciders out there!

orig treeIf you’re inexperienced with mulling, don’t worry we’ll be gentle. We recommend starting with your choice of Thistly Cross and gently heating in a pan before adding spices.  At the mulled wine event in Covent Garden, Sinea and Cammy added oranges studded with cloves, and some cinnamon sticks with an added glug of Scotch Whisky for an extra kick.

mull spicesOther spices which work well include nutmeg, ginger, cardamom and star anise, whilst rum, brandy or even sloe gin can even be added to create a unique twist on a classic mull. And the addition of fruit juice gives a less potent mix, with juicier overtones – treat it like a punch, add some slices of fruit, and ladle into (heatproof) glasses or cups.

Thistly Cross reversed circle_20151217155019146 xmasIf you are mulling some Thistly Cross (or just drinking your favourite variety!) over the festive period, we’d love to see your results, so Instagram,  Facebook or Tweet us the evidence.

Which just leaves us to wish you a very Merry Christmas from all at Thistly Cross Cider! Thanks for your support and custom and we’ll see you in January with lots of exciting cidery developments planned for the New Year.

Winter at Thistly Cross

The apple season is drawing to a close and things are starting to feel very festive at Thistly HQ; the days are shorter, the air is crisper and the Christmas cards are piling up.  December is one of the busiest months for us, with cider being made, sold and delivered across the country in time for all the celebrations.

We kicked off the Christmas season in style down in London, where Sinea and Cammy launched Thistly’s Mulled Cider blend at the Covent Garden lights switch-on.  They also used some of our core varieties as a base for their own mulling experiments – all of which went down a storm!  Definitely cider-makers in training.


Closer to home, Thistly has a stand at the Edinburgh Christmas Scottish Market in St Andrew Square.  Our core range is available as well as our mulled cider and, as we’re sharing the stand with Tempest Brewing, you can also stock up on craft beer whilst you’re there.  Thistly’s mulled cider is behind all of the official bars for the event, as well as in pubs throughout the city, so you should be able to get your fix around the capital.

20151123_184313-01Across in Glasgow, our signature mulled cider is fuelling the bar in George Square, along with the ice skating rink.  Thistly and ice skating? As long as you skate responsibly, what’s not to love!  And a mug of warming mulled cider is the perfect way to defrost those fingertips after the Christmas shopping.

IMG-20151209-WA0004-01We’ve been spreading the Christmas cheer around the country too – we had a great time at Foodies Christmas Festival in Harrogate at the weekend, as well as Glamis Castle Christmas Market, where we met lots of new Thistly fans.

We’ll be continuing to mull up some Thistly throughout the run-up to Christmas and New Year, and we’ve got tastings planned in Scotmid stores, so keep an eye on our Twitter and Facebook pages for all the info. And don’t forget that tonight is your last chance to order through our webshop for cider delivered to your door (mainland UK) for Christmas!

Twitter: Thistly Cross

Facebook: Thistly Cross Cider

Instagram: @ThistlyCrossCider

Merry Samhain

doorstep lgIt’s that time of the year when ghouls and witches get together (no, not the usual Friday night in the pub…) to celebrate all things Halloween! Also known as All Hallows Eve, and in Scotland, Samhain, which is the name of the Gaelic festival that marks the end of harvest season and the start of Winter – the Celtic New Year. Traditionally, Samhain is celebrated from sunset on the 31st October until sunset on 1st November – a time that signals the ‘dark’ half of the year beginning. It’s a time to be thankful for (hopefully) a plentiful harvest, and prepare for Winter. It’s also around the time of the Roman festival which honours Pamona, the goddess of fruit trees, normally symbolised as an apple.

Certainly at Thistly Cross, based in East Lothian on the East coast of Scotland we’ve noticed the seasonal change. The leaves are turning all kinds of yellow and orange, the nights are closing in and the harvest is starting to diminish (but we still want your late apples if you have any spare, so please do bring them down to our friends at Belhaven Fruit Farm and exchange them for cider or apple juice!)

autumn leaves

Across the world, Halloween is a time to indulge in all kinds of spooky delights – we carve out turnips (and more latterly, pumpkins) into faces and light candles inside, we ‘dook’ for apples floating in water, and we dress up as all manner of terrifying deathly beings and ‘trick or treat’ for a sweet reward. All are linked to Pagan traditions surrounding the ancient festival, witchcraft and magic… the 31st October is the one night of the year when the curtain between our world and the spirit world is said to be at its thinnest, so the ghosts of the deceased can mingle with the living. Ancient superstitions warn that visiting ghosts can disguise themselves in human form at this time, and knock on your door requesting food or money. But beware, if you turn them away empty-handed, you risk being cursed or even worse, haunted! doorstep cuHistorically in Scotland, apples and other food were buried at the sides of roads for those lost souls who couldn’t find their way home on the scariest night of the year, and apples were a popular gift to leave on doorsteps to feed and please the newly risen. It’s no accident these harvest fruits feature so prominently in Halloween and Samhain traditions – they’re not just delicious to eat and drink!

East Lothian has long links with ancient traditions including witchcraft, as witnessed by some of the relics dotted around the area. One of the most famous is in a place called Spott, around 3 miles from Thistly HQ, which saw the last witch executions in East Lothian. One of the accused, known as the Rigwoody Witch, was said to have been burnt to death at The Witches Stone here. In fact, Witch-hunting lasted longer in East Lothian than almost anywhere else in Scotland, and between 1593 and 1705, the Dunbar area brought more than 70 suspected witches and warlocks to trial. The name of Thistly Cross itself originates from an area on the farm called Thistly Bank where witches were burned at the stake. Another famous local case in 1589 saw witches from Prestonpans, Tranent and North Berwick accused of attempts to kill King James VI of Scotland.

witch stone

But October isn’t all dark and mystical history and tradition, Autumn is the perfect time to consider moving on from Summery flavours and start enjoying those particularly well-suited to the cooler weather like our Whisky Cask and Real Ginger. And it’s also when we mash and press most of our apple harvest, including your donated fruit, into new batches of apple-juice to begin their Thistly journey, ready for 2016. It’s cider season folks!

(sm) multi cocktailsSo in celebration of this weekend’s Samhain celebrations we’ve put a little bit of a fun twist on some traditional cider cocktails for any lost souls abroad amongst us.

Merry Samhain and Happy Halloween from all at Thistly Cross!


  • Medium to large glass of hard cider (around a small bottle or half a 500ml bottle of Thistly Cross Cider; our Whisky Cask, Real Ginger or Original work well)
  • 1 teaspoon honey or brown sugar (to taste)
  • cinnamon stick
  • lemon or orange peel
  • couple tablespoons of your favourite Scotch whisky (to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (to taste)

Heat the cider, honey (or sugar), cinnamon and lemon peel in a saucepan over medium heat; depending on the particular cider and whisky you choose you may need less or more added sweetness so start slowly – you can always add more as you go along! Stir for a few minutes until the honey has loosened (or sugar dissolved) and mixed in. Turn off heat, add the whisky and lemon juice, and stir gently to combine. Serve in a cup or glass (heatproof!) and garnish with cinnamon stick and citrus peel.


A simple, easy half in half of our Real Strawberry Cider with prosecco or sparkling wine. This is the perfect party drink; great for Autumnal afternoons or Wintry evenings, it’s light, refreshing and easily adaptable to whatever you have to hand. Add some slices of fresh fruit and sugar-encrusted berries for colour and fragrance, or pop in  grape or lychee ‘eyeball’. For an extra spooky touch, trail kir or strawberry/blackcurrant syrup into and around the glass.


First, choose your cider – we like something light and easy-drinking like a Thistly Cross Traditional; not too alcoholic at 4.4%, with fresh, appley flavours. Then, choose which fruit or botanical you’d like to ‘muddle’ in (that’s a posh word for ‘artfully mash’ really) – we like something with a little tartness like blueberries or raspberries. Gently muddle your chosen fruit in the glass (squash the little juicy blighters but don’t completely obliterate them!) then pour in your cider. If you get weird about ‘bits’ then a sieve is your best friend, but we rather like the punch-like texture of real fruit mixing with the alcohol. This mix is particularly good in large jugs for a party or event as the fruit gives your cider a different hue, as well as a berrylicious tang. If you want to get totally arty, then freeze some berries into your ice-cubes and add to the mix before serving. Regarding botanicals, a few muddled mint leaves are delicious with Real Strawberry Cider. Experiment with other herbs and spices: lavender, basil, cinnamon, nutmeg, etc for a warmer, spicier finish.

Thistly Cross celebrates successful apple appeal

ty tccFollowing the successful launch of our ‘bucket for a bottle’ scheme, we want to say a massive ‘thank you’ to apple growers all over Scotland, who have responded in their hundreds. Since September, when this year’s crowdsourcing appeal was launched, over 50 tonnes of apples have been exchanged for Thistly Cross Cider or apple juice. “It’s been an amazing harvest and lots of fun!” said Peter Stuart, Head Cidermaker.  “Good folk have come from all over Scotland to swap their apples for Thistly Cross Cider, bringing anything from a bucketful to a truckload of apples.”

Using Scottish apples is at the core of Thistly’s philosophy.  Scotland is home to more than 200 apple varieties and it’s this blend of Scottish heritage apples that gives Thistly its unique flavour profile.  “We want to give hardy Scottish apples the credit they deserve!” said Peter, “Thistly has always considered itself to be an innovative company.  We’re always developing new product ideas, including limited edition ciders and collaborations.  The apples that we get from the public help us to keep doing this, as well as meeting our increasing demand, nationally and globally – without compromising on quality.”

To celebrate the appeal’s success, we’re offering a 10% discount on our online shop to customers who use the code THANKYOU2015 – valid until the end of November for orders placed on the Thistly Cross online shop.

And remember, it’s not too late to get involved with the cider swap; there are still a few weeks of the apple season left. We’re still welcoming apple donations in exchange for Scottish cider or apple juice at:

The Store, Belhaven Fruit Farm, Thistly Cross Roundabout, Dunbar, EH42 1RG


Indyman 2015: Manchester 8th-11th Oct

TCC_cask stack stencilled wsiteIndyman, how we love you, let us count the ways (and days – only 1 more to be precise until the 2015 Manchester good-times begin!)

One of our favourite beer and cider events, Peter is already on his way with a very packed cider wagon and many Thistly cohorts to help man the cider bar. We’ll be beside local faves Moss Cider and the Real Cider Co so when you need a break from all that beer, you know where to head.

This year, we’re not just bringing the cider noise, we’ve also got a couple of secrets up our sleeves. So you’ll find plentiful supplies of our core varieties: Original, Traditional, Real Strawberry, Real Elderflower, Whisky Cask (matured in ex-Glen Moray casks), and Real Ginger alongside our Farmhouse Scrumpy Jaggy Thistle, and Slyrs Whisky Cask which is our limited edition Bavarian-Highland collab. And to top it all…

tempest saisonWe have a brand new and very special collaboration with our friends, Tempest Brew Co…

Indyman 2015 will see the launch of a new Saison made with crazy yeast and fermented with a whole lot of apple-juice and oak-cask love.

Coming in at a magnificent 8.4% ABV, it’s going to blow your tastebuds off and leave them begging for more.We’re as excited as you about the big reveal!


Here’s Tempest Doug filling the first Cider Saison Cask. And some sexy shots of their big, shiny new tanks.

tempest combo

Other things we’re particularly looking forward to at IMBC are Squawk with IMBC on an intriguing Fig Stout, getting on down with the immense eats on offer including Karkli’s newest bar snack flavour, and all things Magic Beard.

We’re definitely going to need a lie-down after this one. See you there!

Indyman thistly* We don’t know either but it’s going to be epic!



Thistly introduces US craft cider in cans to the UK

Building on the recent success of our crowd-sourced apple appeal, we’re now working with a US producer to bring organic JK’s Scrumpy Cider in cans to the UK!  The cider will hit shelves this month and is a continuation of a long-standing collaboration between the two cider companies. Alongside a shared passion and dedication to cider making, an important aspect of the collaboration is the concept of farmers helping farmers.

“Although both farms are separated by over 3500 miles, it was clear from the start that the companies shared the same values and goals,” said head cidermaker at Thistly Cross, Peter Stuart.  “Both are innovative companies, making great tasting ciders from natural ingredients and with strong links to their respective local communities.  Working together was a logical step to take!”

JK ciders_TCCThroughout the transatlantic friendship, Thistly Cross Cider has achieved distribution in more than 40 US states, in keg and bottle formats, and has employed two US Cider Ambassadors to manage overseas development. Five of Thistly Cross’s seven award-winning ciders have earned pride of place in America’s first dedicated ciderhouse, Bushwacker Cider, and the US is Thistly’s top international market, with sales in the country doubling in the past year.

US Cider Ambassador, Luke Fenton, added: “We have discovered that the best way to make cider is by making friends and we now have many good friends stateside, who love who we are and what we do.  By bringing J.K.’s Scrumpy to the UK, we hope to return the favour and introduce UK craft drinkers to the American take on cider.”

Cider is the fastest growing drinks sector in the USA and hard cider has been regarded as the second most popular craft genre after IPA.

J.K.’s Scrumpy is run by Jim Koan and is based at family-owned Almar Orchard in Michigan, operated by the Koans for more than 150 years.   Cider production has protected the farm and orchards from a food industry which has become increasingly difficult for small producers.  Jim, working with Bruce Wright of Orchard Gate Scrumpy, has challenged this environment, propelling J.K.’s Scrumpy into the top ten bestselling ciders in the US.

Thistly Cross will be distributing J.K.’s Scrumpy Hard Cider and Northern Neighbour varieties, alongside its own range of award-winning craft cider.  The US cider will be sold in cans, which are increasingly being used by craft breweries in the UK, capturing and maintaining more flavour than bottled counterparts.

J.K.’s Scrumpy is an apple cider, produced since 1860.  All of the apples are organic and the cider is sweet and rich, with a fresh flavour.  The cider is slow-fermented for between six and eighteen months using natural yeast, before being canned on the farm.

Northern Neighbour is made from a mixture of home-grown apples and Saskatoon berries.  The berries, whilst genetically similar to apples, are sweet with a tart nose.  They are grown in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan and are very popular among locals.  The cider has a burgundy hue with a flavour perfectly reflecting the fresh mix of apples and berries within.

TCC_bottles s15

Scrumpy Skeddadle Run

jkSunday 4th of October sees our friends JK’s Scrumpy at the Alma Orchards in Michigan play host to the now infamous Scrumpy Skeddadle Run. Thistly Colin will be heading along too to partake in all the fun!

Part of the Thirsty 3 running series, there’s 5k and 10k runs with the promise of a cider tasting after all that hard work. There’s also a hog roast, immense pancake breakfast and the chance to check out the farm and orchards. You can find out more at this link:

We’re proud to be continuing our transatlantic relationship with the great folks at JK’s – 2 farms working together making different ciders on different continents but sharing the same dedication and passion to cider-making.

And as October finally signals the arrival of Autumn, we can reveal we’ll have some very exciting news soon about their US cider. Keep your eyes peeled!

autumn leaves


Scottish Apples for Scottish Cider

orchard applesThistly Cross needs you! 

As a real-fruit cider producer, the apple season is the most important time of year at Thistly Cross.  We’ve already started accepting the first intake of late Summer/early Autumn fruit and as a proudly Scottish brand, we’re inviting you to donate your spare apples. In return for cider or apple-juice of course!

One of the things that makes Thistly Cross Cider so unique is our blend of Scottish heritage apples all hand-pressed on our farm in East Lothian. Our friends at Tweed Valley Fruit Trees have lots of great info on their website about the history of apple varieties, and even choosing the right apple tree.

We’re lucky enough to know friendly apple-growers across Scotland in lots of interesting places including all kinds of estates, walled gardens, and orchards. But, Thistly can’t make all the cider it wants to without your help, so every year we accept fruit donations from all over Scotland, from a single bucket-full to a tonne delivery.  And to say ‘thank-you’ we swap your fruit for our very own cider or apple juice.  Roughly speaking, we operate a ‘bucket for a bottle’ system; 1 bucket of apples (around 7kg) = 1 bottle of cider. Think your apples might fit the bill, read on:

apples sackWhich apple varieties do we accept?: Most apple varieties are welcome (apart from crab apples – sorry!).  Part of the reason our cider has such an authentic flavour is its unique blend of apple varieties. And don’t forget that we also accept pears, providing these fit the same criteria as our apples. Unsure whether your fruit is suitable or have other questions about fruit donation? Drop our Head Cidermaker, Peter an email to:

How do I know if my apples are ripe?: Very simply, healthy apples should drop to the ground of their own accord when ripe.  However, the wind in Scotland makes this a little tricky to gauge, as big gusts can encourage apples down before they’re ready.  Here’s a great online guide about how to tell whether your apples are ripe.

What condition of apples do you accept?: Thistly needs good ingredients to make good cider – that means clean, sound, rot-free apples.  It’s important there’s no rot present – it really is true that 1 rotten apple can ruin a whole barrel. The fruit is weighed and sorted on arrival, but it saves us time if you take out any bad or heavily bruised apples beforehand.

apples massHow should I store my apples?: Apples should be stored in a breathable container – paper bags, tattie sacks and crates all work perfectly for this. Please don’t store your apples in plastic bags as this causes them to sweat and rot.

When should I bring them?: The short answer is, as soon as possible after harvesting. The longer answer depends very much on the variety and condition of the apple. If you pick directly from the tree it’s best to get them to us within 1 or 2 weeks of harvesting. The most important thing, though, is that they meet all of the criteria above.

Apples are milled at Thistly HQ on Wednesdays then pressed Thursdays/Fridays.  As we’re busy during the harvest, we can’t always get to your donations the same week you drop them off so it’s important they’re fit to be stored for a few days. We don’t want to waste a single apple!

apple shed kegBrilliant! My apples fit the criteria, what next?: For smaller amounts, please drop them off to The Store at Belhaven Fruit Farm (see address below) and enjoy a cup of tea and a look around the farm shop whilst you’re there.  Open 10am- 4pm, 7 days a week.

Belhaven Fruit Farm, Thistly Cross Roundabout, Dunbar, East Lothian, EH42 1RG

For larger fruit donations, call us: 07960962510 / 01368863246 or email Head Cidermaker Peter on: to arrange.  We may be able to collect donations weighing over a tonne, but you’ll need to contact and arrange in advance.

What if I’m too far North?: Handily we now have a Highlands drop-off point based at Gordon Castle.  Opening hours and visitor information can be viewed here. The Gordon Castle Estate has its own cider, in collaboration with Thistly Cross, which will be swapped for any fruit donated at the castle. Address: Gordon Castle, Gordon Lennox Estate Company, Fochabers, Moray, IV32 7PQ

Happy apple-picking!

Festival Competition Weekender

We’re going a bit competition crazy this weekend! Thistly Cross Cider is headed to two great events: Midstock Festival at Dalkeith Country Park and Ooshka Festival in Glasgow, and we have tickets available for both! Read on for all the details.


Alongside lots of other great food and drink suppliers, Thistly’s Real Strawberry, Elderflower and Original ciders will be on the Midstock Festival bar to refresh partygoers whilst an eclectic range of musical talent is on stage. Acts include Fish, The Fratellis, Fatherson and The Hoosiers. What makes it even better is that you can go for FREE!

WIN tickets for Midstock Festival – we have 2 pairs of tickets, and 2 family tickets (4 prizes in all) to GIVEAWAY in conjunction with Midstock Festival. Sound good? All you have to do is head over to our Facebook page and TAG & SHARE to be in with a chance of winning. The competition deadline is close of play 10th Sept 2015, and you’ll have to make sure you’ve got the 12th Sept free to attend. Best of luck!

ooshkaOr fancy winning a pair of tickets to Ooshka Festival for their 11am-1pm session this Sat in Glasgow? Act quick, head over to our Facebook or Twitter pages and enter licketty-spit! **Deadline: 4pm on 11/9/15**

Based on the 12th Sept on Glasgow’s Tall Ship, the festival ties in to Scotland’s rich history in the trading and transport of Whisky all over the world. Andy Gemmell, Director of The Drink Cabinet added, “Having travelled the world as a Whisky Ambassador, I realised the passion people have for Scotland. We want to celebrate this by showcasing the amazing drinks brands we produce….. we want to educate people through an innovative format in an iconic location.”

part-varieties new label a15

With big Frank Murphy from Pot Still in Glasgow heading up the educational portion, the day of sampling, experiential master-classes and live music is set to be an unmissable event in Glasgow’s summer calendar. Ooshka Festival aims to showcase the journey, production and stories of the beers and spirits of Scotland through tastings, master-classes and interactive workshops. It’s going to be a fantastic event showcasing newer brands alongside those more established including Thistly who’ll be there with all our core varieties and possibly a few specials….! Tickets are available online here. Strictly over 18s only.

Craft Beer Rising & more…

It’s another busy weekend at Thistly with cider heading out all over the place both inside and outside the UK. Keep up to date on our social media feeds to follow the fun (Twitter, Facebook and Instagram):

cbr work in progressThe Big Daddy of this weekend, Craft Beer Rising is nearly ready to roll at our friends, Drygate Brewery in Glasgow with the Thistly rainbow bar a work in progress. Thistly Colin has promised us it will be finished in time! You’ll need to come along to see its full beauty between 4th-6th September when it will be manned by Colin, Cammy and Stevie, with Peter popping by on the Friday. All the Thistly varieties will be there with our Barrel-Aged and Slyrs Whisky Cask to tempt your tastebuds. There’ll be around 40+ breweries for your tasting and sampling pleasures alongside all kinds of great street food, and fab music.

The all-important Trade day is on the Friday (register here)  – looking forward to meeting old friends and new alike!

**Updated to show just a smidgeon of the beauteous Thistly corner stand!**


craft beer rising readyCider suggestion: Thistly Cross Jaggy Thistle – our dry CAMRA-endorsed vintage farmhouse scrumpy – only available on draught

Berwick Beer Fest IstvanBerwick Food & Drink Festival on 4th (beer day!) – 6th Sept.

We’re curating the cider bar with all our varieties including the much-anticipated Barrel-Aged and Slyrs Cask. Better get there quick though as we have only limited stocks!

Great music and events, and lots of Thistly friends attending including Tempest Brewery, with the Berwick slow food group and Peelham Farm.

2015_New Pump Clip_Slyrs_outlinesCider suggestion: Thistly Cross Slyrs Cask – a Bavarian/Scottish collaboration – smooth and subtle with hints of the unique cask.

Loch Lomond Food & Drink Festival on 5th and 6th September.

2015 sees the 10th year of this fest, and Thistly will be on the beach refreshing all those parts that only real fruit ciders can reach! Look out for Mikey, Suze and Colin on the stand.

Cider suggestion: Thistly Cross Real Strawberry – outstandingly drinkable with all the natural flavours of soft fruit; fresh strawberries with a little apple zing.

Russelsheim Mainland Games in Germany on 5th and 6th September.

whisky_group_gold_a15 wsiteThistly Sinea will be working the bar with her fabulous German skills alongside a selection of good folks from the Scottish Whisky industry and Mackies crisps. Come along and try some Thistly. In German. Zum Wohl!

Cider suggestion: Thistly Cross Whisky Cask – dry, subtle notes with mellow hints of cask to the apple.