#ThistlyCocktails Launches!

Welcome to the brave new world of #ThistlyCocktails!

The Thistly Team will be going on the road to visit some of the most talented cocktail makers in the country to bring you some sensational cider creations that you can easily recreate from the comfort of your own kitchen.

We start with a bang as we visited the beautiful Cringletie House Hotel and their talented Bar Manager and mixologist Mark John Barrett.

He has come up with an Autumnal cocktail called the Walled Garden, using seasonal products that you can easily get a hold of. So sit back, enjoy, then have a go yourself! Be sure to send us pictures of your Walled Garden attempts to Thistly Cross Twitter and Facebook accounts and we will share!


Walled Garden Ingredients:

Thistly Cross Traditional Cider

Bramble Gin




Thistly Cross & The Honours

At Thistly Cross Cider, we’re proud of using great ingredients, and are always up for interesting collaborations! So we’re thrilled to bring you our latest – a chance for all you fine-food-loving Thistly fans out there, to enjoy a fantastic culinary experience, combining drinking our award-winning ciders alongside creative and inventive paired dishes in a specially created tasting menu at Edinburgh restaurant,The Honours.

A dining experience like no other, it has been created by award-winning chef Martin Wishart.

Known for his 2 Michelin-starred restaurants and love of local Scottish ingredients, this event on 1st November is going to be foodie (and cider) heaven.

There’s even a welcome Thistly drink on arrival.

So here’s what you can you expect (we’re personally looking forward to the heavenly pairing of Thistly Elderflower with Lemon Tart):

Tickets for this cider + culinary collaboration cost £45 per person, available here.

Further info, contact The Honours, tel: 0131 220 2513 or email – info@thehonours.co.uk

Look forward to seeing you there!

Thistly’s 2017 Apple Appeal is OPEN!

It’s that wonderful time of the year again when Scotland’s Original cider-maker, Thistly Cross announces its Apple Appeal, seeking to rediscover all abandoned, overlooked and neglected local Northern apple trees to put their fruit to good use. And what’s more, they’ll swap those donations, big or small, for real fruit cider or apple juice (around 7kg of apples usually equates to a bottle)!

In previous years, the “Bucket for a Bottle” scheme has resulted in hundreds of tonnes of apples. Thistly would love to top that with its 2017 #apples4cider campaign.

One of the things that make Thistly Cross Cider so unique is its blend of Scottish heritage apples, hand-pressed at their Cidershed in the heart of East Lothian; continuing a proud tradition of using apples grown across the country from a wide range of sources, including local schools, professional apple growers, estate and farm owners and the general public.

Peter Stuart, Head Cidermaker at Thistly Cross said: “The apple season is the most important time of year for Thistly. Despite frost resulting in devastating losses to European apple crops this Spring – as much as 40% in some countries – we’re lucky that the hardy Scottish apple thrives in poor weather, very much like our Scottish cider! So we’re hoping for a bumper crop in 2017.”

Based in the heart of East Lothian, Thistly Cross was established in 2008 as a collaboration between farmer, Ian Rennie, and artist-turned-cidermaker, Peter Stuart, and has rapidly gained a growing reputation for making ciders that people love.
Apple donations are welcomed at Thistly’s drop-off point: The Store, Belhaven Fruit Farm, Thistly Cross Roundabout, Dunbar, EH42 1ST just off the A1. It has a cafe & farm shop. Open 7 days a week (please avoid lunchtime if possible).

Follow Thistly’s #apples4cider campaign across social media.

cider-appeal-iconHere’s the science bit:

Which apple varieties are accepted? Thistly accepts most apple varieties (apart from crab apples – sorry!). Part of the reason that Thistly has such an authentic flavour is its unique blend of apple varieties. Thistly also accepts pears, providing these fit the same criteria.

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 knock apples down too early. Once a few ripe, healthy apples have fallen to the ground, this is an indication that the rest of the apples are nearly ready for harvest. A ripe apple should come off the branch with ease, when twisted lightly. Once ripened, apples become slightly softer and sweeter.

What condition of apples does Thistly accept? Thistly needs good ingredients to make good cider – that means clean, sound, rot-free apples. It really is true that one rotten apple can ruin the barrel. The fruit is weighed and sorted on arrival, but it saves time if bad or heavily bruised apples are taken out beforehand.

How 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:as soon as possible after harvesting. The longer answer: this depends very much on the variety and condition of the apple. If you pick your apples directly from the tree, it’s best to get them to Thistly within one or two weeks of harvesting. As we are very busy during the harvest, Thistly can’t always process your apples in the same week that you drop them off, so it’s important that they’re fit to be stored for a few days.

Brilliant – my apples fit the criteria, what next? Please drop your apples off at The Store, Belhaven Fruit Farm and enjoy a cup of tea and look around the farm shop whilst you’re there. It is open from 10am to 4pm, seven days a week.

Note – obviously over-18s only for the cider swap

For any enquiries about apples, call Thistly on 01368 863246 or email us on info@thistlycrosscider.co.uk

What makes Thistly’s Whisky Cask Cider so special?

Well first, it’s made from real apples (some crowd-sourced from you lovely people), then it’s long-matured in wooden casks that come from our friends, Glen Moray whisky distillery, based just outside Elgin in Scotland.

Glen Moray Single Malt Whisky is distilled in pot stills and carefully matured in Bourbon’s cask that come all the way from North America.

And once Glen Moray are finished using them, the freshly emptied casks that have been up close and personal with Speyside’s Water of Life, head to Thistly to continue working their magic.

Thistly Cross Whisky Cask Cider captures the oak and whisky created by Glen Moray, and those flavours combined with a subtle, medium dry cider, results in a 6.9%, full-bodied, award-winner! Available in 330ml and 500ml bottles, 20L cider-boxes, and 30L kegs.

If you’re a whisky fan, you can find out more about Glen Moray’s whiskies by clicking here.

GLINTCAP Cider Dispatches: Judges have left the building!

It’s all over bar the shouting, now the judging is complete at the Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition, so this is our final Peter update before he heads off on further USA travels! The Michigan judging journey came to a suitable cider-y conclusion with a Cider Fest full of producers across the Blue Bridge over the Grand River.

By way of a final postscript, here’s a few final words from the man himself before he goes to lie down in a darkened room:

PS – so that the Organisers fully comprehend my gratitude, please see this appreciation translated as a BJCP reference: 124.513.534.” (apparently this only makes sense if you’re a cider-maker).

Huge thanks to Eric West, Rex and Mary Halfpenny, Mike Beck, Charles McGonigle, Jeff Carlson, Michael Wilcox and everyone involved with GLINTCAP for all their hospitality in welcoming our Thistly representative – and offering the opportunity to travel round the world of cider. And thanks to the ever cider-loving Michigan.

We look forward to the next stage when the results and medal-winners are announced!

GLINTCAP Cider Dispatches: Training & Tasting

Cidermaker Peter has completed his training session at GLINTCAP in Michigan, so it’s
time to move on to tasting over a thousand ciders! As you can see, he’s put some last words down on paper just in case…

Amongst all the amazing people met so far in Grand Rapids, Peter’s giving a special shout out to Danielle at County Cider and Chandra at the Lost Vally Cider public house, and the great venue that is, The Waldron.

As Peter works his professional way through a mammoth selection of worldwide ciders, we thought it might be a good idea to look at ‘tasting’. Some people just ‘know’ that they like a drink, and don’t need to interrogate it any further. But if you do like to compare your ciders… read on.

It’s a serious business for professionals, but cider-tasting in principle for the rest of us, is pretty straightforward. First of all, take a good look at the cider in a clean, clear glass. You’re looking at the colour, clarity (some are cloudy, some, clear), how still or bubbly it is (carbonation) and what the viscosity is like (is it thick or thin as it moves round the glass?).

Next, as you swirl it gently, take a sniff to see what you can detect. You should expect some note of apples but how dominant? Are they crisp green apples, traditionally tart cider apples or something sweeter and juicier? Does it smell vinegary or tart? Let’s be honest here, does it smell good or bad? You can also look for other notes – perhaps different fruits, spice, the scent of flowers or herbs, green notes? Perhaps you may also notice a hint that reminds you where the cider has been maturing – oak casks, different wood barrels, or even what those barrels were used for initially (bourbon or rum, for example). Does it smell young or rich and long-matured?

Then, it’s time to taste! Take a good sip and make sure you move it around your mouth so the flavours are released and all your taste-buds are engaged. As well as thinking again about the flavours you notice, especially in relation to the scents you’ve just detected, consider the texture of the cider, and whether it feels sweet or dry. Is it bitter, acidic, or even astringent (due to a higher level of tannins). Perhaps you can pick up notes of additional ingredients or even hints of location that weren’t apparent before you tasted – sea salt, honey, blossom, whisky cask? Finally you can consider the after-taste, which again can reveal more than the initial smell and sip tests. This is often when the astringency level becomes more obvious. Then it’s up to you to balance all your different impressions and decide whether the cider ‘works’ for you. Do the sweetness, texture, flavour, acidity, and all other aspects result in a well-balanced cider? Does the flavour last pleasantly, or does it disappear quickly?

All those things, even though they can pass in seconds, determine whether ultimately you’re likely to accept another glass if it is offered. And that’s always a good guide!




Head Thistly-Maker Peter Stuart Announced as GLINTCAP Judge

We all know that Ned Flanders is the font of all kinds of home-spun knowledge on The Simpsons, and we certainly can’t fault his simple definition of cider, “You know, most people don’t know the difference between apple cider and apple juice, but I do. Now here’s a little trick to help you remember. If it’s clear and yella’, you’ve got juice there, fella. If it’s tangy and brown, you’re in cider town…”, but we can only imagine how he’d fare judging over 1000 different types of cider!

Our Head Cider-maker Peter Stuart is about to find out just how challenging that is when he heads off this week to the USA to be a judge at the The 12th Annual Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition (GLINTCAP) in Grand Rapids, Michigan,April 19-22. It’s an honour to be selected for the world’s largest and most respected cider judging, and he’s looking forward to tasting many hundreds, if not thousands, of ciders submitted from commercial and amateur producers across the world.

Alongside a selection of judges from America, he’s been chosen as just 1 of 3 European judges this year alongside Bill Bradshaw (IAMCIDER, and Cider Photographer and Author from Somerset) and Gabe Cook (The Ciderologist and National Association of Cider Makers, from Gloucestershire). The American judges represent a range of talent and experience across the USA. GLINTCAP judges travel from across the world to assess the cider entries, evaluating aroma, flavour, mouthfeel, and looking at carbonation, colour, sweetness, and a whole host of other specifications dependant on category. Only then do they decide on the medal-winners.

Competition submissions, which are already double those from 2015, are organised into 3 style categories: Standard, Speciality, and Intensified & Distilled. These groupings are broken down even further into:

Standard Styles: Modern Cider, Heritage Cider, Traditional Cider, Sour Cider, Modern Perry and Traditional Perry

Speciality Styles: Fruit Cider, Hopped Cider, Spiced Cider, Wood Aged Cider, Speciality Cider and Perry, and Unlimited Cider and Perry

Intensified and Distilled Styles: Ice Cider, Fortified Cider and Spirits

Amidst the packed judges schedule, the event is also a great chance for industry networking, the sharing of knowledge, and discussing what’s happening in cider-making across the globe. Peter will be sharing his experience of being a judge, so we’re looking forward to posting some behind-the-scenes dispatches from GLINTCAP HQ.


Thistly Cross launches first ever Up Helly Aa Cider

Thistly has teamed up with Shetland & Orkney wholesaler J.W. Gray to develop and distribute the 1st ever Up Helly Aa Cider for the 2017 Fire Festival season!

Due to be formally launched at Lerwick’s Grand Hotel in Shetland on 30th and 31st Jan, this new special edition will be on sale in local pubs & shops through J.W. Gray. It’s a 5.5%, pale golden, smooth, still cider, with an initially light apple taste which develops into a slightly dry finish. Suitable for vegetarians and vegans, it is also gluten-free.

The launch will be further enhanced with tastings on board Northlink ferries. These are currently scheduled for Viking ships MV Hrossey and MV Hjaltland on 29th Jan and 2nd Feb, as our very own Thistly Orcadian Luke travels to support Up Helly Aa and introduce Thistly’s newest special edition to both residents and visitors.

Northlink has a handy guide to Up Helly Aa here with links to the full timetable of events if you’re interested in what actually happens leading up to the galley burning: http://www.northlinkferries.co.uk/uphellyaa/

The idea for the cider came via our friendship with Lerwick’s Up Helly Aa 2017 Guizer Jarl, Lyall Gair (pictured below), who has loved Thistly since the beginning. He’s helped us spread the word about Thistly Cross at many shows across the UK whilst sharing his excellent keg-handling skills. When he told us he was Guizer Jarl, Thistly was keen to return the cider karma, and is seemed like a good way to to honour our great friend. It’s also been good to build on our relationship with J.W. Gray.

Iain Johnston, Director of  J.W. Gray & Co said: “We were delighted to support Thistly Cross with this fantastic tasting Scottish Craft cider. At Gray’s we strive to introduce new and exciting products into the Shetland and Orkney marketplace, and have been overwhelmed by the response we’ve received from the trade. Locals and visitors alike will be able to enjoy this product at most venues during Up Helly Aa”.

Thistly’s Up Helly Aa cider will be available at Up Helly Aa, and most of the Fire Festivals (dates below) in cider-boxes through JW Gray (tel: 01595 693749), and also to the public through local pubs and good local shops throughout Shetland.

Fire Festival Season Dates

Up Helly Aa (Lerwick) – Tues 31st Jan
Nesting & Girlsta – Fri 10th Feb
Uyeasound – Fri 10th Feb
Northmavine – Fri 17th Feb
Bressay – Fri 24th Feb
Cullivoe – Fri 24th Feb
Norwick – Sat 25th Feb
Walls Junior – Fri 3rd Mar
South Mainland – Fri 10th Mar
Delting – Friday 17th Mar


Follow Thistly’s Up Helly Aa cider journey on social media using hashtag, #VikingThistly

Further info? Drop us an email: info@thistlycrosscider.co.uk or call us: 01368 863246.

Thistly joins the Vikings!

ferry-and-cider-2Scotland’s original cider company Thistly Cross is joining the Vikings, with its latest partnership with Orkney & Shetland lifeline ferry provider NorthLink Ferries.

NorthLink Ferries’ ambition to offer a range of quality Scottish products combined with the growing popularity of Thistly Cross Cider, has led to the two companies working together to create an upgraded on-board experience.

Thistly Cross Traditional Cider will be pouring on draught on-board NorthLink Ferries’ sister ships, MV Hjaltland and MV Hrossey, as well as during the peak periods on the Scrabster to Stromness vessel, MV Hamnavoe.

glass-northlink-collageThistly Cross Cidermaker Peter Stuart said: “We’re delighted to see Thistly reaching ever further north with our new partnership with NorthLink Ferries. It’s particularly important to us that each of the vessels are accredited by Visit Scotland with ‘Taste our Best’ awards for their use of local food and drink which means their customers will expect excellent quality, and they’ll find that in our range of long-matured ciders. With this listing, Thistly Cross takes another step towards its goal of being Scotland’s premium cider, and we look forward to sailing the northern seas with NorthLink Ferries!”

Having Scottish cider on-board the vessels will serve to solidify NorthLink’s reputation for providing excellent Scottish food and drink whilst servicing the Northern Isles.

Peter Hutchinson NorthLink Ferries’ customer service director followed on: “We are committed to showcasing the very highest quality of food, drink and crafts which are available on our doorstep in Scotland.  Partnering with Thistly Cross is a great example of providing our passengers with a taste of Scotland; many are first time visitors and will not have experienced this excellent locally produced cider before. Having Thistly Cross cider on-board adds a fantastic new product to our range of locally produced drinks”.