[AD - Gifted Experience] The Saxby's Cider tour and tasting was complimentary in exchange for an honest review.
I’m still pinching myself as I write this blog post, because I feel like I have a ticked off a major bucket list item and dream blog collaboration.
Wherever possible, I’ll always grab it as my chosen beverage, whether it’s at local restaurants like Franks Hamburger House, it’s picked up at Food & Drink Festivals like Althorp, or I purchase some to take home with me from the Towcester Mill Brewery Shop at Bell Plantation - I freaking LOVE it.
So when Amanda Saxby, one of the founders, approached me to come on their Cidery tour and tasting, of course I said yes and did an exciting boomerang on Instagram when I said yes!
For those who have not had the pleasure of drinking a Saxby’s Cider and are wondering “eh, Nicole?’. Saxby’s Cider is a family-run business, specialising in high-quality, authentic English craft cider and lower alcohol ciders that are all about being honest, not too niche and certainly full of flavour.
It's not over commercialised or too sickly sweet, like some of the big brands you see out there. Nope. Saxby's Cider is just pure goodness!
Josh and I travelled separately, but were advised to arrive by 6:30pm so we could get there promptly before the tour began and so we could enjoy a welcome drink. Luckily, I arrived just on time to find Phil Saxby, founder of Saxby’s Cider, walking his dog, Digg, where they led to a stable filled with tables and was greeted by Amanda, followed by lots of crates of cider ready to be drank and enjoyed.
It was great to see all the Saxby’s Ciders displayed together, which really highlighted just how many wonderful ciders Saxby’s have made and perfected over their years of trading, from the fruity ones, to the originals and even a sloe gin!
The tour group was small, but everyone was really chatty and friendly. I enjoyed good conversation whilst sipping my first Plum cider of the evening. A good start and I was excited for what was to come...
Phil gave an introduction to himself and Amanda, where he began to tell the story of how he began to make ciders. Once upon a time, the family once used to make Pork pies and sausages but sadly closed in 2008 after 100 years of trading. But one thing that has remained is the pig logo, which is a huge part of the Saxby’s heritage that is now a well-known logo in Northamptonshire and beyond (plus, they actually do have pigs on the farm!)
But a new venture was about to begin… as when someone decided to write to Phil to ask whether he had any apple tree so he could buy the off of them to make some juice, that’s when an idea ‘sparked’ in Phil’s mind.
This is when he decided to grow some for himself and travel to the West of England to gain some advice and after some failed attempts at making his first few batches, he finally created an award-winning blend of ciders that still use the same type of apples from their farm, as well as a selection of farms across Northamptonshire and Herefordshire.
And I guess you could say… the rest is history!
The next part, which was definitely the highlight and uniqueness of the tour, we got to climb on the back of a trailer that was attached to a tractor - yes, we got a tractor ride around the farm! With a cider in hand and with the sun shining, I was definitely in my element.
The farm was a picturesque scene of nothing but fields and fields of dessert and cider apples from their 3,5000 orchard, with some of the rows of apple trees named after people, one being named after Amanda herself!
Whilst we took in the views and slightly getting distracted from the awe of the two dogs and the addition of Phil and Amanda’s puppy, Rudy, Phil gave a talk about the different apples he grew at the farm, explaining his reasons behind using the two blends of apples and how long the tree’s take to grow and maintain.
It was really interesting to learn how much work goes into the creation of the ciders.
We took a ride back after we got some photos ‘for the gram’, stepped off the trailer when everyone seemed to be navigating towards the Cider Hog; their well-known mobile bar you will have most likely seen if you have attended any local food festivals they have exhibited at. It was great to see something I have admired from afar, to seeing it up front and personal - I even got to sit inside!
We ventured into where the magic happens. Each year, every single apple that is picked off of their farm is pressed right on their premises in their own dedicated cidery making area (ciders are made, not brewed FYI!) I have visited distilleries before, but cider making was one I was unfamiliar with, so Phil was good in explaining exactly how it’s done…
He even showed his first ever cider presse which he once used to make his first batch, which gladly, he does not need to use anymore as he introduced us to his canisters, Tom, Dick and Harry, which is apparently the names of the three little pigs! The making process is quite simple: once the juice and the pulp are seperated, the juices are then transferred into one of the 10,000 litre canisters when the pulp is then taken elsewhere to be turned into fertiliser.
Afterwards, the fertilization process begins as yeast is then stirred in with the juice and that’s when the chemical reaction begins in order for the yeast to feed onto the sugar into the juice to finally turn it into alcohol! It’s a bit of a technical, chemical thing to get your head round, but to give us an example, we got to try a shot of cider that had been in the canisters for 7 days and you could tell straight away how different it was compared to a fully made cider, as the taste was so sharp and bitter!
He also gave us a sneak peek at a new creation he is currently testing out… I’ll let you book onto a tour to find out what that is! But it just shows that Saxby’s Cider isn’t done with creating new cider taste sensations for us to enjoy!
After many trials and tribulations, Saxby’s Cider is now made using a mixture of modern and traditional methods, whether it’s to make sparkling, still, original or fruity, it was great to learn all about how they ensure every bottle that goes out, is made without - we also heard the rather shocking story of how one of the 10,000 litre canisters once almost crushed Phil - thankfully, he was not hurt!
Afterwards, we navigated back to the stable where we got to taste some samples as well as hear the creation and process behind them, which enabled us to add 2 + 2 together from what we had previously learnt. After hearing all the science behind the making of the ciders, it was a satisfying thing to finally get to taste the ciders!
We firstly got to try the original cider, the one that started it all - as suspected, it’s crisp, light and full of cidery flavours that aren't too overpowering. This followed with their Straight Outta Orchard cider, which is one of their most intense ciders in their range, followed shortly by more Plum, Strawberry and Rhubarb ciders which were definitely my favourite of the evening.
We also got to try the Sloe Gin, which is a recipe they have created with another favourite local drink producer of mine, Warner’s Gin. What a great invention they have created together; a great example of two local companies collaborating and not competing. The Sloe Gin went lovely with an Apple Elderflower tonic.
The tour ended on a high, as we made our way to the Saxby’s Cider shop to use our £5 off voucher - there was an offer on where you could buy 4 bottles for £10, which is a bargain considering we had the voucher - and it meant I could take the Saxby’s love home with me to enjoy.
I believe the tour was well worthwhile the journey and experience. I highly recommend it and wish I could do it all again! The tour costs £15 per person, or £10 per person if you book in groups of more than 10. Find out when the next tour is here.
I don’t know anywhere in Northamptonshire that doesn’t stock Saxby’s Cider, whether it be a pub, restaurant or local deli shop. You can check out their local stockists here.
FYI, Saxby’s Cider is vegetarian and vegan friendly, plus it's Gluten Free! So it’s a cider that everyone can enjoy!
Check out their website to find out more and how you can book.
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