Tag Archives: Thatchers Gold

The Oak Vats, a rare view

Many a Cider Drinker has probably dream of spending day of two in a 120.000 pint vat of Thatchers.

But the skilled craftsman pictured here are the master coopers who are ensuring the cider makers gigantic 150 year old oak vats remain in top condition for maturing it’s Somerset cider


Alistair Simm, on top of the 150 year old Oak Vats


I spent a couple of hours with cooper Alastair Simm and his team, depending deep into the vats  and getting a rarely seen view from the inside. The 11 30ft tall vats each hold 120.000 pints, but occasionally they do need to be left empty so they are able to receive some expert care to keep them in top condition.

Alastair Simms, Britain’s only master cooper and owner of White Rose Cooperage is entrusted with the upkeep of the vats at Thatchers headquarters Myrtle, at Myrtle Farm, Sandford.


Kean Hiscock depends into the deep dark Vats

A  fug of cider and sharp apples hangs heavy in the vats, which can, unsurprisingly,  make you feel rather light headed


Alistair Simms descends into Vat 10.

Constructed of three inch thick oak staves, each of the vats has it’s own character. They were built by Carty and Sons of London, dating back to the 1040s. Each Stave is numbered from 1 to 200 ish  (I forgot to do a final count) with the year roughy scrolled into the wood in Roman numerals.


All the Staves are numbered.

Apart from when the coopers are visiting, the Huge vats are full of cider.If the wood dries out, it can shrink.


The oak is fitted and finished using a traditional block plane

Even though the wood has been cut it is still a living product, so the speed of work is essential to complete the work within 48 hours – the longest they recommend a vat is empty for.


Alistair at work


Rush Vines are used to seal the gaps between the vats. It is a technique that dates back to the Egyptians.


Sean does a final check  before sealing the vats


White Rose Cooperage 


While the cider is held in the vats, usually for around six weeks, the oak softens and rounds the flavours, allowing the apple characteristics to shine through. Every Friday the Thatchers cider makers taste the cider from each vat, to judge if it is ready for next step of it’s journey


All photography copyright Neil Phillips Photography 2015

thanks for Penny Adair and Tina Rowe



Then and Now, Spring….

Spring Blossom, katy WaySpring is a special time in the orchards, and you prey for long sunny days and blue sky. What you don’t want is heavy rain and strong winds, exactly what we suffered today. Our recently built wooden garden Gate has been blown off it’s hinges, so lord know what apple blossom will be left, if any. Luckily, it’s still relatively early for blossom on cider apple trees (only the ever so keen Katy Apple trees may of had their young but strong branches whipped by the winds) so fingers crossed for a rise in the temperatures and a reappearance of Somerset blue skies.Below is another extract from ‘Then and Now’


Spring at thatchers Cider
Even after all these years Martin Thatcher is still

bowled over by the sight of an orchard decked in apple
blossom, and he’s not alone. To many people, the
coming of spring in cider country is one of Britain’s
wonders – nature and humankind working together
to create a marvel. Few sights compare to the beauty
and magic of trees suddenly covered in white or pink
flowers, yet it is not only a visual experience. A walk
in an orchard at blossomtime is as much about the
scent of the flowers and the drone of bees, the feeling
of warm sun or a cool breeze – and a sense of magic.
To the cidermaker, though, blossom is much more
than just a thing of beauty. For the trees to produce
apples the flowers need to be pollenated, and the
blossom doesn’t last for long. If you’re unlucky, in fact,
it can disappear overnight.
Nothing makes a cidermaker quite as nervous
as the prospect of a late frost, which can devastate
a whole orchard in one night, and in times past
fruit growers came up with some ingenious ways of
keeping temperatures above freezing at this crucial
time of year, such as burning oil in ‘smudge pots’ to
warm the air and keep it mobile. On one 19th century
Gloucestershire fruit farm the foremen slept beside
alarms connected to thermometers, which would
sound when the temperature became dangerously low.
But they were probably growing fruit varieties
that were not native to the area. The beauty of the
Somerset cider varieties is that they have evolved over
the years in the same climate, so that most blossom
after the worst danger of frost is over. Thus although
Somerset Redstreak is classed as an early bittersweet,
it flowers in mid-season, that is in the middle of May,
after all but the most freakish frosts. However, that old
renegade Tremlett’s Bitter indulges in rather riskier
behaviour, often flowering in late April when freezing
conditions are still a distinct possibility. It is still
essential, as it always was, to pick the right site for a
new orchard.

Thatchers Cider Wassail 2013

Thatchers Cider Wassail turned out to me a memorial night partly due the heavy snow full on the morning of the event and freezing temperatures. It’s always a challenge to film the event, always taking place in the dark with little lighting but the D800 performed excellently. Always a fun evening mainly due to the delicious and very welcome warm cider that was being served inside the marquee, including one speciality cider cider flavored with rum and another flavored with orange juice. A fantastic evening as usual ! Click on link below to view the film

https://vimeo.com/58286929The green man who blesses the trees with fresh cider

The Wrington apple weekend film October 2012

Finally managed to post the video online. First half of the video is from the picking day and second half from our pressing day. Hope you enjoy it. Neil

Cider and Manure !

Spent the morning in the pub photographing one of my favourite drinks then spent the afternoon stuck in a manure ditch in the orchard and had to be towed out. I didn’t touch a drop honest ! Good time to buy a 4×4 though !

Stuck in a manure ditch in somerset

Stuck in a manure ditch in somerset

Thatchers Cider gold pump

Thatchers Cider gold pump

Morris Men and scrumping project cider

Cider Times at Royal Bath and West Show

Cider Times at Royal Bath and West Show

Spent yesterday afternoon photographing the mendip Morris Men in front of the Thatchers Cider stand at a balmy Bath and west show in Somerset. On such a hot day the cider went down really well with the crowds (and me after I stopped taking pics), the morris men adding to the traditional festival atmosphere.

After the shoot and with half an eye on the Scrumping project’s appearance at this sundays avon wildlife trust summer fair at Willsbridge, Bristol, I wandered over to the cider tent. I’d brought along a couple of this year’s ciders along in the hope of getting an expert to give some expert advice on which cider to exhibit. I purposely brought along a sample of my fruitier blends as they tasted a little different from what I was expecting, I couldn’t work out whether they were fantastically brilliant or fantastically awful. Luckily Cider guru Andrew Lea was on hand to tell me the cider was fantastically awful:-( !!

Well, I’m exaggerating a litle, he kindly described it a slightly acidic, possibly from a bad strain of wild yeast. I must admit it knocked me a little, I thought I did everything right on this batch but I probably didn’t use enough SO2 at the start of fermentation. On a more optimistic note though he’s given me a couple of tips on how to improve it, which I’ll put into practice over the next couple of days. Also, I have got a few other barrels which taste a little better/traditional and it’s one of those which I’ll bring to the summer festival on Sunday.

So if you are brave enough come along say hello and taste some slightly underwhelming cider (should improve with age) , plus there are lots of other lovely stalls exhibits and music to enjoy, so it promises to be a great afternoon.

In the cider tent yesterday it was also lovely to meet Somerset/cider encyclopaedia Alan Stone, poet and writer James Crowden and Gaymers Cider chief Bob Chaplin. You always meet interesting people in the Cider Tent and you get the opportunity to taste some great craft ciders including award winning Bollhayes dry which was rather yummy !

And to finish on a glass half full note – On the way home last night one of my cider bottles leaked through my shoulder bag and onto the car floor, so when I got back into the car around 7.30am this morning I was greeted by a very very strong cider vinegar smell, so maybe there is a future for the acidic cider after all !!

Jason and tracey’s cider Trip !!!

Hi everbody

I had an unusual and fun shoot on saturday combining both my commercial and wedding work. A really sweet bride, Tracey from Somerset, decided to treat her groom to a “rather special” journey to the wedding service, a ride on at Thatchers cider Lorry !!!

Jason is a cider fan and his favourite tipple is Thatchers Gold and they can be seen here enjoying a glass. He described it as a truly wonderful day for him and is now 110% convined that he has married the right woman !!!

The very happy couple enjoy a glass of Thatchers Gold

The very happy couple enjoy a glass of Thatchers Gold