Virtual Orchard

Contact :  

07901 800182

Type of business :  Retail service

In 2009 I bought a press and a crusher. Once friends and family got to hear I was inundated with vast amounts of apples from their gardens as well as remnants of old orchards scattered in and around Milton Keynes. My original plans to make around 300 litres soon became a revised plan with 900 litres slowly fermenting away in vats by the end of the autumn.

Making cider is similar to making wine. We cold ferment the apple juice using the wild yeasts over the winter and only use in-season apples, therefore I’m only able to create one batch annually which then takes between 9 months and two years to mature.

In 2010 the next harvest came and there was so much cider, even too much for my friends to drink! I decided to attempt to sell some so I approached Ken Daniels who runs the Cock & Bull festival at York House in Stony Stratford and was asked to provide a barrel (23 litres/40pints) and it was drunk dry!

This hobby started turning into a business early 2011 when I was contacted by ‘The Bell & Bear’ quality pub/restaurant in Emberton to supply them with locally produced cider.
I was then asked to supply three tubs of cider to the CAMRA’s (Campaign for Real Ale) Reading Festival. On the Friday the organisers called me to say that my cider was really popular, could I drop down some more as there was none left. Also to my amazement on that telephone call they told me that ‘CAMRA’ hold a regional and national competition at their festival and they’d entered my cider called “Hard Core”. This was my first production from 2009 and it was voted ‘Gold Medal Champion Cider of Britain’. I was over the moon.
Not long after I received quite a few calls form a number of well known pub and off-licence chains asking if I could supply them with craft cider. The Great British Beer Festival wanted eleven barrels too. I was conscious that I was still doing this as a hobby and I didn’t have enough fruit for the demand. So in 2012 I approached the only working orchard locally at the village of Nether Hayford, just North of Towcester. They provided me with 30 tons of fruit from 18-20 varieties. Now I had my guaranteed fruit source I quit my full time job and focused on the Virtual Orchard and opened my premises in Old Wolverton scaling up production.

My cider is made from locally sourced fruit and use natural plant based sweeteners, meaning less sugar and fewer calories; even diabetics can drink in moderation (also suitable for coeliacs and vegans).

When Milton Keynes was built many houseowners planted a fruit tree in every garden, so there must be thousands of trees out there. It seems such a shame that perfectly good apples go to waste, so every autumn I offer an exchange programme. I leave out green net sacks for people to bring their apples in exchange for a bottle of cider. I am now extending this into hedgerow fruits too for our range of fruit spirits.

I’m always exploring ways to be creative to keep Virtual Orchard evolving. I use a varied range of apples and offer a range of ciders to suit any palate, including spiced winter ciders, and in 2015 I have launched flavoured ciders. They are suitable for diabetics, coeliacs and vegetarians. From just producing ciders and apple juice, I now offer apple & beetroot juice using produce from the Urb Farm and beetroot picked by Lady Claydon herself at Claydon House Estate. I’m also branching into apple brandy, malt spirits for the Silverstone Brewery (similar to whisky), and mead for Christmas. I will soon be launching Milk Vodka, Beetroot vodka and Sugarbeet vodka.

All can be offered in gift packs. The store opens Saturdays 11-1pm. If you require an alternative appointment, just call me on 07901 800182

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