Producer: British Cassis, Herefordshire
Product: British Cassis (£20 for 500ml bottle)
Region: East and West Midlands
Category: From the earth, artisan
What they do:
Jo Hilditch is a fourth-generation Herefordshire farmer. Blackcurrants have been grown on her family’s 150-acre estate for over 140 years but in 2005, Jo held back a little of her 350 tonnes of crop, which had all been going to Ribena, and used it to produce small quantities of blackcurrant liqueur instead.
Jo’s first batch of British Cassis was made in a half-ton bin. They trampled the berries, then mixed the juices together using an augur drill. While they no longer produce it all by hand, the process is much the same: yeast is added to the blackcurrant juice to begin the fermentation process, vodka is used to fortify the mixture, then it’s topped off with a little sugar to enhance the flavour. Jo claims that her cassis is a British take on the French staple – but “infinitely more delicious”.
In just over a decade, British Cassis has become a well-known name in the Herefordshire artisan drinks community. They support local food shows, sponsoring the Kington Christmas Festival as well as the Hereford Food Festival. Every season, between July and late August, they also employ several local people to help harvest the crop.
The White Herron estate is part of the Wildlife Trust Living Landscape Scheme, a project that encourages biodiversity and species protection that works to put wildlife back on the map outside of protected nature reserves.
What the judges said:
British Cassis’s bold packaging and presentation impressed the judges. They commended Jo for making something different with her crop and moving out of her comfort zone to create something altogether different.
Visit the website:British Cassis