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‘The secret is there is no such thing as magic’: Sandford Orchards are celebrating 20 years of quality cider-making

Devon-based cider makers, Sandford Orchards, are celebrating their 20th birthday this year.

Based in the heart of Devon, Sandford Orchards are family owned and independent, and proud to be based in the oldest working cider mill in the UK – The Cider Works! Although based in The Cider Works, they have invested lots in high tech equipment in recent years, to help continue making delicious cider.

It’s been an amazing 20 years so far, and they have come a very long way. We have exclusive comments from founder and owner, Barny Butterfield, who’s experienced quite the journey – from making cider in his shed for his friends and family, to now owning and operating the oldest cider mill in the UK and producing cider for the whole of the country!

“I set Sandford Orchards up by accident. I didn’t have enough money to go to the pub as often as I felt was necessary as a 25-year-old! I was working as a farm labourer – a job I loved but on £3 an hour and cycling to work, there wasn’t a lot of money left to enjoy myself. And so, cider was something I loved and knew to be around me but there was less and less good cider available, so the two things coincided. But I never made it with any other intention than drinking it for myself!

We won CAMRA Champion Cider of Great Britain in 2010 when we were just 8 years old. And that gave us a propulsion, and put us in the limelight. I should credit my wife here. She told me I had two years to turn it from a hobby to a business. She was fed up with me disappearing to the cider shed and subsidising the cider business as my hobby. She told me I had two years to prove that this was a real business! And that was a real encouragement to me, I suddenly realised I didn’t want to lose it. It meant I took a big plunge to scale the business, and made a great deal more cider than I knew how to sell.

And then luckily enough when I made all that cider, we won a big prize. So, then I was able to sell it! And that put us on the journey of growth.”

And Sandford Orchards have been winning awards ever since! Last year they won Gold at the International Cider Awards and a Gold and a Silver at the World Cider Awards.

Cider is great for the environment and has been made in the wonderful valleys in the West of England for 2,000 years! It’s a historic product, born from undisturbed apple trees for 100 years. You can find out more about how cider is made here.

What do the next 20 years hold for Sandford Orchards? Barny reveals;

“The boring truth is, what I’ve been doing for the last 20 years is what I want to be doing for the next 20 years. Its lovely. Walking into a pub and hearing someone recommend to their friend or their family member, ‘You’ve got to have this Devon Red’. That is what I get up for, that’s our continual improvement. All our gadgets in the laboratory testing and maintaining our quality, every new steam cleaner we get to keep the press immaculate, whatever it might be, it’s all about that conversation.”

So, what’s the secret? How do you make delicious cider?

“The secret is no secret. You can’t make good cider without good fruit. You can’t make good cider without clean equipment. You can’t make good cider without taking a lot of measurements. The secret is there is no such thing as magic. If you hope for something to happen spontaneously for you, it might one time in a hundred. But, in reality, everything that is happening in the production of cider is no surprise. It’s all for a reason.”

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