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Thistly Cross Cider & The Duty Fools
Thistly Cross Cider & The Duty Fools

23/03/2012

It may be rapidly advancing middle age or a growing awareness of such matters, but for the first time in my life I have been rendered apoplectic at the behavior of what I can only call a petty jobsworth in a government department.

 

I was sitting in my kitchen, in good humour and ready to rattle off another 300+ word beer review, when word came over t'internet that a good friend had just been on the receiving end of a right kicking from H.M. Revenue & Customs.

 

For the last 4 years Peter Stuart has struggled against the odds to kick start a Scottish cider industry. From his big blue shed at Thistly Cross, just outside Dunbar he has earned himself a reputation for cider which is rich, flavoursome and distinctly Scottish. It has got itself quite a following and there is a very good chance you are familiar with it.

However it turns out that, according to the exciseman what you have been drinking and enjoying isn't cider after all, but made wine.

 

A made wine is a catch-all legal term for an alcoholic drink other than beer, wines, cider or spirits.

 

Although Thistly Cross ciders are not adulterated with the same nonsense that pollutes the more commercial end of the market it finds itself being filed among the alcopops, due to Peter's  expert use of whisky casks to ferment and age his ciders in.

Since the use of barrels is not considered an integral part of the cider making process and the oak imparts both colour & flavour to the cider, it has been decided that the contents are no longer a cider, but a cider based drink. This despite the fact that cider has been fermented, stored and transported in wooden casks for centuries. Of course the use of whisky casks for beer has quickly gone from being a novelty to a cliché. If HNRC feel so inclined, they could use this as a landmark ruling to wreak havoc among many of Scotland's most renowned breweries.

 

The kicker, of course is that made wine is liable for a higher rate of duty, which means that Peter not only has the cost of relabeling & remarketing the cider (or whatever it is), but must now raise prices of an already premium product. If the decision is made to back-date this duty rise, it would be no exaggeration to say that it could cripple the business.

 

With a bit of luck, it might be that this decision can be reversed, but right now the future looks far from rosy. So if after reading this you are as outraged as I am, please show your support by buying a bottle or two of Thistly Cross cider. It's pretty much available throughout Edinburgh, despite the best efforts of the men from the ministry

James Wrobel

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