Article written by Sam Butler featured in the Belfast Newsletter 11/10/2016
Davy Uprichard took a decision in 2008 that was to change his life. He was working in a nursery business near his Lisburn home and was searching for a new career direction. The choice he faced was between using cash he and wife Janet had saved to set up a small cider business or buying a motorbike that would help him to travel to a better job.
While Janet opted for the motorbike, Davy decided to pin their money and future on making cider, an industry then its infancy here. It has turned out to be a very wise decision, because Davy, an affable and modest entrepreneur, is now recognised as among Ireland’s best cider makers.
“I really wanted to do something completely different from the nursery,” he remembers. I had some experience from helping my father make wine from fruits including local strawberries. I had worked with apples but knew it was a bit of a risk because the industry was then at a very early stage here and dominated by major brands from outside Northern Ireland. While Northern Ireland had a successful apple growing industry, particularly in Armagh, the home of the Bramley Apple, most of the apples were exported to commercial processors,” he continues.
The couple decided to take the plunge by setting up a small processing business in a large shed at his home in Lisburn. They named the business DJ’s Juices and Ciders and chose Tempted? as the cider brand. Davy began producing pure apple juice and sampling a wide range of ciders from Ireland, Britain and France. This enabled him to come up with flavours he liked, opting for pure pressed apple juice rather than the concentrates and additives favoured by some established processors in Britain and the Republic. He produced the first cider in November 2009.
“We set out to create an uncomplicated, delicious and healthy fruit drink, produced locally, that would be just like drinking apples,” he says.
He continues to press locally sourced apples by hand, leaving the pure juice to ferment for over six months. The cider is then lightly carbonated and pasteurised as it is bottled. In two days the juice is completed, ready to be labelled, boxed and delivered.
“It’s still a real artisan product over which we have total control. All the ingredients are fully traceable,” he adds.
This means that the cider has an apple juice content of over 98 per cent, unlike some commercially produced ciders where the legal requirement is a minimum of 35 per cent apple juice.”
Fast forward to this month and to the recent Blas na hEireann, the Irish National Food Awards, in Dingle, Co. Kerry, where a cider created by Davy gained a string of prestigious awards for quality and outstanding taste. The company’s recently launched Tempted? Elderflower cider shared a Bord Bia sponsored Best Artisan Product title.
“Blas na hEireann has been good to us over the past four years especially by creating awareness of our products in the Republic. We have a foothold there which we are keen to develop,” he adds. “What it has done very effectively is to showcase our Irish cider identity and taste to leading retailers.”
Success at Dingle followed a top-notch platinum award at the influential Irish Quality Food Awards in Dublin, an annual competition that’s watched closely by top buyers in major supermarkets across the island of Ireland. The small business has four gold medals from previous Blas awards and has collected UK Great Taste Awards.
This outstanding success also captured the attention of Drinksology in Belfast, a widely respected and hugely experienced specialist in the creative design, marketing and distribution business that’s headed by managing director Steve Pattison. Drinksology helped sharpen the company’s corporate identity, branding of its ciders. It has made an important contribution to sales of the five-strong range – Sweet, Dry, Medium Dry, Strawberry and Elderflower. These and now processed in a new plant on the orchard in Loughgall which supplies the apples.
The awards, in addition, has attracted substantial investment in the business from London–based Quintessential Brands, one of the UK and Ireland’s leading distributors of premium spirits, craft beers, and ciders.
“The investment is an important stage in the development of our business. It’s already led to a significant increase in orders for the ciders and will mean our products will be rolled out throughout Britain and further afield in the months ahead.
“It’s been quite a journey…and all without a motorbike,” he laughs. “And the business is now really picking up speed. The future is immensely exciting.”