Published on August 22nd, 2019 | by Darren Paltrowitz0
Eden Specialty Ciders’ Eleanor Leger On Popularizing “Ice Cider” & What’s Coming Up For Eden
Apple harvest season is around the corner, and Eden Specialty Ciders is one of the few cideries that is focused on producing its cider from local apples grown with respect to the environment. In addition, Eden — unlike huge cideries — presses its apples right after harvest ensuring the freshest, most vibrant flavors possible. Meanwhile, most large cideries hold their apples in storage throughout the year and this reduces the vibrancy and nuanced flavoring of said apples as a result.
Also, as large cideries hold their apples in storage, they tend to create the same blends year after year. Meanwhile, Eden relies upon fresh apples and apples are biennial, meaning that the same varieties of apples are not grown there every year. Thus, Eden’s blends always vary and keep your interest.
Notably, Eden was also the cidery that introduced “ice cider” to the United States. Before that, ice cider was only produced in Canada. Because their orchards are so far north — very close to the Canadian border in Vermont — Eden decided to produce ice ciders, which it has done with much success.
Do you remember the first time you experienced cider?
Eleanor Leger: Yes, I was 15 years old studying French in Tours in the Loire Valley for the summer and spent most evenings hanging out with other students at a local creperie drinking cider and eating crepes — delicious!
To you, what makes Eden Cider stand out from other ciders?
Eleanor Leger: Our ciders have fantastic flavor that truly express locally grown apples. We are fortunate to work with extraordinary apples grown by us and our local family orchard partners — rare varieties, grown with care, harvested for flavor. We make ciders with the same care and patience of great wine makers. Fruit pressed once per year at or near harvest, low intervention, never added sugar, water or “flavoring.” We understand science, but use it to make sure our fermentations are naturally-clean and expressive of the fruit. We are also patient; we find that aging allows ciders to further develop complexity and fruit flavor. In every category of cider, our offerings have more flavor.
How does the average cider-drinker compare to the average beer-drinker? Or is it usually the same people enjoying both?
Eleanor Leger: It’s great that cider drinkers are gender equal — 50/50 men/women. Also love that today’s consumers are interested in authenticity and look to express their values through their consumption. Our ciders express our values, supporting local family farms, working with fruit that is really good for making cider, and not using all those icky industrial processes, chemicals and sweeteners. We make an incredibly-innovative range of ciders only using apples. Everything from super-sweet ice cider, to bone dry, tannic still and champagne ciders, to our can which is delightfully-flavorful and fruity without being sweet.
Is it true that Eden introduced the iced cider concept to the States?
Eleanor Leger: We were the first in the U.S. to get TTB approval for an ice cider label. But the two largest Canadian producers of ice cider were already selling in the U.S. at the time, which helped.
Do you have a favorite of the Eden Cider offerings?
Eleanor Leger: Depends on the weather and what food I’m going to serve it with — which should always be the answer to that question! That being said, our Cellar Series #1: Cinderella’s Slipper is near and dear to my heart because the fruit is 100 percent from our own biodynamically-managed orchard and its completely natural dry, still profile is the ultimate expression of what great fruit wants to be when it ferments.
What is coming up for Eden in the coming months?
Eleanor Leger: Our Harvest can is launching through distribution now. It’s the second edition of our canned cider, which we make only once a year at harvest in order to maximize flavor. We are excited to be expanding distribution as well. So far this year we have added Georgia, Kansas, Washington and Oregon to the list of states where you’ll be able to get our cans.
We also have some super fun cellar series releases coming up — 2018 #8 Ezekiel 100% Kingston Black bottle-conditioned will be out soon. The 2016 version was a fan favorite and we are excited to bring it back. Also we have our first keeved cider, the traditional Normandy style of cider making I first tasted as a 15-year-old. It’s sweet, hugely-tannic, and naturally-sparkling. Garrett Huber, our head cider maker really pulled this one off. We produced it in 375mL champagne bottles and we plan to sell it to select restaurants to pair with special Fall dishes. Our Cider Club members will get access to all of these, of course!
What are some of your favorite U.S. spots which serve Eden Cider?
Eleanor Leger: Here in Vermont, we love the Hen Of The Wood restaurants, Hotel Vermont and Honey Road. Other special places include Hearth Restaurant (New York), Owl Farm (New York), Union Square Cafe (New York), ANXO (D.C.), Bad Saint (D.C.), Arcana (Boulder), Publican (Chicago), Perennial Cider Bar (Maine), Eventide (Maine), Redfield (Oakland), and Prohibition Taproom (Philly).
When not busy with Eden, how do you like to spend your free time?
Eleanor Leger: Free time… Hmmmm?
What was the last concert you attended for fun?
Eleanor Leger: Actually it was a chamber music concert. It started off with a solo performance by a female violinist that blew me away.
Finally, Eleanor, any last words for the kids?
Eleanor Leger: Try everything, and follow whatever gives you the most joy.