introducing: TIP TOP
Standing in Tip Top Orchard, you feel small in front of the sprawling vista.
Located on about six acres in Upper Buckland, Massachusetts, Tip Top Orchard was originally planted a century ago but converted into a homestead orchard by Lu and Sue Chadwick in the early 1970’s. Obsessive apple growers, they planted the myriad heirloom varietals on the land, which is currently stewarded by the rambunctious family of Maya Nayak and George Langford. The south facing, sloped orchard on fine sandy loam at a 1325ft elevation, allows for growing exceptional unsprayed fruit.
We met Maya and George in 2013, through an introduction by our early mentor and inspiration, Judith Maloney of West County Cider. At the time, we were in the process of finding distinctive apples for our first commercial cider. Starting with that 2013 harvest, we’ve added small quantities of Tip Top apples to our heirloom blends. Then came the bountiful 2015 harvest, which gave us enough apples to make a single orchard cider honoring this gorgeous plot of land in the Green Mountains and the people who have cultivated it.
For robust flavor development, Tip Top’s apples were harvested late in the season--mere days before the first frost. Borrowing our landlord Joe Sibilia’s truck on a cold October evening, we loaded up about 3000 pounds in 100 bushel boxes of Winesap, Roxbury Russet, Ashmead’s Kernel, and a smattering of other varieties. We matured the apples down the hill at E&J Scott Orchard. In the winter, we took them to Pine Hill Orchard for pressing.
We made Tip Top in a traditional way. The blind-blended juice, thick and syrupy, went into used Chardonnay oak barrels, where it fermented naturally at a glacial pace through the winter in our drafty and cold garage in Springfield. Periodically, we stirred the lees to develop a rounder texture and mouthfeel. We encouraged a secondary malolactic fermentation to smoothen the cider’s acidity.
In August 2016, when we felt the cider and oak intersected, we removed it from barrels. In November 2016, we bottled and hand labeled Tip Top ourselves, only 840 bottles. We used our old, but unforgotten filling rig, built for us by our welder friend James Blair.
The resulting cider is dry and balanced, with a perception of sweetness behind notes of vanilla, baking spice, and maple. The acid is mellow and there is an undercurrent of minerality, leaving a lingering round but clean finish. We made this cider non-sparkling, how cider has been traditionally served.
Tip Top is a cider that expresses a spirit of friendship. We couldn’t have made it without the support of our friends. We hope you enjoy it around the table with the people you hold dear.
- Soham Bhatt, Cidermaker