As a third generation Apple Grower, David Purcell knows his apples. With an interest in waste reduction, he set out to create premium alcoholic cider from the left over apples off his own farm. He created The Apple Thief and his production quickly grew to use the apples from local farms in Batlow. The Pink Lady Apple Thief cider won best in class at the Australian Cider Awards last year in the category of New World Sweet. It was the most contested category with 32 ciders competing, including some international ciders. We recently caught with David to hear tales of his cider journey, the thieves that inspired him to create Apple Thief and more.
1. Apple Thief Cider is a family business. How long have you been in the apple business?
I am a 3rd generation farmer and apple grower and it has been in my blood since I was a kid. I have always loved working on the land and growing things. My Grandfather and Father passed on their knowledge which has been invaluable . My brother, Geoff, still runs the family farm, whilst my attention is spent on growing The Apple Thief.
2. What inspired you to start making cider?
My love for growing things, a hatred for wasted fruit and an interest in cider and how it’s made was the initial motivation. It was essentially a hobby and a passion. Over time I could see the need for us to value add to our family business and all of my friends and family loved the cider. It was around this time, that I started to believe that I could turn my hobby and passion into a full time business and The Apple Thief was born in 2011.
3. Where did the name Apple Thief come from?
The name The Apple Thief is a quirky take on the frustration of all apple growers as the finest apples sit at the top of the trees, they get the best sunlight and the most nutrients. The birds can smell this fertile fruit from miles away and they swoop down and try to steal the best apples off the growers. So the bird swoops down and steals the best fruit and puts it in the cider and our cheeky little bird is The Apple Thief. It also lends us some great catchphrases like :- So Good It’s Criminal; Steal A Taste; No Ordinary Line-up; Lift One At The Bar. (We love it)!
4. Why is it so important to reduce waste?
I think that being a farmer and apple grower, it is just something that is engrained in me. I could not stand to see the fruits of our labour, pun intended, going to waste. We would regularly see beautiful fruit, with the slightest blemish being rejected and therefore potentially going to waste. Cider has created a demand for that fruit and assists the growers returns and helps to continue to keep the apple industry sustainable in Australia.
5. What kind of impact have you, as a business, made by producing cider?
I think the main impact that we have made is in supporting and growing the community and region of Batlow. When I first started making cider, all of the fruit was sourced from our property. As we have grown, that was unsustainable, however we ensure that all of our fruit is sourced from the Batlow region. The community has really supported the recent growth in cider and we have just hosted the 3rd annual Batlow Ciderfest, which saw approximately 7000 attendees. In conjunction with this the Cider Australia AGM and conference were also held in the lead up. Batlow is such a beautiful region and we do anything that we can to raise the profile, increase tourism and support the local community.
6. What is the process of making your cider (a quick, novice version)?
Our cider is made to highlight the quality of the fruit from Batlow, so our motto is pretty simple. “Do not mess with it too much”. We source quality fruit which we get juiced in a state of the art facility, once the juice is crushed it gets pushed through the rest of the process with nitrogen which means that the fruit is not exposed to oxidation. The juice is then fermented and bottled or kegged. Our ciders are all natural, real fruit juice with no artificial flavours, sugars or additives. Our cider is also gluten free.
7. Have you thought about using apples for other products other than cider?
At current our focus is completely on cider. The Australian craft cider market is booming and we are looking for more ways to utilise apples with cider to stay on trend and current. We will be releasing our Pink Lady cider in 330ml cans in October as we feel that there is a definite trend heading towards cans and we will continue to look at other varieties of apples that we can use for our Limited Release range.
8. What’s your favourite dish to EAT with apple cider?
That is a very tough question as all of our ciders are suited to different styles of food and then there is always external factors like the weather and time of day. The Pink Lady matches beautifully with a slow-roasted pork, whilst the Granny Smith is ideally paired with fresh King Prawns. The William Pear is a sensational fit with a cheese platter to finish off a beautiful meal. If I had to choose a favourite it would be the slow roasted pork with a Pink Lady cider.
9. You sell 3 different ciders- Pink Lady apple, Granny Smith apple and William Pear. What’s your favourite cider to DRINK?
That is also a very tough question, almost like trying to choose a favourite child or sibling! I like variety and I like that our ciders are very approachable in a range of situations. On a cracking hot Summer’s day the Granny Smith cider over a little bit of ice is delicious and sessionable. The Pink Lady is great if you are out on a night on the town. The William Pear cider is great if you are sharing a cheese platter with friends or even a little bit hungover and looking for a way to get back on the horse. 😉
10. What do you do for PLAY when you’re not working?
I have to admit running a business is not really conducive to having time to PLAY. In the little downtime that I have I try to get back to the farm and spend quality time with family and friends and I also love travelling and experiencing different cultures. I keep my eye in growing things by assisting a close friend with their olive oil brand, Scarlett’s Grove by looking after the olive grove and overseeing the production of the oil. One of the things that I love about The Apple Thief is that there is always something on, whether it be a new bar opening or a beer and cider festival, which means that sometimes you get to play while you work.
(Note: all photos have been provided from The Apple Thief website and Facebook.)