A Taste for Dorset’s Native Tipples

Dorset has a burgeoning reputation as one of the UK’s most charismatic beer, wine and liquor producing counties.

From craft beer and micro-distilleries to ancient vineyards and centuries old breweries, Dorset is responsible for such iconic labels as Palmers Ale and Dorset Orchard, plus countless other regional favourites.

If you have an appreciation for the perfect pint or a keen nose for a bouquet, you might well want to pay a visit to one of Dorset’s distilleries, vineyards, cider farms and breweries. Plus, wine tasting and distillery tours are great ideas for days out in Dorset for adults.

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Surrounded by lakes, grazing meadows and woodland is Furleigh Estate, near to the historic town of Bridport and home to one of Dorset’s most assiduous wine producers. Led by a knowledgeable guide, you’re invited to tour the splendid vineyard and enjoy a tasting of Furleigh’s deletacle selection of still and sparkling wines. ‘Grand tours’ run in the mornings and ‘classic tours’ in the afternoons.

Take a tour of the Langham Wine Estate, hundreds of acres of glorious vineyards on grounds overlooked by the magnifient Bingham’s Melcombe manor house; a Grade I listed building nestled into the rolling Dorset hills that has been sympathetically maintained since the reign of Edwards VI. Langham Wine Estate offers various types of tours – all of them capturing the estate’s character and charm – and also hosts a tasting room where you’re invited to sample and purchase the estate’s award-winning wines.

Just outside Dorset, nestled beneath the ancient hill fort of Busbury Castle is Castlewood Vineyard. The small ’boutique’ vineyard produces an exclusive range of sparkling wines. Using only the ripest fruit to deliver optimum flavour, family and friends of the vineyard are called in to help with the annual harvest, with everyone eagerly anticipating their free wine as payment. Castlewood Vineyard runs lots of events and collaborations with local restaurants, including the fabulous ‘Wine and Dine‘ events with River Cottage. After spending the day exploring Castlewood Vineyard and taking in the spectacular view of the East Devon countryside, head to River Cottage HQ for a delicious two course lunch in Hugh’s famous farmhouse.

Not far from the Dorset border is the Somerset Cider Brandy Company, with over 160 acres of cider apple orchards at the base of the well-known landmark, Burrow Hill. The company, who grow more than 40 varieties of vintage cider apples, have been pressing cider for 150 years. As well as their Burrow Hill cider, they produce a range of Somerset cider brandy, apple eau de vie and delicious Morello cherries soaked in their apple eau de vie. Visitors are welcome to the farm Monday to Saturday, and can sample the cider and cider brandy  in the ciderhouse, walk to the top of Burrow Hill, follow an informative trail through the orchard and view the large copper stills (affectionally named  Josephine and Fifi) in the distillery.

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Still working out of its original brewery house in Bridport, West Dorset, is Palmers Brewery, one of the UK’s most exceptional small, independent brewers. Since 1794, Palmers has been brewing spectacular ales with the finest ingredients and boast five ‘quality labels’ hosted by pubs and inns all over the country and beyond. Palmers Brewery tours run from Easter to the end of October and offer a fascinating glimpse into the company’s history and an introduction to the entire brewing process, topped off with a tasting session in the Palmers Wine Store.

The Dorset Brewing Company has restored an 800-year-old brewing tradition to the port of Weymouth on the spectacular Jurassic Coast. This well-respected family brewery has grown from humble beginnings and now runs a state-of-the-art spring water fed brewhouse capable of crafting 1.5 million pints a year. The company offers ‘entertaining’ tours of their brewhouse where you can expect to learn the secrets behind its impressive range of coastal ales.

With its proud West Country heritage and popular array of real ales, Lyme Regis Brewery sources only locally grown ingredients for its unique blends and flavours. Set in the historic old town mill (a corner for artisans) in the historic seaside town of Lyme Regis, the brewery’s popular tap and shop allows you to ‘try and buy’ draught beers and sit out in the beautiful cobbled courtyard and sup on a pint or three. The shop is well-stocked with the brewery’s full range of bottled beers plus other local delicacies.

Set in the rolling hills around Beaminster, West Dorset, is the Black Cow distillery. Made entirely from the milk of grass grazed cows, this exceptionally smooth vodka offers an unsurpassed creaminess. Pure milk vodka is the creation of Dorset dairy farmer, Jason Barber, born from his passion for vodka and his ambition to diversify. Black Cow vodka works beautifully in a number of seasonal cocktails, from ‘Rosehip Fizz’ to ‘Winter Eggnog’. It’s not just cocktails on the Black Cow menu, currently cooking up a storm in the distillery house kitchen is chef, Mark Hix – of Hix Oyster & Fish House fame – whose seasonal feasts can be enjoyed by anyone eager for a ‘culinary experience to savour’. A four-course lunch with wines or cocktails also includes cooking demonstrations and a distillery tour.

Tucked away in the sandy backstreets of Southbourne, Bournemouth, is one of the UK’s most industrious distilleries. Conker Spirit produces award-winning dry gin distilled with the finest wheat spirit and New Forest spring water. Conker Spirit is also famous for its Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur, one of the first of its kind in the UK: “A complex, dark and fruity brew that celebrates the expresso and owns the glass.” Ninety-six different recipes were explored before the tasting team perfected the ultimate blend having teamed up with Dorset’s Beanpress Coffee Co. and decided upon only the very best speciality Brazilian and Ethiopian coffee beans to make this gem of a liqueur happen.  Conker Spirit’s current signature cocktail is the creation by legendary Bridport cocktail barman, Lloyd Brown. Aptly named Lloyd’s ‘Oozer, it’s been described as “dangerously moreish” combining the Conker Gin ‘tickle’ with a bright and fruity zestfulness.

Can’t quite decide which delectable drink to try? The good news is that HIX Oyster & Seafood House celebrates all the fantastic food and drink grown and produced on its doorstep, featuring the majority of the above producers on their drinks list so you can sample them all! (Well, just one or two may be more sensible). Try one of their many cocktails, such as the Hix Fix, which combines a Furleigh Estate Reserve with Morello cherry soaked in Somerset apple eau de vie, or a Black Cow Martini… Cheers!

Discover delectable Dorset – the toast of the West Country – when you book a holiday cottage with Toad Hall Cottages.

A Date for your diaries: The Dorset Wine Festival…details of the 2018 festival coming soon…