L.L. Draughon’s Fishing Creek Hard Cider is central and eastern North Carolina’s first and only commercial hard cider producer. We are also probably the state’s smallest winery, with our whopping 147-square-foot facility. But, what we lack in size, we make up for in quality and attention to detail. Each of the 4,000 or so bottles of cider made here annually is hand crafted by me and my son, Anderson, seventh- and eighth- generation North Carolina farm folk.
From building our own grinder to retrofitting my great-grandfather’s’s old metal grain bin as our production facility, to sanitizing, filling, capping and boxing, we have our fingerprints all over each and every bottle.
Now, you might wonder what we are doing in Whitakers rather than in Boone or Asheville? It turns out that years ago just about every farm in NC, including this one, had a collection of apple trees bearing apples that ended up in pies, jelly, sweet and hard cider, and yes, even harder stuff like apple brandy.
About ten years ago, we began planting our new orchard, purchasing antique southern variety trees and grafting our own from the limbs of the trees planted by my great-grandfather, L.L Draughon. The 600-tree orchard contains over thirty varieties, including Winesaps, Staymans, Limbertwigs, Russetts and un-identified old timers.
While we are not certified organic, the beauty of our orchard is that these antique varieties make great apples with almost no additives except a little fertilizer and, occasionally, some irrigation water from Fishing Creek.
Since our fledgling orchard doesn’t produce enough apples yet (we grind over 8,000 pounds of apples to fill our two 1,000-liter fermentation tanks), we purchase N.C. mountain-grown apples to supplement our needs until apple production peaks here at home.
There are basically two kinds of hard cider out there. The first is small-batch, hand-crafted, made from local high-quality juice apples. The second is mass-produced, often artificially sweetened and flavored, and sometimes made from imported concentrates — like many of those found in the beer section at the grocery store. Ours is the first kind.
L.L. Draughon’s Fishing Creek Hard Cider is fermented to completeness, meaning there is virtually no sugar left in the juice (neither is any added, like in brandy or fortified apple wine) – thus, it is not sweet, but retains the subtle aroma of apples.
Compare it to dry sparkling wines such as Cava or Prosecco. Sometimes we (and our customers) describe it as “champagne” from apples!
Unlike champagne, however, our cider does not go through the complicated (and expensive) process of removing yeast sediments created by the desirable natural carbonation process, so our cider does contain (perfectly drinkable) sediment at the bottom of the bottle.
Please read “What Makes Fishing Creek Cider Sparkle?” on our label or under Our Process to understand the ins and outs of dealing with that sediment. If your cider bottle gets inverted in handling, and you want beautiful clear cider, let it settle out for at least a week.
The best vessels for consuming hard cider are champagne flutes, Pilsner beer glasses, or wine glasses. Sparkling cider is best served as cold as possible, and don’t forget, our cider is under considerable pressure, so open carefully; some spillage may occur! Our cider is not aged, and we recommend that it be consumed within one year.
Serve cold. Enjoy with friends.