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Wassailing: A West Country Cider Tradition

28th Jan 2022


Wassailing is an age-old West Country tradition to awaken the apple trees and scare evil spirits away to bring on a plentiful harvest.

It's still widely popular in the cider-producing counties of the West Country, including Devon, Cornwall, Dorset, Somerset and Herefordshire.

What is Wassailing? 

There are two kinds of wassailing: One is similar to carol singing (and likely the Christmas tradition's origin) and the other is orchard wassailing.

It is called wassailing, as this is the customary toast made to fellow merrymakers and the apple trees.

The ceremony must be ancient, as "wassail" comes from an Anglo-Saxon dialect. The words "waes hael" mean "be well" or "good health" and are still used today. Traditionally, wassailers respond with "drink hael " meaning ... well "drink well."

Though differing across the West Country, the orchard wassail generally involves a wassail King and Queen leading cider-sloshed revellers through local orchards in a clamorous procession.

In each orchard, wassailers gather around the biggest or best tree, where they place cider-soaked toast in the branches as gifts to the tree spirits. There will be much revelry, cider-drinking, singing of songs and toasting to each other's health and that of the orchard.

After toasting the tree, the revellers make as much noise as possible, banging pots, pans or even firing guns through the branches of the trees. Not only does this wake up the trees for the year ahead, but it also scares away bad spirits.

When does the West Country go a Wassailing?

Traditionally, orchard wassailing takes place on the twelfth night, though there is some debate when this is! Some celebrate on the 5th of January, others insist it should be on "Old Twelvey" or the 17th of January. This was the 12th Night all the way up to the introduction of the Gregorian Calendar.

If you're a cider drinker and drink it all of the time, what better way to honour your favourite tipple than by holding your own wassail.

The Best West Country Ciders to Wassail your Apple Trees 

Traditionally, mulled cider is drunk on a wassail night. However, we haven't been to a wassail where this isn't every kind of cider under the sun. There's no better way to awaken the orchard than revelling in its previous fruits. Here are some of our favourites for your own wassail.

Waes hael and drink hael!

Extra Special Ciders 

Celebrate your own wassail with a unique west country cider. 

Wilding Cider - Ditcheat Hill 2020
A delicate and well balanced, sweet but complex cider made from a special orchard in Ditcheat.

Burrow Hill Cider - Ice Cider
Made from frozen freshly-pressed apple juice, it's perfect for frosty winter evenings.

Bollhayes 2017
Cider made using the Champagne method - Need we say more?

Keeved Ciders 

Go for a traditional cider fermenting process with a sweet, sparkling flavour.

Heck's Cider - Keeved Dunkertons Late Sweet
Drink the last of Heck's Cider apples to mark the start of the next cider making year. 

Worley's Cider - Somerset Special Reserve Keeved
Only the finest heritage cider apples for a proper Somerset keeved cider. 

Pilton Cider - Tamoshanta

Classic Keeved cider finished in Whisky Barrels- perfect for Wassail and Burns Night.

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