Looking for a really cool seafarer-related Christmas gift? Somerset Distillery’s Shipwreck Cider brandy sounds like just the thing not just because I spent enough years in Somerset to still have a faint Somerset twang but because it’s aged in barrels salvaged from the ill-fated MSC Napoli.
But there’s more, a series of twists have must have Compton McKenzie chortling in the hereafter.
When the Napoli grounded she was carrying empty wine barrels from France bound for vineyards in South Africa. Making wine barrels, coopering, is a job for experts and choosing the right wood is critical. As it happens these barrels were made from oak grown in the Alliers forest which was established 200 years ago by Napoleon Bonaparte to provide timber for ship-building.
A barrel made of Alliers oak will set you back about $600 to $800, so when Julian Temperley of Somerset Distillery saw a few floating ashore at Branscombe Bay on TV they got his attention.
As it happens, some containers floated ashore without the barrels being damaged by seawater because they were packed around with Zulu-language Bibles.
After ageing a 10-year old cider brandy in the barrels the company came up with Shipwreck cider brandy
You can read the rest of the story here.
I’m too far away from Somerset to tell you what it’s like but with a story stretching from Napoleon’s shipbuilders to 21st century containerships by way of Zulu Bibles the price tag of around $60 a half litre bottle is a snip.