Inside some weather forecasters, there is a disrupter and a mindfully made cider.
After studying geography at university, Laura Clacy worked as an early morning new weather presenter on SABC, the South African version of the BBC.
She believes everyone has that “F**ck it!” moment, she believes, and she and her British husband had a simultaneous one.
Edinburgh University graduate Karol Ostaszewski hated his job as a chartered accountant and both wanted to start a sustainable business based on trade, not aid. Having met very romantically at a rooftop party on an abandoned building in downtown Joburg, they went on to set up SXOLLIE (pronounced Sko-llie) xider, a natural and lower alcohol alternative to wine and G&T which is bottled in Birmingham but made from southern hemisphere apples.
“A craft revolution was taking place from beer to gin to garagiste wines.”
Says Laura who now lives in west London. Pre-SXOLLIE, she worked for KPMG and in social impact creation at the Australian Federal Government, responsible for making sure that the government’s investments into Indigenous (Aboriginal and Torres Straits Island) businesses had appropriate interventions in place to ensure that the community and beneficiaries of the businesses experienced a positive social and environmental impact.
“I often found myself staring at the bar not knowing what to order. Wine and G&T would be my first choice but are way more alcoholic than beer or cider. This can be dangerous as the rounds progress, and I just didn’t like the taste of cider. So, I thought, why not reinvent cider?”
Being South African, Laura knew there was an abundance of fantastic produce coming from the country and thought to make a cider like a wine, using single varietal apples.
“Having grown up in South Africa, I knew we had incredible fresh apples, but no one had thought to turn them into cider. Our love of fine wine also meant we thought about using single varietal apples and single estate provenance to make distinctly different ciders.”
SXOLLIE is made from apples locally sourced from one grower in South Africa’s Elgin Valley, and Karol adds:
“Such is our commitment to traceability that we can even tell you the exact orchard and block from where our apples are grown.
“The finished cider – not carbonated, is shipped from Cape Town port to Liverpool port where it’s bottled. Interestingly, the emissions from the transport from SA to the UK is the equivalent CO2 emissions of driving 200km in a truck. The bottles alone of most ciders on the market travel further than that before they are filled.”
SXOLLIE xider is single varietal cider/xider. That means only one type of apple is used per bottle. Three unique tastes – Golden Delicious, Granny Smith and Cripps Pink – which is a great dessert drink with rhubarb and salted caramel ice cream. It’s a sparkling alternative to rival Prosecco and Champagne this Christmas!
SXOLLIE is the UK’s first cider/xider company to be certified as a B Corp, SXOLLIE has no added sugar. Sugar (or syrup) is often questionably sourced and shipped long distances is added to almost all UK ciders.
In Cape Town, a “sxollie” (pronounced Sko-llie) is a colloquial term to describe a cheeky rascal or hustler. SXOLLIE is made by humans who care. There are 3.3 apples in every 330ml bottle.
“Cider is a crowded category. We are a SXOLLIE, not a cider. Which is why we label ourselves a Xider. Some of the reasons we like to set ourselves apart is because SXOLLIE is made with purely 100 per cent apples picked from trees not picked off the ground. Its naturally sweet, vegan and made exactly like a wine, using champagne yeast.”
“SXOLLIE is made by humans that care. I am grateful that I changed careers. I’m not much of a morning person.”
Kevin Pilley is a former professional cricketer and chief staff writer of PUNCH magazine. His humour, travel, food and drink work appears worldwide and he has been published in over 800 titles.
Photographs courtesy of SXOLLIE