Limestone underpins the fertility of the Highbank orchards, allied with organic farming methods which Rod and Julie Calder-Potts have practised here since 1994. The Highbank apple juice is one of the very finest made in Ireland: it has that quality of fleetingness – “awai” – that Japanese cooks treasure, the sense that when you drink it, it takes you straight to Kilkenny, straight to the tree in the orchard, and the limestone underneath. The juice would have been enough to make the Calder-Potts a treasure for food lovers, but when they perfected their apple syrup and launched it in 2010, they created one of the defining new Irish artisan foods. (Full disclosure: this morning, on top of my Macroom oatmeal, with garden rhubarb, I poured a healthy wallop of Highbank syrup. And yesterday morning. And tomorrow morning...).
The syrup is increasingly widely available in good shops, and you can buy from the shop at the farm. During the season, do check whether Ruth Calder-Potts has a production running: it might be Oscar Wilde, it might be masked opera, and it's certainly a great excuse for a proper picnic, and hot apple juice at the interval.