Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Mr Whiteheads Boxing Dog

I was at a festival recently, the sort where you take your wares along and sell direct to the public as opposed to the usual CAMRA sort of affair. I love this kind of thing as its a chance to meet people - both the enlightened and the unenlightened alike. To be honest, some of the most interesting conversations are with those 'unenlightened' - those who naturally would drink something with strength in the title, perhaps ending with a piece of archery equipment:-) These people, the ones who don't make assumptions about still unfiltered cider, are keen to explore the tastes and two things strike me as being true:
  1. People don't realise that you can have several ciders where the choice of apples is the only difference between the flavour. This was probably the most marked exclamation I got at the festival - its probably a result of too many celebrity chefs stating 'ingredients matters'... although they are perfectly correct.
  2. Cider is a journey in every way wine or beer is a journey. You don't jump from Magners straight to a dry, unfiltered and uncompromising cider. This is worthy of a post on its own (and with the 200th review coming up that may present an opportunity to look back at this). So, even though I would perhaps score a cider down personally, it may well be a drink that needs to be tried en-route to a more individual drink or type of cider.

My favourite exchange of the evening came from a lady in her latter years. Her husband had warned her that she wouldn't like it (perhaps conditioning her to not like it, you could argue) but to her credit she tried each cider anyway. After establishing that 'fruit' included apples, and therefore full juice cider was indeed made using fruit, she then confessed that she liked "Autumn fruit" cider (yes, I know, apples are an autumn fruit!). This was followed with some grimmaced tasting and then the explanation that captured it all; "I love cider. I live near to Bridge Farm in Sussex and have tried their ciders, but there is something I don't like about apple cider... I think its the cider taste and smell. You don't get that with Strawberry cider or Autumn Fruit Reorderlig (or whatever it is)".

So, she loved cider, but everything that makes it cider she didn't like. That sums up the nations confusion about cider as much as it suggests that perhaps she should go back to drinking gin or wine...

Anyway. What was the point of this... oh yeah, I picked this Mr Whiteheads up at the festival and will now try it and review it. Ha, well, some diversions are worth the telling:-)

Although I am wondering why its called 'Boxing Dog' I am more interested in the non use of sulphites once again on the label. I have to assume that Mr Whitehead's doesn't use them - you have to include them if they are there. Anyway, this cider isn't quite so brilliantly bright as a few I have tried recently (which is a good thing), although I am sure cider doesn't look this clear without a touch of filtering. In fact, it says 'unfiltered' on the bottle. Hmmm, I think I would take a little convincing that its not at all, although gentle filtering is not a terrible thing.

As with other Whiteheads, it is a flat cider and is distinctly straw in colour. It has a gentle, but distinctive aroma. In fact its quite aromatic... though can you really smell sweetness?

Sure enough, its sweet! It is a medium cider after all... and its all of that! Sweetness dominates this drink easily. With an eastern style of cider, using dessert fruit, the flavour components are gentle and complex - this level of sweetness kills all bar the acid... of which there is plenty! I noted 'Bramley' although there is no real reason for it to be Bramley - it has almost a sour kind of acid to it... very distinctive. Bramley... well, unripe Bramley, very much has this to it, although I have noted before now that Tom Putt can give the same sometimes.

And this is pretty much the first taste you get... and the second etc. The acid and sweetness loom large initially, and then fade to reveal the real taste of the cider which is really quite nice.  Its a shame its so far in the background. Boy, its a bit like sucking a lemon!

The aftertaste is really where you get the best cider in this drink - with the acid and sweetening fading, its actually quite lovely... just a shame you have to go through the rest to get to it.

I scored Boxing Dog at 58/100. It might be a bit harsh but going back through it I agree with the score personally.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Sheppy's Goldfinch Dry Cider

I bet you thought that I had exhausted the range of Sheppy's ciders? Well, as I may have said once or twice before they seem to have an endless range and every now and again I spot a new one. Having said that, as far as the bottled varieties go I am fairly sure there are not many more to try. I say that without checking on their website, of course! Mind you, there are ciders and then there are varieties of ciders - for example, having the same blend of cider but dry, medium dry, medium etc. It kind of makes sense (if it is done well) although it makes more sense for larger producers than smaller ones!

I have some expectation of this cider, being the similar to Bullfinch but dryer. Again, it has an unusual label for the modern Sheppy's. A bit of a throw back but a nice image nonetheless. At 7% too its a good strength for a cider - just remember that in a 750ml bottle its a whole lotta alcohol!

Now, Goldfinch is a golden and uber bright cider and, whilst it says "slightly sparkling" on the label, expect a big ol' fizz when you pour it into a glass! Mind you, this dies off quite a lot once poured and settles down well. It is very bright though! The smell is slightly chemical but has some great cider flavour asides from it. No oakiness coming through (another feature of the label)... I may have to go off and sniff some oak to see what I should be picking up from it!!:-)

Bullfinch was good in my books. This is better. Saying that, its probably only because it is a dry version, so if a sweeter cider is your thing then feel free to disagree. They are both good ciders though. It has a deep cider flavour with lots of bitter sharp going on. The tannin is reasonably drying in the mouth although not excessively. I am persuaded that filtering removes a lot of the complexities of a cider and tannin seems to be one of the biggest losers in this. Understated is a word I would use to describe the earthy and tannic f;avours of this cider. The acid seems to be fairly good though, although compliments rather than competes with the tannin.

Goldfinch doesn't have a very long aftertaste to it, and it is slightly cleaner than it really ought to be. Still, this is not going to make or break the cider for me. It is very good and its just a shame that its so hard to find! I think I may have said the same about Bullfinch too!

Here is the thing. I scored this at 73/100, which a respectable bronze apple. Now I have written this up I figured I should check Bullfinch and, well, it also scored 73/100. So the system works... though I do prefer this version - its all a matter of degree's though eh.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Merrydown Dry Cider

OK. I had planned to get to this one eventually (its not as easy to get hold of as the more popular medium version), but a little encouragement from Merrydown themselves (or was it their PR people?!) has led me to Asda where I found just a single bottle amongst the sweeter versions.

Recalling the medium review, there were several issues that I had with it. However, on the whole I didn't die from drinking it and it really wasn't that bad... well, worse than many and better than many too (I am not going to moderate this just 'cos I know that Merrydown is watching. I just won't say anything too libellous)

It is fair to say that Merrydown is a commodity 'brand' these days and not much more than that. Its a world away from the heritage cider world of Ross on Wye's (for example). However, you cannot argue with its' history. A Sussex based company using apples that were readily available to produce an eastern counties style of cider that was very popular... whatever happened to it in more recent years at least its still being produced (OK, I can hear some yelling that its not the same company or the same ethos). I tend to think of it in the same way as I would think of Symonds or Addlestones... they don't really exist anymore - they are just another 'department' of a conglomerate. However, at least the name has been preserved, unlike Whiteways for example. Mind you, is that enough?

Anyway, onto the cider. Well, as you might know if you have tried Merrydown before, its a highly sparkling straw coloured cider which is bright and clean looking. It has a floral aroma to it, which is befitting a cider made from dessert fruit. I have to say its a touch chemically too, but then even the best ciders can have that in the aroma.

To taste, well its not overly dry and very clean and smooth. The fruit is light - almost vinous, although the sparkle (or should I say fizz) is very persistent so breaks up the taste a little. I guess I would call this an off-dry cider - dessert apples often ferment out to very dry indeed with a stark taste. Well, if you have a sweet apple with a bit of acidity and limited flavour what do you end up with when all the sugar is fermented away? - mind you, I do not for a second think that this is a full juice cider. If I had to take a stab at it (and this is a personal point of view only) I would reckon on something less than 50% juice content.

The bottom line is that this is not an awful taste at all. It does have surprisingly less acid to it than I had expected, although it has probably been engineered out a bit, but if I were on a budget then this wouldn't be a bad cider to go for.

The aftertaste is somewhat lacking, although with its delicately controlled flavour I am not that surprised by that. I think I have said this about Merrydown (and a couple of others along the way); I cannot imagine this is how it 'used to taste'. Its one of those mysteries that those of us who never got to try the 'original' have to live with. Like the elusive 'Redstreak' of Lord Scudamore that was so proclaimed to produce such vintage cider making apples, Merrydowns original taste is lost to history (and, from what I have heard about it from those who remember it) something to regret.

This cider scored 63/100. So, no apple but respectable. I think it got hit a little on its 'fruitiness' - both the fruit in the body of the cider and its lack of acid that should be there in an Eastern style of cider were fairly low scoring. The tannin scored well because, well, frankly there shouldn't be much at all (and there wasn't). Not a bad dry cider from  company who take some flack for simply pandering to shareholders and producing a commodity product.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Chateau du Breuil Calvados (20 years old)

And now for something completely different... and completely special too.

Sometimes I get the urge to be insanely sad. I am convinced I am not a slave to cider, but at certain points its not only me that questions this! I was invited to dinner at a relatives. They had been to France and were, in fact, the ones who gave me the bottle of Chateau du Breuil cider reviewed not so long ago on here. So I knew about this bottle (they had made the mistake of bragging about it to me or some such). So I managed to persuade them to get it out:-)

Why is it special? Well, to start with it is bloody expensive. A 20 year old Calvados is going to be, isn't it! Also, on top of that its not exactly the largest bottle ever made. So its either going to be amazing or else a total dog. Going by their cider, which was very nice, I am sure its more towards the first.

So, what is the first thing I notice about the bottle. Its an IWSC winner - a silver medal displayed proudly across the neck of the bottle. "So what?" - well, in case you haven't read the 'scoring system' page of this blog, I pinched part of the scoring system from IWSC (International Wine and Spirits Competition). Although these reviews are not competitive, blind judged or anything like that, I love the idea of ranking as Gold, Silver and Bronze. It means that I can have as many favourite ciders as I like without having a scoring system that restricts this. There are many different profiles of cider out there and no single one deserves to be more top of the pile than another - plus its all a bit of fun in any case. I doubt many take my scoring or awards that seriously. Well, I hope they don't.

Oddly, I used to work alongside the IWSC a few years back and got to see how scrupulous and absolutely dedicated to transparancy they were. Its quite impressive, although I believe quite expensive to enter. I think that is one of the reasons I naturally thought of them when setting up Cider Pages.

And so, on to this Calvados. As you can see from the picture, it is brown and clear. What you won't be able to tell is that it smells incredibly smooth - gently alcoholic (when in fact it is very alcoholic) and, a great surprise to me, you can still smell a bit of cider in it.

This calvados is velvety smooth. There is no bitterness or grabbing bite as with younger Calvados - its is really very luxurious to the taste. And the fact that the cider has survived as a part of the flavour for 20 years in the barrel either means it was a stonking cider to start with or else it has been treated really very gently indeed. I can even get whiffs of tannin out of it (which should really be long gone). This isn't a Calvados for pancakes - this is a Calvados to be appreciated on its own, probably in an orchard at sunset I expect:-)

There is a lingering note to this Cavados that doesn't let you go for ages. For me, it was washed away a bit at the end by a cup of coffee. I guess that is its purpose - an aperitif or apres dejeuner drink which is taken little by little in the company of friends and family. OK, waxing a little too lyrical about it here, but if you have a few quid to spare and you are in search of what surely must be the benchmark in Calvados (or even, dare I say it, Cider Brandy) then this is definitely worth it.

On relfection, this is a useful review to work with other of Mr Temperley's Cider Brandy's. I am by no means an expert, but I suspect that I will be drawing comparisons when I get to the older versions of the British equivalent of this. I should also say that I will be more discerning about Calvados in future - I really didn't think they could be this smooth!

A score of 95/100 is an assured Gold apple from Cider Pages... though I suspect that even if they did find this review they will be sticking to their IWSC Silver medal:-)

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Marks and Spencers Devon Farmhouse Cider

Another low alcoholic cider. No, wait, its 4.5%. So this is Marks and Spencers Devon version of cider, although it is produced for them by Sampford Orchards (or Sampford Courtenay - purveyors of Elderberry and Sloe Cider at Waitrose).

It is nice to get away from all those ciders from Herefordshire and Somerset though - I feel that they are getting the lion share of the reviews of late. Each region has its own blends, own style and (for some regions) its own type of cider. Its a lot more complex than simply Western and Eastern traditions! A breather for at least one or two ciders then... I am sure I will get back to them sooner or later (well, looking at all the ciders on my 'cider shelf' I can say without hesitation or repetition that it will be sooner rather than later!

Every time I come round to a Marks and Spencer's cider, it seems I have a go at them about their ingredients listing. I supposed this is simply because they actually put the ingredients on their bottles of cider - something to be applauded. I think they must be the only ones who do this!. Lets have a quick look at these then:

Ingredients - Apple juice, water, carbon dioxide, malic acid, sulphites and yeast. In that order.

What can I tell about this cider from that then? Well, being 4.5%, I have little doubt that the water was used to cut the cider down to a required %, the sugar was then added to bring it to its medium dry moniker (with a little pasteurisation to stabilise). Malic acid is used to correct acidity, so that is a little more engineering to produce a consistent flavour profile. Sulphites and yeast are pretty staple cider diet to be honest, and its normal to see them there. On the other hand, the water and sugar could have been used to bump up the % to super alcohol, and then its cut back to its 4.5%. I guess its hard to read everything into an ingredients list eh!

Whilst I do sympathise with producers who want to make a large volume of cider - it must be easy to increase and adjust - what I call correcting a cider. However, I have to say that once you put your foot onto that slippery slope you will find yourself into commodity drinks that are 'like' cider in no time at all. I am not saying for certain this is what has happened here, but the ingredients list is a little telling. I ought to add that I am writing this intro several days after having tried the cider, so the objectivity I needed was back then. I am just trying to work out what that means overall.

The cider itself is a light golden colour with an aroma that, whilst faintly fruity, has little tannin to it. There is little fizz to push the smell about though. It is brightly clear (no surprise) and on first approach it just seems a bit, well, faint.

To taste it is syrupy and sweet. Nowhere near its medium dry in my book. Sure, the taste has a whiff of tannin about it, but it does have plenty of acidity and sweetness. Its not an eastern cider - it has more body generally - but it is completely controlled. The aftertaste is short and sweet (as in both short and pretty sweet - not as in excellent).

Now, I do remember what farmhouse ciders - even Devonian ones - should taste like, and I am afraid this isn't it. It probably is of a better/different quality to some of those rough farmyard drinks I recall from my youth, but it is arguable whether this is a better example of the farm cider.

There is one further point that should be made though. As has been pointed out to me recently on one of my other reviews, the supermarkets approach producers with a clear idea (maybe even a recipe) for the cider that they want. And the producer must stick to it. Why would a drinks engineer, 'brand leader' or blooming cider buyer think that they know best - or better than a real Devon cider maker? I have no doubt that Sampford can and do make cracking ciders. So, my message to said supermarket people is this; please be guided by the maker, don't force them to bastardise their cider to fit your recipe!

This cider scores 58/100

Monday, 16 July 2012

Mr Whiteheads Newtons Discovery

In my efforts to leave the more typical cider 'lands' to one side for a moment I now turn back to Hampshire. Its worth noting that the resurgance in cidermakers of recent years has not solely been happening in the usual Herefordshire/three counties, Somerset and Devon regions. As far up north as Scotland (can't wait to try those!), the Midlands and North and the South are the homes of producers who can grant you a cidery wish that you are unlikely to find at the supermarket. See, cider can be for all year - not just for the south western holidays!

So, Mr Whiteheads Newtons Discovery. First discovery is that its 3.8%. More usual for a beer than a cider. Why is this? Well, its what is more commonly known as a 'repress'. Once the juice is squeezed, the pomace is then macerated with water and then repressed. Now, this is an old practice- it is traditionally called 'small cider' and was given to children and farmwormkers (where the farmer actually wanted them to do work!) However, these days presses are a touch more efficient. I am by no means an expert on the yield of juice they used to get, but I would reckon the first pressing would see upwards of 60% of the juice. These days, a modern press will achieve greater than 70%... a squeezebox (like the one they use at Mr Whiteheads) would see more than this. So my guess is that this would be an amalgamation of cider and 'small cider' in order to create this drink. This is not a criticism of the cider, just an observation.

I have toyed with the idea of repressed apples in the past - though as I get in excess of 70-75% yield it seems to me that there is not much left to make cider from. However, if the industry want to shed muchos % from the totals then this would be the most natural way to do it.

Anyway, back to the cider. Now, Discovery is not an apple that I am too familiar with. It would be classed as a desert apple which should have no tannin to it and plenty of acid. Once you strip the sugar away from a dessert apple, as happens in cider fermentation, you are left with the sum of the remaining parts - desert apples have a fair amount of acid left in them - if you are going to make a cider from desert apples make sure you use the aromatic varieties as opposed to the more commodity types (Braeburn and Pink Lady will not make a great cider, in my humble opinion). So, this cider is going to be eastern style with a bit of acid - although being as its a second pressing I am only guessing... it could have lost much of this too.

Enough procrastinating, lets try it. Sure enough, its a faint and light colour - yellow is the colour I note in the review. Almost watery looking to the eye. There is a slight carbonation to it too, though this is probably going to be a little conditioning in the bottle rather than anything else. Quite natural (cider is generally meant to be a living thing).

To smell, there is a good apple aroma - not especially cidery at all, but a strong and sweet smell. And this comes across in the mouth. No tannin, a bit sweet and a little syrupy in texture. This tastes like a weak cider made from dessert fruit and by jove it is. Its the Ronseal of the cider world:-)

There really isn't that much more to say about this cider. I would say its not a bad cider if there is nothing better about, and it is drinkable. I would drink a pint of it, but probably no more than that - on the basis that as you progress through the drink it does tend to be acid/sour  after a while. However, it is a novel cider which I am surprised I don't see more of.

A score of 60/100 is right for me - puts it beyond the commodity ciders but behind the real stars.

Friday, 13 July 2012

The Orchard Pig Truffler (Dry)

Time to try the dry version of Orchard Pigs latest offering - although I am not exactly sure whether this is the 'old' cider simply redesigned on the label front. Oh well, I guess its all good and it doesn't take a lot to encourage me to try another Orchard Pig! In fact, despite its markety style the new label design is growing on me slowly (though I still think the names are a bit daft:-)

I must admit I am running out of clever things to say about The Orchard Pig. Its not the easiest cider to find outside of Somerset, although it is far easier than most - Waitrose stock bottles and sometimes they can be found at festivals if you are looking in the right place. However, generally I have found their cider to be very drinkable and I would encourage people to make the effort to find one. Their latest marketing cheese aside, Orchard Pig do know how to make a fantastic cider!

Truffler is a deep golden cider, which is presented as a brightly clear liquid. It has a deep and western aroma - something that is common among all the Orchard Pigs that I have tried. While this (the aroma) shouldn't be overstated, the smell often gives away many of the secrets of a cider - you can smell the tannin or acid before you even try it. I must admit that when I first started I thought this was a bit of a silly idea, but I have taken to it massively since.

True to its smell, this has a deep, bittersweet flavour. Its by no means rough, but it feels like a very rugged drink - it has that earthy feel to it. There is a good measure of sharp in this drink too and although it doesn't feel bone dry (well, its not bone dry) its all done very well indeed. The fizz stays with the drink all the way through and this probbly does quite a lot to lift the drink from dry. However, my suspicion (as always) is that the filtering has shaved off the rough edges of the tannins whilst leaving the acid still fairly pronounced. Its all very well done.

With a moderate length of aftertaste, Truffle is a fairly complex cider with a great balance - not the safe balance - it is properly a deep west country cider and unashamedly so.

Whilst I am still none the wiser as to whether this is the same as the dry I have already tried, its score of 84/100 means it earns a silver apple from me in any case. Really very good.

UPDATE: Having tried this cider once again in early 2014, I have to confirm my fear that 'something is happening to Orchard Pig. I think they may even be under new management (I have heard - I cannot yet confirm). This has led their ciders to drift away from what I would consider 'high juice, high heritage cider' towards a more mediocre average juice level. Clearly this is subjective but I felt strongly enough to want to update this review.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Bath Ciders Bounders Cider

Bath Cider. Not heard of these guys before. It is described (on the bottle) as a 'lively and refreshing cider'. OK, so its going to have a bit of fizz behind it then. At 4.5%, it doesn't strike me as being all of the cider - full juice cider should be expected to come out at 6% or above (give or take).

Now, on a bit of a background search I find that the website on the bottle is dead. A bit more search and thinking find that Bath Cider is a subsidiary of West Country Ales. Its another brewer with a finger in cider too. These guys are based in Cheddar, not too far from Bath (or Bristol for that matter)... it will be interesting to see what their cider is like. Being in a bit of a silly mood, I have noted that they ferment their cider in 'age old vats'... talk about non committal! Does this mean 'age old' as in time immemorial? So, 6th July 1189 then (as that is the date when time immemorial was decreed to start from - incidentally the date of King Richard the Lionhearts accession). OK, move on!

Bath itself is a lovely part of the world. Having done an OU summer school there I am very fond of the place. It is also (nearly) home to the Royal Bath and West show - which by the time this is released you will have missed by about a month or so. Well, put it in your diaries for next year - its great fun and host to probably the biggest and most prestigious cider competition you will find anywhere in the world. And they have a great cider bar there too!

Public service announcements are not my strong point, so lets get on with trying this cider. Its a bright and filtered, golden cider with a rabbit on the label that reminds me of some stylised 'Watership Down' creation. The cider all but leaps out of the bottle when poured (stylised like the rabbit maybe?). Looking at it, I have to say that this cider seems to have received the works - filtering, carbonation and almost certainly pasteurisation too. Oh well, another one (although there have been some excellent ciders treated this way so lets not knock it too much).

Bounders has a good smell to it, although there does seem to be juice in there - perhaps to sweeten it up a bit. The taste confirms this to me. Although its a fairly light cider as a whole; the tannin is very mellow and the acid tamed, it has a good flavour. I have noted Yarlington Mill with a question mark - which has some strong flavours in itself.  Its not exactly a challenge though - it all feels very controlled and fairly sweet.

The aftertaste is, as expected, more of the sweetness and less of the flavour. As I progress through the glass it does come across as being just a bit watery too.

Conclusion: On the whole it is just too played around with. It seems to have been designed to compete with a Magners type of cider, although there is a lot more to it than that alone. A score of 65/100 is about right in my opinion.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Blackmoor Estates Blackmoor Cider

Its back to Hampshire again for cider review #190. This time not to a well known cider maker but to a commercial orchard. Blackmoor Orchards are not exactly known for their cider varieties although if you shop at Tesco I would reckon your apples may well come from this orchard. Its a dessert and culinary cider, which means that its going to be acidic and light - much like Mr Whiteheads cider (who is found not that far from Blackmoor).

This is not a coincidence. Mr Whiteheads make this cider for Blackmoor and even bottle it for them. Its not such a dilema - the relationship between the two is public knowledge. And who better to make cider for a company whose expertise in growing apples, not squishing them? In any case, I believe that cidermakers perhaps get too much kudos for the quality of their wares - its in the orchards that the apples grow and are cared for, where the quality of the fruit is really determined. The cidermaker, like a chef with the best ingredients, just needs to treat the apples gently and let them speak for themselves.

I bought this bottle recently while on my latest travels in the South from the Winchester Farmers Market. These are not a bad bed for finding real cider; not all of them, but if you have a local one that is not supported by a producer why not mention it to your nearest artisan cider maker... they generally like these kind of pointers (I think).

And so to the cider. Its all the juice at 6% and pours a pale yellow colour. I was surprised to read that there may be some sediment in the bottle - there certainly wasn't any visible in mine and the cider was pretty clean looking too! It is very fizzy - this could be bottle conditioning though (and may explain the sediment mention on the label). the smell coming off of it is definitely light, aromatic and inviting.

The taste is well balanced and very nice. Its most definitely an eastern style of cider and, if I am going to be totally honest, this is comparable to the best of Mr Whitehead's own cider. There is a god sharp kick to it, although it is in no way sour or overdone. The aftertaste is mellow and gently acidic. In all, I just think that this is a good, honest cider.

If I can be totally honest I am a little surprised - I have easten Tesco's apples which are often unlike anything that I get from my local orchard. Cardboard is the comparison I personally would make. However, I guess these are often cold stored and vacuum packed unripe - whereas the juicing apples for this cider will have been matured properly before pressing. I am not going to get into the apple argument which basically states that we (i.e. the public) have been trained/coerced/sold in the idea that the main thing we all need from an apple is a shiny surface without blemish and a crunch. This is what the supermarkets stock (and even my local farmshop tends towards the Braeburn/Pink Lady/Golden Delicious type fruit). This is utter nonsense. Apples can be crunchy and flavoursome - I believe the best are not crunchy and some of the very best may have russetting. The best apples have one thing in common with eachother - excellent and interesting flavour. I said I wasn't going to get into this, didn't I!!!

Well done Blackmoor/Mr Whiteheads. This is a good cider and I really enjoyed it. The score was 76/100... a great Bronze apple.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Tricky Cider Company Tricky Cider

OK, back to Somerset. Well, sort of. Ticky Cider is based in Taunton, so in reality on the edge of Somerset, Devon and not that far from Dorset. Mind you, geography was never my strong point so I could be a little wrong. Anyway, a quick visit to their website reveals that Tricky Cider is run by two chaps on an artisan scale - they even have a mobile cider bar... handy that - I want one in my garden!!

So, whats ths first thing I notice about this cider then. Well, sorry Tricky - crap label! I like the idea - clear bottle with a clear label to show off the cider in a full, true way. Only problem is that clear labels rarely work on a clear bottle. I know this, I have tried it myself. Its hard to read and doesn't do the cider justice 'cos you have to get just the right light to read the information! I do like the design - its a little conceptual though - is that meant to be Eve's legs in the apple or is it just a pair of legs in an apple? Hmm. perhaps its 'apple twister'?! It would certainly be 'tricky':-)

Its a 6% medium dry cider which from the outside of the bottle looks bright and clean and golden. Maybe I am just being a snob about the clarity - I certainly don't want foggy cider... OK, I will settle for being hard to please.

On opening, it has a bit of a fizz - moderate to high I would say, although it does settle a bit in the glass. It has a deep, aromatic cider smell and I can tell just by the smell that they use a lot of bittersharps. It IS very bittersharp to the taste. Stacks of well rounded tannin together with a good sharp bite make this cider very individual in style. The acid is right at the forefront and I have to say must be what they were aiming for. The tannins are pretty drying in the mouth though - odd considering that the tannic side to this cider sits more in the background. But very nice all the same.

It has a long aftertaste, with the two parts mellowing and the drying dying a little.

In summary, this cider has a great taste to it, albeit filtering probably makes it a little cleaner than it could be - but its only a little moderated. Very drinkable cider indeed. A score of 83/100 sees a silver apple for Tricky Cider. Lovely.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

The Orchard Pig Charmer (Medium)

Given that I have read recently that Orchard Pig have hired a marketing firm to come up with a new 'brand' image for their ciders, I am not totally clear whether these are just the other ciders renamed or whether they are new ciders themselves. However, I really like Orchard Pig ciders so they can take a turn in their own right!

While I have all three of the 'new' ciders, I wanted to start with the medium. Perhaps this is because its likely to be the most challenging for me - though it could equally be an interest in seeing how well they do it. As far as the labels are concerned though I do think that the old ones were just as nice... this is something that I feel about Perry's too - they have this snazzy writing on their new labels too when I think perhaps the original labels are better. I have to frame that as someone who is continually playing around with - designing and redesigning labelling and 'dressware' for bottles... so perhaps I shouldn't judge!

There is one comment that I would make though (and knowing that Orchard Pig do occasionally read these reviews, perhaps they would correct me if I am wrong_) On the back it says; "Orchard Pig doesn't enjoy direct sunlight, so keep it in a cool shady spot". On the whole there is nothing wrong with keeping cider in a cool space. However, cider is not like wine and is not affected by sunlight itself, just heat. If it's heat they meant then I suppose that's OK-ish. The question I have to ask though is why they use clear bottles, if they are worried about sunlight? After all, that's part of the reason for having green/brown wine bottles and brown beer bottles. Oh well, small point but a little confusing.

'Charmer' - no doubt the name of one of their pigs - pours out a beautiful golden colour. It has a reasonable carbonation (not overdone) and is crystal clear... like so many other ciders these days. Designed for a broad reception as opposed to a hard core cider fiend!  The nose is fairly deep, though I suspect filtering has restrained it a bit. However, it has that rounded fruity tang to it that I do like in Somerset ciders.

The sweetness is very much there - and fir the first time with an Orchard Pig I do get that kind of 'processed' feeling a bit with it. This is by no means bad - I suspect it just means that its been lightly filtered, sweetened and then pasteurised at the point of bottling. OK, its not on the CAMRA guidelines... but then I must confess to being a bit mystified by CAMRA's objectives at the moment as far as cider is concerned - so I really don't care! In any case, any reasonable sized producer of cider can make use of organisations, such as those found in Pershore (in fact, I know a few who do make use of those very services). Lets face it, its a lot easier than doing it at home (and I cannot recommend anyone drying to pasteurise a carbonated cider - recipe for lots of flying glass!)

This cider has retained its tangy, bitter sharp texture - if it has been played with, then its been gently done. The flavour is long and pronounced with nice tannin and cider fruit running all the way through the taste to a long satisfying aftertaste. Thankfully, the sparkle dies down a bit, so its really well done

And so to a score. Sure there is too much sweetness in here for me - wasn't that always going to be true. But its a well rounded cider and, despite all the earthy pig talk on the labels, does retain a sense of its place - a little rough and rugged, yet a cider that will make you close your eyes and see apple trees laden with fruit. OK, enough of that. This cider scores 79/100. Not quite silver but very respectable indeed.