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:
- 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.
- 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.