Friday 8 February 2013

Thatchers Old Rascal

I am not perfect. My reviews are not going to be perfect either. Not for everybody. And sometimes I forget things:-) Like thinking I have covered all the main Thatchers ciders when I have a great glaring hole in the shape of Old Rascal!!! Thanks to 'Dreadnaught' for pointing out what I seem to have missed.

In fact, looking at this bottle sat in front of me I don't think I did miss it. I am fairly certain that I did something much more daft than that - I think I lost the review before I had a chance to write it up! Oh well, it gets a second reviewing then but this time I will be sure to post it... And Dreadnaught, I would be most interested to see how it compares with your own experience. As a bit of a post comment, when putting this review together I found a score sheet for Old Rascal. I have attached it at the very end to show how my scoring of this cider has differed in 24 months!

So, Old Rascal. Legend (Thatchers legend) has it that  every night, under the cover of darkness, a wily old fox crept out of his den at the bottom of our orchard and tiptoed his way to the Thatchers cider store to help himself to fresh supplies. OK, nice story... perhaps true even... or maybe its just marketing:-)

It pours out highly polished - carbonated to a high fizz, 4.5% Magners stylee, light gold and bright as a button. It also smells light, although there is something chemically going on too - could be sulphites - though this is clearly emphasised by the high fizz going on. I am not getting very much fruit in my nose though which is concerning.

To taste, Old Rascal is very sweet and very light. And yes, it does make me think of Magners - juicy, a bit syruppy and, well, not that much to it. If the fox did steal cider, then I am sure it wouldn't be this... it doesn't sit with its name that well.

There just isn't a whole heap of character in this cider. Sure, there is some bittersweet fruit in here - I am getting the suggestion of tannin. There is also a small amount of acid in play too - which balances it all up just that bit too conveniently and safely.

The aftertaste is short.

I have to say this, as I have it written in my notes and its how I feel about it. This kind of drink is like the lager of the cider world. Mass produced and right up the supermarkets street... However, inspiring; challenging; interesting. Not for me.

A score of 58/100 is better than many of its counterparts.


  1. Thanks for that:) Now, I think that Old Rascal is the one to begin with if you want to start exploring ciders. It doesn't have a lot tannins or acid, but it is a cider and a better one than Magners, Bulmers or Thatchers Gold even. It doesn't taste that much watery even if it very safe. The other day a friend from work asked me, what cider should he choose, if he wants to try a proper apple cider, not the alcopops. I suggested "Old Rascal". I started with it and look at me now:) I agree with you rating on this one - it's a nice drink, good for starters, but nothing spectacular.

  2. Ha ha. I figured you would like that... at least it explains why there wasn't already a review!

    Hmmm. As an introduction to cider, perhaps. It IS better than Magners, but I wouldn't put that much in it. It just seems to a readily available, commodity... And I think that even Thatchers have better ciders for drinkers to cut their teeth on.

    I just don't think it is sufficiently different from the mainstream ciders to be in of much benefit to someone seeking to expand their cider repertoire (if that doesn't sound too pretentious!!)

  3. That's true - Green Goblin, Vintage and even Katy are better than Old Rasal. Maybe I have a soft spot for Old Racal because it was my first proper cider. Still, I like it better than Magners, so I would recommend it for starters. But sure, If you are drinking for example Burrows Hill or Orchard Pig on a daily basis then there is no point in trying or returning to Old Rascal. Other than to write a review about it of course:)

  4. It is worth revisiting some of the Thatchers range from time to time - just as it is with Westons. I am glad that they have held off from releasing a 2012 Vintage. The 2011 seemed to get released as soon as the season was over, so far from being vintage it was very young (if you compared it to a full juice, naturally fermented product).

    There are a lot of 'entry' level ciders out there. Some crackers from Perry's and even Sheppy's and Thatchers have some that would stretch a Strongbow drinker. However, I am always sad that these old family cider makers have leaned more towards commodity than artisan. I guess it is the way of things (said in a grumpy old man tone)

  5. I agree 'Thatcher' IS an old rascal and that's putting it mildly........

    Laurie -

  6. I think you are being too harsh. It's a still family run business which is a nice thing to see these days, and I guess they have a lot of family members and employees that want to get paid nicely. So they went a little mainstream with their cider, but I guess that Thatchers is not all "industrial methods". You have to have something between Magners and artisan ciders, and that gap is being filled by Thatchers and Westons. Nice business but not that bad ciders, quite nice some of them I would say, even if mainstream. And that mainstream thing can also be good because you have them widely available. For someone who lives in Scotland there is very little cider too choose from you know.

  7. That is a fair argument - Thatchers, Westons, Sheppy's and Aspalls all fill that middle ground. However, I would stand by my reviews and looking back at them, its the Vintages (including the Sainsbury's Taste The Difference) and the Badgers that stick out as the Bronze apples... which when compared to, say, Ross on Wye or even Perry's is not much of a fight.

    I guess my issue is really to do with the marketing - how these companies push the traditional message whilst producing something that is half way commodity whilst retaining a bit of tradition too. I much prefer honesty... and there are plenty of cidermakers doing well whilst actually retaining traditionally produced ciders... including Perry's and Henney's.

    Still, as I have quoted before; "there is more hat unites us than separates us".

  8. That's why I go for Henney's almost every time:)

    I would say that you are absolutely right about this whole marketing thing. I hate how the companies say about their products "made using traditional recipe" or "made using only fresh apples" and suchlike, when we all know that it's mostly a lie. The worst part of it is, that I am pretty sure, that every single of these companies mentioned can produce a fair, full juice cider. It all just went down the slippery slope I guess... You mess with your cider a little, then a little more and then you end up having a Magners.

    Then again, I think that Sheppy's and Aspall produce better cider than Thatchers and Westons. I don't know if their production is more artisan though.

  9. My comment was an aside with regard to 'Margaret' Thatcher, sorry for any confusion...

    Laurie -

  10. On the contrary to your review, personally I very much enjoy Thatcher's Old Rascal. Both myself, and my drinking buddy, feel your score of 57 out of 100, is off key (if you will)(to say the least).

    Having paid a visit to Thatcher's HQ (Sandford) I disagree that Thatcher's can be likened to "the big boys". Whilst it may be one of the key players in the cider market, it's roots as a family run business make these comments unjust.

    Having become the Official Cider Supplier of Glastonbury Festival of Performing and Contemporary Arts, homage should be given to the late John Thatcher, and it's current managing director, Martin Thatcher.

  11. And that is perfectly fine - everyone has different tastes and that is wonderful.

    Having also paid a visit to Thatchers HQ I am surprised that you think it cannot be likened to the big boys - It clearly is and their manufacturing process has more in common with Magners than Burrow Hill.

    Forgive me if you have taken offense at my comments - I just call it as I personally see it. They are certainly not 'unjust'. And I don't think their status at Glastonbury has anything to do with this review.

    I don't think I class them in the same light as the BIG cider companies - they are just somewhere in the middle.