Thursday, 31 October 2013

Sandford Orchards Devon Scrumpy


Moving from Somerset to Devon for the next cider... Devon Scrumpy. Hmmm. I remember Devon scrumpy from when I were a nipper. Summer holidays in Kingsbridge - tasting something that could strip paint... do they still make 'Cripple Cock'?

Interestingly, this idea of 'scrumpy' is a bit of a current topic on-line about cider. No, not scrumpy itself, but that there is a vast difference in quality across the cider industry. Some of this comes from cider makers themselves, bemoaning the surge in new producers (funnily, it is some of the newer entrants to the market that are most vocal about it... which is perhaps a bit ironic). However, as someone who makes it their business to try cider, I can confirm that there is some truth to it.

This variance could be for many reasons - large producers aim at mediocrity with their 'brews'... and some see that as the goal. Trouble is, with full juice cider there is a fine line between good and poor, and what many of these producers end up with is poor to potentially undrinkable. The other problem (as I see it) is that there are some producers that simply cannot be tasting their cider. Or if they are, they cannot be trying others to see that theirs needs improvement. That is, after all, why I started trying other ciders. I just took it one step further... and in all honesty I was doing it to share the bounty - to promote good cider and measure it against what you can expect from the supermarkets.

Anyway, on to this cider: I have a clear idea as to what I expect scrumpy to taste like - dry, flat and rich. If done well it will be a nice 'farmhouse cider'. If not, well, it will be a challenge! On the label, it seems to say the right things too - "for the true scrumpy drinker, nothing else will do" and, probably more telling, "unfiltered" and "long bittersweet finish".

Sure enough, it is not bright (although not cloudy either) and is a light gold colour. Being still I am not expecting a huge smell, but there is bittersweet in the aroma... and it does come across as being sweetened too; this cannot be true if it is the 'true scrumpy drinkers' drink. 

Agh, it is true. It is sweet. Scratch the marketing on the bottle, it is too sweet. Now, to be fair, there is bittersweet in here... it isn't a bad cider (or scrumpy) in it's components - I don't get enough acid in the taste but the sweetening is probably killing it off to be fair. Needless to say the tannins aren't drying - it is a bit narrow in flavour (in my opinion) although what is there is OK. I am getting some fruit tones as well, but nothing complex going on.

The aftertaste is medium in length and mostly sweetening. Overall I think this is scrumpy for beginners - a kind of cross over sweet cider that is a touch rough, but really not that much. As a result it lacks the depth of flavour and any dryness that real scrumpy demonstrates very well.

A score of  67/100 demonstrates that decent scrumpy is hard to do well.


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