Monday, 30 December 2013

2013... done! All hail 2014...

Well, it is that time once again. Another year out of the way and a whole bunch of cider tried. I hope readers have found this site helpful over the last 12 months - my intention is that it promotes good cider as much as comment on cidery things as a whole. I confess I do enjoy writing these; though having committed to a pattern of releasing reviews is a bit of a bind sometimes.

What is in store for 2014? Well, we will have the perennial budgetary discussions... no doubt some debate about the juice content or provenance of ciders. For me? Well, I am waiting to see how the new cider blends turn out and will continue the hunt for the best ciders in the UK... and France (if I can get more time out there) and anywhere else I can get to. Having won several awards in the time I have been making reasonable amounts of cider, I also hope to secure one (or more) for the award wall too.

To start the year off, I have decided to have a go at some perry. I have 6 to try currently, but of course this will grow as I am able to get more... I won't be rejecting 'pear cider' either - after all, as I have said a few times, if one cider drinker can move from a mass produced cider to something more expressive and individual (and truly 'premium') then my job is done!

Last year, I listed out my top 10 ciders of the year. This year, I figured I would copy Pete Brown... ho in turn copied someone else... though I believe it is a 'tradition' for many beer writers. Having said all that I now rip off the headings from Pete (sorry mate - I did at least acknowledge you:-) I have adjusted them for my own purposes - though even saying that I will not pretend I can complete them all... anyone would have thought they weren't written for cider.

Best UK Draught Cider

You know what, I am going to have to agree with CAMRA for once - certainly by my own scoring, this goes to Springfield's Wobblymunk Cider. Very nice.

Best UK Bottled or Canned Cider

Going by my own scoring, this goes to Gregg's Pit; Brown Snout, Chisel Jersey and Dabinet. It's not just the blend that makes this cider great, but the traditional method that it is matured by.

Best Overseas Draught Cider

I feel a little cheekiness coming upon me... of course, as the title is 'overseas' I guess it should be done properly. If it had been 'international' then, under the Welsh Cider rules I guess all Welsh ciders ought be restricted to this category. But nah, I am not that silly:-)

Sadly, I didn't try any draught cider from overseas this year, so its an n/a.

Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Cider

Browsing my scores 2013 wasn't as high scoring as other years. There are a number of French cidre (like Domaine de Lieu Gosset) that are excellent. However, the highest scoring cider was Heritage Valderance du Cidre, Cidre de Bretagne with a Bronze Apple score of 76/100.

Best Cider For quiet contemplation

Hmmm. I am going to say Olivers Gold Rush for this. Not that I have/had endless supplies, but there are very few ciders in 2013 that made me stop and think as much as this. It was joint third highest scoring cider for me this year... shame they only made a certain amount of it:-)

Best Cider for gabbling with mates and seizing the day

I am going to go with Henney's Vintage - or Aspalls Imperial. Easy to get hold of and very good. Well, we don't all live within spitting distance of a cider farm! Actually, I could have been lazy and said 'my own' but that would be cheating, I am sure! OK, none of these are from this year... I guess if I had to include something it would be Perry's Somerset Tremlett Cider (a Silver Apple with 86). Yum

Cider I haven't drunk enough of in 2013

It has to be the top cider of 2012 - and still a favourite: Ross on Wye Cider and Perry, Headless Man. A spirit cask cider that is done to perfection. Worth hunting down!

Looking over my records, it still is the highest scoring cider on Cider Pages!

Best Cider for crying into

Hmmm. Again, I cannot simply say 'my own', so I have to pick something from this year... OK, I am going to settle with a range - the Rich's 'Golden Years' range. All scored very well and are very interesting ciders. Perfect for distracting me (not that cider men really cry:-)

Best Branding, pump clip or Label

This is going to Dunkerton's. I really do like their range of labels - the Court Royal was splendid!

Best UK Cidermaker

Oh, cummon. That is a tough one. However, while I ought to do some clever Excel formula or maths I am going to take a punt (as it is the first time I have done this). Jointly awarded to Olivers Cider and Perry and Burrow Hill Cider and Perry/Somerset Brandy Company. Probably among the best in the world.

Best Overseas Cidermaker

As with above, I am going to take a punt and award this to Le Brun... a fantastic range of cidre and appley based spirits.

Best New Cidery Opening 2013

Sorry, nothing to say about this... I don't keep up with them.

Pub/Bar of the Year

I am going to award this to the Southampton Arms in London this year. Not for the broadest selection but for the atmosphere/experience and the commitment to delivering a good pint of cider. They also have Burrow Hill pretty much on permanently.

Best New Pub/Bar Opening 2013

Again, I don't keep up with this so nothing really to say.

Beer Festival of the Year

I think this has to go to the 2013 CAMRA Great British Beer Festival, as the cider was very good. OK, some felt it should have been a better representation of the UK (and said so at the time) but I still think that is just nonsense - good cider is good cider (and the 2013 range was better than the previous year!)

Supermarket of the Year

I am going to have to give this to Waitrose... although the others are catching up

Independent Retailer of the Year

As this is my first shot at doing this, I find I have a clean sheet of options. I ought to go for a shop locally to me, but will opt for the Bristol Cider Shop as having a great range and attitude to cider.

Online Retailer of the Year

Not used one. Therefore, not exactly qualified to nominate!

Best Cider Book or Magazine

Hmmm.The cider maker in me awards this to Claude Joliceur and his excellent book 'The New Cider Makers Handbook'. Probably a little technical for many but a good reference work for a cider maker.

I also have to give a big shout out for Pete Brown/Bill Bradshaw's 'Worlds Best Cider' too... no idea where they could have got the idea from:-) (only kidding fella's!!) I got it for Christmas though have yet to have enough 'own time' to give it a good read.

Best Cider Blog or Website

This may sound a touch cheesy, but I would say the blog I have read the most this year is Pete Browns beer blog... and I am not really that into real ale:-)

Best Cider App

You are having a joke eh?!

Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer

As this is Pete Browns awards list, I have no place in changing this. As per Pete - it should go to Simon Johnson.

Best Cider Website/Social media

Again, its a clean sheet and I have to give this, obviously, to the Cider Workshop. with over 1200 cider makers discussing cidery stuff its a hard one to beat.

Music and Cider Pairing of the Year

I am going to go for Iron Maiden 'Phantom of the Opera'... soundtrack to this years pressing.. and a bottle of my own traditional method cider. Oh... has to be something else - OK - Kestor Gold (Little Weeke Cider Company). Silver Apple but a bit expensive.

Food and Cider Pairing of the Year

It has to be any eastern style cider and pork... the acid cuts through and enhances the meat. Works well with a salad too (for the same acidic reason).

Happy New Year everyone. Thanks for following these reviews over the year!!

Friday, 27 December 2013

Tesco Finest Winter Cider

Well well well. My final cider for the year is... another supermarket cider. Also, it's another Westons... this time proudly stated on the bottle. My final plea this year goes to the supermarkets to do this for all bottles of 'own brand' cider. I think it would not be surprising if Thatchers and Aston Manor take up a good chunk... led of course by the new knowingly outdone Westons.

This is also a limited edition cider. I take it that this actually means that they are only running it through the Christmas period as opposed to it being a limited edition... pardon me for being slightly cynical at both Westons and Tesco - they aren't exactly known for saying things like they are (are they!) Anyway, it is a mulled cider... possibly following on the popularity of the very excellent Aspall version - and the sheer volume of smaller producers selling it at markets and festivals! Anyway, it is nice to find another one, so lets give this a go eh.

My first comments are about the instructions... it may be my own interpretation of a winter cider but this is NOT a mulled cider... there are no spices in it! The only difference between this and a normal Westons cider is that they have added molasses to it. OK, that is a slightly different kind of sugar than they normally use but... well... its a bit bloody lazy isn't it? Fair enough - my brain read 'mulled' when I saw the label, but lets be honest... its not a winter cider, it's just a cider. They even have the cheek to suggest that the drinker do the work by adding the spices!

A more serious point, and one worth bearing in mind is that, whilst it is OK to mull a cider at the point of sale (i.e. it is being adjusted for the punter at the time of drinking) none of the ingredients for mulling cider are included in the HMRC guidelines - so in fact a bottled mulled cider would attract about three times the duty of normal cider - ergo making it prohibitive to produce at a reasonable price. Saying that, I think Westons/Tesco never fail to skew something for their own ends eh. Cheeky buggers!

What is it like then? Having warmed it through (and refused to 'add my own spices') it smells, well, a lott like 1st Quality/Marcle Hill/The Guvnor. Oddly, it is slightly carbonated so fizzed a bit in the pan, but now it smells slightly bittersweet, sweet and quite juicy with a toasty/treacle aroma that must come from the molasses.

I should have tasted this cold, as the heating seems to make it rather watery.and cook out the more complex flavours. Don't get me wrong - it is pleasant, warming and sweet (I have been out in the wind and rain, so it is a welcome distraction). There is a bit of molasses coming through, but on the whole I am getting the sweetness of the cider and some tannins from the fruit. I think it would work well as a mulled cider, so perhaps my advice would be to buy the spices when you buy this... or, quite frankly, buy the spices and a bottle of the Henneys Vintage that is sat near to the Winter Cider and go with that. It is the same price and a damn good cider to start with. OK, lets be fair to Westons, the Westons Vintage would work well too.

There is a lingering aftertaste and it is mostly sweet with some apple too.

Let me be straight - this isn't such a bad cider. I think my sarcastic tone is probably because I feel it is advertised as something it isnt - or squarely fails to live up to. I have scored it as a cider as, well, that is what it is - and it scored 61/100... which is actually better than I had given it credit for.

I hope you are all having a fantastic festive period and, if you don't go in for that sort of thing I hope you are managing to avoid partaking (and still having a good time:-)

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Morrisons Medium Dry Cider

I think I may have already tried the best of the Morrisons in it's Vintage cider - this one I suspect is much more their mainstream offering. It is packaged in what looks like either a Magners or a Bulmers bottle... so my thinking is that they made it for Morrisons. Wouldn't it be bonkers if it turned out to be the best of the lot?!

It is quite a plain label, and I am keen to get a drink this evening, so I am going straight for the cap! Well, it looks faintly golden, highly carbonated and polished within an inch of it's life. So far, so as expected. I think this is going to turn out to be another cider for the masses: nothing remotely challenging to the taste buds and sweet.

The cider remains quite foamy and this punches the aroma out,,, which has a lot in common with boiled sweets - to be honest it isn't even that appley either. I am not getting much in the way of any distinctive flavour out of the smell... better taste it then.

Oh. Its really quite watery - I don't think I am being too offish by saying that it is a little like apple flavoured water... not cider flavoured but apple flavoured. OK, it is fairly well balanced between sweetness and acid - I am getting a hint of tannin but nothing that really stands out from the rest. It has a short aftertaste which is mainly sweetness.

The redeeming feature of this cider is that it isn't that sweet. However, I must confess that it is a rather forgettable drink. The only redeeming feature of it is that it is quite cheap... which is what I suspect it is meant to be.

Apologies for the short review - there isn't exactly that much more to say. A score of 44/100.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Morrisons Vintage Cider 2012

Now I move on to the second cider from Morrisons – see, I am trying to equalise my supermarket ciders, although I am not sure that many of them have received any kind of apple from me. This either says something about the big store attitudes to what they think cider ought to taste like or (more concerning) it is the attitude of the producers who make the stuff feel that supermarket cider ought to taste like. Hmm, there is a thought there – I guess if I were making cider for the supermarkets AND my own bottles were going to sit alongside them I would make sure that my cider came out as being better. Actually, no, I wouldn’t. Not that I would ever get the chance to do this, I would make sure that I not only made first rate cider for all but would make sure my name was on the bottle.

That being said, I am not going to prejudge this cider. After all, the ‘own brand’ ciders that tend to do best are the Vintage versions, so I am expecting this cider to be pretty good. It had better be – the only other Morrisons cider I have is their standard medium dry… which looks like it was made by either Magners or Bulmers!!

It is moderately sparkling – almost identically so to the last Morrisons cider. It looks quite light gold too, although the smell is much more bittersweet than before. There is still some juice up the nose though. Thinking some more, it is very similar in its composure (in a smelling kind of way). Guess I ought to try it then.

This is less watery than the organic. It is also drier too – a medium dry which has been gently back sweetened with juice. The tannins are quite pleasant, although I do wish they wouldn’t feel that it was so important to adjust the acidity to balance things out – it detracts from the experience of the fruit. Speaking of fruit, I am getting some… which again is more than the organic too. As a bit of a distraction, there is a fairly strong taste of So2 (sulphite) which does affect the tannic taste somewhat.
A moderate length aftertaste is also nice, and ends in a tannic coating of the tongue.

A score of 70/100 - true to form, it is the Vintage ciders that proove to be the best tasting ciders made by/for/whatever supermarkets.

I think I may be now qualified to advise cider fans that, if you must buy supermarket own brand ciders, then the ones that you ought to go for are those that are vintage. Of course, this isn’t straight forward – Morrisons have two that they call ‘Vintage’ – the organic has a vintage tag… but this merely means that it was made from a single years apples. Look for the cider called Vintage.

If I ever crack supermarkets for my own cider, it will be on the basis that it is very different from most of their line up. I can see that there are a few ‘smaller’ producers doing it… although the very nature of the beast is that many are producing something more ubiquitous to sell than they would if you visited them directly…

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Morrissons Organic Cider - Vintage 2012

Coming to the end of my current row of ciders on the shelf, I find that there is one other supermarket chain that I have not paid much attention too.

It is important to cover the best offerings from supermarkets - after all, it is the foremost place people will have access to cider unless they are keen enough to seek out specialist shops. I know, it is sad - we really get what we ask for sometimes (isn't the usual supermarket excuse for stuff that "it is what the public demand"). I am not going to get in to a supermarket bashing rant here... though there are a number of things that I have to say about them - not least of all the way they comodify alcohol.

Now, the first thing to say about this bottle of cider is that I like it. The label has a slightly old fashioned feel to it. It also looks quite familiar. Weston's clearly are singularly the largest producers of supermarket own brands in the UK... well, alongside Thatchers. I would have preferred to see this on the bottle though... surely a bit of provenance is in vogue these days eh!

This cider, as expected, pours out golden, brightly clear and moderately sparkling – a standard, recipe based cider or very well judged natural cider… well, I will leave that to your own judgement but would offer that this has been made by Westons…

It smells clean and appley. There is some small amount of bittersweet going up my nose too. I have to say that this fits with a standard, recipe based tailored cider and I would be very surprised to find it is anything other than a ubiquitous taste too.

OK – for once I don’t regret pre-judging something. This is quite watery and back sweetened with (what must be) apple juice. Given these things, the apple juice feels a bit on the heavy side. However, it is also well balanced (did you expect any different?) There is a little acid and a little, non drying tannin. This is put together in a balanced way to give me a juicy, slightly washed out shadow of a cider.

The aftertaste is pretty short – again not very surprising!

Now, I realise I have been a bit glib about this cider. In fact, it is not terrible… just not great at all. Supermarkets seem to specialise in these – if this is a recipe that they took to Westons then surely they should have been advised that it wasn’t that great! However, it has no rough edges – it is safe. It has no challenging or intense flavours to upset the mass of cider drinkers out there. Shame really.

A score of 64/100 is better than I expected but no apple I am afraid.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

The End of an Era? Frank Naish: A Tribute

Frank Naish

Photograph used with kind permission of Bill Bradshaw -

Having not noticed much comment on the passing of Frank Naish - with the exception of the fine work done be Bill Bradshaw, I felt that it needed remembering...

Frank was the last in a chain of the Naish family to take the helm of 'Naish's Cider' - a well known, if a little hard to get of late, cider company based in the heart of Somerset. At 89, he was also well and truly the oldest working cider maker in the UK - commercially in any case. More than this, however, was tat Frank represented the last of the 'old guard' of producers who used trusted old equipment to press the farms varieties of apples - what he had been taught by his father at 10 years old.

It isn't that Frank was a farmer who made cider - although this is true. There are still plenty of farmers making cider today. But in our corporate world Frank stood out for me as someone who was the 'genuine article'. And I know of no one else left like that.

OK - I am not harking back to some kind of cider 'golden age', if ever there was such a thing. And there are real characters left at the craft end of the industry (though I confess to having seen a photo of Julian Temperley in a suit... (though I would struggle to make a case for him 'being' a cider industry 'suit').

I think the uniqueness of Frank is summed up superbly by this video. It is a little long, but well worth the viewing. This short film was made a year or two ago by Community Channel TV. I didn't ask permission, but am sure they won't mind

In 2011, Frank was awarded 'Lifetime Service to the Cider Industry' award at the annual Royal Bath and West Show. Reading about it since, I learned that he went along thinking that he was to be involved in judging of some sort... a nice story that says something of the man; and a well deserved recognition of his long career as a cider maker.

I confess that I only met Frank once - well, I wouldn't even call it that... saw him was probably more the correct phrase... and I fail to remember what was said between us. I doubt there would have been much other than cider in common though. So I am not the best person to give some eulogy or orbituary of him. However, I think I can speak for the cider community when I say that we have lost something in the passing of Frank... not all bad, but lost nevertheless.

I also have no idea what happens to Naish's Cider now... succession at the craft end of the cider industry is rather sketchy at best. But whatever happens, at least the company (and Frank) earned a rightful place in cider lore.  

So, whenever you are reading this, raise a glass to Mr Naish and, if it is of the commodity kind, just consider - all the effort that goes into making some of these larger companies look traditional and authentic... well, Frank was the real deal... no PR bull and no corporate marketing suits trying to fain respectability.

Cheers Frank!

Monday, 9 December 2013

Thistly Cross Whisky Cask Cider

On to my final Thistly Cross purchase. I have deliberately saved this one until last as it should be quite interesting. I have also had a bit of pre-feedback suggesting that this is pitched by some as being the best cider in the world. Well, it has a long way to go if the others are a judge of it - however in fairness to Thistly Cross and to everyone else I am going to put all that to one side and review it with an objective head on.

Now. I love a bit of whisky. I think it is also proven that I love a bit of cider too! Putting the two together is interesting... one of my favourite ciders of all time was a Rum barrel cider. However it is so easy to go wrong with this kind of combination. Not enough and, well, what is the point; too much and it ruins both cider and whisky. It is also a contentious issue with HMRC... their rules on what can and cannot go into a 'cider' are fairly strict and spirits is not on the list. They want to know if the spirit imparts strength and flavour to the cider... although so far I don't think that many have been caught on this technicality (that, my friends is the story of the cider industry!!!)

This is perhaps more fitting as I believe this is the cider that started all that concern...

Again, I like the labelling on the bottle. It is 6.9%, which is fair for a cider and it is maraked as medium dry. The lavel also says it is a "flavoursome cider made potent in the wood". Hmmm. Is that a taunt to HMRC? (or the reason perhaps that they looked at it in the first place:-) Anyway, it is a deeper colour than their other ciders and has a low-moderate sparkle in the glass.

This cider has a deeper smell too. Am getting the whisky, which is quite a strong smell... I am not sure how sweet it is though. I suspect it is sweeter... It is quite a pleasant smell, however.

The first thing I have to say... and I am hoping that Thistly Cross read this... is in what world is this a medium dry? Please humour me and get some juice to the same level of sweetness as this cider. Then tell me the gravity of it. using my amateur head on this I would say it is around 1.020, which is medium sweet in my books (actually, doing a little research on cider competitions and how they bracket sweetness... which is a fair guide to it I think). OK, to everyone else... this feels medium sweet to me and would benefit from being half the sweetness it is.

Having said that, this is not a bad cider at all. The whisky is there and quite pronounced in the drink. I am getting none of the wood, although being a deeper colour of gold is probably a result of this. The whisky also compensates a bit and acts against the sweetness and the sharpness. And that is how I would describe this cider, light and sharp but with whisky overtones that make it more complex and enhances the drink

There is a fairly long aftertaste, which is pretty much whisky and a bit of apple... but nice.

In summary I think I have to judge this cider far too sweet for its description but, taking that into account, is the best Thistly Cross cider I have tasted so far. The whisky is the overriding flavour to the cider, but that considered it works and actually enhances the cider.

Now, addressing the enquirer who suggested that someone had said this was the best cider in the world. No, it is not. I don't expect even Thistly Cross themselves accept that. However, it is definitively Scottish cider and should be supported. If they can sort out their sweetness it would be better!

A score of 67/100 is shy of an apple, but well above average.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Little Weeke Cider Company, Kestor Gold

The cider I have chosen for this evening is something a little special - a traditional method cider from Devon producer Little Weeke Cider Company. I got this from the Cider Museum in Hereford earlier this year and, at £9.95, have saved it for a decent evening preferably with company. Well, I nearly got there - it is not a bad evening, but I don't have the company so will have to drink it on my own.

Oh well, it is a tough job eh!

Traditional Method cider, alongside keeving, is regarded by many producers as the pinnacle of cider. Looking back in history, I guess we see this style of cider fetching the best prices and gracing the tables of the gentry (as opposed to the still cider - which was more of the farmers lot). Making it is also quite a lot of work... essentially you do all of the things that is done to create champagne... except for the raw materials! You see, bottle conditioning is half the job. However, there is yeast settlement and, for highly sparkling cider this will not do... opening the bottle stirs up the yeast and you lose the clarity. So, by disgorging the yeast (basically, getting rid of it) you get a highly sparkling, clear cider... the best have a mousse like fizz and are every bit as good as champagne... better if what you are after is taste!!:-)

OK - that drove a coach and horses through the process of producing traditional method cider. Note the name; in the UK we should really call it traditional method. You cannot call it Champagne method as the Champagne region is in France and is protected. You shouldn't really call it methode traditionelle (it is French... the cider is British) and Methode Champagnoise is right out! I even have a bit of a problem calling it 'Cider Bouche' as that is a mix of French and English.

I am not going to steal from others research, but if you read 'Ciderland' by James Crowden then you will discover research that demonstrates punted (heavy duty) bottles, and their use was recorded in England before Dom Perignon took the idea and went on to create the Champagne style. Now, I have to say he DID develop the riddling/disgorging of the drink... that isn't English... but I quite like that this style owes as much to the British as the French and is essentially a collaboration. And the fact that Dom Perignon was a monk just makes the whole thing very colourful!

Right, back to Kestor Gold... A nice clear label declares, "Ancient Dartmoor orchards around Clegford provide XXX"

Opening the bottle with a pop, it pours out golden and with a fine creamy mousse carbonation that is persistent... so far, exactly as it is supposed to be! The sell is delightful - a touch of farmyard about it with light sharp aroma's coming through. As the Devon 'tradition' is much more balanced tannin vs sharpness than either Herefordshire or Somerset I expect this to have a bit of a kick as well as a fruity tannin to it. Coming back to it again (child duties called... why won't children just go to be without a fuss:-) the smell is deeper with a rich aroma coming off it as well as the sharpness.


The taste is lovely, although it does have a bit of apple sweets about it. On the whole it comes across as a well made west country cider with a lovely sparkle that enhances the sharpness and gives the somewhat mellow tannins room to develop in the mouth. There is also a bit of earthy gravelliness about this cider too. Lovely. However, I cannot get the image of boiled sweeets as an additional flavour in my mouth... perhaps it is a specific variety that I haven't come across before. Certainly there is a dominant variety in here, but the boiled sweets?!

It is a clean, fresh cider that has a deep fruitiness to it. I think I am making it sound more complex than it is, but I do like this cider. The aftertaste is long and fruity... just as well I have the bottle to myself! It is a bit of a shame that it cost a tenner to buy... though my experience of buying ciders from the Cider Museum is that you do pay a bit of a premium for them.

Apple sauce. That is what it is!!! I wonder if the juice was pasteurised for holding prior to fermenting...

Anyway, this cider scores a great 81/100 - earning itself a silver apple from me.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Asda 'Extra Special' Vintage Cider 2012

It's been a while since I tried a supermarkets own cider... and I also realise that, of the supermarkets, the one I know least about is Asda. No real reason why... just missed them out. Well, this review hopefully goes a little way to redress the balance.

Well, what are the first observations about the bottle... it looks familiar. In fact, it looks very much like the Tesco version of Vintage if I am not mistaken. And the shape of the bottle? Well, Weston's is the first thing that comes to mind. I shall not judge based on that. Lets see what it tastes like. On the label it claims to be 'Dry and Crisp with a subtle Spiciness'... we shall see.

It is lightly golden and pours out with a moderate fizz. It is bright, and at 7.3% it fits in with the designed percentage of other vintages made by the same company. The smell is moderately tannic and fruity - I am sure there is some acid in here too. Actually it is quite pleasant and balanced... I have suggested to several recently that, if all they can get is supermarket 'Vintages' then that is the best to go for in the supermarket. Sure, I have yet to find one that really lights me up (though the Sheppy's, Aspalls and Henney's Vintages are very good indeed), but if you want a cider that has more than the usual offerings then these are a safe bet.

First taste is actually rather sharp. It is a bit watery and sweet too. Towards the end of the mouthful the tannins do come through though - light, not drying but balancing the drink out. I would say this is less 'safe' than I was expecting... there are some vanilla flavours in here making it more interesting... however, it is quite thin and watery. It certainly isn't dry by any stretch, although if I am judging the claim on the label I am actually pleasantly surprised. It is quite crisp and there is a bit of spiciness too.

The aftertaste is moderate in length and the sweetness wins through the other flavours at the end.

I am not sure about this cider. It is different, although not all the differences are brilliant. Saying that, it is drinkable... I guess what I feel about this cider is summed up by the ingredients list, which is rather helpfully on the back label: Apple juice, Water, Glucose, Sugar, Carbon Dioxide, Lactic and Malic Acid... so sweet, slightly watery but interesting.

It scores 62/100 which is shy of an apple, but above average.