Saturday 30 April 2011

Henneys Englands Pride Medium Cider

This bottle of Henney's 'Englands Pride' is a little ironic. Having been on Henney's website I knew to expect to find it at some point - although I am not a medium person. However, I found it whilst on business in Glasgow... at a Tesco as well. I was impressed but slightly embarrassed to be buying something called 'Englands Pride' in Scotland!

Anyway, this is a medium cider from Henney's and, like all the other Henney's I have tried is in a smart bottle - I think the St Georges appearance may need an explanation at some point, although I don't know at the moment. Its not my favourite Henney's label if I am honest... but you don't drink the bottle eh!

Its lightly sparkling, not intrusive and a nice golden colour. Its smell is gentle - sweet and bittersweet come to mind. And on the first taste its also a very mild and mellow flavour, with the tannin coming through at the end and in the aftertaste. This is not to say that there isn't much tannin, but it is overpowered by the sweetness of the cider. Well, it is a sweet cider!

What I find with ciders that are sweet is that the character and flavour suffer as a result. Having said that, the taste does linger, so while I may not be the biggest fan of the inital sweetness, I can get a real sense of the cider beneath it from the aftertaste. Very nice.

On the whole I would probably not choose this drink if I had other Henney's available to me. I guess that is why cider producers make ciders of different sweetness.

It scored 74/100. OK, so its the lowest of the Henney's so far for me, but very not bad! Another Bronze Apple... Henney's are safe hands!

Wednesday 27 April 2011

Dunkertons Black Fox Cider

We all come to various things with preconceived ideas and experiences, and tasting cider is really no different to this. I already know that Black Fox is one of my favourite ciders. If I wanted a true benchmark against which other ciders were judged then this outght to be it (well, this and maybe one or two others). That way I can measure the truely great and good ciders that I try. Magners was, perhaps, aiming a bit low?! Nah... its all good:-)
Dunkertons are a moderately sized cider producer based in Herefordshire who have been making cider to a Herefordshire style since the very late 70's. They also produce a perry (OK, I just sneaked a look at their website) and another 'organic' cider. OK, I will forgive them the Organic status... why not (if you don't spray your trees, does that automatically qualify??) though I am a little sceptical of the organic movement.

This cider is a really good example of a Herefordshire cider. There are both bittersweets and bittersharps present here. And I am positive that there is a good chunk of Kingston Black too (although it could be Stoke Red - I am not an expert!). What I really like about it is that it isn't dumbed down - its a Herefordshire cider not a ubiquitous cider drink as so many of the larger producers seem to have gravitated towards. 

Generally, I tend to class things as being Eastern counties or Western. In reality this is a bit of a simplification as each region has its own character. Herefordshire is about cider apples... no desert fruit. Similarly, Somerset is about cider apples too, although much more bittersweet than sharp. Devon and Dorset are less so. I recommend James Crowdens book, Ciderland, for anyone wanting to explore this further.

The cider itself is amber/gold in colour with a light carbonation. At 7% its got the full measure of fermentation in it. Like the Henney's Vintage, its the proper strength for a cider and needs to be treated as such - if you're a session cider drinker then this probably isn't for you. The aroma is tannic and sharp at the same time and the aftertaste is lingering.

Another silver apple to dish out. At 83/100, this is one that I would recommend to anyone that is seeking to try only excellent ciders!

Sunday 24 April 2011

Addlestones Cloudy Premium Cider

The first question for this cider is whether it should go under its own name or as Gaymers?!  Well, despite appearances Addlestones as a company (which is what I expected) never existed. Addlestones is a brand name available since 1986 from Matthew Clark plc/Gaymers. With that in mind, this cider falls under the Gaymers category; though I guess I am disappointed asI was expecting to find an old cider producer behind the name. Never mind... its all marketing at this level of production.

Looking at other sources, none suggest that Addlestones is a full juice cider - which is probably accurate for Gaymers. And despite the description on the Addlestones site as this being a 'live' cider, nowhere does it claim to be full juice. Also, I am a bit confused by the talk of..."The unique Addlestones cloudiness is caused by the fact that Addlestones is fermented twice". Cider ferments until all the sugar is gone or you stop it. To have a second fermentation, you need to add more sugar... and this one is only 5%... Oh well.

OK, there is no judgement here for ciders of all shapes, sizes and methods of production. I do get cross when marketing people obscure what should be open and honest in order to dupe people into thinking it is something it isn't. I cannot see the point. And I am tempted to dock points from this cider for that fact. However, I should have probably done that for other ciders already, so I won't... not that Gaymers would care eh!

So, is this just a safe manufactured cider (as, to be honest, I am expecting) or does it have any character. Well, on pouring it has a gentle moussy carbonation and a smell of tannin and a tiny bit of acid. Not a bad start. It is also a dark golden colour with a fairly uniform cloudiness (could it have been engineered?).

To taste, this cider is actually a nice blend of apples, with tannin and acidity coming through. First you get the tannin, then the acid and fruit. The cloudiness does notihing for me (and nothing for the cider except give it a little more body than it would otherwise have). Ironically, there the aftertaste is very short. May be a little tannin lingers but that is about the sum of it. Too common with mass produced ciders. But that shouldn't detract from the fact that this is really not bad.

A somewhat surprising 66/100 for this cider. Purists and those seeking a real product may want to deduct a few (but then I would recommend purists deduct a few from most of the ciders tried on here so far).

Thursday 21 April 2011

Aspall Organic Cyder

After the Premier Cru, the Organic from Aspall is probably the cyder I am most familar with. I have mentioned before that I quickly moved on to things like Aspall after Magners - and if you buy a bottle of Magners and a bottle of either Premier Cru or Organic I am sure you will understand why.

Now, to rant or not to rant? Rant about what? Rant about the idea and concept of 'organic' stuff! Particularly cider (sorry... cyder) To some degree, a lot of cider orchard are organic - or at least would be if they could afford the soil associations fees. And if an orchard uses pesticides or spray to help them obtain the perfectly rounded and crunchy examples that mose supermarkets and customers demand, then they forfeit the 'organic' status. Anyway, I have yet to find a cider maker who really cares two hoots whether his cider apples are crunchy or not, and if they are blemish free and/or perfectly round. In fact, to make decent cider, its better that the apples have gone past their crunchy stage:-)

I haven't said very much about Aspells Organic yet, have I! Well, to start it has a nice cidery aroma, although its pretty fizzy (this dies down pretty quickly once its poured out). To taste, Organic gives a good sharp hit - more eastern counties than the other Aspall ciders I have tried so far (and far more than the Thatchers Cox!!). There are also a few tannins in it, although the appley, desert flavour is the boss.

There isn't a huge aftertaste to it, the crispness does liner though. It doesn't say on the bottle what it classes itself as, although its probably a medium dry - a very nice full flavour that is neither 'safe' (I have to say that having tried a few eastern style ciders from the big producers, they do seem to err on the cautious side for their eastern products) or simply a standardised cider taste.

Nice one Aspalls. A jolly good 72/100 and a bronze apple from me:-)

Monday 18 April 2011

Tesco's Finest Oak Matured Still Cider

This one came as a bit of a surprise to me. Not particularly because of its greatness - although its not a bad cider - but because I failed to read the label and thought I was getting yet another sparkling cider. So I was a little taken aback when I poured it to find it flat and still. I even checked the cap to see if it had been loose before I looked at the label. Doh!

Well, this is a sparkling... I mean, still cider from Tesco's. A rare breed among supermarket ciders indeed. Produced for them by Westons to a 'traditional recipe'... it certainly has the look of a decent cider. And yes, I am bored having to bang on about 'real' vs. 'non real' cider. As someone once said (I think actually about Thatchers); "There is more that united us than separates us". Quite true.

There isn't much of a smell to this one, but after a few sips it doesn't really matter. I do like still ciders, and this one has a prertty gentle tannin and flavour - even smokey. You miss these things in a carbonated cider (I think) - the bubbles knock some of the more delicate profile of cider out of sight. Being still though, it tastes a good deal more sweet than its medium dry label. and this does mask any complex aftertaste.

Overall, I felt it lacked a character that would make it more special. Like so many of the more common brands I have tried so far, I think the pasteurisation and filtration have removed a lot of its charisma. This tends to leave a fairly save flavour. In fact (and probably because it is a still cider) I did note that I could taste a bit of a cooked apple flavour to it as well.

Never the less, its not a bad cider and once again the Tesco cider seems to have done better than its Sainsbury rival. Now if only they could get the rest of their cider range sorted out!!

A score of 66/100

Friday 15 April 2011

Burrow Hill Somerset Pomona

And now for something completely different!

It has to be said that there is more that can be done with the humble apple than make pies or juice or even cider. We seem to take it for granted to some degree, but the UK has the climate and skills to make not only world class ciders, but also compete on the cider brandy stakes too.

What is cider brandy? Well, try thinking Calvados and then stop because the French won't let anyone else call it that. Julian Temperley, of Burrow Hill has been making Cider Brandy for many years now, and alongside this, produces aperatif and (kind of) desert cider. And it is what I see as a desert cider that this review wants to have a snifter at next.

There are three aperatif's that Burrow Hill make, which are a blend of cider brandy and either cider or juice: and Eau d'vie, a Kingston Black, and the Somerset Pomona.

These are not ciders - not pitched as cider and not in anyway a 'craze'. Unlike the cider with fruit (or should that be fruit with cider) this is a properly crafted product. NB - yes, I know I am hard on 'fruit cider'. Maybe one day I will come around to it... may not. Somerset Pomona is sold in a tall slender bottle and, with an alcoholic volume of XX, should be drunk as a short drink.

What to say of it though. It is still (as expected). It is rather sweet (also, as expected). It is fairly syruppy (again, this is very much like a desert wine, so that is fine). Overall though, it is delicious! The cider and apples really come through on the tongue, together with a little fire in the throat when swallowed. The aftertaste lingers for ages and it is balanced sufficiently that no one thing takes over. Yum!

There is tannin in this drink, although it doesn't rule at all - the sweetness probably rules more than anything - although I shouldn't overstate it as there is much more to it than that. There is also not a lot of sharpness, although there is a little (in the same way as the tannin). This has been blended to keep all things in balance.

I am always very impressed with Somerset Pomona (oops, yes... I admit it, I have tried a few bottles of this before now:-) I think it competes with any desert wine after a meal, or just chilling out. Even better, after a cider! Burrow Hill sell a small bottle of this with their very dry champagne style 'Kingston Black' cider - though it does actually work with most sparkling dry ciders. This they call 'Orchard Mischief'.

A very deserving 90/100 and the first Gold Apple for a fantastic alternative to cider:-)

Tuesday 12 April 2011

Bulmers Red Apple Cider

Okay, a cider made using only red apples. Now, to me that sounds a little bit like making a cider from only large apples, or apples whose stalk leans to the left. There are some very good red cider apples; Kingston Black is a red apple and Tremletts Bitter is often red (although can have a bit of green to it which may disallow it). And there is another thought... if they get an apple that is mostly red but, by some accident there is a bit of green, do they cut it out???

Unhelpful I know, but this could go on for ages! Bulmers Red Apple is a limited edition cider - I presume to diversify the Bulmers range of cider. I must admit, I am struggling to think of anyone else that produces a 'red apple' blend of cider... maybe there will be a green apple cider to follow.

On pouring I was just a tiny bit disappointed that the cider wasn't red too. At least I would have got it then. However, this is a dark golden liquid with quite a sparkle to it. This dies off fairly quickly and I would say its a medium fizz as opposed to a high fizz. Doesn't exactly smell of cider though - not that it smells of an awful lot, to be honest.

I ought to clarify, I expect a cider to have an aroma - not a huge one that has been manufactured in some kind of 'steam of cider' effect, but a gently smell of cider. And that is cider, not really apples so much (although there are some great ciders that manage to maintain an apple taste to them). The aroma also helps the drinker detect other things, like faults for example.

Back to the Red Apple. After a few glugs of this now, it is really syruppy and stodgy. Sure, there are some good tannins in the cider - presumably the benefit of red apples which (no doubt) will scientifically have been proven to contain more tannin (joking!!!) There is also a real absense of any acid at all. It is also very stable and balanced - too much so really and there is little character to it, other than its lack of acid and stodginess.

Maybe I get this drink now. the Red Apples bit means it is a heavy western style cider. No sharps, just bittersweets. This is a bit of a guess though - some of my favourite bittersweets (many of the 'Jerseys' - Harry Masters, Dabinett, Chisel - plus Yarlington Mill) are not just red in colour. So perhaps its a turn of phrase. Its the only way I can think to define this cider. However, this cider suffers a lot from being too safe. Its thick, sweet and tannic. I really dont like it very much.

It scored 49.

Saturday 9 April 2011

Lyme Bay Sparkling Cider

Now for a cider producer that I am more than a little familiar with. Having holidayed in West Dorset for a few years Lyme Bay and Perry's have been staple lubricants to many a camping barbeque. 

For this reviewing blog, I have deliberately started with ciders that are easy to get hold of from the supermarket shelves. This isn't one of those ciders - although you can get hold of it fairly easily around the west of Dorset. Dorset has a good heritage of making cider, albeit that most reporters of the history of the county suggest that it was mainly made by the farming community for themselves. Later, many of the orchards were grubbed and Dorset varieties lost - although these are being rediscovered (click this to find out more).

On opening (and stuffing my nose into the top of the bottle) the smell is delicately tempting - its the smell of a cider that hasn't been adjusted too much and, rather nicely, the smell is not of apple sauce or too big. There is a bit of fizz in the bottle, and my guess would be that this is a force carbonated product (usually this means it has been paseurised too, but don't let that put you off - full juice ciders can be sweetened, pasteurised and carbonated... they are still full juice:-). Most contract bottlers will do all this and then stick it in a bottle too.

The only bit about contract bottling is that they do tend to filter too - which for me simply removes some of the flavour and character of the cider. I am happy to be corrected, but this may be why the flavours are more delicate in this cider. Its definitely what it says on the bottle though - "made from west country cider apples". The tannin is in the smell and there is a bittersweet flavour to it with a gentle tannin.

Other than the filtering, the only thing that bothers me is the low strength, suggesting it may have been cut a little... this could also be why the flavours are more delicate than I would expect.

Its really rather refreshing and delicious. My pretend friend on his cider journey would definitely try this one... although that could be because I would take them to Dorset and end up trying it. This cider scored 66/100.

Wednesday 6 April 2011

Thatchers Cox's Cider

You have probably heard of Thatchers Katy Cider, made from the desert apple Katy (Katja). However, continuing the theme of this, they also make a cider from Cox's. Both could be regarded as a curious choice for a single variety cider. Desert apples are fairly high in sugar and acid but low in tannin, so I am expecting the cider to be fairly thin or watery with a decent amount of acidity - very much in an Eastern counties style.

Not to go over the top though, this cider is extremely well balanced. It has a little sharpness and a little tannin but, in the main, the taste is of apple sauce - sweet and, well, a sweetened stock cider. It even smells of apple sauce. Very definitely not what I was expecting and, to be quite frank, very disappointing. This is what I can only assume is an engineered product.

Whilst it does have a desert apple undernote, and a fairly deserty aftertaste most of the character has been 'adjusted' out of it. I have no doubt that Thatchers really did press a few tonnes of Cox's (well, probably rather more than a few), and have made this cider from the juice. I am also prtty sure that this has been adjusted  to make the cider taste more acceptable to the masses (I may have said before, eastern cider is not to everyones taste!). Its the extent to which this has been done that makes it a fairly dull and uninteresting cider, in my opinion.

OK, enough Thatchers bashing. This is my journey - I would suggest that people try it for themselves. Its not one that I am likely to rush to try again though.

Score is 53.

Sunday 3 April 2011

Savanna Dry Cider

Savanna, widely available in supermarkets as a cider that is from South Africa. But who are they? Well, Savanna is produced by Distell, who ironically call themselves a 'brewery' (it clearly is the equivalent of the UK 'producer'). They also produce 'Hunters Dry', although I am not sure if this is available in the UK.

Looking at their website (the UK one), it shows a bottle of Savanna with a slice of lemon in the top. Well, thats a change from 'serving over ice', but I must say its not a positive change! So, how does it taste (without the lemon!).

It smells like Appletize, and tastes just like apple juice... an alcoholic Appletize! Its also fairly sweet; presumably because of the apples used (I am not judging whether this is a full juice cider, though I rather think not). On a few more tastes it is definitely beyond dry. In fact I would go as far as to say that this is a medium cider.

Its not a horrible cider. Well, I guess its not very cidery - UK cidery I mean. It may be that this is the style of South African ciders. I guess its because of this that it is so hard to classify or use anything to measure against it. Its a smooth cider that tastes of apples. My experience of making cider suggests that this shouldn't taste quite so much like apple juice which leads me to think its been adjusted though. And it does feel a bit too safe - that dulled down cider taste that seems to be common of the lower juice end of the cider spectrum.

As far as my cidery friend is concerned, I would probably give this one a bit of a miss, although there is nothing wrong or faulty with it. It just tastes a bit manufactured to me.

Now, to score a cider from South Africa when I haven't tried any other African ciders. I guess it has to stand amongst the others. 55/100 is probably a bit weak, but I think its fairly accurate for me (personally)