Thursday 28 June 2012

Crossmans (Medium Sweet) Draught Cider

OK. Final one for this particular festival... well, actually it wasn't the final one but the real final one isn't going to get posted as I don't think it reflects the cider well. Actually, the 'real' final cider was filtered within an inch of its life and tasting of nothing. But I am not sure that is an objective reading (it was my 5th or even 6th cider of the evening!) So we will finish with this Crossman's cider. And this, I think, is a lesson in sweetening cider beyond its capacity for sweetening.

You see, apples are gentle things; some are a little sharp, some are very sharp, some are sweet, some are a little tannic (etc. etc. etc.). This all combined makes your cider. Tom Oliver said (and I won't quote when or where I heard this) that you have to know your apples to make a great cider. For example, the wrong choice of apples will bottle condition but won't be as stunning as the right combination of flavour profiles that will take the extra conditioning. I think the same is true of sweetening. Sure, you can sweeten any cider, but the art is in reading the flavour of a cider to see how much it will bear being sweetened. Too often I find ciders sweetened beyond their flavour capacity so all you get is sweetness - and this drowns out the character of the cider. This means drowning out the tannin, the acid (more easily done than you may think) and, of course, the fruit profiles.

I have reviewed one cider on here (last year) where clearly the producer felt that all ciders should be sweet as that is what customers demand. OK, but at least produce a cider that can take it! In fact, customers don't simply want sweet cider - they want good cider (within their frames of reference). It requires thinking, and simply chucking in sweetener is not the solution. Perry's get this right pretty much all the time - they gently sweeten their ciders and never beyond what its flavour will bear.

OK. That went off a little. But I hope you see my point about treating cider with respect to get the best out of it. For example, This cider was neither medium sweet, nor was it complementary to the ciders profile. That said, I would like to try the dry version to see what it really should have tasted like.

As a note (before I review it), the cider bar manager actually changed the sign in front of it from 'Medium Sweet' to 'Not quite as sweet as the sweet' (they had Crossman's Sweet too). Curiously, it has been muted that instead of buying from a well known wholesaler next year (as has been their practice for the last few years) that I lend a hand to the cider bar manager to come up with a list of ciders for the bar... I must say I am tempted!

Anyway, I will keep the review fairly brief as I think its clear where its going... plus I think I would like to review Ben Crossman's drier ciders as I am sure they are excellent.

The smell of this cider is all sweet. It dominates even the aroma and moving quickly on to tasting it, this is confirmed in the taste. There is some fruit taste in the drink, but the sweetness kills most of any tannic profile and the acid is absent - and I cannot determine if this is due to the fact that there is no acid or whether its the sweetening again.

This was a bit of a struggle to get through. There is a long, lingering and sweet aftertaste that needs a glass of water to kill off (or, as it turns out, a decent glass of dry perry:-)

In conclusion, this is probably an excellent heritage English cider dominated and obliterated by the use of too much sweetening. I have seen lists of quantities of sweetener - and tried those amounts too. Trouble is, while it may work for one cider it will not fit other ciders and you need to taste and see... you cannot simply bung in a load of sweetener (be it sugar, sucralose, aspartame or even apple juice) and expect the cider to survive it.

This cider scored 64/100. Probably due to its potential rather than my enjoyment of it (sorry Ben - I promise I will try others of yours!)

Monday 25 June 2012

Raglan Cider Mill (Medium) Draught Cider

The third festival cider I tried was another Welshy - South Wales this time by the Raglan Cider Mill from Monmouthshire.

Those who know such things will know that this company are heavily involved in the annual Clytha Cider Festival - the Clytha being a pub that each year holds a major cider festival. Keeping tabs on such things via Twitter helps - and I can safely say that if you are in that universe the Clytha festival was all over it... to say it was well advertised would probably be a bit of an understatement!

Anyway, this isn't a review of the festival, its a review of some of their cider that made it all the way to my local festival. Again, this is another producer I have been looking forward to trying. They make Perry too (but I am still an innocent as far as Perry's are concerned - I have tried them, I am trying to understand them, and I still have plenty of cider yet to try before I start on them with any kind of seriousness... if that is a word!)

This cider is hazy and dark. I have put pale brown on the scoresheet, but I think copper may be more accurate. It smells sweet and earthy - there seems to be a lot of fruit going on in here by its smell. And boy, is there a lot of fruit in here!

The first taste is, however, a mouthful of sweetness. Why people think that this is a medium is a little beyond me - its more like a sweet. However, accepting that perhaps I don't know mediums and sweets that well as they are not really my thing, I persevered. And I am glad I did. There is so much fruity taste in this cider. Sure, it has tannin and not a lot of acid in it, but the fruit is surely the element that wins out. OK, this may be because the sweetening is drowning out both acid and tannin, but its very interesting all the same.

Fruit and sweetness run all the way through this cider. It has a surprisingly long aftertaste - again, could be the sweetening doing that. I actually don't mind it after a few mouthfuls of the stuff. Ok, I would prefer a medium dry or dry version to see how this compares and to see what effect the levels of sweetness bring or detract from the true cider. But never the less, this cider deserves its bronze apple from me, with a score of 74/100.

Friday 22 June 2012

Upper House (Dry) Draught Cider

Another festival review for you - and another dry cider! Yup, in total there were 5 dry ciders on offer at this festival, although I had already tried a couple and reviewed them so there isn't much point in repeating the exercise just now. I confess, I did try them and they were every bit as good as I remember:-)

Upper House are a heritage cider producer from Herefordshire, although I don't recall ever coming across them before now. All I can find out about them online is that they started in 2006, so have been going for a few years and that they are from Wormslow... I cannot find a website to plagerise or glean any useful information from. But here it is, at my local beer festival - so it must be tried! Again, apologies about the quality of the photographs - they aren't going to get any better I am afraid.

So, its a 6% cider, and when it is sat in front of me I have to say my first thought is 'filtered!'. It is crystal clear... well, its golden but very clear for it (as the image can actually attest). It doesn't have much of a smell though - not just because its a draught, still cider but also because of the filtering (no doubt).

And then there is the taste. Odd is the first thought that entered my mind. Sure enough the cider is a western style, tannic cider. But most of the tannin is missing and its left with little depth to it. It also has a fairly sharp edge to it - again, I suspect much of the sharpness has been filtered out along with much of the taste. It is quite dry - pretty dry in fact... which may explain the heavy filtering. It could be that it was simply too dry, too unweildly for the general population and therefore was pulled back. But it hasn't just diminished the tannin, its everything else too - and some of it is still tasting, well, odd!

There is only a short aftertaste, which is tannic and a bit fruity. This is a shame as it was clearly made with love and care. I do get that people don't want to drink hard core dryness, but it could have been blended with a lighter cider. Mind you, I am assuming that this is the reason for its filtering. Such a shame.

As for the score: 62/100. Sorry Upper House, will try more:-)

Tuesday 19 June 2012

Troggi Seidr (Dry) Draught Cider

My first 2012 festival cider review... I think (I did a couple from pubs earlier in the year, so perhaps not the first draught review then!) This one is from one of Wales' finest producers, Troggi.

I don't really get to that many festivals in a year. This isn't through lack of trying, I can assure you, and I shall be reviewing from the Great British Beer Festival once again (hopefully it won't be too tight a squeeze in the new venue:-) This festival was a little closer to home, but nonetheless had an impressive array of ciders and perries to choose from.

Troggi was an obvious first choice for me; a producer I have heard good things about and a dry cider on offer. Don't worry too much about the name 'Seidr'. As I am sure most can guess it simply means 'Cider' in Welsh. I ought to also apologise for the awful photographs that go along with the few festival reviews that I cobbled together... lesson to self that phones with camera's are not always the best that one can manage (mind you, better than lugging the Canon about all over the place!)

Now, as a draught cider it is naturally going to be still. This one is also unfiltered and presents itself as a lovely golden and hazy cider. There is a faint smell - as I try more and more cider, I think that part of the aroma is enhanced by a few bubbles - it pushes it out. Still ciders do have an aroma (this one is nice and fruity) but it is much less obvious.

To taste, the Seidr has a wonderfully balanced profile - both sharp and tannin well pronounced - surely made from bitter sharp and  bittersweet fruit. It has a rounded fruitiness too which, although not safe in any regard makes it taste balanced and good. I do like this cider quite a lot in fact; it is earthy and traditionally west country in taste. This seems to be what a number of the upcoming Welsh producers are aiming at. And they are doing very well at it too.

The aftertaste is fairly short, but as its a beer festival it doesn't get much of a chance to just sit in my mouth. The acid eventually wins over the tannin though, which suggests a little more of the acid than tannin. However, this isn't a bad thing at all.

On the whole, a jolly nice cider. With a score of 80/100, Troggi get a silver apple from me for the effort. Nice one.

Saturday 16 June 2012

Olivers Shezam Cider

One of the things that I immediately like about this Olivers cider is that it has the process neatly described out on the back of the bottle. Knowing what I do about Mr Oliver and his people, I have absolutely no doubts in my head that this is what they do. Sure, describing the 'angels share' from a wooden barrel has more to do with whisky than cider - it doesn't really sit in the barrel long enough to lose that much (so they would have to be very thirsty angels!) but there is some poetic licence to be granted on this - I guess those hardened whisky angels would have to 'walk 500 miles' to get hold of Tom's cider:-) Apologies - an intended pun to reference the fact that Tom Oliver is also a road manager for the Proclaimers:-)

And so we come to Shezam. Why its called Shezam exactly, well I hope I find out one day - maybe its just that good that they all took a sip and shouted "shezam"?? (or maybe its magic cider?) Who knows... it doesn't work backwards (mazehs) and I can't really get any useful anagram from it (he'z sam?).

As is becoming a common touch for Herefordshire producers, this bottle displays the 'Herefordshire PGI'. I need to research this a little, but I think the sole purpose of this PGI is that you can only call it Herefordshire Cider if it is made in Herefordshire with Herefordshire apples. That may be a little strict interpretation, but its main aim is to stop others from producing what they would call Herefordshire Cider with any old muck. I can't see many Somerset producers bothering though with any kind of heritage PGI though - albeit I can think of one or two from other parts of the UK that might. In any case, it doesn't appear are restrictive as the French rules so that is probably a good thing.

On pouring this cider is beautifully golden, with low carbonation and is brightly clear... what? brightly clear??!! Oh, I seem to be coming across this far too much currently. Mind you, that is how the public will buy it. As a nation we are not interested in natural stuff, we want bright, crunchy and sweet. Well done marketeers and conglomerate foodco's for persuading us all that what we really want is not the best that a product can be, but some sanitised version of said products. OK, I like my ciders unfiltered or at most gently filtered... cider shouldn't require filtering as it drops clear. It does not drop polished, however.

Shezam smells fruity and gently tannic - in fact, the aroma is very gentle (when I say that I mean gentle, not faint). Clearly its going to be a full cider variety west country style cider - I recall my last outing with Olivers cider, and this smells from the start more balanced and measured. To taste... wow, there is a lovely blend of fruit in here. True enough the tannin and acidity are controlled - probably by the filtering - and its all rather complex yet gentle. Shezam really is well done - I would have said that it isn't missing anything but thats not quite true. Once again, heavy filtering has limited the cider a touch - and I do wonder if this isn't the full juice answer to what the big companies offer - they dilute, smaller companies filter...

The aftertaste is pretty long despite the filtering and its at this point I realise that I dont feel or taste any sweetening in this cider. It doesn't feel excessively dry, but it certainly doesn't feel sweetened either. Delicious!

So, to the score. Well, despite the filtering being an issue once again for me Shezam magics itself a silver apple from me with a score of 84/100. Its a wonderfully well put together cider even if it has been limited.

Wednesday 13 June 2012

Ross on Wye Dry, Still Cider

And so back on to the artisan ciders. Or craft cider. Or real ciders... however you want to call it I am now back on to it:-) This is another cider from the Ross on Wye Cider and Perry Company - and what looks like the first really professional label from them. I love the way it says 'Whole Juice' on the front of the label too. This is a concept that has been much pilfered and abused by less that straight shareholder driven companies. Remember that Pear Cider' who claimed to have 100% pears? The one that turned out to be that 100% of the juice content was pears and even got by advertising standards on that basis - even though the juice content is somewhere around the 35% mark?!?!. Yeah, well Ross on Wye are not like that - if it says whole juice, as ambiguous as that sounds, its almost certainly going to be whole juice.

Ross on Wye have scored quite well out of me at the moment - two gold apples. I guess that is why I turn to this bottle now. I quite fancy something that is really good tonight. And, as a 75cl version, there is plenty to enjoy! If you aren't falling over Hairy Bikers (pun intended) then Broome Farm is a cracking place to visit too - although careful of that last turning in at the farm - if there is anything coming the other way it can be a touch tricky!

Getting back to their labelling, the thing I notice on their label is a wonderful ingredients list. Sure, I may not have sugar on my own list personally, but this can cover all sorts of things - sweetening for example. Apart from that its just juice and a little bit of sulphite. OK, so its been shown an oak barrel (I am not known for my true understanding of what an oak barrel brings to a cider apart from a bit of authenticity on the label. Oh, and I have just noticed; this cider is a 7.4% big hitter, so maybe I should just go a little more carefully!

I have put the tasting off for long enough. It is beautifully clear and golden... perhaps a little too beautifully clear - although if it has been filtered then its not been harshly done. It is also dead flat, which is a nice sign and, well, given its name was to be expected. It has a bittersweet smell, with a warmth to it that is either in the smell or in the anticipation of drinking a strong cider. In all, this smell is what I have come to expect of many Herefordshire makers and it is delicious.

The taste of this cider probably could do with a little explanation. I do think that there is a bit more bitter sharp than bittersweet in this cider - the sharpness more than competes against the moderate to strong tannin. It has a stack load of apples in there too - just what you should expect from a cider made of apples. Its not an apple taste as such, but the result of  great apples fermented and looked after. I ought to point out that I do feel that this cider has been sweetened a bit - perhaps to combat the tannin a little. However, its still quite a dry cider.

Oak... well, its lost on me and I cannot help thinking that it might be just a little redundant these days. I know there are one or two reasons for using oak, but the benefit of an malolactic fermentation to round off the tannin and acids is not only achieved in wooden barrels. Still, I do confess that this cider is nicely rounded and matured so perhaps a tiny bit of slack can be cut.

87/100 gives Ross on Wye another great score from me. It is very different from the others I have tried so far and if I am honest its their weakest runner so far. However, with a silver apple in my personal rankings that's not exactly a bad result! The bods at Broome Farm certainly know what to do with an apple!

Sunday 10 June 2012

Sainsbury's Low Alcohol English Cider

Ha ha. So, here we have Sainsbury's low alcohol offering and just look at that - the bottle is identical to the Waitrose version and its even made in the same area of the country (there are a lot of producers in Herefordshire, so lets do our best not to make any rash assumptions). On this one, it actually says its made by H. Westons... so perhaps we have a name at least. Given that they look identical, I am not going to put long odds on these ciders being identical in taste too. No real issue with this - some people prefer Waitrose to Sainsbury's and others visa versa. I guess it does demonstrate that in our homogonised country there is absolutely no difference between supermarkets products though!

Whilst normally I would, at this point, be worrying that this review is going to be the same as the last one, I should come out at least a little in support of low alcohol alternatives. You see, cider is a mysterious beast to us Brits; we treat it like beer yet it has more in common with wine; we will happily down a few pints of cider and the consequences of this (if we are drinking real cider and not the 4% industrial stuff) are that we are some 30-40% more intoxicated. Its no wonder that I see stories of 'cider fuelled' problems in the news - although I am sure that there are just as many wine, spirits, beer or lager fueled problems.

I have said before that the Europeans treat cider more like a weak wine than a strong beer. In this position it has a more positive spin. However, with cider being controlled to beer levels by the largest commodity players in the market I doubt this will ever really change in our minds in the near future. A change in the way of thinking about cider is also hindered by those who claim to 'honour it' - whilst while beeries and beer representing organisations either don't really care about cider or else try to capture as a hostage to some kind of quasi fair deal for beer (some are meant to, others profess to support cider yet seem to have a wish bone where they ought to have a back bone!)

Nevertheless - in the UK we have NACM (who are somewhat tied to the major cider makers), the regional associations who do more to represent smaller producers and a fairly close knit group of producers who share idea's online through such groups as Cider Workshop...though it has to be said that the latter is more a mouthpiece to small producers for the former. So there is a structure for producers at least. And its NACM that are committed to removing the billion or so % points from the cider market. I am not that worried about this - after all, whole juice/full juice/ real and/or crafted cider and perry represents a fraction of the total market itself.

OK, lets get back to this Sainsbury's low alcohol cider. I am afraid this is going to be unsurprising to everyone: its 1% vol, faintly yellow yet watery looking, pours with a low carbonation and has a smell which tips its hat to proper cider. Yes, its identical to the Waitrose cider. This has happened several times before now - not exclusively with Westons (although I can immediately think of 2 or 3 others which are 'just' another name as opposed to another cider). I can also remember Thatchers producing stuff that is very close to other ciders too.

"But there is only so many varieties a producer can make". Sure. And I accept that you will get several variations of a theme from many - dry, medium, sweet, bottle conditioned, low alcohol etc. When I come across these I tend to go for one or two but don't bother with the rest. However, I do have one thought: if Weston's make this for the supermarkets, why not just call it Westons and save on the extra labelling etc.? At the end of the day this is a minor quibble though - although I shall be careful in seeking out the Asda/Tesco/Morrison's versions!

I also ought to be fair to the cider. It is not terrible. I would choose it if driving and it was available. Low alcohol drinks have come a long way and do have potential (although if I want a soft drink I would tend to go for a soft drink as opposed to something that is similar to cider... if I am totally honest)

Guess what. It has 55/100... Strangely exactly the same as the Waitrose version. And yes, I did stop marking it once I had tasted it. If you can tell the difference then you are a better taster than me:-)

Thursday 7 June 2012

Waitrose Low Alcohol Cider

Having taken a bit of a pop at the nation for our alcoholic ways, I felt that the responsible thing to do was to try a couple of low alcohol alternatives. Hmmm, to be honest I wasn't sure if these would even qualify as a cider outside of the USA (note - in America, they call apple juice 'cider' and cider is 'hard' cider). I am pretty sure its not going to be full juice. I haven't the foggiest idea how they get the cider down to its 1% abv. without making it mostly water...

I have a couple to try, and these will compete with all the other ciders on equal merits. Its all about the taste eh. If its really good it surely must challenge the idea of strong cider in some regard... although that would probably be riding roughshod over the full juice traditions. I note from the Waitrose bottle that 'It is matured in old oak vats and the process used to produce the cider is controlled so while that low in alcohol it is full of flavour'.

I do have an idea of who made this for Waitrose, but I am not certain by any means. It looks like it has a Weston's feel, but please don't go by that - I am not sure. I guess the best way to do this is simply to try the thing - so without trying to put it off any further I had better open it (interesting attitude isn't it... I guess that reflects our relationship with low alcohol drinks in the UK).

So, lets do this properly - if its the same as the Sainsbury's I can then just cut and paste:-) It is a faint, yellow looking cider. I would say it looks watery even. It pours out with little fizz, and you get a tannic and cidery smell with it... which for the look of it is a bit odd. There is also a chemical smell behind it too. And then its time to drink. Well, it definitely tips its hat towards cider as there seem to be remnants of cider underneath what seems to be a very sweet and syrupy taste. See, looks aren't everything; I thought it looked watery but actually the taste is syrupy.

I have to say that nothing here so far should be a surprise. You can adjust everything in a cider these days - you can buy colour, flavour and even aroma in a tin! And I think this is what is going on here - look at the ingredients list. The first ingredient is generally the biggest part, reducing as the list goes on. In this one, water is the main ingredient, followed by 'cider base' and apple juice from concentrate. OK, I think there is enough for the hardcore cider elite to ignore it - although bear in mind this is a low alcohol cider so there is no way its ever going to be a straight forward drink!

The taste of the cider is acceptable. I think low alcohol drinks have moved on in the last 20 years. However, its not exactly 'no' alcohol (0.5 units per bottle). I guess the acid test is whether, as nominated driver, I would choose it. And that answer is probably yes.

There is a sickly aftertaste to it although the juice comes through too.

So, this is a cider that has been taken apart and put back together in a slightly different format. Its OK but not exactly the pinnacle of cider making. The ingredients list reads like a horror story from the cider cellar - although this is expected from a cider in this market.

With a score of 55/100 its not on my favourites list, but its really nothing to be scared of! And, with the industry trying to shed a billion alcohol units from somewhere, this leaves three of four less to achieve (but please, lets not make cider a low alcohol drink all round:-)

Monday 4 June 2012

Hallets Real Cider

Like all the best things, whilst there are a few mass market products that seem to ubiquitously stretch from coast to coast in the UK there are many more smaller producers who want to produce individual and unique products that need to be hunted down. I think Hallets is one of these - I have heard about them for some time although never actually got to try any. And so, thanks to the dealings of the Bristol Cider Shop I now have a bottle in front of me.

The first thing to say about Hallets is that they are Welsh. Somewhere near to Newport/Caerphilly judging by their address... so they are Southern Welsh. Better be nice to them then;-) I like the bottle, its a professional look and I am particularly fond of the 'Beautifully Simple' strapline at the bottom. It sums up the art of cidermaking really. Why go through all the processes when an astounding product can be made from few ingredients and a lot of expertise/knowhow?

The ingredients are all I expect from this kind of cider too - apples and a bit of sulphites. Whilst ingredients labelling is not a necessity for alcoholic drinks currently (I say currently in a hopeful way, although until the wine producers of the EU choose to play ball there is little hope) it is nice to see it on a bottle. It also says it may contain natural yeast too, which does build up my expectation for a slightly hazy, gently produced cider inside. One comment - I am fairly ambivilant about the 'selected apples' terminology... what, every apple? Hmmm... I think I am being a bit daft on this, but it always makes my smile fade a little.

Now, on pouring this is a darkly golden cider with a hell of a fizz. This dies down to a moderate sparkle which glints in the super bright cider. It does look extremely polished and clean, but its a bit like asking for a crunchy apple... I want an apple that has flavour - crunch does not = quality. It is actually the same with cider. Sparkling bright cider simply means filtered to me - and that is only very rarely going to improve the taste... if its an extremely tannic cider for example. So, this has been through some commercial processes then. Lets see what it has done to the cider.

The smell is deep and fruity - a western tannic smell that is really lovely. I have noted 'rich' so that indicates how deep this smell is. Very nice. The taste is where it all lies though - and it is bittersweet. Not a lot of acid, but plenty of fruit and again it is rich. I reckon its got a moderate to fairly high tannin and its well balanced and blended. I do note that its been sweetened. I know this is a little 'reckoned' though - there is nothing on the bottle about sweetness - but I would put this cider as a medium - medium/dry with the emphasis on medium. This is probably what is killing any acid in the cider, as it is there but right in the background.

The aftertaste is quite short. It is full of tannin and fruit again though. I like this cider... though I have answered my own questions about the effects of the commercial processing its been through. Its been heavily filtered and sweetened - I cannot comment on whether it is pasteurisedas that is near enough impossible to detect and would probably depend on whether they sweeten with sugar. I expect this is to appeal to the mass market and I cannot blame them. However, it has hit the cider back a bit from being great.

With a decent score of 77/100, Hallets earn a bronze from me. Knowing that they do have their fans, I would like to add that this is my own opinion! Still, it is a lesson in processes (he says, noticing what he wrote at the start!!)

Friday 1 June 2012

Butford Organics 'Gatria' Cider

So, an organic cider from Butford Organics... OK, no surprise and y'know I am even not going to lay into the 'organic movement' for being a money making organisation over doing anything truly practical for apple growers. Mind you, the bottle is displaying its credentials proudly - and with their name I guess I can understand that.

This is another Herefordshire cider. It looks brightly clear through the bottle but is a full juice cider and even has a smattering of sediment at the bottom. Clear bottles are so telling, even before the cider is opened. So I can understand that only really good ciders should dwell in a clear bottle... and this one really does look the part!

OK, ingredients list is just apples. Wot, no sulphites? Well, I suppose its not the law so you don't have to use them. Its all just taking that step closer to chance though (for me). Moving from cultured yeasts (i.e. man made, safe, quick and clean fermentation... fairly one dimensional cider) to wild yeasts (more uncertain, require established kit and environment, much slower, more gentle and creates a fully rounded cider) is both a risk and adventure in itself. Taking a further step towards the chance of bad batches is not to use sulphite to protect the cider and clean it before and after fermentation. Mind you, I could be just being a little risk averse there!

I hope that made sense...

Opening this bottle, I was pleasantly surprised to find it is a still cider (no mention of that on the bottle). Its a ruby golden colour - deep - and it has quite an unusual smell about it. Now, this is a nice smell, not a horrible one. Its mellow and tannic and there is a character within it. It isn't one I am particularly familiar with; the main variety in this cider is Browns apple - a vintage quality sharp apple which originated from Devon.

The idea of a 'vintage quality' apple is simply that it is known for making high quality cider, or being a good contributor to a great cider. This reputation then grows into a status for the apple itself. Now, it is debatable whether vintage quality means it should make a good single variety. I am inclined to think that many cider makers believe this to be true, and it is one of the reasons I don't think a true single variety (i.e. one that hasn't been played around with) is the best an apple can be.

OK, the taste. Boy, its quite sharp, although there are stacks of tannins behind it. The sharp wins though and the smell is definitely in the character of the taste. It has oodles of character and is very enjoyable (if you can get through the sharp). After a while, this taste starts to remind me of something that I quite like, although don't expect from a cider... grapefruit juice! It has that same quality about it with a great taste followed by a sharp kick.

This kick runs through into the aftertaste and makes the drink pretty refreshing.

I am not writing reviews to find one style of cider or indeed 'THE' cider style in which all other cider styles are found wanting. This cider is in a league or style of its own. It doesn't fit in with the normal western style, nor the eastern. Its a good cider though and I would recommend anyone try it that find it.

A score of 79/100 makes it just shy of a silver apple. Which is a bit of a shame as I do rate this... it may be a tricky cider to get into though if you just like ciders to taste sweet and tannic.