Wednesday 30 January 2013

Seasons Cider Original

Seasons Cider - this is the first time I have come across this maker. The bottle looks well put together and it has a professional looking label too. Particularly I am curious to find out what 'A cider for every season' means... is it a range of ciders and how is it related to each season? Now, I cannot remember where I bought this cider - either the Bristol Cider Shop or else from a supermarket somehwhere.

So, in order to find out a bit more I figured I should do some Googling before I try it. I wish I hadn't! I am not known for my support of flavoured ciders... I have only tried one on here and that was not particularly inspiring (AND it was from a producer I respect). So, what does a cider for every season mean? Well, how about Original (the one I have before me), Pear (Pear Cider???!), Cranberry (for Christmas?), Raspberry and Orange (must be their 'Autumn' fruits... though why not just go with apple?!) and Elderflower (is that Spring then?).


To give it some kind of due, this is produced in Somerset. Sadly, being produced in Somerset is no guarantee of it being a quality product - or anything other than a commodity; pandering to the latest Hooch drinkers with an fruit based alcopop which happens to bear the name 'cider'. Oh well. I guess it makes sense - why call a cider 'Original' unless you are competing with other ciders named 'Original' (Magners etc.)

So, as its there lets give it a go and see what gives.

Pouring this drink I notice it is a very light gold in colour and pretty fizzy. At 4.5% it has the 'Original' strength (or lack of it). The smell is rather funky - fruit drops rather than real fruit and all a touch chemically. Once settled I can say that the smell is still very juicy and boiled sweets.

The taste is, yes, sadly rather thin and checmically balanced between some very light levels of tannin and a gently light acid. It is also quite sweet, and this covers the thinness of the cider to some degree. It is fairly watery and I have no doubt in my mind that it is aimed at the commodity market. Why would it be anything else... the producer probably spent more time working out the fruit based ciders than actually getting a real cider right! Sorry, that was a bit flippant - but I find these ciders disappointing and merely chasing after the coat tails of others who do it on a larger scale.

The aftertaste is very short and not really noticeable or inspiring.

In all, this looks, smells and tastes like a commodity cider. It is not crafted or full juice and, as far as I am concerned anyway, doesn't really represent Somerset or its' cider makers. It got a score of 50/100, which is 1 more than Magners got... I think that is more by luck than judgement!

Sunday 27 January 2013

Cornish Orchards Heritage Cider

More cider from the company that won the 2012 CAMRA Champion Cider competition. This time a ‘Heritage’ cider. There are several things I like about the label – aside from its professional look. The phrase ‘Taste the Nature’ is interesting, but a bit too supermarket for me. However, I do like that it is made using 100% fresh pressed juice and using traditional cider making practices. Of course, neither of these statements rule out the possibility that this is not full juice. Sadly, I think that designing text to describe a full juice product is nigh on impossible these days. Full juice itself is not abuse free… although an ingredients list would always help considerably!

So, what apples have gone in to this cider then? Well, it suggests heritage varieties… Cornish Langstem, of which I know very little about, and Grenadier. Hang on… Grenadier is a cooking apple. Admittedly I believe it’s a more fragrant and gentle cooker than Bramley, but it is still the same type. So is this going to be a sharp cider then? Grenadier is a funny apple to work with. It harvests July to August, so is one of the very first apples to ripen. And with that it is a terrible keeper too. A couple of weeks off the tree and it will rot. Mind you, I am not averse to using a little Grenadier in my cider, so I shall not knock Cornish Orchards for it.

At 5%, its around about right for a cider – especially one using early fruit. And on opening it has a gentle, bitter sweet aroma with plenty of fruit going on too. Light and yet also interesting. It does look as though it has received the business though – it pours out clear and fizzy, so filtered and carbonated then. It is also a lovely deep golden colour.

The taste is wonderful. It holds the gentle bittersweet flavour, but with a reasonable amount of acidity too. The fruitiness is still there, albeit everything is a little lighter than it would be without filtering. Although it doesn’t say anything on the bottle, I would suggest that this might be a dry cider, although the tannin is not drying at all, so I have marked it as a medium dry.  The aftertaste is pretty short, although the balance of acid and tannin lingers.

On the whole this is an enjoyable cider and worth tracking down. I do find it a little absent, which isn’t to do with the cider itself, but the filtering which seems to have been overdone a fair bit. Mind you, it has fruit a plenty and all the characteristics of a South Western style of cider – not as heavy as the three counties cider, but still using cider fruit for tannin and body.

It scores a healthy 77/100 and earns Cornish Orchards a bronze apple from me.

Thursday 24 January 2013

Cider 101 - Apple Juice Concentrate...

This is one of those funny practices in cider making. No one will admit to it and everyone will dismiss it as the work of the devil. So in truth while I can tell you what 'using concentrate' means I am fairly sure I cannot give you any concrete examples (plus I would hate to name a particular company and then discover by way of court process that I was wrong:-)

Apple Juice Concentrate 


Apple Juice Concentrate (or AJC as it is more commonly known) is not entirely simple in its own right. Several self appointed arbiters of all things cider will claim 'Chinese concentrate' or 'its made from AJC' about anything that they deem not real cider (or #notrealcider - as I often see it). I have two things to say about that; show me where a particular company admits to it and how can you tell its made from concentrate? Odds are that you can't and you won't be able to tell beyond it being made by industrial process... which is not the same!

Whilst it is possible to taste a cider that is thin or adjusted or filtered to death or pasteurised or sweetened with juice/saccharin etc. it is not entirely possible to distinguish which of those have been made from concentrate or not. In fact, I would suggest that it is nearly impossible! This is because, as with (abused) chaptalisation, concentrate is only a part of what you could describe as the slippery slope of industrialised cider production. Once you leave the full juice path too far, as with either of the practices mentioned, you then need to adjust with flavouring, aroma and even colour to get back to where you started. Odd innit?! But then, if I produce 100 litres of 6% cider, these guys could produce up to three times that with the same amount of apples. And that is how a cider becomes nothing more than a commodity.

Is all concentrate from China?

Well, there is a tiny bit of a myth and assumption involved in this (I think). For starters there is a healthy AJC business in Europe (after all, do you think all French cidre is full juice?!) Beyond that, several large UK cider makers concentrate their own juice - as in, they press their own juice and then concentrate it. This gives them more freedom to use proper cider fruit as well as dessert fruit. Mind you, much of the concentrate is going to be dessert or even cookers (last year I even tried a cider that tasted west country and yet was made using Bramley!) It also gives them the freedom to use the concentrate at any point during the year (getting rid of the Autumn/Winter pressing restriction).

In the UK, HMRC states that for cider to be cider it must contain 35% juice as a minimum. Of this, there is a even more grey areas. A good example of this is how much water you can use to reconstitute AJ Concentrate before fermenting it. I have heard, in some quarters, that you can get even lower juice contents which are allowed by virtue of using concentrate. I suspect there are not many cases of this, but it does demonstrate the secrecy in which concentrate is used and the fact that once you travel down the road of increasing yield by lowering juice content, using what the craft industry would call unorthodox methods, you then have to start using additives and marketing smokescreen.

Why do it at all?

Using AJC makes a lot of commercial sense (in a corporate sense). The traditional cider making period is September to January at the most. You get one go to press in a year and you need to store all that fermenting cider. But why should this be so? By using concentrate you can produce cider all year round and save on storage space etc. etc. Much more convenient, and it makes the whole operation more efficient (time, value etc.). Cider making can become like brewing... even if the cost is on quality, juice content (and all that stuff that is important to traditional cider makers), a bit of self respect.

And how do you get around not being a traditional cider maker? Well, don't tell anyone. Maintain marketing that insists you are traditional to the core, using the same recipe for generations... whatever.

Hmmm. Whatever indeed.

Monday 21 January 2013

Sainsbury's Sparkling French Cider

Sorry - some of these names are just far too long to write into the title! It is (properly) called; Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Sparkling French Cider. Its an interesting one for me as I do like French style cider and this one is produced in France for Tesco's... which I think is rather neat. Mind, if it's their best range then I think one should expect them to pay a bit more attention to provenance etc.

So, another own brand cider. French style barring the beer bottle sized delivery (normally, French cidre comes under cork and wire). And there are some curious and possibly encouraging bits of information on the label. Although there are no ingredients listed, it does say 'made from 100% pure apple juice". Sadly, as a result of a certain Irish pear cider claim that 100% pear juice means that of the pear juice in the drink, its 100% pear juice (NOT that it is 100% juice in total) I am a bit cynical about this kind of statement. In fact, I think that it has been devalued to the extent that we must probably avoid using it - damn your eyes marketing types! Saying something has 100% of anything doesn't mean that it has 100% TOTAL of anything!

Aside from that, this cider was produced by a real, live French producer for Sainsburys. OK, not exactly earth shattering news - though I guess the fact it wasn't made by Westons or Thatchers is something! Les Celliers is a producer based in Brittany... well, only just in Brittany (just south of St Malo), but nevertheless well in French cider country. They are actually a rather large cooperative - cider is only a part of their 'agro' business (cheese, milk, veg, water etc.). Saying that, they produce over 10 million bottles per year! So, perhaps not quite the artisanal cider producer - but certainly as much as the UK 'own' producers.

On opening, this cider is foamy and fizzy. Exactly what you would expect. It is also very shiny and bright - and a brown/golden colour which actually looks very impressive. Its smell is very fruity - the cider is only 4%, so it will have been made in the normal French way by being halted at 4%. This leaves a lot of juice in the cider and as well as sweetening the drink also makes it quite juicy/fruity.

Having let the bubbles settle down a bit, I try it and. Wow. It is really nice. It is deep, quite heavy on the tannins and the fruitiness is all there. Sure, it could come across as a little syruppy - although this is probably just the juice - it isn't a safe cider though. I noted the label mentioned a 'crisp drink'. Not for me it isn't. In fact the acid is understated; giving the bitter fruit all the attention... and it is really good for it.

If I have any grumble about this, it is that it has been pasteurised too much, and filtered bright (but mostly its pasteurisation). There is a slight caramel flavour going on in the background. It isn't off putting but is noticeable.

There is a satisfyingly long aftertaste to the cider too. Actually quite drying, although the drink itself is fairly medium dry in character.

I like this cider. Its well made and presented and will give the drinker a good flavour of the French method of cider making. Sure, I have some reservations about its full juice credentials, and it has been filtered and pasteurised (which is probably more because Sainsbury's demands it rather than the producer doing it anyway... but then, what do supermarkets really understand about cider?!) If I could get them to really grapple with the idea that cider doesn't need to be pasteurised in a bottle - that they are just being far too safety conscious and prescriptive - then I would have achieved a great deal for the cider industry!!

A silver (yes, SILVER) apple for Sainsbury's Sparkling French Cider with 86/100. Very good indeed!

Friday 18 January 2013

Ross on Wye Cider and Perry Co. Eddie's Cider

To give this cider its full name - Eddie's Cider with Attitude and Bite. So this is a cider that is going to give me a bit of attitude and also going to have some bite eh. Now, could that be drying bite or acid bite? Only one way to find out eh!

Now, there is not much that I haven't already said about Ross on Wye or their cider. I like their ciders and only once have I had a less then positive experience of buying ciders from them (but then, on that occasion it wasn't Mike Johnson in the shop but some other less friendly guy... and that is now in the past). However, the label on this bottle has reminded me of something. No, not the cat (although Ross' pets are surely among the most celebrated of animals!) but the award on the table in front of it. This comes from winning the Blossomtime Cider Trials at Putley, run by the Big Apple Association. Ross on Wye won this in... 2011 (I think). Well deserved. Nice trophy too:-)

However, the cider isn't a celebration of the award. It's named after the cat! Its a naturally conditioned cider, which means that it should be carbonated through a little in-bottle fermentation. Looking at the small amount of sediment at the bottom of the bottle, I am expecting this to be fairly gentle (if you see a heavy crop of yeast at the bottom, you might expect a higher fizz and cloudy cider (although not always). Sure enough, it is a gentle, foaming carbonation with a low carbonation.

The cider itself has a very light smell to it - there are low level tannins in there but these don't seem dominant at all. It also smells a bit farmyard... an earthy smell which often has more to do with maturation and possibly malolactic fermentation (which rounds off a cider and can make it go a little 'smokey').

The first thing I get from this cider is sharp. Its quite harsh but not out of control, although feels quite light and free - possibly a few dessert or culinary apples alongside bittersharp fruit. The tannin itself is gentle and understated. This isn't competing with the acid at all, although compliments it well. Unlike the Tutts Clump Five Counties I tried last, this is a western cider with a sharpness to it as opposed to an eastern cider with a few cider apples in. It is totally different (and probably comes from access to really good sharp apples like Browns or Foxwhelp.

Moving through this glass, the acid does run away with itself a touch, so the bite part is correct. It also has plenty of character and individualism to it. On the aftertaste, the acid is almost sour too, although it is long and striking.

This is a very different cider from Ross on Wye Cider. I don't think its their best by a way although has huge doses of individualism that makes it worth trying. It will certainly offer something different if you are drinking standard western cider!

A score of 77/100 rewards Ross with another bronze apple. Not sure I have many more of their ciders to try!

Tuesday 15 January 2013

Tutts Clump Five Counties Cider

This is the last of the Tutts Clump ciders that I bought to review mid last year and, to be honest, I am kind of glad I am moving on. I am sure Tutts will release new ciders for this year and I will want to try them but lets be honest: I have had a bit of a hit and miss relationship with these ciders so far.

Lets not judge before trying. The name of the cider, "Five Counties" relates to where the apples come from - Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Hampshire, Somerset and Gloucestershire. OK, only two of these are known for their cider fruit so I guess its going to be another heavily eastern style of cider once again. Lets hope that Bramley does not make a huge contribution!

Opening the bottle, the smell is one of bitter fruit - there are some cider apples in here. Positive start! There is also some acid in here too though. Mind you, I could only discover this after allowing the foam settle! It opened with a flourish, so it has fully conditioned in the bottle (it has been sat around for a while). The haze confirms this - its the one thing with proper bottle conditioning, the carbonation forces the yeast off the bottom and into solution once again.

Its got some really nice cider flavour going on. Although the cider errs on the side of acidic - there are a lot of dessert apples in this cider too... possibly more than the cider apples. In fact, I would say this is an Eastern cider which is cut through with a modest and mild tannin and earthy body that gives it an extra dimension. Nice - should have tried this one sooner!

There are a few funky tastes going on and I would hazzard a guess that there are some Bramley apples in the mix. I also reckon there are some bittersharps going on too. These add to the sharpness of the cider but alter it a bit to make it more interesting than the usual Tutts Clump acidic cider.

The aftertaste is modest and gently tannic. I am not sure whether it is meant to be on the dry side of medium dry (it is labelled as med dry) but I find this pleasing too.

In all, a score of 74/100 for this cider - which must be Tutt Clumps best yet. And a bronze apple too.

Saturday 12 January 2013

Skidbrooke Cyder, Skidbrooke Cyder

Books. Cider books. I have a few of them. Most of them are of a practical bent; how to make cider and, possibly more importantly, how to fix things when it goes wrong. A couple of others have pretty pictures of apples in - not (I have to say) any use for identifying apples in real terms. Last year, I played a small practical joke at an apple day, where an 'expert' was laid on to identify apples... I took along a Tremletts Bitter, a Yarlington Mill and a Dabinett. Needless to say they were all identified as dessert apples with odd names. OK, I found it amusing (I don't expect anyone else to!)

Why do I mention this? Well, I have just parted with a few quid to buy a new copy of The Naked Guide to Cider and also 'The History and Virtues of Cider' by Roger French. A bit of a broad difference between the two - but then sometimes I want a serious read and other times I don't.

And where did I get these from? Online from the Book Depository via the Cider Workshop website ( Not bad cost - the Book Depository doesn't have postage costs, although I believe the prices are different in various countries. And its all the main titles in one place.

OK. This wasn't intended as an advert, but I did think to myself (just before I started writing this) that there aren't many places you could find books on any aspect of cider making eh!

This, I think, is Skidbrooke Cyders' main blend. As with the last cider, I am glad it's a still cider given it is filled to the brim! I even quite like the wonkily applied label - it gives it a handmade feel. The label itself doesn't give too much away, although the 'Select Lincolnshire' is a nice touch. I am not so sure about the shiny green Golden Delicious picture though... well, it looks like a Golden Delicious anyway!

Pouring into the glass, this is again a nicely mature cider. It smells Eastern in style - nicely so too. A floral and not overly acidic smell. I am also getting something that perhaps shouldn't be there... it does smell a touch oxidised. This is almost certainly going to be due to the plastic lid on the bottle - plastic, although it will not leak, does slowly leach air in and over a period this will affect the cyder. Lets not judge it too soon though, on the whole it is all good so far.

To taste is is very mature and the acid is mellow and has rounded off very well. There is some good flavour coming through too. It was clearly made from quality dessert apples (not getting any Bramley). However, it has oxidised a bit and this lowers it all a bit - its a touch one dimensional (which comes from an oxidised cider) and there is a bit of an odd aftertaste. This is a huge shame as this is a refreshing and lovely cider that is definitely well made.

As already mentioned, the aftertaste is just a touch odd, although it is also long and fruity. This is an aromatic cider that is well made - albeit I think in this case the plastic cap has let this cyder down a bit...

Now, my standard position is that a fault means a score deduction of 5 points. However, on this occasion, because the cyder is really nice on the whole, I have deducted 4, which leaves Skidbrooke with a bronze apple at 70/100 points.

Wednesday 9 January 2013

Cider 101 - Chaptalisation...

Looking back over my last year of reviews I notice that a number of times I have used jargon or names for practices in use within the cider industry. It occurs to me that I ought not expect everyone to understand what I mean by these! Its normally when evaluating a cider that I would refer to as a 'commodity' cider - or a cider whose manufacture has more in common with industrial processes than agricultural or traditional cider making.

So I figured that, although Cider Pages is about reviewing cider, it might be valuable to recap on some of the practices/jargon used by cider makers that you won't see on the bottle. Also, as this post hopes to do, debunk a practice that is perfectly normal and draw a line between it and what many mainstream producers are accused of doing.

I won't be held to a timescale for this information. Its all stuff you can get out of a book or from a website if you know where to search for it. For me, well I would start with Andrew Lea's excellent 'Craft Cider Making' book (Goodlife Press). I would also turn to the archive of the Cider Workshop too if I needed to check my facts. So in a way this isn't me being clever, its just another pooling of information and making it available on line.


First off, lets get this the right way round. Chaptalisation, in its proper sense, is NOT what a number of larger producers are accused of - adding glucose syrup or sugar to juice in order to raise the SG (starting gravity) to some crazy level like 15% before cutting it back down to 4.5% in order to cut the cost of pressing and make more with less. Yes, that is often what happens to commodity ciders - although in reality its a lot more complex that that and can involve concentration of juice or (in the worst examples) use of purchased juice concentrate and additives in order to restore the cideryness.

To a large extent, the industrialised version of chaptalisation is how many ciders have juice contents of less than 60%. Unfortunately, this what a lot of cider commentators would generalise as the process of chaptalisation. They are, in truth, incorrect - although it is a bastardisation of the chaptalisation process.

So, what is it in its proper sense and is it OK for cider makers.

In a traditional, full juice cider making operation, there are only limited controls for bugs and the like. However, what we do have is a couple of very effective controls: Sodium Metabisulphite (So2; its what camden tablets are), blending, and ensuring the acid balance is correct and alcohol content sufficient. A traditional, unfiltered and unpasteurised cider is pretty much self sterile at over 5% ABV. Bugs that can live in unpasteurised apple juice (you may have read things along the line of Patulin etc.) are killed by alcohol, so at this level cider is by and large safe. Once a cider is fermented, its biggest enemies are air and cider makers (essentially those who haven't balanced it well enough or who allow air and other infections to get to the cider). The alcohol and acid blend are responsible for taking out any infections or spoilage bugs.

Now attempt to re-imagine the summer, autumn and winter of 2012. I know - sorry for reminding you - it was cold and wet on the whole. Add to this the poor spring and the rumours (which were on the whole true) of some really bad harvests. Poor crops, small apples and low SG's. As I said before, normally traditional cider sits between 5 and 7.5%. In 2012, this dropped to (sometimes) 4% (low 1030's). This is insufficient to protect the cider in storage and is where the practice of true chaptalisation is used.

Yes, chaptalisation involves adding sugars to apple juice prior to fermentation and its purpose is to raise the sugar levels in the juice. The intention is to raise the starting gravity to above 1045, or just over 5% potential alcohol. The juice is not subsequently cut and the cider ferments out to a safe level of alcohol (please note, for the sake of PC-ness, when I refer to 'safe' I don't mean safe to consume gallons in a sitting - I mean safe as in the cider itself is safe!). Juice content is still as high as possible. Simple and sensible, yes? Is it cheating? Well, not really if you think that the alternative is a cider that could be prone to infection and the like.

There you have it. Chaptalisation is not a sin. Well, not in its true form anyway. In its other form - well, that is really just the start of what happens to a commodity cider - but that is something for the future and probably a few more Cider101's:-)

Sunday 6 January 2013

Broome Farm Blossom Cider

 I am still trying to clear the decks of some ciders that I bought last year, so I have no idea whether you can still get this cider, or whether it will be made again for 2013. It was one of a few 'specials' that I found at Broome Farm last summer but which sat on my cider shelf.

Still, if it is never to be seen again I guess I am lucky to try it and record it on here for posterity. Mind you, I'm not sure I would always count myself lucky to have tried 'special' cider's - Last year I could have quite happily missed one or two without losing much (not wishing to be too picky, but the Diamond Jubilee special was among those I could have skipped). Still, this one is from Ross on Wye Cider Co., which have proved very competent cider makers - so I am looking forward to it. I must confess that I had saved this one like some kind of magic remedy should I go through a run of bad ciders.

One thing I find quite fun about these ciders is the printed out labels that are on the bottle. In reality, printing your own labels is never going to be cheaper (per label) than getting them done professionally... well, if you get 500 labels at a time that is. However, printing your own is a lovely idea for small producers or small batch runs as it shows the makers creativity - after all, you can design your own label fairly easily and it can be changed simply (even if you have to sit there and feed the label paper in one at a time for hours on end just to prevent the printer from jamming!) What does this label tell me about Ross on Wye? Well, I think it shows that they like their pets:-) Be it an Alpaca, cats of several descriptions or a headless man (no, not the headless man), each are a novel touch and make the cider somehow more personal.

'Blossom' in this case is another alpaca. She (I assume Blossom is a name you give to a female alpaca) looks like a cheeky brown animal - peeking into the photo on the label. It's all very cute.

This is a medium dry, still cider that appears deeply golden in colour. It is also bright and looks filtered (not a spec of yeast even though it has been sat for a couple of months on my shelf!) Lets just hope that things aren't altered too much as a result!

In the glass it smells, well, beautiful! There is a mild and fruity smell to it which seems really nicely matured and bittersweet. The taste is mild and tannic with little acid going on. It is a very mature cider with aromatic tannins bringing the cider back down to dry from its medium dry start. Again, nicely done and although dry cider isn't for everyone this suits me fine. I have to say that the flavour develops as you progress through the glass and the taste does become a little intense after a while. Its definitely a cider for savouring as opposed to being a session drink.

The aftertaste is long and mild and quite dry too. Very fitting for a cider that grabs your attention right from the smell. And I know this is a little bit twee, but its quite a cheeky cider which seems to be reflected in the animal on the label... nice touch.

I like this cider and am glad to have found it. As with some of the other Ross on Wye specials, I have no idea if this is a cider that will be available in 2013. All I can tell you is that Broome Farm are a set of very safe hands if you are looking for a decent cider!

The score of 84/100 sees another silver apple go to Ross on Wye Cider and Perry Co.

Thursday 3 January 2013

Knights Cider Company Malvern Gold Cider

Starting 2013 with nothing less than a contradiction:-) To paraphrase the label; "The blend of apples captures the character and freshness that can only be attained when real apples and quality become the primary am of the cider maker ". I personally don't dislike that statement. In fact, I find it hard to disagree with - it captures the passion and spirit of traditional cider makers fairly well.

Knights Cider... rings a bell, though its not clear why on the bottle. This looks a wholesome and its even made on a farm judging by the address. Malvern also rings a bell. Given this I did a quick search on previous reviews and found two matches. Aston Manors Knights Cider and Aston Manors Malvern Press. Notice the common thread? I hate it when I have to dig around to find anything out about something like this, but a quick Google search took me to the 'Ratebeer' and then on to Knights Ciders own website which is... no, don't hold your breath... wholly owned by Aston Manor. In fact it is their 'exclusive range'.

It comes to something when a company has to hide its own identity for fear that someone like me will instantly judge the cider as 'commodity' (to put it politely)! However, I tried this cider already so if there is any damage its already been done... its already scored and I am not going to change that for this discovery!

I do have some issues with the way Aston Manor market themselves, but they are by no means the only ones that do it. I tend to refer to these companies as the 'Diageo's' of the cider world. After all, do you know how many brands Diageo own and sell? (For those who don't, I cannot provide an exhaustive list, but lets just mention Smirnoff, Gordons, Baileys, Guiness, Johnny Walker, Captain Morgan, Bells and about 15+ whiskys'). OK, cider makers are not to that scale, but it can be a challenge to find out who makes what sometimes and I personally find it a little annoying.

Anyway, lets get on with this cider. After all, it looks deep and golden in the bottle - if a little too polished and bright. However, how does this cider stack up against its own statement (which in hindsight comes across as mere marketing speak now I know who makes the stuff!)

It has a spritzig of fizz as it is poured out, which settles into a low sparkle that lifts the smell a bit. Its aroma is gently juicy and fruity - not a big smeller then. All in all it looks fairly pleasing, albeit it has been filtered to within an inch of its life. I suspect it is pasteurised too, as it is a medium cider and the maker states 'no sweeteners' - so they will have had to use either sugar or juice.

The taste itself is rather juicy and, to be honest, it is pretty watery too. For a cider at 6% I do wonder whether the alcohol content has been raised and cut back to 6% for it to be this watery. The fruit and complexities (tannin and acid) are very well balanced, albeit watered down and very mild. In all, its a cider which is eminently drinkable but leaves me feeling unchallenged and my taste-buds rather uninspired.

The aftertaste is pretty short on flavour too. My notes ask 'where did it go'?

So, in summary, this is a reasonably nice cider with a reasonable amount of fruit and tannin going on to make it 'west country'. But. Being pretty watery and light on flavour (and juicy) I doubt it is going to satisfy those seeking a real 'exclusive' taste - or simply the cider drinker of experience. Its one of those ciders that give more than just a commodity cider but not much more.

With a score of 67/100, Malvern Gold is respectable but misses an apple (and that could actually be quite a meaningful statement on more than one level:-)