Thursday 7 March 2013

Burrow Hill Somerset Cider Brandy (5 years old)

It is time now to crack open the first of my haul from the last trip to the Bristol Cider Shop. And what a way to start than with the much lauded 5 year old cider brandy from the Somerset Cider Brandy Company (aka Burrow Hill).

Having tried the 3 year old, which is a little rough around the edges, but retains a great cidery character, I am expecting this to be much more Calvados like (if I am allowed to say that); smoother, less cidery and with new/interesting flavours which come through the extra time in the barrel.

You will notice that I played the cheap-skate card once again and bought the smaller bottle. Actually, it was primarily so I could afford more choice (and one of those includes the Burrow Hill 'Cider Bus' cider). Never-the-less, it serves my budget (and diet) well to not have too much of it!

Not surprisingly, I have had to 'adjust' my scoring for this on the basis that it's not cider. It's what I have done for this kind of tipple before now - and it should measure up with the rest of the reviews (hopefully). As before, I have averaged the tannin and acid scores with the rest of the scoring - this is only fair given that i) I have a scoring system that needs a score in those boxes for it to make sense and ii) you cannot expect Calvados, Cider Brandy, Pomeau etc. to be a style where these things add up in the same way as cider. I hope that makes sense!

It is light in colour, and, giving it a minute in the glass to really get the smell going it is really different from it's younger relation. Having said that, I am still getting an apple fruity smell from it - so it hasn't lost all the cider credentials. There is also plenty of oak in the smell too (it has had five years to acquire it!) However, it is more distilled in smell than the 3 year old. With a strong alcoholic aroma that is not that removed from a malt whisky (though the profile is lighter and more fruity).

The taste is great. This is much more Calvados like and the edges really have started to come off it. The brandy is smooth and warming, whilst the apple flavours linger and develop. Forget tannin and acid, this is much more complex than that... in fact I am hunting for the words to describe it properly: lots of oak, a hint of cider, vanilla and cream notes with (and this is a bit surprising) an earthy flavour too. This is smoother than most Calvados I have tried (although I would still put it on a pancake (that's crepe for the French:-)

The aftertaste is mostly warming, although the creaminess of the cider brandy lingers at the back of the tongue and in my cheeks. There. How did I do with those descriptive terms? And I didn't have to Google any of it!

This is better than the 3 year old, which is a petulant child compared to this 5 year old version. They do say that there is a peak age for whisky - I believe its the 18 year old incarnations. The 30 year olds are more for those with big wallets than really as examples of excellence (hey, that is just my opinion!) I do wonder what the peak age is for cider brandy/calvados? For me, that question is going to end up costing me as I will now need to venture towards the more expensive and older versions. I suspect the 10 year old is going to be the 'peak'... but don't forget to look at the 5 year old - it is really excellent.

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