Friday 28 June 2013

Amazing Cider Co. Mays Reserve Cider

Moving on... within Herefordshire once again:-), I come to another of the Amazing Cider Company range. They haven't faired that well in my reviews, but I should be fairly safe... after all, if something is reserved then it's going to be for a reason (isn't it?) Surely cider producers don't just chuck out any old cider as a 'reserve' or a 'vintage' but save the very best. I hope so.

I haven't said it for a while, but I do prefer clear bottles for cider. I can see that this is a lovely golden colour cider, although not a trace of bottle conditioning (i.e. yeast). It is also presented nicely with an interesting label. I note that this is 7% too... so it ought to be full juice.

So, getting on to opening and pouring the thing. It has a moderate fizz to it, which gets in the way of the smell a bit. However, it is a full bodied aroma with some leather notes to it - not a great deal but it is there.

The taste is a touch syruppy, which is surprising. There is plenty of sharp in there with some good tannin. It does feel a little too clean, but it has a nice tang to it... mind you, it does feel slightly odd in the mouth.  Full bodied but not really drying, this is a good cider with some straggly ends. It feels sweetened quite a bit, but I can still 'see' the cider beneath it.

It has a medium to long aftertaste with the tannin lasting through it. Not especially fruity though.

I like this cider. and the score of 74/100 gives it a big fat bronze apple.

Tuesday 25 June 2013

Carey Organic Chisel Jersey Cider

When I bought this, I was sure I had reviewed a Carey cider before now. Looks like I am wrong. Oh well. It is a little odd as I hadn't really come across them until this year, and it turns out they have orchards and all sorts! I guess we are all learning eh!

So, having learned my new thing for today, I turn to another producer who makes a virtue out of having an organic orchard. I suppose that it is fairly rare for producers to use their organic status as a key selling point, although in truth many orchards of cider apples are not treated with chemicals... perhaps only a few pay the subs required of the organic lobby?! Y'know, I think I have bashed the organic movement on just about every organic cider I have reviewed... so apologies for that. However, it isn't the idea of organic things that I am bashing - I like that idea. It is the 'lobbyists' that make a bunch of money out of it that I am not so keen on.

Anyway, enough of that. This cider is going down as a Cider101 as it is a single variety worth exploring. Just to recap why I am doing this. I have used many varieties of apple for making cider and want to see what they taste like in isolation (assuming I can find an unadulterated version). Also, there are varieties of fruit that I have not used before; though the exercise is no less worthwhile for that. Essentially, it is as much about learning the taste of specific varieties of apple as it is reviewing the cider itself - not that the review will be any less rigorous on my part:-)

Chisel Jersey is an apple I have used before. It is a heavy hitter, coming (to me) fairly late in the season - just after the Yarlington Mill. Its a heavy smeller and the juice is dark and thick. In one of my blends it plays quite a big role, and I feel it makes a big difference to the complexion of that blend. This last  year, I couldn't get any, and find the blend a lot lighter as a result. Conclusion?! Well, its a good addition but I may not use it so heavily in future (and this review will help me look at that).

The fruit is considered a full bittersweet - which means full on tannins and a deep full body. I am not surprised at this given my experience of it. It is another of those apples that started life in the 18th century - the pinnacle of apple breeding (can you call it that?). It is, as said, late to flower and late to harvest (orange pippin says Nov/Dec). It is red and green in colour - though the ones I get are much more red than green and are very large for cider apples.

On to this cider then. Made in Herefordshire, it should be pretty well true to form - the fact that it is 7.1% also convinces me that I am getting the real deal with this cider. It pours out quite hazy, so it looks and feels like a bottle conditioned, full juice cider. Perhaps a little too well bottle conditioned though - there is quite a lot of fizz and this has kicked all the yeast into solution (making it almost, well, cloudy).

The cider has an interesting smell to it. Naturally, as expected, it is very deep. It has a real autumnal feel to it - blackcurrants and elderberries, tannin although not so fruity. It is also a bit yeasty - which is unsurprising too given the cloudy nature.

The taste is bold, very drying due to the tannins and with a bit too much yeast at the end which spoils things a bit. It's quite a heavy cider. Fruity and complex, but with a little too much tannin on it's own (and that yeast too). There is no acid in here - so it is definitely the real deal. However I think it misses that a bit to combat the astringency. The aftertaste is short to medium as it ends up drying the mouth. I do get the impression that this is sweetened 'a bit', but it doesn't tame or compete with the tannin at all.

I find it a shame that this has been over conditioned (often the problem is the other way round though). I always figured it would be a challenging cider to create as a single variety. It is heavy and a little unweildly. However, if Tremletts can be tamed, then so should Chisel! It doesn't feel as clean as Tremletts though.

With a score of 72/100, this is a bronze for Carey's - though I would say gold for the experience and information that I have got from it.

Saturday 22 June 2013

Gwatkins "No Bull" Medium Cider

Sticking in Herefordshire for this next review - Gwatkis "No Bull". It is a medium cider, which is admittedly not my first choice. However, how can you refuse when trawling the shelves of Truffles Deli in Ross on Wye??

I quite like the label - the colour and type make it seem 'farmy' and yet quality. I am not so sure about the name of the cider though - stuff like 'Cripple Cock', 'Sui-Cider' and the like are just silly names designed for those who want to get pissed and not for those who actually want to drink it (incidentally, both silly names above are real names of cider - whether they are names of real ciders is a different matter and I will not get dragged into relabelled ciders until I get a spot on Cider101 and cannot think of anything more interesting to write:-)

I confess to being a little surprised at it's 4.5%. I know it was a poor year for the sugar in apples, but this seems a little weak for a full juice end product. Its just a bit light on strength, that is all.

On pouring it is a very dark cider - brown almost. It is also still: not a single sparkle or pfzzz from the bottle when opened. It is mostly clear, although I have categorised it as 'hazy'. Interesting complexion then!

The aroma consists of red berries, currents and  plastic. It's a little odd really. Could it have been fermented in a spirit barrel? Not sure, but it is a little confusing an I would say it is a curious cider. Wow. Hold on. Taste. SWEEEEEET. This is very sweet; where is the cider in amongst the sweetening?

I do not believe this cider is a medium. The sweetening is far too heavy handed for that. In fact, I am not sure if it is a sweet either... a sweet sweet if there is such a thing! Sorry Gwatkins, but this has been overdone. I am searching for the flavour, tannins and acid, but these have been all but grubbed out by the sweetening. I guess this cider gives me the feeling of a demi sec cider from France - sweet and low in alcohol. However, before anyone runs off with the idea that this is a clever thing, I should mention that demi-sec cidre is about 2% alcohol and had a significant element of flavour... it should be fruitier and there must be a deep tannin running through it.

Short to medium aftertaste, though sweet lasts much longer. In fact, I don't think I will need sugar in my coffee later on! OK, perhaps that is a little much, but this cider really could have been so much more than it ended up. A 65/100 is, I think, on the generous side and acknowledges Gwatkins ability generally...

Wednesday 19 June 2013

Olivers Cider and Perry Gold Rush Cider

I am sure I have used this phrase several times during these reviews, and it is no less fitting for this next cider - now for something completely different!

What I have in front of me now is a bottle of 'Gold Rush', a collaboration between UK cider producer Oliver's and an American producer, Virtue Cider - it says on the bottle that it is the first transatlantic collaboration. Well, who can argue with that??:-) Why is it different? Well, it is a good old fashioned cider to start with, which has been put through a second fermentation (yup, sugar added and fermentation restarted) using Lambic yeasts. The label says that this adds alcohol and complexity. Let us see!

Using things like hops in a cider is a bit of an American thing going on at the moment. I am not familiar enough with their market to suggest it is a fad, though I am not so sure I would want it to take off over here. Not least of all for all the moaning certain 'beery' groups would do about the abuse of their beloved hops... or the equally vocal moans of the cider purists. Actually, I am just not that sure I would like it - though would be happy to try it just the once for the sake of testing:-) Lambic yeasts, to my untrained ale mind, remind me of Belgian beers or Trappist ale... rich and fruity (and highly alcoholic). It is going to be an interesting journey, this one!

OK, this cider looks fairly bright through the bottle, so I wonder if it has seen a filter. On pouring it has a moderate sparkle, which allows me to smell it even as it hits the glass... quite strong, alcoholic and rough in a tannic way. Oddly, it even smells beery too - quite distinctively. I think Olivers have made a cider with a duel personality!!

The taste is really very interesting. This is a nice deep and full bodied cider. Contrary to being rough around the edges, the tannins feel nicely rounded and there is a complex acidic taste too that balanced the drink out well. A touch of sweetening helps this, though unlike many ciders there is no dumbing down of the flavour. As for flavour, think spicy, farmy and at the same time a lighter note of fairly low level acid taking things up a notch or two.

Underlying all this (really nice) cider that is going on, there is a hint of ale. It isn't at all hoppy - that isn't what this cider is about - but it is there. Granted, I find it mostly in the smell and now that the mouthful is finished it is there again in the aftertaste: almost a lagery finish but with a bit more meat so I guess ale. The aftertaste itself is medium to long and quite fruit. A touch drying right at the end to remind you what you are drinking!

I am very happy to say that the cider wins in terms of bold flavours and overtone of the cider. However, the Lambic yeast has worked really very well with the cider - which is perhaps testament to the quality of the cider base. It is definitely the most interesting 'played around with' cider I have tried in quite some time. I wasn't sure about it to start with, but clearly it has impressed, with a big fat 89/100 and a silver apple from me:-)

Sunday 16 June 2013

Cider101 - Adventures in Cider - Reviewing my own (part 2)

Ready for some more self flagellation as I compare a couple more of my own single varieties to those already tried as a part of 'Adventures in Single Variety'?

This time I want to run through a couple of my favourite apples. Actually, I think they are a favourite for a lot of cider makers. Dabinet and Harry Masters Jersey. Both are very similar - in fact, I reckon the two will taste very similar to each other! Both are harvested around the same time and often pressed together in a blend. You can imagine the hassle of having to keep the two separate just to try this silly exercise!! In fact, I did it so that the orchard owner and I could have a tasting session together (any excuse!).


No. Not Dabinette... it isn't a French apple, its a good old fashioned (well, early 1900's) Somerset cider apple. And this one is all of my making:-) As you can see from the photo, it is clear and golden with a nice bottle conditioned sparkle. See. No filtering, pasteurisation or forced carbonation. OK, not all ciders do this... and at the scale of a gallon it is not too hard to manage or control!

There is a strong earth/cider smell off of this cider. It isn't so much fruity as a medium bodied tannic smell. It is easy to smell what is in store! As for the taste, well its all tangy bittersweet with a medium tannin and no acid to compete. Just how I expected it - a good, thick body to the cider which is satisfying. It is a very distinctive cider, although the tangy-ness is almost pear like (OK, perhaps that is stretching the description somewhat).

There is a long aftertaste which is ultimately very drying. Well, it isn't sweetened at all or played with.

Now, the cider that I reviewed for this purpose was made by Once Upon A Tree. If I recall it was superb, with the exception that their wine like treatment led the rough edges to have been smoothed out. And I have to say that, compared with my own, it is true that it was a little too reduced for perfection. Having said that, it was delicious and perhaps should have been treated more like a wine than a quaffing drink.

Harry Masters Jersey

The other cider for this evening is the mighty Harry Masters Jersey. A great apple, from a great tree that is reliable, fairly unproblematic and actually rather attractive (though aren't most apple trees?!).

I am expecting this to be very similar to the Dabinett - hence trying them together. They harvest pretty much together, look very similar, smell very similar and are both moderate bittersweets. The one difference being the shape of the apple.

This drink once again is almost bright and very golden in colour with a reasonable sparkle. I absolutely promise I don't filter - anything! I once had a 'Boots' filter kit, but gave up on that a long time ago as it was simple ineffective!

The smell coming off the cider is not quite as deep as the Dabinett, although it is fairly mature with a tannic overtone. It is a little less fruity too... so not really the same at all. The taste, however, runs counter to the smell. It is much more astringent with a reasonably drying and heavy tannin. It is moderately earthy, which leads the flavour to be similar to Dabinett - just more drying. Again it is stacked full of punch and distinctive character. Very yummy indeed; even if it is my own:-)

The reviewed Harry Masters was from Ross on Wye Cider, and looking back at it now there seems to be a lot in common. Not that I would have expected anything less - I chose many of the single variety ciders to review based upon the likelyhood of unadulteration. However, my own seems a little more balanced than Ross's... even if both are very dry indeed.

There is at least one more chapter to this cider101 consideration of my own efforts. Next time I will try Kingston Black and Yarlington Mill. These are the two big hitters. These two probably are the most single varietied ciders on the market, so it will be curious to see how honest they are when taken truely on their own.

Thursday 13 June 2013

Wilkins Medium Cider

Last cider at the tap for a while I think. They need to have a chance to change their board around... so I will avoid for a month or two methinks. They also need a chance to get the temperature of their cider sorted out too... I know some ciders keep better when cold, but surely they must have the turn around of ciders to bear ambient temperature as opposed to a refrigerated environment!

It will also allow me to write some posts without banging on about how cold the cider it! Plus, I now have gathered some 20 or so ciders at home - all ready to try and all of which I haven't yet tried. What a varied set of drinks to choose from:-)

This is the medium version of Wilkin's cider - as recommended by my drinking compatriot this evening. The way that Roger Wilkins works it is fairly simple... If you want dry, it comes out of a tank. If you want sweet, it comes out of a different tank. If you want medium, you get half and half. I like the simplicity of that - not that mediums are my 'thing'.

What I get is a golden, cold, hazy cider that is flat and... actually really quite hazy. The smell is inviting - fruity and a good hint of tannin there. It smells nicely mature too.

What I get in the mouth is quite a sweet cider. This does detract from the flavour on the whole, although in itself it is a very bittersweet cider with a background of acid from what must be bittersharps. Its fairly full on, but outweighed by the sweetness a touch too much for me.

What I also get, though mainly in the aftertaste is that 'orange squash' taste once again. Saccharin. OK, so if its been used for many years it is traditional but, for goodness sake, it is a sweetener. Someone swap the packets for sucralose and we're in business! The aftertaste is moderate in length (though I think the saccharin makes it longer than it really is)

That aside, I do like the cider. It is fairly rough and scrumpy like. There is no refinement required in this cider and it is individual for that fact alone. A score of 68/100 is just shy of an apple, but it is a good cider... I just don't like saccharin (and it probably lost a couple on the lack of smell too - which is a bit unfair to Roger Wilkin's).

Monday 10 June 2013

Dorset Nectar Dry Cider

OK, Having missed reviewing a cider for the sake of having a life and actually talking (sorry, I can't even recall what it was...) we skip a while and then, en route to the train home I saw a chance to stop off at the Cider Tap. OK, I had a cheap rail ticket and couldn't travel till 7pm, so had to kill a couple of hours:-)

Knowing the issue with coldness, I thought I would start off with a dry cider... that ought to carry the taste better than a sweeter version. So we have the dry version of Dorset Nectar's cider. I don't think it has a name beyond 'dry cider', so it ought to be similar to the medium version I have already tried, but with more oomph. Please note I did not refer to the previous review when tasting or now, when writing (though I will once I have written my notes up to check the scoring etc.)

This is a half pint of golden haziness. It is still and it still smells of nothing. I think the Tap surgically remove aroma from the ciders they serve - so I have to give an averaging of score. That said, as much as I could smell no aroma, I also couldn't smell anything wrong with it!!

This is a moderately tannined, very fruity cider. I am getting both sharp and tannin in equal measure - quite a punchy sharp too. There is quite a pronounced tannin too, which makes this drink slightly rough... certainly a distinctive and strong cider taste going on... perhaps not one for those coming away from watered down ciders:-) It is really quite rounded in the mouth, and satisfied the hardened cider drinker in me - the one seeking bold flavours and tannin.

This also has a long aftertaste which is lovely too. The taste stays quite a while, and it is actually rather drying - which is surprising (although I suspect it is only a surprise because I couldn't smell it!)

A recommended cider with a score of 80/100. Silver apple for Dorset Nectar.

Having now seen the last review, I am stunned to see I scored it at 83, as this is possibly a better cider. Who says traditional cider makers cannot be consistent?!

Friday 7 June 2013

Millwhites Apple and Pears

OK then, another (yet another) trip to London and an excuse to try a few more of the ciders found in the capital. This time, I made the effort to walk across the road from Euston to the Bree Louise. This is a lovely small(ish) pub down a side street, some 5 minutes or so walk from Euston. It doesn't have the impressive cider list that the Tap has, although I can see that the ciders are not held below freezing, so it should be an interesting comparison.

It must be the time of year, but there are quite a few 'mass produced' ciders on the list. I do appreciate that fermentation has been slow this year - the new years ciders will just about be released by the time this post goes out. However, at least there is one I haven't tried before.

Apples and Pears is what it says on the tin. A cider made from apples and pears... although I think that technically makes it a Pyder. If there are more than 25% pears then it isn't a cider (technically, we shall see what it tastes like!)

In the glass (note the 'responsible' half pint once again) it smells very appley. In fact, this isn't a bad thing as it comes across as quite a traditional, earthy and full bodied cider. Not getting much pear, if any at all.

However. I knew this was coming! It has a very syruppy co mplexion in the mouth. I am unsure why this should be, but somehow I figured it might. The apple/cider wins almost all the way through - and it isn't a bad tasting cider. The pears come through in the mouth too - not as developed as the apples but noticeable. It's a peary cider as opposed to an appley perry (or, perhaps more appropriately, pear cider).

I do get some tannin in the mouth too. On it's own, the cider part of this drink is earthy. A proper tannic west country cider with sharpness running through it in competition with the tannins. However, there is a sweetness to it as well, and I think that is coming from the pears. Perhaps the pear juice is being used as the sweetener to a full bodied cider? So it's not perry - which would explain why the pears are not developing so much as sweetening.

The aftertaste is moderate in length, and this is where the pears come through most. A juicy pear drop flavour lingering a while in the throat.

It is not a bad cider. I am not sure that it wouldn't be better with some perry as well as the pear juice. However, either I am in a generous mood or it isn't bad at all; a bronze apple to Millwhites with a score of 70/100. Just snuck in:-)

Tuesday 4 June 2013

Rich's 'Golden Years Vintage 2011' Yarlington

And now for something completely different! Kind of.

OK, I have a brand new batch of bottled ciders waiting to be tried (the Perries can go on hold for while! Well, I did say I needed to acquaint myself with them before I reviewed them... didn't I?!) So, this is the last of the current batch of Rich's. And another 'Golden Years'; a single variety Yarlington Mill. I am not going to bother with cider101 for this - Yarlington is a very popular cider apple for single varieties - it is almost as popular as Kingston Black SV (if not more so!)

I guess I had better get on with it then eh. One word though - look at the image of the bottles. See how the cider is almost reddy in colour? That is Yarlington Mill, that is. I don't know of a more ruddy coloured juice available to cider makers.

I have just noticed something else about these 'Golden Years' ciders - they are aged in oak vats. Well, apart from perhaps rounding off the flavours, I have to say that this fact has happily passed me by for all the other versions. Mind you, I think Rich's missed a trick. They could have called this 'Golden Years Vintage Oak Aged Cider 2011'. Oh, OK, I will just get on with it!

On pouring, this is indeed very ruddy coloured with a low carbonation to it. I would suggest it has been pasteurised, filtered (etc.), although that is lazy these days - you don't need to pasteurise... just micro filter... although this has far too much colour for that surely! I have also noted that they call the colour 'tawny'. Hmmm I do occasionally stretch beyond the 32 colours known to man - but ruddy is a much better description!

So, this should be familiar by now...

Apart from it's distinctive colour, it has a pungent smell - deep, rough and fruity. True to form then, this is giving off a medium full bodied smell which is very inviting.

The taste is true to form but I have to say is excellently controlled. There is a brilliant tannin which may have even benefited from a touch of filtering. Sure, it has lost a touch of dimension as a result - it's not that drying. However, this cider is not too full on and this reveals the complex flavours... if you grab a Yarlington Mill apple this autumn (if you are lucky enough to have access to them) have a sniff when they are ripe. These blossomy, tannic, orchard notes are all in this drink.

There is no acid here - its all bittersweet (which is correct for the apple). It really is a lovely cider.

The aftertaste is long and fruity. Slightly drying at the end but not too much. This is definitely evidence that some filtering works. It is a distinguished cider and a wonderful version of the Yarlington SV. A score of 91/100 surely must secure it in my top ciders of 2013. Well done Rich's!

An afterthought: It has been suggested to me recently, by a producer of large scale cider, that many 'traditional' ciders are rubbish... citing cleanliness, refusal to pasteurise/filter etc. While I agree with this sentiment (I have tried some truly awful full juice ciders) I have to say that ALL the best ciders are all full juice (like this one). So, do you aim for 'average' (i.e. large scale, controlled ciders) or do you shoot for excellence with the occasional misfire (OK, perhaps a little more than 'occasional'). Me - well, I would rather bin half my cider than offer rubbish to punters.

Saturday 1 June 2013

Lilley's Stargazer Medium Cider

Last cider of the night at Cider Tap for me. Sadly they haven't changed too many of the ciders around, so I am left with a selection of mediums. As I want to make my own mind up about them, I oped to have a half of Lilley's Stargazer. Broadoak or not, it has to be worth a try eh.

A lot of discussion on the interweb has taken place about whether Lilley's make their own cider - whether they are rebadged Broadoak - or even if Broadoak has shut and is now Lilley's. To be honest, I don't really care, although since the recent CAMRA AGM this issue must be at the top of the APPLE committee's agenda of things to talk about (being careful not to take a cheap swipe at them). Quite frankly, until CAMRA figure out a way of monitoring cider producers I feel this (as with many other 'decrees') will be hard for them to police. Oh, hang on, they do... just replicate the way they do it for brewers or does that require both sides of CAMRA working together with joined up thinking n'all.

OK, this wasn't going to get all CAMRA on you! 

So, Stargazer arrives as a medium, bright (seriously bright) and sparkling light golden cider. Again, it is far too cold even for a medium. Come on Cider Tap. It isn't lager and doesn't need to be this cold! At 4.5% it's another low alcohol cider. Please note that when I talk about a cider of 4.5% being 'low alcohol' I am not implying that it is low alcohol, just that for a full juice producer it would not be considered a safe level for storage. After all, most ciders that are 'full juice' will be 5.5% and above because it is pretty much self sterile at that strength.

There really isn't that much smell to it - even when it is warmed a little. I cannot really say that it reminds me or demonstrates any fruitiness or body in the nose.

To taste, it is watery. I kind of expected that to be honest. It is a medium (as in not a sweet), which is a positive... it isn't too sweet for it's category:-)  It also tastes of apples - although liberally applied (I don't want to fall into the general discussion about Lilley's/Broadoak). There is a little tannin, though it is very light and almost faint. There is, however, plenty of acid in there - so it could be mostly dessert fruit.

Saying all this there is something about it... I guess you could say it tastes a lot like Magners... OK, it does have more body than Magners, but on the whole it is safe and fairly acidic with a hint of tannin. The aftertaste is also, like Magners, short and pretty watery - although it is fruity.

In all, I am not going to be hunting this cider down. I kind of figured that fairly quickly on (and I do try to remain open and objective!) It is better than Firedancer though. 59/100