Friday 30 August 2013

Springfield Cider, Wobblymunk Cider (GBBF)

I must have missed this off my initial passes by the cider bar - it was at the top of my list to try, being the Champion CAMRA Cider of 2013 n'all. And why shouldn't the best CAMRA have to offer get the Cider Pages treatment eh?! Thankfully it is described as a medium dry on the number chart of sweetness. I would have been massively disappointed if this one had been on the sweeter end of the scale.

Springfield are another of the Welsh producers represented here. Based in Monmouthshire - the Welsh 'Ciderland' (or is it just a continuation of the UK 'Ciderland' - I guess that depends on whether you are Welsh and a member of WCPS!) Anyway, they have been making cider for the last 15 years and this year it really paid off for them at the national CAMRA Cider and Perry Competition...

I guess my current thinking is that there are too many competitions and awards floating around for cider/perry producers these days. Many companies cite 'award winning' on their banners and in their marketing guff... to me, my concern is that this becomes worthless - although if you are someone like Olivers, Once Upon a Tree or Burrow Hill then the sheer volume of awards must say something! The CAMRA competition should be up there with the best of them - Bath and West and 3 Counties (note, personally I don't count those sponsored by magazines or claiming to be 'international' whilst pricing all but the largest producers out). However, it suffers from poor planning and structure and, whilst I am sure this is going to be a great cider, the problems present within the competition means that this is unlikely to be the same stuff that won at Reading earlier this year.

Oh well, something for APPLE to get round to if they are open to such things.

This cider comes to me as a fairly bright (clear) and golden cider. As with all the draught ciders here it is flat, although it has a really good smell to it. Ooh, it smells rich and fruity - a good one if the smell is anything to go by. It is curious how we tend to lead through the nose, isn't it, and I am really getting last autumn in this glass - fruit, weather, cut grass with a deep wood note in the nose.

The taste leads with a good fruity tannic body. This is a little drying although the sweetening (well done and understated) offsets this a lot. On the whole, this drink is all apple fruitiness and bittersweet undertones - there is not that much acid and certainly not enough to prevent this cider from being deep and rich. However, the acid does play a supporting role to an extent - this is really a good cider and I am starting to agree with CAMRA's judgement on it.

The aftertaste is long and satisfying. A real delight.

So, for this cider... think autumn, leaves turning brown, bonfires, wet grass, ripe apples and cuttings. What isn't to like about this cider? It has charisma - not stacks of it, but it is good and it is there. I like

A very strong silver apple with a score of 88/100.

Tuesday 27 August 2013

Pookhill Irish Whiskey Cask 2012 Cider (GBBF)

One thing I am really pleased to see this year (or not see, as it turns out) is the removal of the scoring system for cider/perry/ale on the Great British Beer Festival website.I know it was meant as a guide for those attending. I know it was a 'good idea'. Actually, it is a neat idea... except for the fact that you could vote for something as many times as you liked. OK, there was some measure of control - you had to refresh your browser before each vote. However, last year this scoring got to silly proportions (and I know for a fact that those supplying the festival were on there scoring their own time and time again).

So, this year it is gone and replaced with a list - not the most helpful or user friendly of lists, but it is a step in the right direction. Now, for next year, if they could bring back the 'create your own wish list' which I seem to recall from previous years then I will be a happy man.

On with this next review then. Having had a comfort break (too much information yet again) and a delicious plate of sausage and mash (stuff of gods!) I was back again and ready to try something a little different.

The Irish Whiskey Cask name of this cider certainly caught my eye; not least because there is a dwindling number of ciders named as 'spirit cask' out there... the furore that followed the problem with spirits imparting flavour and strength to a cider has meant that many (including one of my very favourite ciders from Ross on Wye) have removed the reference to the cask. Presenting a great or good cider from a spirit cask is also a very tricky business. Not enough and, well, why bother as it is just cider and too much and you ruin it (and risk a visit from HMRC).

Mind you, at 8.4% this cider certainly is all the strength a cider can be!!It is a hazy cider that smells of apple juice (to be honest) and comes across as quite a light eastern style of cider. Mind you, Pookhill is the cider produced at Middle Farm in East Sussex - so I would guess eastern counties is going to be about right!

For anyone who doesn't know, Middle Farm is home of the National Collection of Cider and Perry - a great place to discover lots of ciders (and buy them too). This is one of their own - and to think I had no idea that they made cider as well as sell it!

Back to the smell. If I had to describe it I am smelling elderflower, citrus and dessert fruit - no whiskey at all. This is confirmed by the taste. I cannot detect any whiskey (Irish or otherwise). Moving on from that and judging it as a cider I have to say it is a reasonably sharp eastern cider. Very well done actually. There is something in the background too and after a bit of tasting I work it back to be a nice wood component which must come from the barrels. This is interesting. I have mainly tried wood matured tannic ciders, but it works well (and differently) with more acid fruit too.

So, its a good cider matured in wood. Forget the whiskey it just isnt there (for me). But as an example of this style of cider it is good with a touch of bite and a wooden note behind it. It also has a long aftertaste that works well in the mouth.

A score of 72/100 sees a bronze apple to Middle Farm - nicely done (albeit I can't find the Irish Whiskey in it)

Saturday 24 August 2013

Little Orchard Company, Thorn Brook Cider (GBBF)

Considering I had spent forever getting to this festival (I left at 0930 and arrived at 1400), hadn't eaten anything since breakfast and needed the toilet... OK, too much information... finding that I was in line to try my third cider before going to the loo and getting something to eat was a little surprising!

This is the wonder of the third pint. After this cider I will have only drunk a pint - OK, averaging between 5 and 8.5% that is still going to be a bit of alcohol... but it is how it should be with ciders. If us Brits can get our heads around the fact that cider is much stronger than beer then this quantity makes a lot of sense. It is kind of half way between a wine glass and beer glass. To be fair, half pints would have been nearly as good but the point is simply this - if I were serving at a festival and people asked for 'pints' I would suggest that they aren't going to get through that many new ciders by doing it that way... not that some people care. Not that some people care (to be honest those most likely to scan the festival guide for the strongest cider).

For some reason best known to CAMRA I actually stood next to someone who made a big deal out of getting a pint of Thatchers Traditional (OK - its the one thing that the organisers let themselves down on). For once I find that I am very happy with the organisation of APPLE, but I do have to ask why they would break their own rules to get Thatchers Traditional onto the list.... I mean, several APPLE committee members were present (and even organised the list!) And then there was the Westons bar which can only have been there because Westons pay a healthy amount into CAMRA coffers... though it is the most obvious cop out and one easily avoided (and, lets face it, neither Westons or Thatchers are really the bad guys are they... or at least they are not the baddest guys!)

This next cider wasn't originally on my list. However, after a little adjustment it became one of the ciders that I wanted to try as it was a drier cider than most (I will get to sweetening... I definitely have something to say about it!!) The Little Orchard Company are based in Oxfordshire and produce cider sourced from both their own orchard as well as from the local area and other orchards. I particularly like that they claim that every apple is inspected. This gives me a real sense of their scale of operation (I would have to say sub 7,000 litres) - I can relate to this... washing small amounts of apples and putting them into the mill lends itself to single apple inspection. I have to say though, get bigger and try to keep up with it all!!! If they are still at the stage of hand picking all their fruit, then I can see even more reason that each and every apple is spotless... though as I have realised it doesn't have to all be like that:-)

On to this cider then. Well, the first thing I would note as it is handed to me is that it isn't cloudy. Also, it is a lot lighter than the others I have had so far. Given that Little Orchard are based in Oxfordshire, I would expect them to have access to both dessert and a bit of cider fruit (although, lets face it, you can get hold of cider fruit by travelling a few miles down the road!!). In all honesty, this cider is keeping it's cards close to it's chest - the smell is almost non existent. I am getting a small amount of fruit though... but nothing that is particularly helpful in letting me know what to expect.

The taste is very light and delicate. It feels quite dry, so at least it has been sweetened sensitively. The main feature of this cider is that there is sharpness to it - although to be honest it isn't a pronounced acid... gently acid is what I would say. This is one of those ciders that needs the carbonation of being bottle conditioned to liven it up a touch. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with this cider, but I do feel that there is something missing from it.

There is very little or no tannin in here to add body to it, so it comes across as being a touch 'squash' like with fairly low level fruitiness and an acid that makes up the main bulk of the character.

It has a medium to long aftertaste which again is not biting but is quite satisfying.

It may just be me, but I could do with a bit more bite and a bit of a sparkle. It may be that, with the conditions last year, the acids are washed out a bit - so one to try again on a good year... Do try it though - it is a fair example of an eastern style of cider (without sourness or sickening sweetness!)

With a score of 66/100, it is just shy of an apple (but right at the top end of those without).

Wednesday 21 August 2013

Circle Cider 'Butchers Boy' Cider (GBBF)

Moving surprisingly quickly on to my second cider of the day at the Great British Beer Festival, I present Circle Ciders 'Butchers Boy' cider.

Circle Cider is a small producer based in Wiltshire. There are a few producers outside of the 'ciderland' usual area's here this year and that is to be celebrated. When I say Wiltshire, what I meant was Swindon... and Swindon is not renowned for it's cider:-) I seem to recall that I once bought a car wing or door from some guy in Swindon off ebay... okay, I don't have much to offer beyond that!! I wish I could tell you the story of 'butcher boy', but I cannot find it (and their site is 'under construction').

One of the saving graces with GBBF is that cider can be sold in 3rds. Sure, you should be able to get cider in 3rd pint at any festival - though I haven't seen it at many! A third of a pint is more than enough cider to do a proper review and yet not too much that the reviews start to fall apart after a couple!

OK, on to this cider then. It is handed to me as a still cider that, whilst golden is a lot lighter than the CJ's. It is still cloudy, which I have a feeling is going to be a recurring theme. The little sticker suggests that this cider is fruity; although sticking it to my nose I don't really get much of a sense of this. It smells good though - cidery and 'normal'. Perhaps the fruit is in the taste then.

I have to say that I am not a medium sweet cider person. However, this was on my list and as a '4' (Medium) it just about stays on there. I do want to get through a few today, so I cannot afford to be too fussy about sweeetening!

There is some really nice acid in this cider, which develops the fruitiness of the drink. I am finding some tannin too... not a whole lot, but it is there. As a plus, the 'medium' is more like medium dry to me - so they have the right attitude towards sweetening. Oversweetening is a crime against cider (and another topic for a cider101 sometime!!)

Working my way through this, I am getting a bit of sourness to the acid... could be Bramley, although there isn't that much of it so I would suggest they have been a little restrained in its use (which is a GOOD thing!) However, this puts the tannin right into the background and I can only say that this cider is much less about the tannin (which appears to be there to provide a little body) and more about the sharp fruitiness.

A moderate to long aftertaste, where the acid and sweetening do become a bit more sickly together. However, don't let this stop you from trying this cider. It is really competent and an interesting drink with some intense flavours and character.

Another bronze apple with a score of 70/100

Sunday 18 August 2013

CJ's Surprise (GBBF)

Prepare yourself. The next bunch of reviews are of ciders that were found at this years Great British Beer Festival in London. No, I am not going to get into why it doesn't move around the country to properly represent the UK. Take a look at it and the bars found within it... it is a great festival! It is easy to get to from just about anywhere (if less and less cheap thanks to 'we're all in it together' Dave and Gideon).

The cider bar (or cider area) is not quite as impressive - it is one bar amongst many. However, it is a big bar and it is certainly one of the busier bars too! I think the line up was somewhere in the 70 different ciders this year. I am thankful for two things: firstly, innevitably there were a good chunk of them that I have already tried. Secondly, there were a lot (a larger number than really should be) of ciders graded 3 (medium sweet), 2 (sweet) or even 1 (very sweet). I will get into that as we go along, but I have something to say to CAMRA and particularly the APPLE bods:

Well done!!! The choice and quality of the cider this year was significantly better than last year. All the hard work and effort that goes into this particular bar could be argued to be excessive, but it really did exemplify the best of British ciders. Now. Why the bloody hell do you then give Westons a stand next door? That is, perhaps, something else I will get into as I progress...

I had a list with me. Looking at it now, I can see that out of the 18 ciders on the list, I managed to get through 15 of them. A couple were de-listed for being too sweet and one or two were not on. But 15 was pretty good going for the space of 8-9 hours (thank god for sausages and mash!!!)

This first cider is one of the two I had to try here: CJ's Surprise. The silver winning cider from this years CAMRA Champion Cider Competition earlier this year. To be fair, I have tasted it before now - but wanted to give this years batch a proper review.

There is not much to be found about CJ's - I cannot find a website, although they are located in Usk, Monmouthshire. So a Welsh producer and, on the whole, the things I see online about them are positive. But what is it about this cider that won the award?

CAMRA have little 'helpful' stickers on the labels of their tubs - for CJ's it has a symbol for cloudy and for tannic. Past experience of this combination hasn't fared so well on my reviews here - and I am curious as to how a cloudy cider would win an award from an organisation where punters like clear to bright drinks...

Sure enough, it is quite cloudy... basically, it is all of the above. It is deep and golden and cloudy. It smells quite tannic too.

A word on cloudy cider. Last season was a particularly hard one for making cider. Not just because it was persistently wet and sugar levels were down, but things took longer, were more tricky and, well, as you can see many ciders haven't cleared properly. One of mine hasn't either (and it normally does). So don't fear cloud too much... it is just a feature of natural, full juice cider and those of us who don't filter sometimes have no control over it.

Wow. The taste is all of it's medium description! It isn't badly done though and the fruit flavour is right at the forefront of the taste. It is also quite tannic, but the sweetening prevents it from being remotely drying. Working through the sweetening, there are some heavy tannins in here which come through as a funky overtone to the drink.

This is a good, full bodied example of a western style of cider. The aftertaste is quite long and is very pleasant. However, the sweetening wins through right at the end and it is that that lingers most.

This is not a heavy cider in itself - quite nice in fact. If I was looking for a cider to 'make my own' as an individual choice of craft cider, this would be a great one to go for. Whether it is worthy of it's silver award from CAMRA... well, I have tasted a lot worse and a few better but its all about what you see at the moment of the competition (cider is a live thing and changes as it matures and each year... that is good!)

A score of 77/100 sees a bronze apple to CJ's and a good start to my GBBF 2013!

Thursday 15 August 2013

Sandford Orchards Shaky Bridge

Right, last bottle review before the Great British Beer Festival onslaught of reviews. I like this diversion as it often allows me to try ciders that really are not available except for a few choice outlets - but then that generally is of less use to those who seek to actually find a cider and try it!

This review also demonstrates admirably that you can name a cider after just about any old thing that comes to mind. Shaky Bridge is named after... guess what... a shaky old wooden bridge that I presume the cider maker had a bad experience on:-) Ah well, I have heard worse! Checking the list of ciders I have tried it is hard to believe that I have not reviewed any other Sandford Orchards... they are not a tiny company and have been on my radar since before this blog was born. Time to rectify that then.

With a fairly modern label which is vibrant green - and contains one of the more flaky cider naming stories (though Thatchers 'Old Rascal' is nearly impossible to beat... well, Weston's have a good attempt with a couple of theirs) the bottle is clear and you can see without opening that this cider is both golden and brightly clear. At the top of the bottle, in its very own tiny label it says 'Proper Cider'. Eh... OK. Bearing in mind that I bought this in a Tesco in Salisbury, I always worry whenever I see anything stating it is 'proper' or 'real'... supermarkets go for 'cheap' and 'easy' over 'proper' or 'authentic' (unless you are in their 'specialist' isle - which this isn't). Sorry supermarkets - though you are responsible for many of the woes of things like high streets, alcohol pre-loading, ever cheaper and badly cared for meat, cutting farmers margins leading to short cuts and such like... just don't ask me for a solution to all of this.

Sandford Orchards are based in Devon - so right in the heart of the South West. Going by past experience and by others reports (in both 'Cider' and in 'Ciderland' books for example), Devon cider differs from Somerset mainly by the choice of apples. When you are looking at full juice ciders from different parts of the country - all looking and tasting totally different from each other, do bear in mind that it is often only the choice of apples (and perhaps some of the processes) that make them taste different. Amazing, isn't it!

The cider has a low fizz, and once in the glass actually looks quite a light golden colour. It has a rich smell to it too - apple and bittersweet coming off of it. Good start!

The taste is rather sweet and, whilst it doesn't state what it is on the bottle I would put it down as either a medium or medium dry.  It is very clean too - filtered clean no doubt. There are some nice tannins in the drink, though these are not at all drying. To boot, there is only a very little acid so the filtering must have taken care of this too. It is a shame - I have spoken to several producers who don't think filtering changes the profile of their drinks at all. Sadly, this cannot be true - some of the flavour component 'cells' within a cider are larger than the yeast cells - so clearing out the yeast cells by filtration must clear out flavour and colour too.

I am enjoying this cider - it has a pleasant flavour to it. It is rather more sweet than I like per se. I am sitting here wondering whether there is Yarlington Mill and/or Dabinet - so things cannot be bad at all!

This is nice. Much different from the 'Cripple Cock' my dad used to get on the way to our camping holidays each year in Kingsbridge (Devon). Standards have raised tenfold! Mind you, I say that having no idea whether you can still stop off (somewhere near the river Dart I believe) and buy a plastic imitation stonewear jug of nasty cider... or if indeed that cider is no longer nasty. Must get down there sometime!!

There is a moderate aftertaste to it, which continues with the good body of the cider... and sweetness.

I think the score may be a little harsh on it, although it still gets a bronze apple. 70/100.

Monday 12 August 2013

Bottle Kicking Cider Company 'Scrambler' Medium Dry Cider

This is a company that I know very little about. Thinking back I have to say I bought this back in June/July from (I think) a Tesco somewhere... so, how does a company 'suddenly' appear in a supermarket without having any other presence? Are they new or am I just not as well informed about the industry as I sometimes would like to believe I am... don't answer that - a reality check is often a good thing for anyone!

It has a very busy label, and one that I am not entirely sure that the Portman Group would appreciate - with lot's of 'hard man' words that seem to associate this cider with exercise and sport (of some kind - has anyone heard of a rugby style game played with cider barrels?) It doesn't really say a whole lot about the company though, so onto the interweb I go to find out more: I have to say their website answers a lot of questions and also reveals that they are not the usual Somerset/Herefordshire producer. That makes me keen to try the cider.

Well, there isn't a sport of barrel rugby - apart from a scramble that happens between two villages in Leicestershire, which is where this company hail from. It says very little about themselves per se (although one of the main links doesn't actually go anywhere) but it does say a fair bit about the cider. I am now expecting it to be full juice albeit mucked around a little - "we take the containers to our bottling partner, where our cider is filtered, naturally sweetened and carbonated to our exacting standards." (taken from their website). Bottle Kicking are by no means unique in using contract bottling - although this process can involve cutting too. However, I can say that the initial process is (at least) a traditional one.

Opening with a fizz (a moderate one) this cider is as described - filtered bright and golden. The smell is a bit faint - though this could well be the result of filtering. However, I am getting a clean fruit smell with apple and hedgerow - blackcurrents and elderberry - in the nose.

The taste is also good and clean. It is all quite mild, although there is a funky acid somewhere in here. It is a bit drying in the mouth - I really like the sensitive sweetening as this comes across on the dry side of medium dry. The acid itself is quite mild, although that is definitely where the odd tones come from... I wonder what varieties are producing that. It does make it an interesting cider though.

It does seem a little watery, but again, it is nothing drastic so no real concerns. The flavour is pronounced and in all I wrote that it had a little bit of a kick to it.

The aftertaste is warming in the throat and long. The drying stops though and I am left with the acid funkiness - which I am not entirely sure about but doesn't taste awful.

In all, I quite like this cider. As described there are a few odd things about it but overall it has character and a bit of charisma too for something that has been filtered and processed. The taste is interesting and at times quite intense (so perhaps not for the person just moving away from Strongbow then!).

With a score of 73/100, Scrambler gets Bottle Kicking a bronze apple.

Friday 9 August 2013

Carey Organic Vilberie Blend Cider

Vilberie. An interesting apple and one worthy of putting onto my Cider101 single varieties. I have come across this variety before now, although never actually used it in anger (though I have heard some good things about it)

As I will have mentioned in the Ty Gwyn review (although failed to include for Cider101), Vilberie is a French cider apple. It was brought to the UK from Brittany in the late 19th century - that time when the UK's appetite for new apple varieties appears to have been at it's zenith. It is a late cropper - which I think must make it quite astringent, although one person who I know to have made a Vilberie cider has commented on the fruitiness of the juice.

Getting on to trying the cider, It pours our deeply golden - very deeply golden - and still. It actually looks as though it means business, even though it is bright and clear. The smell, however, packs fruitiness rather than much tannin... and there is stacks of it. I have to say it smells a little juicy although not in an apply juice kind of way - it's just the fruitiness of the cider. So far it is an interesting cider which almost seems dark and brooding...

To taste, well it lives up to it's fruity smell and what I have heard about the fruitiness of Vilberie juice. It is loaded with pungent apple and hedgerow fruit tastes - and it even has some tannin kick to it as well. The longer I hold it in my mouth the more drying it gets - a real sign of tannin that develops; really good (unless you only like sweet ciders!). There is very little acid to compete against the tannin, so it doesn't need a lot to dry the cider out.

Vilberie has a long aftertaste too which continues as a dry cider but with an almost juicy fruitiness. I don't think this is a balanced cider but, as expected, this is a very interesting one - let's face it, unless a single variety cider has been played with to balance things out they are all going to be somewhat unbalanced in one way or another. It has so much fruit flavour in it that pretty much dominates all the character - but this is not a bad thing (and I suspect would work especially well in a blend). I like it.

A score of 79/100 sees Vilberie with a bronze apple. It is very well presented too!

Tuesday 6 August 2013

Gwatkin's 'Silly Ewe' Dry Cider

So, Gwatkins haven't done that well at my hands recently - I have found the ciders far too sweet... and a sweetness that kills off most of the rest of the character of the cider. This one, however, is their dry so I have higher hopes for it.

Over-sweetening of cider is a real shame - especially when the cider behind all that sweetness seems like it is really good. I know where it comes from - the mass selling ciders are sickly sweet and the public is now regarded by some as having a real sweet tooth when it comes to alcohol. However, these sweet commodity ciders have the character of a ghost - they are not as intense as the real, full juice versions and, again, large producers have convinced themselves that this is what people want. To some degree this is true - milder, sweeter, watery ciders are popular. Its more the bullshit marketing and lying that annoys me - these people have convinced themselves that this is all OK... you know, get around in a group of like-minded people and tell yourselves you are good over and over again until you believe it!

I didn't mean to go off on one, so apologies (and apologies for the swearing - though its how I feel so I won't delete it). The point is that some traditional cider makers have also convinced themselves that they should offer over sweet ciders. This is also a crime, as cider should be as described - a dry should not have been sweetened... or perhaps a touch. A medium dry shouldn't be a dry OR a sweet in disguise. As consumers, we pay good money for decent cider and I (for one) feel a bit conned when the cider I buy is far too sweet for what it says on the label.

Anyway, lets not prejudge this cider eh!  I like the label... OK it is a bit of a silly name, but it is a nice simple design and at least it is memorable. It does seem a bit on the weak side at 4.5% - a lot on the weak side if I am honest (for something that has fermented out to dry). However, it pours out golden and still... I have to say that the cap was very loose on this bottle though!

In terms of smell, I am getting definite farmyard off this cider. Rough and tannic and bold fruitiness. However, the smell is really not matched in the taste at all. IT IS SWEET!! Well, as I wrote that first bit before opening the bottle I could say it was prophetic... though I suspect it is par for this particular producers course. What is a dry cider doing tasting all apple juicy and sweet?! And there is a lot of juice in here - in fact, once again, it seems to dominate any cider character that may have been present. There is a little tannin, but this is coming out of the juice too.

In a positive mindset, I would say that this is a fruity cider, though it is almost apple juice fruity. There is very little acid (or at least I cannot detect that much over the sweetness of the juice. The aftertaste is really quite long although I am not that happy about it as it is just the sweet juice I can taste.

This is an excellent example of what I meant above about over sweetening. I doubt Mr Gwatkins reads this blog, but if he does, please - please - please. Make a dry cider that is dry! Cut your sweetening amounts in half and you will have some excellent ciders! This one, at this level of sweetening, is just not my cup of tea I am afraid.

Saturday 3 August 2013

Dunkerton's Court Royal Cider

Another interesting cider this time - and it was a close call as to which got the '300th' status. Not that it matters a whole lot of jelly beans to be honest. I have been looking forward to both but was determined to save them until after the Strongbow review (in case it went really badly:-)

I have also marked this review as Cider101. Court Royal is an apple that I haven't come across before - ever. It is also, by the looks of it, an apple that I am unlikely to come across. So in that regard it may be a bit of a pointless cider to include in my list of 'apple types'. However, as one never knows - it is in.

One note about the label. I love it! Dark and brooding, it rather gives it all away on the back with, "We offer this rare cider for your consideration." Very polite and very well taken too. I think Dunkerton's are a company that are really sure about how they present themselves... and it is nice that this company has so often backed up that style with first rate drinks too!

Court Royal apple is a sweet apple. This  means it should be low in both tannin and acid, but ought to be a naturally sweeter drink (assuming all the sugar doesn't ferment out). As a medium dry cider, I am hoping that this Dunkerton's is such an example. I can see, from a brielf search online, that it is regarded as both early and late harvesting. I am inclined to go with late as it is in a description from a nursery - but then you never know. Actually, looking at a search listing, perhaps it isn't so rare as I thought. However, I note on the back of the label for the cider it says that it crops irregularly. This could mean that it is biennial (crops one out of every two years) or that it is unreliable...

On with the review. This cider is rather light golden in colour and has a spritz about it - a light sparkle as it enters the glass that is quite persistent but low. It is bright, which I have come to expect from Dunkerton's. There is also a very interesting smell to it - I have smelled it before in a cider made from Le Brets (another 'sweet' classed apple). I am not expecting big tannin or acid from this - and this smell confirms it. I guess you could say that it is clean and a little one dimensional (aren't all SV ciders to a larger or lesser degree?). There is a faint fruitiness coming off it in the nose too.

Moving on to taste - Oh. Wow. This is a very light and delicate cider indeed, and Dunkerton's would seem to have really captured its character in here! I can see I am going to have to take my time with this cider. This is one of those drinks that you have to appreciate to get all of its sense. There are some faint tannins here, which funnily fit with everything else going on, but actually make it quite drying towards the end.

So, this cider is light and yet full bodies. The fruit is the foremost component - which is great - and the tannin plays second fiddle all the way; merely performing it's role and nothing more. There is very little acid if any I can sense. I have to say I disagree with the medium dry - it is a dry... well, at least at the end it is.

There is a really good, long aftertaste which again is all fruit. I am getting a touch of sweetness on the tongue though, it all but vanishes behind the fruit - but perhaps there is the medium dry bit:-)

I love this - it is an excellent cider and I shall be looking out for Court Royal in future! A score of 89/100 just sees it shy of a gold apple... which is a bit of a shame really - but a really good silver apple to Dunkerton's.