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.


  1. Tried that one - it was at the Cider Festival at Wheterspoons (btw. have you been in any of their pubs at the festival?). I found it quite nice, but it was served quite cold and that ruined the flavour a wee bit. I remember that it has some kind of a sharp filling to it.

  2. I haven't been to the Wethersponns festival - to be honest when I saw the list it didn't sufficient;y inspire me... though it is done with the best intentions in mind, I am sure:-)

    Serving a cider too chilled does ruin both the smell and the flavour. I have no idea why certain bars do it - perhaps they think they should treat it like white wine??

  3. Well, I guess the Wetherspoons festival may not be inspiring for you, but you don't get a better chance to try some new ciders here in Scotland:)

    Yeah, they were serving some ciders straight from the boxes, and the boxes where in the fridges:( Hundreds of years of cider making, serving and drinking and people still don't know how to treat it. Example from my workplace (cinema) that serves Magners - a lady came to my till today and asked: "what cider flavours do you have?":(

  4. Please accept my humble apologies:) I didn't mean to demean the festival!

    I have been considering writing a 'cider101' on the subject of keeping and serving cider... though I am by no means an authority on this...