Wednesday 15 January 2014

Cornish Orchards Pear Cider

Hopefully I am now moving back to some perry that is more traditionally made now. Checking back on their cider reviews, I rather like Cornish Orchards drinks... so I think that this may be a safer perry to return to.

So, lets get on with it. Well, I have to say I rather like the style of the bottle. I have probably said this before but it is classy and simple. Saying I like it - I don't like the fact that they have called it pear cider. I guess that is the snob in me - perry and pear cider are (I guess) an interchangeable concept these days and to suggest that perry = good and pear cider = bad is missing the mark somewhat. Sure, I cannot think of one drink called 'perry' that is industrial in nature (I frame that statement in the knowledge that both Babycham is perry and also Lambrini... though I admit I have no idea whether they call themselves perry specifically).

Moving on to the description... well, although I have not obtained permission the fact that it is on their bottles means I can replicate it here:
"A refreshing, delicate, medium dry cider that has a lovely soft sparkle with gentle pear tones and a crisp dessert apple finish. Created with beautiful English Conference pears. A fabulous alternative to white wine or serve chilled over ice; a wonderful long drink."
Confused. Well, forgive the use of 'cider' - its a pear cider (and my thinking having studied the bottle is that they call it that because their stock of labels refer to their ciders... Conference pears. There are very sweet with no acid at all - hence the use of apples to provide acidity and balance. It will be an interesting experience. I believe that many of the mass market brands use conference and comace - the two common dessert pears available in large quantities. As to white wine etc. well, I am going to open the bottle and give it a go.

This perry has a moderate sparkle to it - in fact it is another bottle that has sat around for a few month and does appear to have developed a bit (there was a tiny amount of settled sediment). However, I would suggest that it has been filtered to a degree as it is bright.

The smell is surprising... and nice. A bit of acid in the nose and a very pungent floral (rose like) smell. And (here is the surprising bit) there is something wine like about the aroma. This isn't supported so much with the taste, although it is nice. There is a touch of syrup about it - could be sweetening or the apples perhaps.

In summary, the taste is delicate and tasty. There is more than a hint of dessert apple about it, and it is a floral almost cidery drink which has more than a passing similarity to white wine. Saying that it isn't a cutting or crisp drink like a wine would be and I am still thinking cider as I work my way through the glass. On the whole it is gentle and has a reasonable amount of acidity

There is a medium length aftertaste, which is fairly light and acidic. I should also add that the medium dry is done very well, so it is an all round hit for me... well, not the greatest in my short  perry career but certainly very good.

A score of 72/100 and a bronze apple goes to Cornish Orchards...

Saturday 11 January 2014

Healeys Pear Rattler

I am enjoying this foray into the new. Well, it is new for me anyway. Incidentally, by request I have tagged these as 'perry' to make it easier to find. Mind you, if I can find as many perries as I have ciders then that could grow into a rather long list!

OK. In front of me I have a bottle of Healey's Cornish Pear Rattler. Checking back, I am not sure that I went all that mad over the cider version of Rattler - though I was confidently informed by a publican last year that it is all very popular and 'real'. Now there is a term that I can sit alongside 'premium':-)

Bearing the standard image of surfer and snake, Healey's leans on the Cornish surfing reputation. In fact, the last time I went surfing in Cornwall it was in just about every pub in Newquay so I would say that they have captured their target marketplace with this design. Mind you, having spent my entire 20's surfing the coasts of Cornwall, Devon and Dorset, it is a fairly new thing.

Opening the bottle, this perry is crystal clear and moderately sparkling. That is about right for Healey's - Rattler cider is the same kind of thing if I remember rightly.

Lets start with the smell of this thing. Well, it smells of pears. Honestly, I have to say - as a beginner in regards to perry - that of the two high quality perries neither smelt of pears in the same way that full juice traditional cider rarely smells just of apples.

Oh my god, it is insanely sweet! Its like pear flavoured lemonade! Trying to be objective and getting underneath all that sweetening, it isn't a complex perry at all... there is a fair amount of sharpness - something that isn't that common in pears. Certainly dessert pears don't have much acid at all... and let's face it, there aren't that many perry pears to fuel the largest producers of perry/pear cider.

I am going to have to say that I prefer the Magners to this if I am honest. The aftertaste is very sweet and lingering. Sorry Healey's - I can see why you call it pear cider! A score of 48/100.

Wednesday 8 January 2014

Burrow Hill Perry

Well, both Olivers and Burrow Hill were my favourite producers of 2013, so I guess it is fair cop to try the Burrow Hill Perry next. I expect something slightly different too - after all, each comes from a distinct cider/perry producing county: mind you, I confess to having heard the saying that perry can only be made in sight of May Hill and somewhere in my brain that suggested that perry pears were only grown in Herefordshire... which of course is complete nonsense,

While I am not planning on getting drawn into a 'May Hill' argument, I will attempt to explain it... which is perhaps a bit ironic seeing as this perry is from Somerset:-)

May Hill is, guess what, a hill situated between Herefordshire and Gloucestershire (in fact, that is not a bad way of describing it as some of it is in Gloucestershire and some is in Herefordshire). The saying goes along the lines (as I have already mentioned) that perry pears only grow in sight of May Hill (i.e. Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Monmouthshire... I think). Or, that perry can only be made in sight of the hill. I am not sure of the provenance of the saying (though I bet it comes from the counties around May Hill), and perhaps it suggests the roots of perry making in the UK rather than anything more significant... Well, this perry should prove or disprove it; and to be honest I am expecting it to be pretty good!

Myths and stories aside, I am familiar with Burrow Hill - they are one of my favourite producers... and I have good taste:-) Mind you, my experience of them is from a cider and cider brandy perspective - so this should be an interesting departure for me. This perry looks light golden - pretty yellow in fact. It is also bright. Once again, this is likely filtered as there has been no settlement in the several months it has been sat on my shelf.

Pouring it out, there is a low level of carbonation going on. It froths a bit but settles well. It smells almost cidery. It has rather a rich smell; delicate but rich at the same time. I am getting quite a lot of peachy in the nose - which is quite pleasant. Perhaps it is me, but these perries sure are much more aromatic than cider in the complex notes.

On the first taste I am still thinking 'cidery' - it does have some of the same qualities as a cider... I ought to make the point that Olivers perry had similar qualities, although I think it was a bit more gentle. I am getting grapefruit now - it is probably as there is a moderate amount of acid in the mouth, plus it is a medium dry - which it is (no more, no less). Thinking about it, there is a rather generous amount of acid in this perry - alongside a mature tannin.

The aftertaste is a little warming in the throat, like a wine. The aftertaste is moderate in length and fading.

I like this perry a lot. It is quite vineous - it does say on the label to treat it like a wine and I am getting the impression that perry is more a wine than cider. Well, I say that on that basis of two excellent perries. Magners pear cider? Well, as with the cider I confess to thinking that it is a blend of cider and alcopop...

Anyway, this perry scores a silver apple with 80/100.

Sunday 5 January 2014

Olivers Cider and Perry Co., Classic Perry

What to follow the Magners Pear Cider then? Well, with a name like 'Classic Perry' and made by arguably one of the foremost perry makers in the world, this should be an excellent example (and one that sets the bar fairly high for this style of drink).

Scavenging information from the bottle, I can see that it is both carbonated and pasteurised. OK, I do have some issues with these processes although the proof itself is in the drinking. Pears are a difficult and unpredictable fruit - I have heard that it can remain hazy following fermentation. So some form of filtration is probably almost inevitable if you want to guarantee something clear. As for pasteurisation; well, it depends on whether/how the perry is sweetened. So, without wishing to undo things I have said in the past about both processes it really does depend on how they are done. Let's get on with it then.

Oh, one more thing. I confess to knowing a little about Olivers and the description of the production fits nicely with that - ripe fruit being pressed and fermented in barrels before bottling... simple yet seemingly so difficult for many producers!

This perry is moderately carbonated - it has been sat on my shelf for some months and still is clear and not excessively sparkling... it hasn't developed further on my shelf (the result of both filtration and pasteurisation). It is a light golden colour and has a strong aroma - almost cidery. It has citrus notes and wet hedge too... ok, nettles and berries. I am not getting a heavy pear smell from it - well, not pears I am familiar with.

Wow. This is as different from Magners as you can get. It is a full smooth taste with floral notes as well as a slightly lemon note too. The pears have developed during fermentation - in the same way that cider doesn't really taste of apples (if you are drinking a cider that just tastes of apple juice... not mentioning Westons:-) then it is worth considering this fact). I am getting some tannin too and yet there is very little acid to balance against it.

This is quite complex - and I am not an expert on perry. However, it is really very good. Taking a few more gulps I am starting to get more of the pears in the taste... this is a bit of a quaffing perry. Very nice.

There is a moderate length aftertaste which is a touch warming yet also satisfying. There is still no real acid but it does taste more juicy in the mouth as an aftertaste.

OK, this was exactly the comparison I was hoping for as a second perry. A score of 87/100 and a silver apple for Olivers!

Thursday 2 January 2014

Magners Pear Cider

OK, OK, I know. Well, I had to start at some point, didn’t I! Actually, it is fairly timely for me personally to start tasting perry but… I can hear all those groans about me starting with the Magners ‘Pear Cider’. Its not a bad way to start 2014 either is it?

In my defense, I have to say that this is actually a good thing for me ­- it returns me back to basics. I remember starting to write my first review of a cider for this blog – Magners as it happens. The question wasn’t to try something that was going to set me alight it was to try something that was, perhaps, the market leader – the standard not in terms of quality, but as a yardstick of the genre. It was also a good reminder for me that this is what so many punters have bought into. I ought to say that, as a cider maker myself, I have tried (and made notes on) many ciders before I started blogging about them… it should be a part of all cider makers strategies – how do you know what you are producing compares unless you do the leg work eh! The blog was just an extension of other things I was up to… but has turned into a big ‘thing’ of it’s own right!

So, where to start? If this is the most popular ‘pear cider’ on the market, why don’t I start with the obvious?! The difference between perry and pear cider. Well, first off, did you know that Babycham was perry/pear cider? And, did you know that Lambrini is perry/pear cider? Not a perry that many traditional producers would recognise perhaps, but there you go. Mind you, I am late to the party – I confess that perry has scared me in that past. Perhaps it is because it can be a tricky thing to make. Apples are far more generous and forgiving! I think it is truthfully because perry is more nuanced - more delicate than cider and I am not the most experienced drinker. But then, I am not the most experienced drinker full stop - so that shouldn't really hold me back.

Pear cider is perry is pear cider. I know some purists who will baulk at that statement. I guess it is not strictly true that the two are the same... but the principle is the same – perry could be regarded as the full juice version and pear cider; although there is nothing that makes that statement true... nothing stopping a pear cider being full juice (or a perry not being full juice for that matter). The simple reality is that both are made from pears. Just as cider (a much abused word) is made from apples - or should be made from apples

Got that? I only hope that bar people read this! How many conversations have I had that ran along the lines of:

Me - “Do you have any perry?”
Barista - “What is that?”
Me - “It is made from pears”
Barista - “Sorry, we only have pear cider”
Me - “It’s the same thing” [retires in mental defeat]


Me - “Do you have any perry?”
Barista - “Sorry, we only have pear cider”
Me - “It’s the same thing”
Barista - “No it isn't - sorry. Perry can only made from perry pears at May Hill”
Me - “Hmmmm. OK then... What cider have you got”
Barista - “Strawberry or Beetroot?”
Me - “Oh fuck off!”

Apologies about the swear word; alcohol is an adults drink so please don’t get your children to read this!

Anyway. I have now diverged from this review so far that I am considering separating it out as it’s own blog. But no – I will persevere and get on with this review.

The first thing I have to say is that this drink comes in a green bottle. And I am assuming it is fairly clear, so I have a bottle of what looks like water in front of me – brightly clear. It has sat on my shelf for a number of months and doesn’t appear to have changed in any way whatsoever:-)

First off I can see that my catagories of colour etc. are going to have to be modified to cover shades of green if I am to try many perries. To be fair to Magners, this is mainly clear with a yellow tinge (although it does pick up green too). 

A light floral smell comes off it – very light. Oddly, at 4.5% this is almost exactly the same as the cider. Controlled alcohol.. that is the answer! It is also quite foamy and highly carbonated. Coming back to it I can see that perry demands more attention that cider does. Or perhaps I need to go back to many ciders and consider them more carefully! There is a touch of citrus – lemon – to the nose in this and mabe even some clementine. However, please be assured that it is very light and I think I may be the only person ever to have sniffed a bottle of Magners Pear Cider before! 

The taste is quite vinious – and watery. And sweet. It is sort of pleasant but doesn’t really seem to have an awful lot of substance to it. Thinking back to those drinks like Lambrini, it does come across as a cheap white wine – sweet and just a touch chavvy to be honest.  Having said that, I am still getting a sense of clementine to it – very slightly orangy. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t offensive… and my experience of tasting perry is very lacking… far more than really it should be if I am to publish this review.

There is virtually no lingering aftertaste to it other than a touch of white wine about it. There is virtually no acid to it whatsoever and certainly nothing tannic (or are these cider terms?)

It scores 47/100: sadly, below average and quite a thin offering. However, I hope that as with cider I can find more satisfying alternatives that I can suggest to develop a pallate for perry... one lives in hope!

My conclusion must be that this has not exactly prepared me for what I have sat on the shelf to try next - a veritable feast from some of the worlds best producers: Olivers, Dunkerton's and Burrow Hill... I feel somewhat under prepared, but here we go!