Review of Virtue Cider’s The Mitten, a bourbon barrel aged cider made using only Michigan apples. This is the first cider I’ve tried from Virtue.
Cider: The Mitten
Cidery: Virtue Cider
Cidery Location: Fennville MI
How Supplied: 750ml green champagne bottle, capped (also available in kegs)
Availability: Limited release, winter seasonal. Virtue cider may be available in GA, MD, MA, ME, NH, NJ, NY, PN, RI, VA, VT, IL, ID, KY, MI, MN, OH, WI, CA, OR, WA, & TX.
Cider Description: When the leaves fall, there’s a chill in the air and the evening greedily takes hours from daylight, we stand strong and embrace the wintertime. It’s a time of rich foods, roaring fires and our favorite sweaters. Drinks change from refreshing to intense and satisfying. The Mitten is a Winter cider, a blend of last seasons best, aged in bourbon barrels, with the new season’s fresh pressed apple juice. Straight cider, aged for 3 seasons, finds notes of vanilla, caramel and charred American oak, balanced with the best of the orchard, over-ripe apples and their sweet, tart, earthy juice. Many barrels are filled, but only a small portion, the very smoothest, will find their way into The Mitten. We love wintertime, especially when we have The Mitten to keep us warm and happy through the long, cold night.
Northern Spy, Cox’s Orange Pippin, McIntosh, and Jonathan apples blended with cider aging in our barrel house that is made from more than forty varietals of apples.
See Virtue’s info page on this cider.
Cidery Description: Virtue Farm is located in Southwest Michigan, part of the state’s thriving Cider Coast. Michigan’s Cider Coast boasts 200 miles of apple orchards, changing leaves, and stunning vistas best enjoyed with a glass of crisp cider. All along the coast, great cider being made by a bevy of wonderful cider makers, all working hard to revive dozens of varieties of heirloom apples ideal for juicing and fermenting. Virtue Cider is proud to be part of this burgeoning revival of an important Michigan tradition.
They have a tasting room. Also see this page on their barrel aging program. This cider was bourbon barrel aged at least 6 months (depending on the vintage). I’m guessing I tried the 2014 vintage. The 2015 vintage is expected to be released in December by the way.
Where Bought: Capitol Cider in Seattle WA
Where Drank: home
How Found: I’ve read a number of articles & reviews on this cider, which is quite well-received. I’ve been on the lookout for it ever since (although I can find a number of Virtue’s other varieties, this one is more rare in WA). I was very excited to see it on the bottle list at Capitol Cider, and just my luck, they still had it (they only update their printed bottle lists so often, so its possible they have since run out of items).
First Impression: High carbonation (foamed over when I opened it!). Gold amber hue. Lots of tiny bubbles and foam. Hazy. Rich medium sweet very ripe apple, bourbon, vanilla, oak, caramel, and brown sugar scent.
Opinion: Semi-dry. Frothy almost mousse-like sparkling/carbonated mouth feel. Rich bold flavors but light bodied. Very warming. Mild to moderate barrel influence. Moderate to heavy bourbon influence. Moderate to high acidity. Moderate bitterness, Low to moderate tannins. Moderate tartness. Moderate astringency. Ripe apple, bourbon, vanilla, oak, and caramel notes (quite similar to the scent, but tasted less sweet then it smelled). Slightly earthy and smokey. Long bitter finish. The other reviews I’ve read didn’t seem to mention this high of a level of carbonation and the significant bitterness, but each palate is different, and they could have been from a different vintage (a craft product like this varies year to year).
Most Similar to: Other drier bourbon barrel aged ciders with bitter notes. My favorite bourbon barrel aged cider so far is Traditions Bourbon Barrel 2012, made by 2 Towns, which I tried at Cider Summit Seattle 2015. This one definitely had the highest level of carbonation I’ve seen in this type of cider (often barrel aged ciders are presented almost still). The level of heat reminded me of Sea Cider Prohibition / Rumrunner. I would have guessed this cider was a much higher ABV, but it was very smooth and relatively easy to drink.
Closing Notes: I think I psyched myself up a bit too much for this one. I really liked it, but didn’t love it. I think if it wasn’t for the bitterness in the finish, I would have been really impressed. I think it also smelled better than it tasted (more sweetness came across in the scent). Maybe all the sweet-type notes made me want a sweeter cider? All in all it is a nice cider selection which makes me want to try more ciders from Virtue and from the Finger Lakes region (which similar to WA & OR is known for cider).
Second day update: I didn’t finish this cider the first night (as its just me and I have a tendency to make small pours). On the second night, I oddly enough found it had developed a distinct sourness (and remained pretty high carbonation). I’m used to ciders losing flavor / mellowing out, but sour is a new one. It was well-sealed with a flip top. So, I’d recommend drinking this in one night.
Have you tried any ciders from Virtue? What did you think?