Virtue The Mitten Bourbon Barrel Aged Cider – 2014 Harvest

Review of Virtue Cider’s The Mitten, a bourbon barrel aged cider made using only Michigan apples.  I previously reviewed a prior release of this cider (see here), which must have been their 2012 or 2013 harvest release.  Virtue contacted me saying I may have had a bad bottle that re-fermented, and wanted to send a replacement.  They also sent a bottle of their new Cherry version of this cider and some sweet swag.

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>>This is a review of a sample bottle provided to Cider Says by Virtue Cider.  Although I will take care to treat it the same as any other review, there is always the potential for bias as I received it for free.  The only consideration I knowingly made was pushing this up in my cider review cue.  I love free stuff, especially cider!  Want your cider or cider-related product reviewed here?  Contact me.<<

Cider:  The Mitten
Cidery:  Virtue Cider
Cidery Location:  Fennville MI
ABV:  6.8%
How Supplied:  750ml green champagne bottle, capped (also available in kegs)
Style:  American craft bourbon barrel aged cider made from culinary & heirloom apples and Ale yeast

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Even the bottle is quite different from the last one I tried…it includes Nutrition Facts (a rarity with craft cider), and white shrink wrap around the top.  The shrink wrap was quite an annoyance, but I assume it better protects the cap from letting air in but I learned it was only an extra precaution for shipping, so you’re unlikely to see it.

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.

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.  The barrel aged portion of this cider was aged in Heaven Hill bourbon barrels at least 9 months.

Price:  n/a (retails for $20+)
Where Bought:  n/a
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  n/a

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First Impression:  Straw yellow hue.  Very low carbonation upon pouring.  Smells of apple, yeast, citrus, oak, and sourness.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry.  Nearly still.  Light to medium bodied.  Moderate acidity.  Mild to moderate tartness.  Hints of bitterness, tannins, and sourness.  No funk.  Notes of citrus, floral, oak, yeast, honey, and vanilla.  Slightly wine-like (interesting as its made with beer yeast).  Moderate length finish.  Mild apple flavor.  Moderate sessionability.  Very low barrel influence.  No detectable bourbon influence.

This varied quite a bit from my previous review of a different release (which the cidery suspected had refermented).  That one had high carbonation (frothy and almost mousse-like), moderate bitterness, no sourness, and notes of ripe apple, bourbon, vanilla, oak, and caramel.  This time there wasn’t nearly as much barrel & spirit influence and I didn’t pick up the caramel flavor, but it was also lacking the bitterness I wasn’t a fan of.

My Opinion:  The two releases were quite different.  There were elements of each I liked and didn’t like.  Specifically, the texture and stronger bourbon & oak barrel flavor in the earlier release and the lack of bitterness in this release.  Overall I definitely enjoyed this cider, but same as previously, it didn’t really knock my socks off as much as it did for some other reviewers, such as Cider Journal and the Not So Professional Beer Blog.  Every person and palate is different though.

Most Similar to:  This one was unique as I picked up a wide variety of flavor notes, but I found some similarities to 2 Towns The Bad Apple.

Closing Notes:  I’m glad I got to try this cider again, as well as its Cherry cousin, which I will review soon.  Hopefully I’ll get to try more ciders from Virtue in the future.

Have you tried Virtue Cider The Mitten?  What did you think?

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