This time around I have a review of something a little different, a one-time Double Cider subscription (their January 2017 box, containing selections from Honest Abe and Ratel Cider). Double Cider is a cider subscription service, which selects and ships two ciders each month.
Order Process – Very easy. It was all through their website. It asked for all the usual info such as name, address, and a credit card number to keep on file. E-mail updates are provided throughout the process, such as at the time of order and at the time of shipment (a UPS tracking number is provided). They also have an option to give someone the gift of Double Cider. There are currently 2 options, to be billed month to month or every 3 months (which saves $4.90 / 3 months). It can be canceled at any time before the 20th of the month to not receive the next month’s cider. The website also clearly states the order deadline to get the next month’s shipment, which is great (often when signing up for a subscription it can be unclear when it actually starts).
Accessibility – Double Cider can currently ship to 46/50 states (all except Alaska, Hawaii, Utah, and Illinois). Orders ship from Paso Robles CA within the first 10 days of the month.
Pricing – For 2 large bottles: $34.95 + $10 shipping if billed monthly, or $99.95 + $30 shipping if billed every 3 months. I had a coupon for a free sample box. Although this is probably more than you’d typically pay for 2 bottles of cider in the store (where 750s of local craft cider can run anywhere from $12-20+), there is understandably a markup for the service. I also imagine they are subsidizing shipping somewhat in the price as it is unlikely it costs only $10 to ship two bottles across the country, unless you are a high volume shipper.
Selection – To be determined, as this is the first month. They have however announced the second month will include 101 Cider House Stone Fence and Mission Trail Champagne Style. So far all four cideries have been in California, but I doubt that will continue long term. With a subscription there is always the chance you will get a style of cider you won’t prefer, but that can also happen when buying from a store. A subscription is especially suited to folks who are new to cider (and still learning what they like and dislike) and/or those who enjoy a wide range of cider. I had never heard of either of these cideries in the January box.
Rarity – Double Cider focuses on ciders which don’t have a large distribution and can’t be ordered online. I really like this part as the majority of cideries are small outfits, often not even distributed out of their own state. I love trying new ciders, especially those which are very different from what I can get locally.
Delivery – Here is unfortunately where it took a downturn for me. They use UPS, which like every shipper, requires an adult signature for alcohol. However, FedEx allows the package to be held at a FedEx location (including a FedEx Office mailing center down the street from me), even for alcohol. If you miss UPS’ delivery attempts, the only option is to go to the main hub, which for me is up to 45 minutes each way with traffic. If the package doesn’t contain alcohol, UPS would then allow it to be held at UPS Store locations. I see no reason UPS can’t allow alcohol to be held at non-hub locations, as they require ID when picking up a package anyways. Unfortunately many cideries use UPS (including everyone who goes through Vino Shipper), and it is pretty much 50-50 between getting UPS or FedEx.
This is more of something to be aware of than a true negative, if you like many folks work outside of the home during UPS’ delivery hours. Double Cider’s website also clearly states that someone 21 or over must be home to sign for it, so two thumbs up for full disclosure there. Consider having your order delivered to work if possible. UPS has some for-cost delivery options, but they aren’t very helpful. Delivering on a different business day (they will try multiple times anyways) or having a 2 hour window (only between 8:30am and 2:30pm, not even a late afternoon option). doesn’t help the issue of delivery only being available during typical business hours.
Packaging – The cider arrived in a typical box, with wine bottle cutout packaging, an info sheet on each cider, and some nice additions as this was the first box (a hand-written thank you note and some stickers). It arrived safely, but the bottles could move around in the cutouts/box if you shook it lightly, so I wonder if they will have any breakage long term.
The Competition – I am only aware of one other monthly cider subscription currently available in the U.S., Cidrbox.
- Cidrbox has the option to receive 3, 6, or 12 bottles a month (although with the 6 & 12 bottle boxes there may be some duplicates), instead of only 2 bottles.
- Cidrbox costs significantly more, starting at $75 + $10 shipping per month (although for 3 bottles, typically 750ml unless its is a specialty variety).
- Cidrbox currently ships to only 19 states, significantly less than Double Cider.
- Cidrbox has the entire box of 3, 6, or 12 bottles from the same cidery (this can be good or bad, if it turns out you really like or really dislike the cidery’s style), while Double Cider offers 1 cider from each of 2 different cideries.
I have not tried Cidrbox. However, Double Cider has a big advantage on price, $44.95 vs. $85 including shipping, although you only get 2 bottles.
The biggest thing I like about both companies is knowing what you will be receiving in advance, so you can choose to purchase (or skip) the selection. Also, each offers additional backstory on the cideries and ciders.
Another Option – If you want to expand your cider selection beyond that which is available locally, but don’t want to commit to a subscription, another option is to order cider straight from a cidery. A growing number of cideries have direct to consumer sales, typically online. Vino Shipper is a popular option; it has a directory of mostly wineries (but also a good number of cideries and meaderies) which you purchase directly from. The only negative is that because the cidery ships your order (ie. it doesn’t come from a warehouse), you can’t combine shipping between multiple cideries. I have had cider shipped from cideries such as Eden, Eve’s, and Tilted Shed (they don’t have an online ordering system, but e-mail or call to confirm they ship to your state, and if so, they will send you an invoice to pay online).
Bottom Line – I was pleased with Double Cider. I am personally unlikely to subscribe every month to a service like this, due to the cost and admittedly being picky about what I drink. However, I really like the idea, and will keep an eye on the monthly selections from both Double Cider and Cidrbox to see if a certain month’s options sound interesting. Both offer an option to just order one month (by canceling to prevent the subscription from renewing), and post in advance what the selection will be, so it is perfect for me.
Stay tuned for reviews of the Honest Abe flagship and Ratel Cider Dry Hopped ciders!