Farnum Hill Kingston Black

Review of Farnum Hill’s Kingston Black. I got this as part of the September Cidrbox.  I previously tried samples of their Extra Dry and Dooryard, plus I reviewed Extra Dry from this Cidrbox.

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>>This is a review of a sample bottle provided to Cider Says by Cidrbox.  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:  Kingston Black Reserve
Cidery:  Farnum Hill
Cidery Location:  Lebanon NH
ABV:  8.5%
How Supplied:  750ml corked & caged bottles
Style:  American artisan cider, single varietal from Kingston Black

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Availability:  This is a special release so it will probably be more difficult to find, but in general their ciders are distributed in CT, NH, MA, ME, NJ, NY, and RI (see here).  I haven’t seen their cider in the Seattle area for awhile.

Cider Description:  Kingston Black technically is a “bittersharp” apple variety, which in the English-speaking cider world means that its high tannin and acid levels make it a suitable cider apple: however, its sugar level, at least growing here, regularly yields 8.5% alcohol. We release a hundred or so cases of ‘Special Reserve,’ made only from this apple, in years when our KB is showing all its charms.

This is a still cider, in a 750ml bottle with straight cork. Its aromatic and flavor hooks range from floral through fruity (muskmelon) through hormonal suggestions on to further sensory tricks, viz. whiffs of candle-flame and turning off the phone. Like many distinctive flavor signatures, that Kingston Black je ne sais quoi is loved by some but not all.

With food it performs a version of the FHC effect, lending savor and vividness to many different foods. However, unlike our other ciders, Kingston Black in our view belongs with subtle dishes, rather than with spicy or otherwise rowdy flavors. Note that not only Kingston Black’s alcohol but also its price is quite high for a cider. But it’s worth it when you have time to pay attention to the treats before you.

P.S. In old apple variety names, the word “black” means “extremely dark red.”

Cidery Description:  On Farnum Hill, we use the word “cider” to mean an alcoholic beverage fermented from particular apples, just as “wine” is fermented from particular grapes.  Cider is a word that covers an enormous variety of adult beverages made from apples.  Our style is all about flaunting the delights of the fruit that grows best on this place.

Farnum Hill Ciders, at 6.5-7.5% alcohol, tend toward the dry, sharp, fruity and bountifully aromatic. We make them to gladden the moment and light up the flavors of food. During Prohibition, apple-growers urgently needed a new teetotal image. That PR problem helped cut the normal old word “cider” from its normal old meaning, and paste it to the sweet brown ephemeral juice of autumn, normally called “apple juice” or “sweet cider.”  So even now, a lot of our fellow Americans find Farnum Hill ciders a bit startling.

We are proud of Farnum Hill Ciders, and delighted to see more and more small-scale cider-makers coming onto the U.S. cider scene. Meanwhile, we’re also encouraged to see skilled commercial apple-growers planting for cider. As in the wine world, cider-apple growers may want to make their own, or to sell their fruit to cidermakers.  Already, the price of cider apples is many times the processing price that eating apples bring. That makes cider orchards valuable.  Here’s hoping the future of distinctive American orchard-based ciders will outshine the past!

Here is a nice podcast with transcript from an interview by Cider Guide’s Eric West with Nicole Leibon, a cidermaker at Farnum Hill.  Farnum Hill also worked with April White on a book, Apples to Cider – How to Make Cider at Home.

Price:  n/a (retails for $17.99+)
Where Bought:  n/a (through Cidrbox)
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  I’ve heard of Farnum Hill ever since I got into the cider world, as they were one of the first cideries in the new cider movement (around 1995).

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First Impression:  Medium straw yellow hue.  Still.  Smells of rich cider apple.

Tasting Notes:  On the sweeter side of dry.  Light bodied.  Low tartness, acidity, and tannins.  No bitterness, sourness, or funk.  Notes of cider apple, caramel, brown sugar, lemon, and green apple.  Moderate length finish.  Low flavor intensity.  Moderate complexity, sessionability, and apple flavor.

My Opinion:  I liked this one.  It was less rich/intense and thinner than I was expecting though, more similar to a NE American heirloom apple cider than an English cider.  However, like the Extra Dry, it became more rich and flavorful at room temperature.  I’d recommend this to folks of dry still cider.

Most Similar to:  I’ve also had Kingston Black single varietals from Whitewood, Dragon’s Head, and Eve’s.  My favorite of those was the Whitewood, as it was intensely flavorful, likely at least partially due to the whiskey barrel aging.

Closing Notes:  Next up is Farnum Hill’s Semi Dry.

Have you tried Farnum Hill cider?  What did you think?

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