Farnum Hill Semi Dry

Review of Farnum Hill’s Semi Dry.  I got this as part of the September Cidrbox.  I previously tried samples of their Extra Dry and Dooryard, plus I reviewed Extra Dry and Kingston Black 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:  Semi Dry
Cidery:  Farnum Hill
Cidery Location:  Lebanon NH
ABV:  7.4%
How Supplied:  750ml corked & caged bottles
Style:  American artisan cider from cider apples, semi dry

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Availability:  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:  Golden, gently bubbly, with a delicious array of tropic fruits, citrus, and mysterious aromatic notes in the nose and on the palate. Our Semi-Dry cider is much less sweet than semi-dry champagnes.  On Farnum Hill, that much-abused word “dry” is taken literally, so our semi-dry balances the gentlest sweetness against sharpness, astringency, and fruit (which is different from sweet). Alcohol content 7.4% by volume. 750 ml bottle, mushroom cork finish with wire hood. The cork comes out by hand, with  a genial pop.

Till recently, this of all our ciders was the most popular among people first encountering true cider flavors. It is richer, more complex, and less overtly tannic than Farmhouse. (Also much harder to make, mostly for horticultural factors in any given crop year – if we’re short of certain apple varieties that make the best possible Semi-Dry, we tend not to make Semi-Dry.) Lately the American taste for extremely dry ciders has seemingly grown, so that our Extra Dry gets as much approval from first-time tasters as the Semi. But if you’re a host wondering which to foist on your innocent guests, we’d still lean slightly toward this one.

We aim in all our blends to complement good food, not compete with it. With Semi-Dry, try: seafood, cheeses, ham, poultry, sausage, rabbit, pork, omelettes or quiches, herbed saucy dishes such as non-red pastas, etc. But don’t be surprised if it does good things for baked potatoes or other ordinary pleasures. And look for your own pairings.

Semi-Dry offers a long, clean, aromatic finish that refreshes the flavors of many savory foods. It enjoyably re-interprets many roles played by white or red wines, though not where a buttery, malolactic feel or a huge, “operatic” wine “experience” are wanted. Some chefs, and fans of Norman dishes (e.g. the world of crepes), contend that our ciders, even the Extra Drys, are charming with certain fruit tarts, custards, etc. People who make fruit ices might like to throw some Farnum Hill in, and pour some more alongside. Please post your discoveries — we’d love to try new ideas!

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:  Light golden yellow.  Very low carbonation.  Flavorful scent, of rich cider apples and caramelized sugar.

Tasting Notes:  On the drier side of semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Low to moderate tartness.  Moderate acid.  Hints of bitterness.  Low to moderate tannins.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of caramelized sugar, apple skin, brown sugar, and lemon.  Moderate length finish.  Moderate apple flavor, sessionability, and complexity.  Low flavor intensity.

My Opinion:  I enjoyed this one.  It was the most flavorful and richest of the three ciders, especially when drank at room instead of fridge temperature.  I think a bit of residual sugar really goes a long way in a cider such as this to bring out the flavor.

Most Similar to:  A mild English cider, or Dragon’s Head Traditional, Westcott Bay Semi-DryEve’s Kingston Black, and E.Z. Orchards Williamette Valley.

Closing Notes:  This concluded my Farnum Hill Cidrbox tasting.  Semi Dry ended up being my favorite, as well as the group’s favorite at my cider tasting, as it was the most flavorful (as it was sweeter).

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

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