My Favorite Ciders of 2016

What an awesome year 2016 was in the cider world!  Cider Says has now been up for a year and a half.  Like other cider bloggers, I thought it would be fun to make a list of my favorite ciders of 2016.  See here for my list from 2015.  To make it a bit different and easier, I put them into categories instead of trying to do a top ten list or similar.

Note that I wouldn’t try to make a list of the best ciders, just those I enjoyed, as it would be an impossible task to try every cider out there and be impartial.  My only criteria for this list is that I drank the cider in 2016.

Multi pack:  Reverend Nat’s Revival – This one is complex for being made from dessert apples, with lots of unique flavor just from the yeast varieties used.  Celt – I always keep this easy drinking apple & yeast forward French cider in the house as its convenient & affordable.  Thatchers Green Goblin – For how commercial it is, I ended up really enjoying this sweeter simple English cider.

Canned:  One Tree Crisp Apple – I don’t usually go for plain flagship ciders, but this one had some nice unfiltered apple juice flavor without being over the top sweet.  Cidergeist Semi Dry – This reminded me of French cider; too bad it isn’t available locally.  Long Drop Vanilla Honey – Awesome honeycomb flavor.

French:  Dan Armor Cuvée Spéciale Cidre Brut – A $5 selection from Trader Joe’s which doesn’t disappoint and has some great apple forward sparkling goodness.  Christian Drouin Pays d’ Auge – I loved the bittersweet apple flavor, and that the funk remained mild.

English:  Aspall Imperial – Rich flavor, high ABV, and a low price tag.  Dunkertons Dry  (awesomely tannic) and Black Fox (nice fruity twist on an English cider), which I hope to find locally now that they are distributed in the U.S.

Italian:  Bertolinos – My first Italian cider, which I found to be simple but tasty, and budget friendly too.

Swiss:  Cidrerie du Vulcain Transparente – My first Swiss cider, which reminded me of French cider, in between the typical Brittany & Normandy styles.

Canadian:  Sea Cider Ruby Rose – This fruity high ABV cider is made with rhubarb and rose hips, making it a unique summer sipper.

Fruity:  Doc’s Draft Sour Cherry – A cherry cider is difficult to pull off without tasting medicinal, but the flavor is spot-on with this one.  Jester & Judge Pineapple Express – Although simple, this cider has some awesome pineapple flavor, a nice frothy texture, and a hint of lime.

Rosé:  Eden Imperial 11 Rosé – This drier cider with red currant is high ABV and amazingly fruity.  Alpenfire Glow – This sweeter cider is made from rare red fleshed apples and also amazingly fruity, with a high flavor intensity.

Limited Release:  Angry Orchard & Eden collaboration, Understood in Motion: 01 – This cider is only available at Angry Orchard’s Walden NY cider house, and was made from Vermont heirloom apples, barrel aged, and mixed with some ice cider; awesome!

Hopped:  2 Towns Hop & Stalk – I wouldn’t call myself a fan of either rhubarb or hops, but for whatever reason I really enjoyed this cider; the flavors really complimented each other and created a unique and surprisingly complex cider (I’m also a sucker for Imperial / high ABV ciders).

High ABV:  Alpenfire Smoke – This 16% ABV sipping cider has an amazing complexity, with rich oaky smokey flavor.  If I had to name just one favorite cider, this would probably be it, although its not an everyday sort of cider.  I hope it gets released again soon, as I’m down to only one bottle!

Oaked:  Sheppy’s Oak Matured – I love the strong oak flavor in this cider; as a bonus, it is budget friendly too.

Barrel Aged:  Reverend Nat’s Whiskey Barrel Aged Golden Russet with Black Currant – This was my favorite cider from Cider Summit Seattle 2016, with awesome berry, oak, and whiskey flavor.

Sparkling:  AEppelTreow Appely Doux – This methode champenoise cider has a wonderful texture & flavor, and would be a great champagne alternative.

Perry:  EZ Orchards Poire – I’m not a huge Perry fan, but those I do like tend towards the French Poire style; this one has a creamy texture and complex fruitiness.

Pommeau:  Etienne Dupont Pommeau – This is their Cidre Bouche aged in Calvados barrels with Calvados added, and is flavorful, rich, and complex.  Wandering Aengus Pommeau – Milder in flavor than some other Pommeaus, but still rich and complex.

Ice Cider:  Eden Heirloom Blend Apple Brandy Barrel Aged – I’ve enjoyed all of Eden’s ice ciders, but this is my favorite, as it had the added depth from barrel aging in addition to all the rich complexity of their typical ice cider.

Great Value:  Schilling King’s Shilling – I’ve picked up a 22oz bottle of this for as low as $4 (and as high as $7), which is a steal for a tasty barrel aged brandy infused cider.

Wine-like:  Honeywood Winery Hard Apple Cider – Quite different than I was expecting, but I liked it; this one reminded me of dessert wine with the white grape notes, higher ABV, and sweetness.

Draft-only:  Wandering Aengus Bittersweet – An amazingly rich and tannic cider made from bittersweet apple juice from Poverty Lane Orchards (Farnum Hill); wild fermented but it wasn’t funky.

Unexpected:   Gowans 1876 Heirloom – This cider almost seemed to good to be true, as it was so full flavored and apple forward.

Well, there you have it, a list of 32 of my favorite ciders from 2016.  They have a lot in common–most are rich and full-flavored.  Still, it seems like so many great ciders didn’t make the cut, which is unfortunate.

What are your favorite ciders?

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Dunkertons Black Fox

Review of Dunkertons Black Fox, an Organic medium dry sparkling cider from England.  This is the last of three bottles I received from them (see my Dry and Perry reviews).

>>This is a review of a sample bottle provided to Cider Says by Dunkertons.  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.<<

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Cider:  Black Fox
Cidery:  Dunkertons
Cidery Location:  Pembridge, Leominster, United Kingdom
ABV:  7.0%
How Supplied:  500ml bottles
Style:  organic English cider from cider apple varieties

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Availability:  Dunkertons is just becoming available in the U.S. for the first time, so its probably not in stores quite yet, but look for it at finer bottle shops in the future (distributed through Winesellers, Ltd.).

Cider Description:  From the earliest times, rural communities have told stories of fantastic and unusual creatures which have supposedly lived in their locality. The lush rolling countryside of North West Herefordshire is no exception. Here stories tell of an animal which has evaded capture by farmer and huntsman alike; a Black Fox. The red fox has always existed, but the belief grew that there was also a fox “as black as night, so that it might live in a man’s shadow and so never be seen”. A favored haunt of the BLACK FOX is………the Cider Orchard.

Translucent in color with light golden honey hues. Fragrant notes of apple pie fillings and honey aromas. This is a deliciously robust with a mouth full of lively sweet and sour flavors of green apples, honeycomb and fresh lemon.

Apple Varieties: Brown Snout, Foxwhelp, Kingston Black, Balls Bitter Sweet, Stoke Red, Dabinett

Cidery Description:  We make premium award winning organic cider and perry at our Cider Mill in Herefordshire.  Our success is down to our unique blending method using traditional varieties of organic cider apples and pears grown in our own orchards. We started making our ciders and perry in 1980.  We only ever use the finest tasting traditional varieties of certified organic apples and pears. It is this careful selection of fruit that gives our drinks the delicate and aromatic characteristics required to be award winning.

Price:  retails for $8
Where Bought:  n/a
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  n/a

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First Impression:  Dark straw yellow hue.  Low carbonation.  Smells tannic, slightly sour & funky, fruity, and of citrus.

Tasting Notes:  On the sweeter side of semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Moderate tannins.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Hints of bitterness, sourness, and funk.  Notes of cider apples, orange, yeast, honey, and stone fruit. Moderate to long warming finish. Moderate apple flavor.  Low sessionability.  Moderate flavor intensity.  Moderate complexity.

My Opinion:  Awesome!  This is different but similar to their Dry.  It is a bit more approachable than their Dry as it is slightly sweeter and lower in tannins, and has slightly more fruity than rich flavor notes.

Most Similar to:  Medium dry moderately tannic English and English-style ciders such as Sheppy’s Somerset Draught.

Closing Notes:  I highly recommend Dunkertons cider if you can find it in your area.  They are high quality and affordable (and even Organic).  I think the Dry and Black Fox are tied for my favorite; each is well suited for a different mood and/or menu.

Have you tried Dunkertons cider?  What did you think?

Dunkertons Organic Perry

Review of Dunkertons Organic Perry from England.  Perry is only made from pears (no apples).  I previously tried their Dry Organic cider.

>>This is a review of a sample bottle provided to Cider Says by Dunkertons.  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.<<

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Product:  Organic Perry
Cidery:  Dunkertons
Location:  Pembridge, Leominster, United Kingdom
ABV:  7.5%
How Supplied:  500ml bottles
Style:  Organic English perry

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Availability:  Dunkertons is just becoming available in the U.S. for the first time, so its probably not in stores quite yet, but look for it at finer bottle shops in the future (distributed through Winesellers, Ltd.).

Product Description:  A delicious sparkling Perry made from organically grown, Perry pears. Though relatively uncommon, the trees are easily identified in Herefordshire’s orchard landscape by their great height and cascading white blossom; some are over 300 years old. These mature trees can very often produce over a ton of Pears. Using a traditional press and mill (circa 1930) the cider is carefully made using time honored methods. Each variety of cider pear is fermented separately, stored and then blended a year after pressing.

It pours golden and slightly hazy with very gentle bubbles. The nose has over-ripe pear evanescence. The taste is buttery & biscuity with notes of peaches plus a touch of farmyard. A creamy mouthfeel with a good balance between initial sweetness and the dryness of the finish.

Pear Varieties:  Merrylegs, Red Horse, Moorecroft, Painted Lady, and Thorn

Cidery Description:  We make premium award winning organic cider and perry at our Cider Mill in Herefordshire.  Our success is down to our unique blending method using traditional varieties of organic cider apples and pears grown in our own orchards. We started making our ciders and perry in 1980.  We only ever use the finest tasting traditional varieties of certified organic apples and pears. It is this careful selection of fruit that gives our drinks the delicate and aromatic characteristics required to be award winning.

Price:  $9 retail
Where Bought:  n/a
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  n/a

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First Impression:  Light straw yellow, slightly hazy.  Low carbonation.  Smells of sour citrus.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Medium bodied, slightly syrupy.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  Low to moderate sourness.  Low bitterness, funk, and tannins.  Notes of citrus (lemon and grapefruit), mineral, white grape, pear, and floral.  Long warming sour finish.  Moderate sessionability, pear flavor, flavor intensity, and complexity.

My Opinion:  Well crafted and a good value.  It wasn’t to my personal tastes though due to the slight sourness.  However, I shared it with a few friends who tends towards liking sour ciders and they really enjoyed it.

Fun Facts:  Its often said to plant pears for your heirs, as it can take decades for a pear tree to bear fruit.  Also, perries don’t ferment fully dry like ciders can, as pears have unfermentable sugars (such as sorbitol), contributing to a higher residual sweetness.  More info on perry here.

Most Similar to:  WildCraft Cider Works Pioneer Perry, although more sweet and less sourness.  It had a subtle complexity similar to E.Z. Orchards Poire and Nashi Orchards Chojuro Blend.

Closing Notes:   Next up, Dunkertons Black Fox.

Have you tried Dunkertons Perry?  What did you think?

Dunkertons Dry Organic Cider

Review of Dunkertons Dry Organic Cider, from England.  This is my first time trying their cider.  This is one of three samples I got from them, so it won’t be the last I try.

>>This is a review of a sample bottle provided to Cider Says by Dunkertons.  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.<<

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Cider:  Dry Organic Cider
Cidery:  Dunkertons
Cidery Location:  Pembridge, Leominster, United Kingdom
ABV:  7.0%
How Supplied:  500ml bottles
Style:  organic English cider from cider apple varieties

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Availability:  Dunkertons is just becoming available in the U.S. for the first time, so its probably not in stores quite yet, but look for it at finer bottle shops in the future (distributed through Winesellers, Ltd.).

Cider Description:  An offering of a drier, crisper blended cider for the connoisseur, or more adventurous enthusiast. Sharp, crisp and to the point. Certified organic by Soil Association Organic Standard. Pours a red hued gold with a slight haze. Moderately strong aromas of toffee and hints of farmhouse/blue cheese character to ground it. Flavors bring tannins from the bittersweets to the fore with freshly picked apples, honey, and wisps of smoke playing strong support. Full bodied with a carbonation that makes a strong first impression before finishing with a sharp dryness.

Apple Varieties: Brown Snout, Sheeps Nose, Foxwhelp, Kingston Black, and Yarlington Mill

Cidery Description:  We make premium award winning organic cider and perry at our Cider Mill in Herefordshire.  Our success is down to our unique blending method using traditional varieties of organic cider apples and pears grown in our own orchards. We started making our ciders and perry in 1980.  We only ever use the finest tasting traditional varieties of certified organic apples and pears. It is this careful selection of fruit that gives our drinks the delicate and aromatic characteristics required to be award winning.

Price:  retails for $8
Where Bought:  n/a
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  n/a

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First Impression:  Hazy light orange amber.  Low to moderate carbonation.  Smells of tannic cider apples, must, orange, and leather.

Tasting Notes:  Dry.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Low bitterness.  Moderate to high tannins.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of cider apples, must, orange, leather, mineral, caramel, toffee, and smoke.  Long warming tannic finish.  Low to moderate apple flavor.  Low sessionability.  Moderate to high complexity and flavor intensity.

My Opinion:  Awesome!  A cider this dry and tannic isn’t for everyone, but its a taste I’ve acquired.  I liked how it wasn’t too bitter and was quite complex.  I’m hoping we can get more ciders like this in the U.S. as more orchards of cider apples grow up.  Until then, imports like this can be surprisingly affordable.

Most Similar to:  Other dry tannic English ciders.  Sheppy’s and Aspall are some of my favorites, but are more entry level than this one (sweeter and lower tannins).  Worley’s makes some great higher tannin ciders too, but they are sweeter.  This was actually really similar to Alpenfire Ember.

Closing Notes:  I look forward to trying the other two bottles from Dunkertons.

Have you tried Dunkertons cider?  What did you think?