My Favorite Ciders of 2017

Happy New Year!  Now that it is 2018, it is time for a list of some of my favorite ciders of 2017.  This is becoming a tradition; see here for my list from 2016 and 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 enjoy, as it would be an impossible task to try every cider out there and be impartial.  The cider world is very regional, so likely only readers in the NW would have a similar selection.  My only criteria for this list is that I drank the cider in 2017.  Some of the categories overlap.  Truth be told, for the most part, I made the list first, then determined categories to put them in!

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Budget-Friendly French Cidre:  Dan Armor Cuvée Spéciale Cidre Brut (Brittany) or L’Hermitiére Cidre Brut (Normandy) – These selections retail for $4.99 and $7.99 respectively.  The Dan Armor is only sold at Trader Joe’s.  Both are on the sweeter side of semi-dry and are true to their respective styles (although the Normandy one is more beginner friendly than many others, as it lacks sourness and only has minimal funk).  The Dan Armor is one of my top picks to introduce folks to good cider with, as it is different from sweet commercial selections, but not so out there as to turn folks off to it.  Its also a nice gauge on sweetness, as it is in the middle of the range.

 

Fancy French Cidre:  Domaine de la Minotiere Cidre Fermier Bio Doux or Pierre Huet AOC Pays D’Auge Cidre – I tried so many amazing French cidres this year that I had to include more than one!  These selections cost a tad more than the previous two, $12 and $19.99 respectively, but also have more complexity.  Both of these are low ABV selections, and the Doux was significantly sweeter, as expected for the classification.

 

English Cidre:  Newton Court Gasping Goose (330ml bottles) or Henney’s Vintage (500ml bottles) – Both of these English imports are very budget friendly and tasty.  A bit sweeter than some English ciders (on the sweeter side of semi-dry), rich, and tannic, but not bitter.  Newton Court is available in Seattle, but I’ve only seen the Henney’s in Portland (and only tried the one bottle).

 

Swiss cider:  Cidrerie du Vulcain Premiers Emois – This cider from Switzerland reminds me of French cidre, but has a style all its own.  It was made from Organic native heirloom apples, and wild yeast fermented using traditional methods.  The result was a semi-sweet cider with an awesome fluffy texture and complex fruitiness (but with less apple and yeast forward flavor as most French cidres).

European-Style U.S. cider:  2 Towns Traditions Cidre Bouche – This cider is by far the closest to a French cidre than any other U.S. cider I’ve tried.  It was a noticeable improvement from last year’s vintage as well.  Lots of rich ripe bittersweet apple flavor.  Unfortunately it costs more than most French cidres, as even with the import cost, their production costs are lower, as cider apple varieties aren’t rare like they are here.

 

Perry:  Ramborn Perry – I tried two selections from Ramborn Cider in Luxembourg.  This perry was complex and amazing, with notes of canned pear, dried pear, mango, pineapple, and guava.  Like most perries, as pears have unfermentable sugars, it was a bit sweeter, semi-sweet to semi-dry.

New England style:  Cockrell Colonial Winter – This cider is of true New England style, a high ABV cider with the addition to raisins and brown sugar.  Rich, complex, and perfect for winter.  It is my favorite version of this style so far.

 

Food-Friendly Cider:  Eden Semi-Dry or Eden Guineveres Pearls – Of these, the Semi-Dry is drier, much easier to find, and less expensive.  Both however are excellent selections, quite flavorful, but without anything that would overwhelm or clash with most meals.  They are also some of the most tannic on this list, same as the English selections.

 

Rosé:  Alpenfire Glow – This sweet cider is made from rare red fleshed apples, and similar to Eve’s Rustica (listed below), is amazingly fruity, with a high flavor intensity.  Here the flavor notes were watermelon, strawberry, and rhubarb.  It was a perfect Valentine’s Day cider (a gift from my husband – he knows me well)!

Barrel Aged:  Finnriver Fire Barrel – Note that this pertains to the previous releases of this cider.  I haven’t been nearly as big of a fan of Fire Barrel once they moved to 750ml bottles, as it was not nearly as flavorful (plus the price increased significantly).  In the older version, I love the complexity, intense barrel aged flavor (which is rarely found in cider), and high tannins.

 

Fruity:  2 Towns Prickle Me Pink ^2 – This cider was made using prickly pear cactus fruit, plus, new for this year, watermelon.  The result is a fluorescent pink fruity cider which is surprisingly complex and flavorful, yet fairly dry.

Rich:  Angry Orchard Maple Wooden Sleeper – This cider was made from bittersweet apples, with Crown maple syrup, then bourbon barrel aged for 12 months.  It resulted in a 12% ABV cider, super rich and complex, with a flavor profile including caramel, brown sugar, maple, oak, vanilla, bourbon, and molasses.  This was a truly artisan small batch cider, worlds away from their typical commercial releases.

 

Spicy:  2 Towns Man Gogh – I’ve never been a fan of spicy ciders, but I finally found one I could enjoy!  Here the hint of spice (from habaneros) was balanced by the fruitiness, sweetness, and acidity of the cider with mango.  This was an imperial cider, but way too easy to drink.

Commercial:  Spire Mountain Dark & Dry – I typically drink craft ciders, but I still drink commercial ciders from time to time.  This one is far from dry (more like semi-sweet), but is dark, and has some great molasses flavor.  It pairs really well with greasy food, like a burger or fish & chips.

 

Unique:  Eve’s Rustica – This is Eve’s sweetest cider (besides their ice cider), and my favorite.  I loved all the flavor they were able to showcase without any additions (just apples & yeast), with notes of honey, cream, vanilla, melon, strawberry, watermelon, pineapple, and peach.

Unexpected:  Snowdrift Cidermaker’s Reserve – This cider was made from heirloom & cider apples, but in contrast had a very unique unexpected flavor profile, with pomegranate, white grape, stone fruit, leather, butterscotch, and citrus notes.  It is unique, complex, and bubbly.  My husband is also an especially big fan of this cider.

 

Value:  Schilling King’s Shilling – I’ve picked up a 22oz bottle of this for as low as $4 (at Total Wine, actually cheaper than at the Cider House), which is a steal for a tasty barrel aged brandy infused cider.  This is more sessionable than you’d expect too.  Semi-dry and semi-sweet, with notes of honey and citrus, plus hints of maple syrup, oak, and spice.

Unexpected & Value:  Finnegan Cider Harvest Blend – This was another unexpectedly awesome cider which was also a great value.  I picked this up in Portland, for just over $7 for 500ml of cider from cider apples.  Semi-dry, with richness, high carbonation, and notes of rich ripe apples, caramel, leather, orange, stone fruit, honey, oak, and apple brandy.

 

Favorite from a New-to-Me cidery:  Woodbox Double Barrel Whiskey Barrel Ice Cider – This was the first (and only) cider I have tried from Woodbox, at Cider Rite of Spring in Portland.  I bought a bottle, but haven’t wanted to open it yet.  Lots of whiskey flavor in addition to caramel, vanilla, oak, and more.  It was rather budget-friendly for an ice cider too, at $17 / 375ml.

Pommeau:  2 Towns Pommeau – This remains my favorite Pommeau.  Super flavorful, rich, and complex, with notes of ripe apples, oak, dried fruit, leather, brown sugar, caramel, burnt sugar, vanilla, tropical fruit, and peaches.

 

Ice Cider:  Eden Cellar Series The Falstaff – This year I was spoiled with an amazing treat, a bottle of Eden’s 7! year barrel aged ice cider.  This ties with Alpenfire Smoke for the most complex cider I’ve ever drank.  The flavor was all over the place, from molasses, caramel, and brown sugar, to tart green apple and lemon, to raisin, to pie spices.

Overall:  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 be it.  However, it is not an everyday sort of cider.  They recently released a new batch of it, but I haven’t tried it yet (I’m still working on my stockpile of the old version).

Other:  Also, while I’m at it, my favorite cider event in 2017 was Cider Summit Seattle, my favorite (and only) class was by Rev Nat, and my favorite bottle shop & bar was Schilling Cider House.

Well, there you have it, a list of 26 of my favorite ciders from 2017.  They have a lot in common–most are rich and full-flavored.  What are some of your favorite ciders?

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Henney’s Dry Cider

Review of Henney’s Dry Cider, from England.  It is my first time trying it, although I’ve sampled their Vintage variety.  I’m also a big fan of English cider in general, having tried a number of selections (see here for some examples).

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Cider:  Dry
Cidery:  Henney’s
Cidery Location:   Worcester, Herefordshire, England
ABV:  6.0%
How Supplied:  500ml bottles
Style:  English cider from cider apple varieties (such as Browns Apple, Michelin, Dabinett, Yarlington Mill, and Tremletts Bitter)

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Availability:  semi wide release (imported by Shelton Brothers)

Cider Description:  Our best selling cider.  Smooth, light and refreshing.  Sweet, appley aroma. Palate has a delicious bittersweet apple character with some spicy bite and a bit of a tannic grip. Very fruity and quite pure, with a nice savoury twist.

Cidery Description:  At Henney’s we believe that the best way to make cider is to start with high quality ingredients and to keep the process as simple as possible.  This has helped us to win many prestigious awards in recent years.  Each Autumn, carefully selected, locally grown, varieties of genuine cider apples are milled, pressed, and fermented.  The resulting cider is then blended and stored through the winter allowing it to mature and develop a rich and mellow flavour.

Mike Henney started making cider in 1996, went commercial in 1999, and by 2013, cider production was over 250,000 gallons a year.

Price:  $6
Where Bought:  Bushwhacker Cider in Portland Oregon
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  I had never seen their cider, but had heard of it.

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First Impression:  Dark straw yellow hue.  Very low carbonation.  Smells mild, slightly tannic and acidic.

Tasting Notes:  Dry (but not completely).  Light bodied.  Moderate tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Low bitterness.  Low to moderate tannins.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of apple pomace, honey, pineapple, and stone fruit like apricot.  Long finish.  Moderate apple flavor, flavor intensity, complexity, and sessionability.

My Opinion:  I really enjoyed it.  Its surprisingly fruity and refreshing, yet it still maintains great English cider flavor, tannins, etc (just not quite as rich as many English ciders).

Most Similar to:  Sheppy’s Somerset Draught (more in style than flavor though), Dunkertons Black Fox, and Aspall Grand Cru & Demi Sec, although all are sweeter

Closing Notes:  As much as I liked it, I have to say I much preferred their Vintage (although there would be times / meals the Dry would be better).

Have you tried Henney’s English cider?  What did you think?

Henney’s Vintage Still Cider 2014

Review of Henney’s Vintage Still 2014 cider.  It is my first time trying any of their cider, but I am a big English cider fan (see here for some examples).

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Cider:  Vintage Still Cider 2014
Cidery:  Henney’s
Cidery Location:   Worcester, Herefordshire, England
ABV:  6.5%
How Supplied:  500ml bottles
Style:  English cider from cider apple varieties (such as Browns Apple, Michelin, Dabinett, Yarlington Mill, and Tremletts Bitter)

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Availability:  semi wide release (imported by Shelton Brothers)

Cider Description:  This Vintage cider is made from a single year’s harvest.  It is naturally still and has been only coarsely filtered in order to retain as much flavour as possible.  Sip or quaff, we don’t mind, as long as you enjoy it.  Cheers!

No artificial sweetener, colourings, or flavourings added.  May appear cloudy and have some sediment.  Serve lightly chilled.  Contains sulphites to preserve freshness.

Cidery Description:  At Henney’s we believe that the best way to make cider is to start with high quality ingredients and to keep the process as simple as possible.  This has helped us to win many prestigious awards in recent years.  Each Autumn, carefully selected, locally grown, varieties of genuine cider apples are milled, pressed, and fermented.  The resulting cider is then blended and stored through the winter allowing it to mature and develop a rich and mellow flavour.

Mike Henney started making cider in 1996, went commercial in 1999, and by 2013, cider production was over 250,000 gallons a year.

Price:  $6
Where Bought:  Bushwhacker Cider in Portland Oregon
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  I had never seen their cider, but had heard of it.

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First Impression:  Light amber hue.  Still.  Smells mildly rich, slightly sweet, and of caramel.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Low tartness.  Low acidity.  Low bitterness.  Moderate tannins.  Hints of funk.  No sourness.  Notes of bittersweet apple pomace, caramel, leather, orange, tea, and a hint of stone fruit.  Moderate to long finish, bitter and astringent.  Low apple flavor.  Moderate sessionability, complexity, and flavor intensity.

My Opinion:  Awesome!  I started off a bit on the fence about this one, but as it warmed up from fridge temperature, the flavor got more rich & complex, and surprisingly, less bitter.  I think this cider has a wonderful balance; I’ve had a number of English ciders that go too dry and/or too bitter for my liking, but this was just about perfect.  I wouldn’t have minded a touch more sweetness, but I certainly didn’t miss it either.

Most Similar to:  Dunkertons Dry

Closing Notes:  Next up I have Henney’s Dry variety (they also offer Medium and Sweet varieties, but it doesn’t appear that either of those makes it to the U.S., only the Vintage and Dry).  This cider is an amazing value at $6.  I’m always surprised that you can get an imported cider made from cider apples for less than the cost of a local craft cider made from dessert apples (due the larger scale of production of those types of ciders and the lower cost of cider apples in the UK).  Too bad I haven’t seen it in Seattle yet.  I also haven’t yet seen Dunkertons in Seattle, and can no longer find Sheppy’s Oak Matured.  Too bad, as those are three of my favorite English ciders (Aspall Imperial is another).  Next time I’m in Portland I’ll have to pick up a lot of English cider!

Have you tried Henney’s cider?  What did you think?