Cherry Cider Tasting

There was recently a cherry cider tasting at my house (thanks Sarah, Merce, Kevin, and Si from Cider Log for sharing all the ciders!).  I took a few tasting notes.

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<Woodchuck Sour Cherry, Anthem Cherry, Julian Cherry Bomb, Reverend Nat’s Sacrilege Sour Cherry, Finnriver Chimacum Kriek, Griffin Cider Works Strong Woman, Doc’s Draft Sour Cherry, and Greenwood Cherry>

With all of these I didn’t pick up any flavor besides cherry, and maybe a bit of green apple or citrus.  The apple flavor was also none to mild.

Woodchuck (Middlebury VT) Sour Cherry (6.9% ABV):  This was part of their Cellar Series (since discontinued) and hasn’t been sold since July 2014, but this bottle held up better flavor-wise than the bottle I had that I opened a year ago (review here).  Semi-sweet to sweet.  Mild to moderate slightly cherry flavor.  Still.  Medium bodied.  Mild tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Not bad.

Anthem (Salem OR) Cherry (6.2% ABV):  This is sold year round and now also available in cans.  Semi-dry.  Mild cherry flavor.  Low carbonation.  Light bodied.  Moderate tartness.  High acidity.  Mild apple flavor.  I didn’t find it flavorful enough.

Julian (Julian CA) Cherry Bomb (6.99% ABV):  This is sold year round.  Semi-sweet to sweet.  Moderate real cherry flavor. Low carbonation. Medium bodied.  Moderate tartness.  Moderate acidity.  I liked it.

Reverend Nat’s (Portland OR) Sacrilege Sour Cherry (6.5% ABV):  This is a seasonal release.  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Moderate cherry flavor, slightly sour.  Low carbonation.  Medium bodied.  Moderate tartness.  Moderate acidity.  I thought it was pretty average; I’d prefer no sourness.

Finnriver (Chimacum WA) Chimacum Kriek (6.0% ABV):  This sour cherry cider is part of their Crew Selection series, a limited release in May 2016.  Semi-dry.  Mild to moderate cherry flavor, moderately sour.  Still.  Medium to full bodied.  Moderate tartness.  Moderate acidity.  I didn’t care for this at all, due to the sourness.

Griffin Cider Works (Westlake OH) Strong Woman (6.5% ABV):  This is an English-style cider finished with cherry, sold March thru October, whose proceeds go towards fighting breast cancer.  Semi-sweet.  Moderate cherry flavor.  Low carbonation.  Medium bodied.  Moderate tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Mild tannins.  I thought it was pretty average.  There was an additional flavor in this that none of us could identify.  The tannins were unique.

Doc’s Draft (Warwick NY) Sour Cherry (6.0% ABV):  This is sold year round.  Semi-sweet.  Moderate to strong real cherry flavor.  Low carbonation.  Medium bodied.  Mild tartness.  Moderate acidity.  I really liked it.

Greenwood Cider (Seattle WA) Cherry (unknown ABV):  This appears to be draft only.  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Mild weird cherry flavor.  Low carbonation.  Light bodied.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  I thought this one was a bit strange, but ok.

Between the six of us at the tasting, the clear winner of the evening was from Doc’s.  Unfortunately this variety isn’t sold in Washington in bottles, but can be found in Oregon, or sometimes on draft here.  My second favorite was from Julian.  What both of these had in common was they were a bit sweeter, more intense cherry flavor, and more “real” flavor (not medicinal).  The least favorites were the Anthem, Greenwood, and Griffin varieties.

Cider Brothers William Tell Dry Hard Apple Cider with Wild Cherry

Review of William Tell Dry Hard Apple Cider with Wild Cherry, out of Lodi California.  This is one of Cider Brothers’ new flavored William Tell ciders.

>>This is a review of a sample can provided to Cider Says by Cider Brothers.  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:  William Tell Dry Hard Apple Cider with Wild Cherry
Cidery:  Cider Brothers
Cidery Location:  Lodi CA
ABV:  6.0%
How Supplied:  four pack of 16oz cans
Style:  American commercial cider made from dessert apples, with cherry concentrate

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Availability:  National distribution.

Apple Varieties:  Granny smith, golden russet, gala, fuji, and red delicious (sourced from Washington).

Cider Description:  Very complex flavors with a light cherry color. The generous effervescence carries aromas exploding with sour cherry and cinnamon. Flavors continue on the palate with spice and oak tannins. Medium bodied with rich mouthfeel and a hint of cinnamon.  Pairings: Hard Cheeses, Fatty Duck, Smoked Meats, Burgers with Blue Cheese

Cidery Description:  From early morning through late afternoon, we bring a winemaker’s approach to producing small batches of handcrafted hard apple ciders. It starts with cold fermenting small lots of fresh apple juice to capture the delicate flavors and complex balance that makes this Mother Nature’s most refreshing adult beverage. The result is our refreshing, lightly carbonated artisan cider, produced at our Lodi winery.

The cider brothers are Michael and Paul Scotto.  The Scotto family has been in the wine industry for five generations, and Scotto Cellars is among the 30 largest wineries in California.  They used their wine background when starting to make cider, and by mistake developed a method they call “frost fermentation”.  They put the fresh apple juice into the refrigerated fermenter, as they would do for Chardonnay.  They next morning there was a layer of ice on the inside edges and top of the tank.  They remove the ice (water) and the result was a sweeter cider with more concentrated and rich flavor.  This is more labor and time intensive, but they feel the result is worth it.  (it reminds me of the process for ice cider)

Price:  n/a (runs ~$3 / can)
Where Bought:  n/a
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  n/a

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First Impression:  Light red hue.  Very low carbonation upon pouring.  Smells of mild sweet cherry.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Still (no noticeable carbonation).  Medium bodied.  Moderate cherry flavor.  Mild tartness and acidity.  No bitterness, sourness, funk, or tannins.  Quick finish.  No apple flavor.  High sessionability.

My Opinion:  I enjoyed this.  The cherry flavor tasted fairly “real”.  It was flavorful and not too sweet.  However, the flavor is quite simple…I didn’t pick up on anything except cherry, far from what was described (which is fine by me, and typical for a flavored cider made from dessert apples).

Most Similar to:  Other cherry ciders I’ve tried, such as from  Elemental,, Jester & Judge, Julian, Locust, One Tree, Original Sin, Red Tank, Tieton, Washington Gold, and Woodchuck.  My favorites of those are from Washington Gold and Woodchuck (the Private Reserve Barrel Aged Cherry).

Closing Notes:   I enjoyed this cider, but my favorite of the five William Tell ciders remains the Mango Muscat.  I imagine these ciders will do well as they are easy to drink and on the sweeter side.

Have you tried Cider Brothers William Tell?  What did you think?

One Tree Hard Cider Dark Cherry

Review of One Tree’s Dark Cherry Cider.  I’ve tried a few of their ciders–see here.

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Cider:  Dark Cherry
Cidery:  One Tree Hard Cider
Cidery Location:  Spokane Valley WA
ABV:  6.8%
How Supplied:  22oz bottles
Style:  American craft cider from dessert apples with cherries added

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Availability:  This is a new release which appears to be year round, in Idaho, Montana, and Washington (soon to be in Oregon).

Cider Description:  Welcome to flavor town my friend. Step into the ring with a cherry hard cider that drops the press (get it?!) on the apples and makes them ride passenger! This is what cherry cider is supposed to taste like, bold & delicious. Lift your pinky finger cider friends! This one is for you!

Cidery Description:  Founded in 2014, One Tree Hard Cider has quickly become a well-known, and highly sought after cider in the Pacific Northwest. We believe in bold, flavor-forward profiles using fruit sourced in our home state of Washington. We are naturally gluten-free, and use only the highest quality, natural ingredients. Customers love our bold flavor profiles, with ciders such as Lemon Basil and Caramel Cinnamon leading the pack.

They have a tasting room in Spokane Washington.

Price:  $10.75
Where Bought:  Full Throttle Bottles
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  I saw this was available on their Facebook page, and it sounded interesting.  This is my first time reviewing a bottle from One Tree (previously I’ve only tried it on tap).

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First Impression:  Deep cherry hue.  Low carbonation and foam upon pouring.  Strong tart cherry scent.

Tasting Notes:  Sweet.  Definitely sweet.  Low carbonation.  Medium bodied.  It has an almost frothy mouthfeel.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  No bitterness, sourness, funk, or tannins.  The apple is well-hidden by the cherry flavor.  I really didn’t pick up many other flavors besides cherry, which was strong…maybe some strawberries and watermelon?  High sessionability.

My Opinion:  I liked the strong cherry flavor, but it was too sweet for my liking.  I only had half the bottle / 11oz (I had someone to share it with for once), but even that was too much.  The sweetness is pretty on-par with their other ciders I’ve tried.

Most Similar to:  Other sweeter full-flavored ciders with cherries / cherry juice added, such as from Woodchuck and Washington Gold.

Closing Notes:   My favorite cherry cider remains the one from Washington Gold, which I find to be less sweet than this one.  For fans of sweet ciders however, I think One Tree’s Dark Cherry cider will be a big hit (as all their other varieties have been).

Have you tried One Tree Dark Cherry?  What did you think?

Virtue Cider Cherry Mitten

Review of Virtue Cider’s Cherry Mitten, a cherry version of their The Mitten bourbon barrel aged cider made using only Michigan apples.  Virtue sent me a sample bottle of this along with some swag and a replacement bottle of their regular Mitten cider (which I reviewed here), as from my original review they suspected it had refermented.

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>>This is a review of a sample bottle provided to Cider Says by Virtue Cider.  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:  Cherry Mitten
Cidery:  Virtue Cider
Cidery Location:  Fennville MI
ABV:  6.5%
How Supplied:  750ml green champagne bottle, capped
Style:  American craft bourbon barrel aged cider made from culinary & heirloom apples, Michigan cherries, and Ale yeast

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Availability:  Very limited release of only 300 bottles (in Michigan in their tasting room only), plus a few kegs made it to Chicago IL (including Cider Summit).  However, in general, Virtue cider may be available in GA, MD, MA, ME, NH, NJ, NY, PN, RI, VA, VT, IL, ID, KY, MI, MN, OH, WI, CA, OR, WA, & TX.

Cider Description:  When the leaves fall, there’s a chill in the air and the evening greedily takes hours from daylight, we stand strong and embrace the wintertime. It’s a time of rich foods, roaring fires and our favorite sweaters. Drinks change from refreshing to intense and satisfying. The Mitten is a Winter cider, a blend of last seasons best, aged in bourbon barrels, with the new season’s fresh pressed apple juice. Straight cider, aged for 3 seasons, finds notes of vanilla, caramel and charred American oak, balanced with the best of the orchard, over-ripe apples and their sweet, tart, earthy juice. Many barrels are filled, but only a small portion, the very smoothest, will find their way into The Mitten. We love wintertime, especially when we have The Mitten to keep us warm and happy through the long, cold night.

See Virtue’s info page on the regular version of this cider.  For the cherry version, they added tart cherries from their next door neighbor’s 80 acre cherry farm, and described the cider as having a mild acetic finish.

Cidery Description:  Virtue Farm is located in Southwest Michigan, part of the state’s thriving Cider Coast.  Michigan’s Cider Coast boasts 200 miles of apple orchards, changing leaves, and stunning vistas best enjoyed with a glass of crisp cider. All along the coast, great cider being made by a bevy of wonderful cider makers, all working hard to revive dozens of varieties of heirloom apples ideal for juicing and fermenting.  Virtue Cider is proud to be part of this burgeoning revival of an important Michigan tradition.

They have a tasting room.  Also see this page on their barrel aging program.

Price:  n/a (probably retails for $20+)
Where Bought:  n/a
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  n/a

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First Impression:  Bright cherry hue.  Very low carbonation upon pouring.  Smells sour with hints of cherry, yeast, and apples.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry.  Mild to moderate sourness and tartness.  Moderate acidity.  No bitterness, funk, or tannins.  Frothy mousse-like mouthfeel.  Light bodied.  Mild cherry flavor, but also some citrus, honey, vinegar, and floral notes.  Long sour finish at the back of the palate.  Low apple influence.  Low sessionability.

My Opinion:  I can see the appeal of this cider (which is a true sour cherry, not tart cherry), but I’m just not a fan of sour ciders.  For some reason they seem to overwhelm my palate and I have a touch time detecting or appreciating much else about them.  My husband enjoyed this more than I did and gladly finished the bottle, but it was a bit sour even for him.  I’m surprised how often I see reviews of ciders I found sour which don’t even mention that fact, so there is definitely a disclaimer on this review that the sourness may not be nearly as significant for other folks.

Also note that often the terms sour and tart are used interchangeably, but I find them quite different.  Tart is much more common and hits more forward on the palate (green apple and citrus are examples), while sour is lingering and hits further back on the palate (its common with Spanish Sidra, certain English & French ciders, and wild fermented ciders).

Most Similar to:  I’ve had a number of cherry ciders, such as from Woodchuck, Washington Gold, Locust, Elemental, Tieton, Jester & Judge, Julian, and Original Sin, but none were sour.  I’ve heard of Reverend Nat’s Sacrilege Sour Cherry, but haven’t tried it.

Closing Notes:  I’m glad I got to try this cider, especially as its such a limited release.  Hopefully I’ll get to try more ciders from Virtue in the future.

Have you tried Virtue Cider Cherry Mitten?  What did you think?

Angry Orchard – Orchard’s Edge – The Old Fashioned

Review of The Old Fashioned, one of two new releases from Angry Orchard, part of their new Orchard’s Edge series, an “innovative line of ciders developed at the orchard”.  It is modeled after the Old Fashioned cocktail, which often includes whiskey, water, bitters, sugar, and muddled cherries & oranges.  The series also includes Knotty Pear, which I reviewed here.  This is their latest release since Stone Dry, part of their Core selection, which I reviewed here.

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>>This is a review of a sample bottle provided to Cider Says by  Angry Orchard.  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:  Orchard’s Edge The Old Fashioned
Cidery:  Angry Orchard
Cidery Location:  Walden NY (their R&D facility)
Cider Production Locations:  Cincinnati OH & Breingsville PA
ABV:  6.5%
How Supplied:  six pack of 12oz bottles
Style:  American commercial cider from dessert apples aged with charred bourbon barrel staves, dried cherries, and orange peel

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Availability:  Year round, nationwide, released in late February

Cider Description:  The Old Fashioned is made with a blend of American apples and is aged on oak with dried tart cherries, California grown navel orange peel, and charred bourbon barrel staves, offering citrus and cherry aromas with a bright apple flavor and slight vanilla notes. It has lasting tannins and a full, round mouthfeel.

Apple Varieties:  Gala, Fuji, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious and Granny Smith

Ingredients:  Hard cider, water, cane sugar, orange peel, malic acid, cherries, natural flavor, carbon dioxide, and sulfites

Price:  n/a (suggested retail of $10.99-$11.99 / six pack)
Where Bought:  n/a
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Angry Orchard sent me two bottles of Old Fashioned and two bottles of Knotty Pear (and my favorite, large quantities of bubble wrap!).  Oddly enough this was a couple weeks after I started seeing info about these online from folks trying it.  Things do take awhile to get to me in Seattle all the way from the East coast though.

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First Impression:  Medium straw yellow.  Still (no carbonation).  Smells acidic, slightly sour, with hints of oak and orange.

Tasting Notes:  On the sweeter side of semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  It starts with acidity and finishes with fruitiness (although not specifically cherry), citrus, oak, and honey.  Moderate acidity.  Mild tartness.  No bitterness, sourness, funk, or tannins (the sourness I smelled didn’t continue into the flavor).  Moderate length finish with slight warming and hints of bourbon.  Moderate apple flavor.  Mild oak influence.

My Opinion:  Although it is far from craft cider, this is one of my current favorite commercial ciders, along with the new Woodchuck Barrel Aged Cherry.  It has a bit of complexity, isn’t crazy sweet, and isn’t too “fake” tasting either.  Definitely a better option than their Crisp Apple and even Stone Dry (although I think their Traditional Dry is pretty ok).  Unfortunately I only ever see Crisp Apple when going out, which I won’t pay for as I think it tastes like alcoholic apple juice and I don’t get $4-$6 enjoyment out of a bottle.

Most Similar to:  The citrus and oak notes remind me of ciders such as Schilling King’s Shilling and Crispin 15 Men, both of which were also fuller bodied.

Closing Notes:   I think Angry Orchard is making an attempt at stepping up their game.  However, I’ll take them more seriously when the ingredient list doesn’t include water, sugar, and natural flavor.

Have you tried Angry Orchard The Old Fashioned?  What did you think?

Woodchuck Private Reserve Barrel Aged Cherry

Review of Woodchuck’s newest Private Reserve cider, Barrel Aged Cherry, from Middlebury Vermont.  It will launch to the public in March, but I got a sneak preview.  This cider is infused with Michigan cherry juice and aged in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels.  It was created after a positive response to their Sour Cherry (Cellar series) and Cheeky Cherry (Out on a Limb series) cherry ciders, with a barrel aged twist.  I’ve tried a number of their other ciders (see past reviews here).

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(the bottle almost looks red in this photo, but its the normal brown)

>This is a review of a sample bottle provided to Cider Says by Woodchuck.  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:  Private Reserve Barrel Aged Cherry
Cidery:  Woodchuck Cider
Cidery Location:  Middlebury VT
ABV:  6.9%
How Supplied:  six pack of 12oz bottles
Style:  American commercial cherry barrel aged cider

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Availability:  Seasonably, March-August (with this being the first year), nationwide.  It is the first of a series of three barrel aged ciders in the Private Reserve line (which currently contains Pink, Pumpkin, and Barrel Select).

Cider Description:  A touch of Michigan cherries with a hint of Napa all in one satisfying sip. Private Reserve Cherry infuses our small batch hard cider with the juice of Michigan cherries, then aged in the finest Cabernet Sauvignon barrels. This premium craft cider delivers a sweet and tart taste that finishes with notes of smooth oak from the Napa Valley barrels. Exhilarate your senses with this truly unique and rare cider.

Cidery Description:  Here at the Woodchuck Cidery in Vermont, we handcraft every batch of Woodchuck Hard Cider. Our Cider Makers utilize the highest quality ingredients and meticulously oversee each small batch from start to finish. We reinvigorated American cider in 1991 and continue to lead the category through our commitment to craft innovative and refreshing hard ciders.

Price:  n/a (suggested retail price of $10.99-$11.99)
Where Bought:  n/a
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  I saw some other bloggers online post about it, then my sample bottle showed up in the mail.

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First Impression:  Cherry hue.  Light foam but almost no carbonation.  Light cherry scent with a hint of complex oak.

Tasting Notes:  On the drier side of semi-sweet.  Low acidity.  Low to moderate tartness.  A hint of tannins.  No sourness or bitterness.  Medium bodied.  The flavor is definitely cherry, although tending more towards cherry skin than cherry juice, with hints of oak.  Nearly still (very low carbonation).  Quick finish.  High sessionability.  Low barrel influence.  Low apple influence.

My Opinion:  Yummy!  This is one of the better ciders from Woodchuck…I may even like it better than Gumption and Winter Chill.  It is less sweet, more “real” tasting, and more complex.  It is also the first I can remember from them that doesn’t list color or flavor in the ingredient list.

Most Similar to:  Woodchuck’s other cherry ciders (Sour Cherry and Cheeky Cherry), although slightly less sweet and more complex.  I liked this cider better than the Apple Outlaw Oaked Sweet Dark Cherry cider I tried at Cider Summit Seattle.  I’ve also heard that Virtue is making a twist on their “Mitten” cider which is barrel aged cherry, and Cider Creek makes a Fall-n-Cherry Bourbon Barrel Aged cider.

Closing Notes:   I’m impressed!  I think this is now tied with Washington Gold Cherry as my favorite cherry cider.  Woodchuck’s version is actually perceived as less sweet, despite it being commercial and the other being craft.  I hadn’t liked the direction Woodchuck was going with their recent new Out on a Limb cider releases, but this may change my mind.  I look forward to trying the second sample they send, Day Chaser.

Update:  Not long after this review, I picked up a six pack of this cider, as I enjoyed it so much.  It must have been from a different batch…not nearly as much oak and complexity, more straight cherry.  Too bad.

Have you tried Woodchuck Private Reserve Barrel Aged Cherry?  What did you think?

Washington Gold Cider Cherry Hard Cider

Review of Washington Gold Cider’s Cherry Hard Cider.

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Cider:  Cherry Hard Cider
Cidery:  Washington Gold Cider
Cidery Location:  Chelan WA
ABV:  5.5%
How Supplied:  750ml clear glass flip-top bottle
Style:  American hard apple cider with cherry juice

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Availability:  Year round in Washington and Southern California until it sells out (as they only make it once a year).  However, their Original variety is more commonly found.  See here for further information.

Cider Description:  None given, but I was told they use fresh pressed apple juice with Washington cherries.

Cidery Description:  Crisp, refreshing, and steeped in our family’s rich apple-growing tradition, Washington Gold Cider is crafted from the best apples in the world. Farm fresh. Family-owned. Proudly made in Washington State. Washington Gold Cider…The world’s best cider, made from the best apples on Earth.  Try our Heritage, Original, and Cherry Hard Cider today.

Price:  $12.99
Where Bought:  Total Wine
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  They were tasting their entire line-up of three ciders (Heritage, Original, and Cherry) at Total Wine in August.  This was by far the winner for me, and I decided to buy a bottle.

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First Impression:  Deep cherry hue.  Low carbonation with small bubbles.  Rich cherry scent, sweet with a hint of tartness.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-sweet (although at 26.5 grams of sugar in 12.7 ounces, it would probably be rated sweet).  Moderate tartness and acidity.  No sourness, bitterness, or funk.  Cherry is the only flavor I pick up in this (the apple is well-hidden), so its a rather simple cider.  Full-flavored.  Light bodied.  Quick finish.  Highly sessionable.

My Opinion:  Yum!  I love how strong the cherry flavor is, and that it tastes like real cherries.

Most Similar to:  Other cherry ciders, although this has a stronger and truer cherry flavor than everything I’ve tried so far (which includes cherry ciders from Woodchuck, Locust, Tieton, Apple Outlaw, Elemental, Jester & Judge, Julian, and Original Sin).

Closing Notes:   This is definitely my favorite cherry cider so far.  Reminds me of summer!  (which is why I saved it for this time of year, when it always seems to be dark, damp, and cold in WA)

Do you have a favorite cherry cider?