This time around I have a review of something fun, a one-time Cidrbox order. Cidrbox is a subscription service that features a different artisan cidery each month. Customers have the option of a one-time order, or to subscribe to 3, 6, or 12 bottles each month from that month’s featured cidery. I am reviewing their September 2017 box, which contained selections from Farnum Hill (Poverty Lane Orchards) in New Hampshire – Kingston Black, Extra Dry, and Semi-Dry.
>>This is a review of a sample box 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.<<
Order Process – Very easy, through their website. It asked for all the usual info such as name, address, and a credit card number. There are options for a one-time order (such as a gift), monthly subscription (3, 6, or 12 bottles), bi-monthly subscription (3 bottles), or gift card. A subscription can be paused, cancelled, increased, or decreased at any time. E-mail updates are provided throughout the process, such as at the time of order and at the time of shipment (with UPS tracking number). There is also the option to pre-pay for three months, and get free shipping each of those months. The website also clearly states the order deadline to get the next month’s shipment and when it will ship, which is great, as often when signing up for a subscription it can be unclear when it actually starts / what the first box will be.
Accessibility – Cidrbox can currently ship to 32/50 states. Orders ship from the cidery, so delivery time can vary slightly each month, but you’ll know when to expect it.
Pricing – $75, $135, or $265 for 3, 6, or 12 bottles per month, plus a flat $10 shipping (unless paying for 3 months in advance). The shipping cost is actually a good deal as from my experience, I expect it costs them more than $10 / box, especially for the larger quantity ones, as this is still a relatively small operation.
Selection – The best of the best. Most if not all cideries are orchard-based. These are the types of cideries that make small batch artisan ciders from heirloom and cider apples (no flavored ciders from dessert apples). Past selections have included Eden, South Hill, Alpenfire, Castle Hill, Kite & String, Windfall Orchards, Foggy Ridge, and Prima.
Rarity – These cideries don’t have a large distribution, and most don’t typically ship. I love trying new ciders, especially those which are very different from what I can get locally, so this is very cool.
Delivery – For me this was a bit of a negative, but only because they used UPS, which isn’t as alcohol-friendly. Someone over 21 must be home to sign for it, or it can be held at the main UPS facility (which is 40+ minutes away for me). In contrast, FedEx allows all packages to be held at any FedEx facility, and there is a FedEx Office place on my way home, so that would be so much easier for me.
Cidrbox’s website clearly states that someone 21 or over must be home to sign for it, so two thumbs up for full disclosure there. Some other options include leaving a note on your door to leave it with a neighbor (if they would be home to sign for it), have it delivered to work, or pay $8 through UPS My Choice to get a two hour delivery window (but they only offered something like 9am-11am or 11am-1pm to me, which I’d still have to take a half day off work for). There are typically three delivery attempts, but they tend to be at the same time of day. It is something to keep in mind when ordering though.
Packaging – The cider arrived in a typical box, with an insert made specifically to hold three bottles, plus inside an envelope there was an info sheet on the ciders, an info sheet on Farnum Hill, a booklet from Farnum Hill called “Inside Cider”, a 33 Mugs of Cider tasting notes book (see here for more info), an American Farmland Trust sticker, and a receipt/packing list. Everything arrived safely, and I liked that the inserts were protected in an interior envelope.
The Competition – I am only aware of one other monthly cider subscription currently available in the U.S., Double Cider, which I reviewed here. (For UK people, there is at least Crafty Nectar and Orchard Box.)
- Cidrbox has the option of 3, 6, or 12 bottles a month (although with the 6 & 12 bottle boxes there will be some duplicates), where Double Cider only offers one option of 2 bottles per month.
- Cidrbox features one cidery each month, while so far Double Cider has selected one cider from each of two cideries each month.
- Both services have the option of a one-time order or a subscription (for Double Cider however to get a one-time order, you’d have to select that it is a gift, or cancel).
- Double Cider also has an online store of some past selections.
- Cidrbox starts at $75 + $10 shipping for 3 bottles per month (typically very high end 750ml), while Double Cider is $34.95 + $10 shipping for 2 bottles per month (typically moderate to high end 500-750ml).
- Cidrbox currently ships to 32/50 states and Double Cider currently ships to 45/50 states.
Having tried both, I see pros & cons to each option. My favorite thing about both companies is that you know what you will be receiving in advance, so you can choose to purchase or skip the selection. Also, each offers additional backstory on the cideries and ciders.
The biggest negative I see to both is cost, as you are paying a premium on top of the retail price of the ciders, as a third party is curating the selection and they don’t work for free. Cidrbox at least actually goes and visits the cideries, which can’t be cheap. Plus you are typically paying for shipping. However, most of these selections wouldn’t have otherwise been available, which is a pretty big positive. I can also see several cases where folks would want to pay a bit of a premium to have top ciders selected for them, such as if they are new to cider or just plain busy.
Cidrbox appears to have a slightly higher end selection than Double Cider, focusing on orchard-based cideries, although Double Cider’s selections are still definitely craft (they have included some flavored ciders though). Although both services offer good information about the cideries and ciders, Cidrbox goes above and beyond with a monthly Meet the Maker page, videos, and even a monthly Cider Sessions tasting notes podcast. Also, kuddos to Cidrbox’s web designer, as it is a really classy looking webpage!
Another Option – If you want to expand your cider selection beyond what is available locally, but don’t want a subscription, are on a tighter budget, already know exactly what you want, and/or are picky and want to select exactly what to purchase, another option is to order cider straight from a cidery. A growing number of cideries have direct to consumer sales, typically online. That way you would also get to choose the exact selections from a cidery. Vino Shipper is a popular option; it has a directory of mostly wineries, but also a good number of cideries and meaderies, which you purchase directly from. This month’s Cidrbox at least was shipped through Vino Shipper (although Farnum Hill typically doesn’t ship).
One negative however is that because the cidery directly ships your order (ie. it doesn’t come from a warehouse), you can’t combine shipping between multiple cideries when using Vino Shipper. I have had cider shipped from cideries such as Eden (they have their own online ordering system and use FedEx), Eve’s (they use Vino Shipper and it comes UPS), and Tilted Shed (they don’t have an online ordering system, but take orders by e-mail or phone, and then e-mail you an invoice to pay online). There is still the shipping cost, which can often be quite high, but sometimes they have discounts. Eve’s for example has had a coupon code for free shipping at least twice in the last year, and that was the deciding factor for me placing an order both times.
Bottom Line – I was pleased with Cidrbox. I think they are an especially good option for people who are very open to trying all types of cider (ie. aren’t picky about style, sweetness, etc, such as folks just getting into higher end craft cider who may not yet know their preferences) and people who want to expand their cider selection. They have had an excellent line-up so far of top cideries. However, I am personally unlikely to subscribe to anything on a monthly basis as I am admittedly picky and cheap. I’ve been keeping an eye on the selections to see if anything sounds too good to pass up that month though. I likely would have been tempted by this selection if I hadn’t got a sample, as Farnum Hill only has limited distribution in my area, and I haven’t spotted anything from them for awhile.
Update – Unfortunately as of October 2017, Cidrbox had to suspend their operations, as they had difficulties with U.S. direct ship alcohol sale regulations as a third party. I hope they are able to resume sometime in the future!