Sandford Orchard Straw & Oak

Review of Sandford Orchards Straw & Oak, an English cider from cider apples pressed through straw, then oak barrel aged.  It is my first time trying this cider, although I’ve previously had The General and Chestnut Cask from this cidery, and English ciders are a favorite of mine.

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Cider:  Straw & Oak
Cidery:  Sandford Orchards
Cidery Location:  Crediton UK
ABV:  6.9%
How Supplied:  500ml bottles
Style:  English cider from cider apples, pressed through straw, oak barrel aged

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Availability:  semi wide release, imported into the U.S. by B. United International Inc. out of Oxford CT (the cidery also has an online store if you are in England)

Cider Description:  Pressed through wheat reed and barley straw in 2013 this cider is full of fresh grapefruit, pear and elderflower aroma and has developed a superb astringent, mature oak finish.  (aged for one year in oak barrels)

Apple Varieties:  Harry Masters Jersey, Michelin, and Browns

Cidery Description:  Sandford Orchards is craft cider producer from the heart of idyllic, rural Devon. Our methods are simple and so is our ethos: we only bottle the best. We are enormously proud to have been recognised for our endeavours. We are a family business full of passion for our products, we believe that Devon ciders and juices are the best in the world – we want you to taste them!

This appears to be a for-export-only cider variety for them.  Sandford Orchards was founded in 2003, so they are well-established, but not one of the very old English cideries (like Aspall and Sheppy’s).

Price:  $6.85
Where Bought:  Bushwhacker Cider in Portland Oregon
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing

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First Impression:  Medium amber hue.  Low carbonation.  Smells rich, of caramel and bittersweet apples.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry to dry.  Light bodied.  Moderate to high tartness and acidity.  Low to moderate bitterness.  Moderate tannins.  Low funk.  Hints of sourness.  Notes of orange, grapefruit, leather, caramel, must, oak, earthiness, and bittersweet apples.  Moderate length finish.  Moderate apple flavor, sessionability, and flavor intensity.  High complexity.  Low oak flavor.

My Opinion:  I loved the flavor notes of this cider, but didn’t enjoy the bitterness and mouth-puckering tartness/acidity.  More sweetness probably could have balanced out those qualities.  Pressing through straw added a unique twist to this one, and there was an interesting combination of tart fruitiness with richness.

Most Similar to:  Sandford Orchards Chestnut CaskSandford Orchards The GeneralHecks Tremletts Bitter, Ross on Wye, and Merridale Scrumpy Cider

Closing Notes:  Imported English ciders can be an awesome value, and I’m always on the lookout for new ones to try.  However, I prefer English ciders more like Dunketons, Aspall, and Sheppy’s.

Have you tried Sandford Orchards cider?  What did you think?

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?

Burrow Hill Medium Dry Cider

Review of Burrow Hill’s Medium Dry Cider, from Somerset England.  It is my first time trying this cider, although I’m a fan of English cider.

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Cider:  Medium Dry Cider
Cidery:  Burrow Hill
Cidery Location:  Somerset England
ABV:  6.0%
How Supplied:  500ml bottles
Style:  English cider from cider apples

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Availability:  semi wide release

Cider Description:  A blend of at least 11 varieties of vintage apples “the cider-maker’s craft at its best”. Medium Dry.

Update – The cidery informed me (based on the label style) that this bottle is at least four years old.

Cidery Description:  The ancient craft of blending vintage Somerset cider apples to produce fine ciders has been handed down through generations.  In our orchards we grow 40 varieties on more than 7,000 apple trees. In the autumn the fruit s harvested, blended, and pressed.  The juice is then fermented and matured in oak vats.  At Burrow Hill we sell traditional prize winning ciders direct from wooden barrels.

Price:  $8.99
Where Bought:  The Cave in Kirkland WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  This is the only English cider brand that gets distributed here that I haven’t tried.

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First Impression:  Medium amber hue.  Still (no carbonation).  Smells of cider apples, tannins, and a hint of funk.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry.  Light bodied.  No tartness.  Low acidity.  Moderate tannins.  Low bitterness.  No sourness.  A hint of funk.  Notes of bittersweet cider apples, apple pomace, caramel, brown sugar, leather, and orange.  Long tannic finish.  Moderate apple flavor, sessionability, flavor intensity, and complexity.

My Opinion:  I enjoyed it.  It was well balanced, although slightly commercial tasting and a bit on the watery side (although plenty tannic).  Its not one of my favorite English ciders though, which would be Aspall Imperial, Sheppy’s Oak Matured, and Dunkertons Dry & Black Fox.

Most Similar to:  I found this very very similar to Ross on Wye Medium Dry Lightly Carbonated Cider.

Closing Notes:  I’ll have to see what else I can find from this cidery.

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

Thatchers Green Goblin

Review of Thatchers Green Goblin.  I’ve tried this before, but pre-blog.  I’ve also tried their Gold variety.

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Cider:  Green Goblin
Cidery:  Thatchers
Cidery Location:  Somerset England
ABV:  6.0%
How Supplied:  four pack of 11.2oz bottles
Style:  commercial English cider from bittersweet apples, oak aged

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Availability:  semi wide release

Cider Description:  Green Goblin looks after our orchards day and night. His love for bittersweet apples and mischievous character makes this cider distinctively different.  

Green Goblin is a full flavoured cider, crafted from a blend of bittersweet apples such as Dabinett and Somerset Redstreak. This is a beautifully balanced cider, with a medium dry finish and fresh character.  Rich and golden in appearance with an aroma that’s appley through and through and a finely balanced, full flavour.

Cidery Description:  Thatchers Cider is a fourth-generation cidermaker based at Myrtle Farm, in Sandford, Somerset, England.  Thatchers Cider has grown from a local farmhouse producer, to a family-led company that has developed substantially over recent years, but maintains a fundamental ethos that has its roots in heritage, family values, a sustainable future, craft and expertise, and a passion for quality. Thatchers Gold is the firm’s flagship brand and is the number two best-selling draught cider in the UK. Thatchers Cider employs 120 people and its ciders are now in demand in more than 22 countries worldwide.

Price:  ~$2.50 / single bottle (runs $7.99 / four pack)
Where Bought:  Total Wine
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing

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First Impression:  Medium amber, a sort of weird looking hue for cider (almost like they added caramel color, although it wasn’t listed).  Still (no carbonation).  I really couldn’t detect much of a scent.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Medium bodied.  Mild tartness and acidity.  Hints of tannins.  No bitterness, sourness, or funk.  Notes of brown sugar, molasses, and honey.  Quick finish.  Mild oak influence.  Moderate apple flavor.  High sessionability.  Low complexity.  Moderate flavor intensity.

My Opinion:  This is a nice easy to drink English cider.  However, its definitely on the commercial end, not craft.

Most Similar to:  I enjoyed this much better than their Gold cider.  It doesn’t really compare to most other English ciders I’ve had such as from Aspall, Sheppy’s, Dunkertons, or Hogan’s, but those also cost much more.  So, its probably most similar to Crispin Brown’s Lane.

Closing Notes:  For this price, I’m game to buy it again.  I actually enjoyed it more than most American multi pack ciders.

Have you tried Thatchers Green Goblin?  What did you think?

Worley’s Mendip Hills

Review of Worley’s Mendip Hills English cider.  Its my first time trying this variety, but I’ve tried Worley’s other 2 ciders available locally, Special Reserve and Premium Vintage.

Cider:  Mendip Hills
Cidery:  Worley’s
Cidery Location:  Shepton Mallet, Somerset, UK
ABV:  6.2%
How Supplied:  500ml bottles
Style:  English cider from cider apples

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Availability:  Semi wide release

Cider Description:  A slightly sparkling medium cider – smooth and rounded flavour with complex, mellow notes. Best served chilled.  To create ciders of great depth and roundness, it’s imperative to blend a number of apple varieties and Mendip Hills is a lovely example of this art. Containing some 16 apple varieties, the flavour profile of Mendip Hills is full and rounded, yet smooth and satisfying. This accomplished cider is made from punchy late-season fruit that has had longer to mature in the cool orchard grass of some of Somerset’s finest orchards, before being fermented by wild yeasts and matured for several months. A very light carbonation is applied at bottling to produce a velvet-smooth cider with oodles of warm, spicy apple-pie notes.

Cidery Description:  A hobby that got out of control.  We first made cider as a bit of fun for ourselves and our friends. Now here we are nearly a decade later and we’re still having fun but we’re making a lot more cider!  Our first experience of making was when we bought 50 gallons of juice off the farm press from the iconic Roger Wilkins in Mudgely, Somerset. We made the mistake of adding in a bit of sugar and ended up with 10.5% cider. It was lethal and one of the neighbours spent a few hours in a ditch as a result of downing a couple of pints.  Lesson learned, we began to find our own fruit in various small Somerset orchards and gradually started to master the mysterious arts of fruit selection and fermentation.  A few years ago we decided if wanted to carry on making cider we’d need the cider to start making a contribution to its upkeep. So we gradually started selling a bit. Now we’re making over 30,000 litres a year and don’t have time to have proper jobs any more!

Price:  $11
Where Bought:  Schilling Cider House in Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  I’ve tried the other 2 varieties from Worleys available locally, and figured I’d try the 3rd one.

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First Impression:  Medium pumpkin amber.  Moderate carbonation with some foam.  Smells tannic, sweet, and of cider apples.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-sweet.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness.  Low to moderate acidity and tannins.  Hints of bitterness.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of cider apples, pomace, orange, leather, and caramelized sugar.  Moderate length finish.  Moderate to high apple flavor and sessionability.  Moderate flavor and complexity.

My Opinion:  I really enjoyed it.  I prefer this to their Premium Vintage and Special Reserve.

Most Similar to:  Other English ciders, compared to which its on the entry level end, due to its sweetness, lower tannins, and no sourness or funk.  I also found some similarities with French cider, with its higher carbonation, sweetness, and being apple-forward.

Closing Notes:   I hope Worley’s offers more ciders in the U.S. soon.

Have you tried Worleys 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?