Aspall Perronelle’s Blush

Review of Aspall Perronelle’s Blush, an English cider with blackberry juice.  I tried this previously at Cider Summit Seattle 2016, but this is a full review of a bottle.  I’ve tried a few Aspall varieties, every one that I have seen locally – DryJohn BarringtonImperial (black label), Demi SecImperial (blue label), and Grand Cru.

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Cider:  Perronelle’s Blush
Cidery:  Aspall
Cidery Location:  Suffolk, England
ABV:  5.7%
How Supplied:  500ml tall bottle
Style:  commercial English cider with blackberry juice

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Availability:  semi wide release

Cider Description:  Perronelle’s Blush Suffolk Cyder is inspired by our Grandmother Perronelle, who loved foraging for blackberries in the hedgerows around the orchards at Aspall.  Taste Descriptor:  Attractive apple and blackberry define a sweetish palate, with good acid balance and a long soft fruit finish.  Serving Suggestion:  Wonderful with duck & hoisin sauce, and sharp fruit-based puddings such as tarte au citron and gooseberry fool.  Apple Variety:  Bittersweet, Culinary & Dessert.

Their website lists this at 4% ABV, while the bottle says 5.7%, so they may have both local and for export only versions, or they changed the recipe at some point.

Cidery Description:  Our family cyder-making business was established in 1728 by Clement Chevallier. He planted the orchards at Aspall Hall in Suffolk. The Chevallier family still live and work among Clement’s orchards and today Aspall is run by the eighth generation of the family.

Price:  $4.99 (on sale from $6.99 – I’m guessing they are clearing out inventory to discontinue selling it)
Where Bought:  Total Wine
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  I originally tried this at Cider Summit Seattle; this time I was just browsing

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First Impression:  Purple-red hue.  Still (no carbonation).  Smells mild, of berries.

Tasting Notes:  On the sweeter side of semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Moderate tartness.  Low to moderate acidity.  Hints of tannins.  No bitterness, sourness, or funk.  Notes of raspberry, blackberry, green apple, and lemon.  Moderate length finish.  Low apple flavor and complexity.  High sessionability.  Moderate flavor intensity.

My Opinion:  I enjoyed it – nice balanced berry flavor and a perfect level of sweetness for my tastes.  However, there was no noticeable English cider characteristics; I would have guessed this was a U.S. cider from dessert apples.  However, at the price point and for the style (flavored), I didn’t mind.

Most Similar to:  A U.S. made craft cider from dessert apples with berries or berry juice added.

Closing Notes:  My favorite Aspall by far is the black label Imperial, but they appear to have replaced that with the blue label Imperial.  I think they are all pretty tasty though, an entry level English cider (not as tannic or funky as many, so well suited to those not yet familiar with the style).

Have you tried Aspall cider?  What did you think?

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Oliver’s Gold Rush Cider

Review of Oliver’s Gold Rush Cider, batch #2.  This was a collaboration between Tom Oliver (of Oliver’s Cider and Perry in the UK) and Gregory Hall (of Virtue Cider in Chicago).  I’ve previously tried Oliver’s Herefordshire Perry and Desire.

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Cider:  Gold Rush
Cidery:  Oliver’s Cider and Perry
Cidery Location:  Herefordshire United Kingdom
ABV:  6.2%
How Supplied:  750ml twist-top bottle
Style:  English still cider from cider apples, wild yeast fermented, oak aged, secondary fermentation

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Availability:  limited, although in general Oliver’s can at least be found in the UK, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Holland, Italy, Norway, Poland, Russia, Spain, and USA (see here).

Cider Description:  Have you noticed similarities between Tom Oliver’s wild yeast- fermented ciders and traditional lambics?  You aren’t the only one.  During a visit to Oliver’s farm in 2011, Greg Hall – former brewmaster at Goose Island, and current cidermaker at Virtue Cider in Chicago – proposed a collaborative cider made in the traditional way, but with a lambic yeast thrown in for further complexity.  The result is the Gold Rush: a…sparkling, medium dry cider with a deep, burnished color made from 100% bittersweet and sharp vintage cider apples from traditional Herefordshire farms. The juice was slow fermented by wild yeasts in old oak barrels through a cold winter and underwent malolactic fermentation in the warm spring.  Oliver then added fruit sugar and lambic yeasts for a second alcoholic fermentation, adding a touch more alcohol and complexity. It was finished in oak, for maturity, before final blending and bottling.  The first transatlantic cider that is everything a bittersweet cider should be.

Cidery Description:  Oliver’s strives to produce premium products, while valuing the health and well being of its consumers, its employees, the earth’s natural resources, and the environment. In fact, Oliver’s have created a charter that they hope all cider makers will follow. Its tenets are these:

  • To help secure the future of UK orchards and their ecosystems
  • Preserve the integrity of cider and perry as valuable products of recognized quality using only UK fruit
  • Declare ingredients (with traceability), based on a minimum juice content of 85%, control and minimize additives and use only natural products.”

Price:  $14.99
Where Bought:  The Jug Shop in San Francisco CA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing during a cruise port stop.

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First Impression:  Moderate amber hue.  Still (no carbonation) with some froth.  Smells amazingly complex, of bittersweet apple juice, caramel, and a hint of funk.

Tasting Notes:  On the sweeter side of semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Low tartness, acidity, and bitterness.  High tannins.  Hints of funk.  No sourness.  Notes of bittersweet apple, caramel, leather, orange, brown sugar, must, and spice.  Long finish.  Moderate to high apple flavor and complexity.  Low sessionability.  Moderate flavor intensity.

My Opinion:  Amazing!  This was crazy rich and complex.  I love the color too – it is so rare to find such a naturally dark cider.  I was surprised to not find more funk or any sourness, which is rare for a wild fermented cider.  This is now one of my favorite English ciders.  Best drank at cellar temperature (in between fridge and room temperature).

Most Similar to:  Henney’s VintageRocquette XC Exceptional Cider, and Finnegan Harvest Blend

Closing Notes:  I hope I get the opportunity to try more varieties from Oliver’s!  I liked this one just slightly more than Desire (as Gold Rush was more tannic and complex).

Have you tried Oliver’s Gold Rush?  What did you think?

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?