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?

Aspall Dry

Review of Aspall’s Dry cider.  I tried this awhile ago, but at an event (this is the first bottle I’ve bought).  I’ve also previously sampled their John Barrington, Imperial (black label), Demi Sec, Imperial (blue label), Grand Cru, and Perronelle’s Blush.

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Cider:  Dry
Cidery:  Aspall
Cidery Location:  Suffolk England
ABV:  6.8%
How Supplied:  500ml bottles (and draft)
Style:  English cider from cider apples

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Availability:  Semi wide release (through Artisanal Imports)

Cider Description:  Mid straw-gold colour. Clean, light floral aroma of dessert apples. Dry, round and creamy on the palate with medium fullness. Good acid balance, pleasant soft tannins and elegant, long finish. A highly versatile partner for all kinds of food, for example charcuterie, sweet & spicy, and a variety of cheeses.

Apple Varieties:  50% Sweet (Cox Orange Pippin, Early Windsor, Royal Gala, Katy), 35% Sharp (Bramley Seedling, Howgate Wonder), and 15% Bittersweet (Tremlett’s Bitter, Yarlington Mill, Medaille d’Or, Kingston)

Cidery Description:  The Chevalliers have been making cyder at Aspall for eight generations, since 1728 when Clement Chevallier fermented his first batch of Normandy style Suffolk cyder. They still produce cyder using only the fresh juice of whole Suffolk apples and the philosophy championed by their founding ancestor, Clement. Still owned and managed by the Chevallier family, Aspall is the oldest direct lineage cyder maker in the United Kingdom. There are no hidden partners or parent companies enabling Aspall to focus on making the best possible product without compromise. Truly family owned.

Price:  $8
Where Bought:  Schilling Cider House
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  I first tried Aspall (this one) at the Seattle International Beerfest in 2015, one of the first events I blogged (see here).

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First Impression:  Dark straw yellow hue.  Very low carbonation.  Smells rich and tannic.

Tasting Notes:  Dry to semi-dry.  Moderate tartness, acidity, and tannins.  Low bitterness.  Hints of funk.  No sourness.  Notes of apple pomace, lemon, and herbs.  Low apple flavor.  Moderate sessionability, flavor, and complexity.

My Opinion:  This isn’t my favorite Aspall, but it is a very solid selection and a great value.  I haven’t disliked anything I’ve tried from them so far.  I like slightly sweeter than this however as I find them more flavorful.

Most Similar to:  Other Aspall ciders (although this is their driest selection in the U.S. at least), Dunkertons Dry, and Crispin Browns Lane

Closing Notes:  I think there are still some Aspall varieties left for me to try.  The biggest disappointment is that they appear to have stopped selling the black label Imperial cider in the U.S., and now only have the blue label one (which is still great, but I liked the black label one better).

Have you tried Aspall English cider?  What did you think?

Sandford Orchards Chestnut Cask

Review of Sandford Orchards Chestnut Cask, an English chestnut wood aged cider.  It is my first time trying this cider, although I’ve previously had The General from this cidery, and English ciders are a favorite of mine.

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Cider:  Chestnut Cask
Cidery:  Sandford Orchards
Cidery Location:  Crediton UK
ABV:  6.8%
How Supplied:  500ml bottles
Style:  English cider from cider apples, Chestnut wood aged

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Availability:  semi wide release (they also have an online store if you are in England)

Cider Description:  Pressed in 2013 fermented and aged in Chestnut wood.  Rich and round tannins with a delicate residual sweetness and bitter finish that will please a cultured palate.

Apple Varieties:  Sweet Alford, Court Royal, Dabinett

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:  Light orange amber.  Still (no carbonation).  Smells rich, tannic, slightly sweet, and of caramel.

Tasting Notes:  On the drier side of semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Moderate bitterness.  Moderate tannins.  Hints of sourness and funk.  Notes of wood, earth, almonds, caramel, and butterscotch.  Long bitter finish.  Low to moderate apple flavor.  Moderate sessionability, flavor intensity, and complexity.

My Opinion:  This cider was too bitter for my liking, especially on the finish.  However, I really liked the flavor profile and tannins.  I think a touch more sweetness could have helped to balance out some of the bitterness too.

Most Similar to:  English and English-style ciders with are drier and more bitter, such as Sandford Orchards The GeneralHecks Tremletts Bitter, Ross on Wye, and Merridale Scrumpy Cider

Closing Notes:  If you don’t mind bitterness, Sandford Orchards make some solid ciders, and they are a great value at under $7 a bottle for a cider made from cider apples (and imported too!).  However, I prefer less bitter English ciders, like Dunketons, Aspall, and Sheppy’s.  I think this is the first time I’ve had (or even seen) a Chestnut wood aged cider (oak is most common).

Have you tried English 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?

Hecks Somerset Tremletts Bitter

Review of Hecks Tremletts Bitter, from Somerset England.  Its the first time I’ve tried their cider, although I’ve sampled many other English ciders.

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Cider:  Tremlett’s Bitter
Cidery:  Hecks
Cidery Location:  Street, Somerset, United Kingdom
ABV:  5.5%
How Supplied:  750ml clear glass twist-top bottle
Style:  Somerset England farmhouse-style, single varietal from Tremletts Bitter apples

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Availability:  Unknown.  Imported by B. United International Inc., Oxford CT.

Cider Description:  A butterscotch aftertaste is just one of the surprises of this cider from the popular Devon variety. It is sharp and dry without too much acidity, a popular choice wherever cider is made.

Cidery Description:  We have been making traditional Somerset Farmhouse cider since 1841. Today we offer a range of traditionally made farmhouse ciders, single variety ciders, farmhouse perry, single variety perry, non-alcoholic apple juices, cider vinegars and a range of other products, all produced from the harvests in our own Somerset orchards. Our products are made following family traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation, using tried and tested methods. We hope you enjoy our delicious products as much as we enjoy making them.

Price:  $14
Where Bought:  Schilling Cider House in Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing

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First Impression:  Medium amber.  Still (no carbonation), with a foam/bubble ring.  Smells rich, tannic, apple-forward, of must, caramel, and some funk.

Tasting Notes:  Dry to semi-dry.  Very light bodied.  Flat dull mouthfeel.  Low tartness and acidity.  Low to moderate sourness, at the back of the palette.  Moderate funk/barnyard.  Moderate bitterness.  Moderate tannins, but they were of an interesting sort, coating the teeth instead of drying the mouth, maybe due to the combination of tannins and sourness.  Notes of leather, orange, and caramel.  Moderate length finish with lingering sourness.  Moderate apple flavor.  Low sessionability.  Moderate flavor intensity.  Moderate complexity.

My Opinion:  I wasn’t a fan.  The flavor was odd and not what I expected from an English cider.  I guess I hadn’t previously tried a Farmhouse-style English cider.  I thought it smelled much better than it tasted.

Most Similar to:  This cider seemed to combine the qualities of English cider (richness & tannins) with American Farmhouse-style cider (sourness & funk).  I can’t think of anything similar.

Closing Notes:   This isn’t a style I enjoy.  However, if you like your cider with some sourness & funk, you may enjoy it.  This is the only variety from Hecks I’ve seen locally.

Have you tried Hecks Cider?  What did you think?