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.

2017-06-11 16.35.56.jpg

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

2017-06-11 16.36.12 2017-06-11 16.36.21 2017-06-11 16.36.28

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

2017-06-11 16.37.18.jpg

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?

Worley’s Special Reserve

Review of Worley’s Special Reserve, a keeved English cider (a process more common with French cidre, and which makes a naturally sweet and sparkling cider).  I previously tried this at Cider Summit Seattle 2015 (see here), but wanted to give it another go.  I’ve also tried Worley’s other two ciders which are available in the U.S., Premium Vintage and Mendip Hills.

2017-06-09 18.13.41 HDR.jpg

Cider:  Special Reserve
Cidery:  Worley’s
Cidery Location:  Shepton Mallet, Somerset, UK
ABV:  5.4%
How Supplied:  750ml corked & caged bottle
Style:  English craft cider from cider apples, keeved, medium sweet, naturally sparkling

2017-06-09 18.13.48 2017-06-09 18.14.00

Availability:  semi wide release

Cider Description:  Worley’s Special Reserve is made from 100% pure cider apple juice using the ancient art of keeving.  This creates a naturally sparkling cider of outstanding fruity character with subtle undertones of caramel.  It has a sweetness and rounded tannins lifted by a long-lasting carbonation.  Bottle-conditioning results in a natural sediment.  Store and chill upright and pour with care to leave sediment in the bottle.

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:  $16.99
Where Bought:  The Cave in Kirkland WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  initially at Cider Summit Seattle

2017-06-09 18.19.24 HDR.jpg

First Impression:  Light amber hue.  Low to moderate carbonation with some foam.  Smells funky, of bittersweet cider apples.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Medium bodied with a fluffy texture.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Low bitterness.  Moderate tannins.  Moderate to high funk, especially on the finish.  Hints of sourness.  Moderate to long finish.  Notes of bittersweet cider apple juice and pomace, orange, caramel, and barnyard.  High apple flavor.  Moderate sessionability, complexity, and flavor intensity.

My Opinion:  I enjoyed this.  It has an interesting mix between lightness and richness.  However, I would have liked less funk (although the quality has grown on me in the last couple years).

Most Similar to:  A cross between English and French cider, which are both favorites of mine.

Closing Notes:  I’ve been in a big English cider mood lately, but the selection of them has decreased in the Seattle area oddly enough (seems like the imports don’t move very quickly, so the shops haven’t been re-ordering them).  My favorite Worley’s cider so far is Mendip Hills, which had all the flavor without the funk.

Have you tried keeved 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).

2017-05-26 18.01.29

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)

2017-05-26 18.01.41 2017-05-26 18.01.55

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.

2017-05-26 18.03.05

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).

2017-05-05 18.16.00.jpg

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)

2017-05-05 18.16.06 2017-05-05 18.16.17

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.

2017-05-05 18.17.22.jpg

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.

2017-04-21 16.32.24.jpg

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

2017-04-21 16.32.30 2017-04-21 16.32.37

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).

2017-04-21 16.33.50.jpg

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.

2017-04-14 18.33.55.jpg

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

2017-04-14 18.34.01 2017-04-14 18.34.08 2017-04-14 18.34.17

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

2017-04-14 18.35.18.jpg

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.

2016-12-18 16.45.26.jpg

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

2016-12-18-16-45-36 2016-12-18-16-45-46

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.

2016-12-18 16.46.52.jpg

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?