Worley’s Red Hen

Review of Worley’s Red Hen.  It is my first time trying this English cider, but I have had their Special ReservePremium Vintage, and Mendip Hills.

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Cider:  Red Hen
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:  Red Hen is a rich, satisfying cider made from a blend of early-season bittersweet cider apples with sharp apples from the same part of the season.  It is naturally the colour of golden straw and its two main characteristics are distinctive fruity apple and a lingering spicy tannin.  The name is inspired by our lovely flock of chickens.

Cidery Description:  Worley’s ciders are made on a 17th Century farm in England using fresh-pressed apple juice to create modern ciders with bold tannins and deep flavours.

Price:  $8
Where Bought:  Schilling Cider House in Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  browsing; this is the first time I’ve seen this variety

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First Impression:  Medium orange amber hue.  Very low carbonation.  Smells rich, tannic, and funky.

Tasting Notes:  On the sweeter side of semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Low tartness, acidity, bitterness, and funk.  Moderate tannins.  No sourness.  Notes of caramel, orange, and leather.  Moderate length finish.  Moderate apple flavor, flavor intensity, sessionability, and complexity.

My Opinion:  I liked it.  However, its not one of my favorites, mostly due to the bitterness.

Most Similar to:  Worley’s Premium Vintage, although that seemed more complex and cost $11, and this was only $8.

Closing Notes:  My favorite Worley’s is Mendip Hills.

Have you tried English cider?  What did you think?

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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?

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?

Newton Court Gasping Goose Organic Cider

Review of Newton Court’s Gasping Goose Organic cider.  It is my first time trying this, but I recently sampled their perry on draft.

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Cider:  Gasping Goose Organic Cider
Cidery:  Newton Court
Cidery Location:  Herefordshire England
ABV:  4.8%
How Supplied:  330ml single bottles (and multi-packs, kegs, and bag-in-box)
Style:  English Organic craft cider from cider apples

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Availability:  Unknown.  It looks like they are in at least a few other major U.S. cities, such as San Francisco, plus obviously, England.

Cider Description:  This cider is the result of 14 years of Paul’s experience growing, pressing and blending the best cider apples in the country – and now it’s certified organic. Gasping Goose is a complex medium cider with a slightly tannic finish. Pair it with a pork belly or with a chicken pie – it’s a refreshing proper cider that loves hearty real food.

Cidery Description:  Paul started Newton Court Cidery back in 2000. His mum and dad still come over most days to help out with the lambing and whatever else needs fixing…For us, craft cider means cider that’s pressed at our farm by a master cider maker named Paul (and a few of his local friends). It means making cider out of proper apples. It means a cidery surrounded by orchards, not industrial equipment. It means people covered in mud and apple peels, not people in suits. Buying craft cider supports local business, the heritage and the countryside…But most of all, craft cider tastes much, much better.

Price:  $4 / single bottle
Where Bought:  Schilling Cider House in Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  Sarah (my friend and the Cider House manager) mentioned she tried when she was in England last year and they were newly available here.  They also had a perry from this cidery on draft when I bought this bottle.

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First Impression:  Dark straw yellow hue.  Low to moderate carbonation.  Smells rich and tannic.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Hints of bitterness and funk.  Moderate to high tannins.  No sourness.  Notes of bittersweet cider apples, leather, oak, butterscotch, and orange.  Long tannic drier finish.  Moderate sessionability, apple flavor, flavor intensity, and complexity.

My Opinion:  Awesome!  I really enjoyed it.  Rich, tannic, apple-forward, mid-level sweetness, and no sourness….I don’t have a single complaint.  This is one of my favorite English ciders.

Most Similar to:  Dunkertons Black Fox and Henney’s Vintage

Closing Notes:  I like that this is available in single bottles, but hopefully I can find somewhere that sells it in a multi pack so it costs a bit less (although $5 / 330ml is less than $8 / 500ml, which is pretty typical for English cider around here, although they were going for less at Bushwhacker in Portland).

Have you tried Newton Court cider?  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?

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.

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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

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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

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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).

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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?