Aspall Imperial English Cider (Blue Label)

Review of Aspall’s Imperial English Cider.  This time I tried the blue labeled version of their Imperial cider, having previously tried the black labeled version.  I’ve also tried a number of their other varieties.

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Cider:  Imperial English Cider
Cidery:  Aspall
Cidery Location:  Suffolk England
ABV:  8.2%
How Supplied:  500ml bottles
Style:  English Imperial

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Availability:  Semi wide release.

Cider Description:  We called this cyder Imperial in honour of our great grandfather JB Chevallier’s success at the Imperial Fruit Show in 1921. Every year we craft a special vintage. This is our 285th….Rich fudgy, tantalising flavour enhanced by bitter-sweet apples from a single year’s crop. Notes of raisins, dates and prunes. Sweet mellow finish.

Apple Composition:
Sweet (35%): Orange Cox Pippin, Royal Gala
Sharp (35%): Bramley Seedling, Howgate Wonder
Bittersweet (30%): Tremlett’s Bitter, Yarlington Mill, Medaille d’Or, Kingston

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….Aspall has been home to our family for nine generations. A tiny hamlet north of the small market town of Debenham in mid-Suffolk. It’s a rural and agricultural area characterised by the young river Deben flowing through our orchards.

Price:  ~$8
Where Bought:  Schilling Cider House
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  I’ve been curious for awhile if this was the same or different from the black labeled version of Imperial, and now I have my answer.

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First Impression:  Light copper orange amber hue.  Low carbonation.  Smells of rich sweet bittersweet apples, caramel, butterscotch, and melted butter.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Mild tannins, tartness, acidity, and bitterness.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of bittersweet apples, caramel, butterscotch, orange, apple pomace, and yeast.  Moderate length warming finish with more alcohol burn than expected.  Strong apple flavor.  Low sessionability.

My Opinion:  Although I enjoyed this cider, I think it doesn’t even compare to their black label Imperial, which is one of my all time favorite ciders (and I believe an excellent value).

Most Similar to:  Other English ciders, such as Aspall, Worley’s, and Sheppy’s, English-style ciders such as from Liberty Ciderworks (English Style and its barrel aged cousin, Stonewall) & Montana Ciderworks (Darby Pub), and ciders with significant bitterness / harshness.  The yeast-forward flavor actually reminds me of many French ciders.

Closing Notes:   I hope I can find the black label version of this cider again….so far my best guess is that this blue label version replaced it, as I haven’t seen it for awhile.  That would be unfortunate.

Have you tried Aspall cider?  What did you think?

Aspall English Demi Sec Draft Cider

Review of Aspall English Demi Sec Draft Cider.  I’m a huge fan of English cider, and of Aspall, and have tried a few of their other ciders (reviews & tasting notes here).

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Cider:  Demi Sec
Cidery:  Aspall
Cidery Location:  Suffolk England
ABV:  6.8%
How Supplied:  500ml bottle
Style:  English craft cider made from heirloom & cider apple varieties

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Availability:  Fairly wide release at specialty bottle shops in the U.S. (and Europe of course)

Cider Description:  Golden color, with ripe apple and honey-ish aromas. Lightly sweet with a pleasant balancing acidity giving way to a nice off-dry finish.

Apple Varieties:  65% Sweet (Cox Orange Pippin, Egremont Russett, & Royal Gala), 25% Sharp (Bramley Seedling & Howgate Wonder), and 15% Bittersweet (Tremlett’s Bitter, Yarlington Mill, & Dabinett).

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:  Browsing.  I’ve been wanting to try more Aspall varieties, and hadn’t tried this one.

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First Impression:  Dark straw yellow with some orange.  Low carbonation and moderate foam upon pouring.  Smells of mild apple, floral, and citrus.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Low to moderate acidity.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness.  Hints of bitterness and tannins.  No sourness or bitterness.  Notes of honey, citrus (including grapefruit), floral, and green apple.  Moderate length finish.  Moderately flavored.  Moderate apple influence.  Moderate sessionability.

My Opinion:  Tasty!  Its light and refreshing, although with more sweetness and less richness than I expected.  It doesn’t have many of the characteristics of traditional English cider.

Most Similar to:  I found this more similar to “American” ciders than English ciders.  The following have similar honey and floral notes:  Moonlight Meadery How Do You Like Them Little Apples (except it is sweeter and barrel aged), Finnriver Honey Meadow (except it has chamomile and lemon balm), and EZ Orchards Hawk Haus (except it is much drier).

Closing Notes:   This was definitely enjoyable, but not what I was expecting.  My favorite from Aspall remains their Imperial (black label…not sure if it differs from the blue labeled bottles).

Have you tried Aspall Demi Sec?  What did you think?

Hogan’s Medium Cider

Review of Hogan’s Medium Cider, from the UK.  This is the first cider I’ve tried from them, although I’m a fan of English cider.

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Cider:  Medium Cider
Cidery:  Hogan’s Cider
Cidery Location:  Alcester, England
ABV:  5.4%
How Supplied:  500ml bottle
Style:  English craft medium dry cider

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Availability:  UK, U.S. (including at ShipCider.com), Russia, Hong Kong, Finland, Australia, Ireland, Lithuania, Estonia, Norway, and Germany.

Cider Description:  Hogan’s Bottled Cider is fermented from only 100% fresh pressed English cider apples. Our cider tastes so good because we do not use apple concentrate and we do not add any sugars prior to fermentation. Containing more than 85% cider apple juice our premium bottled cider is made only from fresh pressed cider fruit and precious little else. Hogan’s bottled cider brings you the authentic taste of the English orchard.

Hogan’s Medium Bottled Cider is golden, well balanced, slightly sparkling cider with caramel, butterscotch and dried fruit aromas.

Cidery Description:  Hogan’s ciders and perries are fermented from just fresh pressed English apples and pears, no sugars are added prior to fermentation and no apple or pear juice concentrate is used.

We think cider should be made only from fresh pressed apples.  What we do is source fruit in the Autumn from lots of apple orchards in the counties of Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire.

Price:  $7.25
Where Bought:  Full Throttle Bottles in Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  I’m a big English cider fan and hadn’t seen this one before.  Their Dry Cider can also be found in my area.

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First Impression:  Light pumpkin orange amber.  Ring of foam and large bubbles.  Smells of rich ripe apples, yeast, and tannins.

Tasting Notes:  Between semi-dry and semi-sweet.  Mild tannins.  Moderate acidity.  Mild tartness.  Hints of bitterness and sourness.  Still.  Medium bodied.  Slight richness with notes of caramel, brown sugar, and yeast.  Quick finish.  Moderate apple flavor.  Moderate sessionability.

My Opinion:  This was a bit disappointing; I’d call it average.  That slightest bit of sourness threw me off (I’ve never tasted that in English cider and I’m not a fan of sour in a cider at all).  I also found the depth of flavor just wasn’t there vs. other English craft ciders I’ve had.  I find it odd that they use sugar to back sweeten (vs. juice or stopping fermentation early) and list water as an ingredient (usually water is only required if a cidery uses concentrate, and they said only fresh pressed apple juice was used…so was it used to water down the cider to a certain ABV?).

Most Similar to:  Other English ciders, such as from Aspall and Sheppy’s, both of which so far I like better.

Closing Notes:  English ciders are one of my favorite categories.  Maybe I’ll have to give another variety from Hogan’s a try.

Have you tried Hogan’s Cider?  What did you think?