Farnum Hill Semi Dry

Review of Farnum Hill’s Semi Dry.  I got this as part of the September Cidrbox.  I previously tried samples of their Extra Dry and Dooryard, plus I reviewed Extra Dry and Kingston Black from this Cidrbox.

Photo Sep 22, 5 08 36 PM.jpg

>>This is a review of a sample bottle provided to Cider Says by Cidrbox.  Although I will take care to treat it the same as any other review, there is always the potential for bias as I received it for free.  The only consideration I knowingly made was pushing this up in my cider review cue.  I love free stuff, especially cider!  Want your cider or cider-related product reviewed here?  Contact me.<<

Cider:  Semi Dry
Cidery:  Farnum Hill
Cidery Location:  Lebanon NH
ABV:  7.4%
How Supplied:  750ml corked & caged bottles
Style:  American artisan cider from cider apples, semi dry

Photo Sep 22, 5 08 44 PM Photo Sep 22, 5 08 55 PM

Availability:  In general their ciders are distributed in CT, NH, MA, ME, NJ, NY, and RI (see here).  I haven’t seen their cider in the Seattle area for awhile.

Cider Description:  Golden, gently bubbly, with a delicious array of tropic fruits, citrus, and mysterious aromatic notes in the nose and on the palate. Our Semi-Dry cider is much less sweet than semi-dry champagnes.  On Farnum Hill, that much-abused word “dry” is taken literally, so our semi-dry balances the gentlest sweetness against sharpness, astringency, and fruit (which is different from sweet). Alcohol content 7.4% by volume. 750 ml bottle, mushroom cork finish with wire hood. The cork comes out by hand, with  a genial pop.

Till recently, this of all our ciders was the most popular among people first encountering true cider flavors. It is richer, more complex, and less overtly tannic than Farmhouse. (Also much harder to make, mostly for horticultural factors in any given crop year – if we’re short of certain apple varieties that make the best possible Semi-Dry, we tend not to make Semi-Dry.) Lately the American taste for extremely dry ciders has seemingly grown, so that our Extra Dry gets as much approval from first-time tasters as the Semi. But if you’re a host wondering which to foist on your innocent guests, we’d still lean slightly toward this one.

We aim in all our blends to complement good food, not compete with it. With Semi-Dry, try: seafood, cheeses, ham, poultry, sausage, rabbit, pork, omelettes or quiches, herbed saucy dishes such as non-red pastas, etc. But don’t be surprised if it does good things for baked potatoes or other ordinary pleasures. And look for your own pairings.

Semi-Dry offers a long, clean, aromatic finish that refreshes the flavors of many savory foods. It enjoyably re-interprets many roles played by white or red wines, though not where a buttery, malolactic feel or a huge, “operatic” wine “experience” are wanted. Some chefs, and fans of Norman dishes (e.g. the world of crepes), contend that our ciders, even the Extra Drys, are charming with certain fruit tarts, custards, etc. People who make fruit ices might like to throw some Farnum Hill in, and pour some more alongside. Please post your discoveries — we’d love to try new ideas!

Cidery Description:  On Farnum Hill, we use the word “cider” to mean an alcoholic beverage fermented from particular apples, just as “wine” is fermented from particular grapes.  Cider is a word that covers an enormous variety of adult beverages made from apples.  Our style is all about flaunting the delights of the fruit that grows best on this place.

Farnum Hill Ciders, at 6.5-7.5% alcohol, tend toward the dry, sharp, fruity and bountifully aromatic. We make them to gladden the moment and light up the flavors of food. During Prohibition, apple-growers urgently needed a new teetotal image. That PR problem helped cut the normal old word “cider” from its normal old meaning, and paste it to the sweet brown ephemeral juice of autumn, normally called “apple juice” or “sweet cider.”  So even now, a lot of our fellow Americans find Farnum Hill ciders a bit startling.

We are proud of Farnum Hill Ciders, and delighted to see more and more small-scale cider-makers coming onto the U.S. cider scene. Meanwhile, we’re also encouraged to see skilled commercial apple-growers planting for cider. As in the wine world, cider-apple growers may want to make their own, or to sell their fruit to cidermakers.  Already, the price of cider apples is many times the processing price that eating apples bring. That makes cider orchards valuable.  Here’s hoping the future of distinctive American orchard-based ciders will outshine the past!

Here is a nice podcast with transcript from an interview by Cider Guide’s Eric West with Nicole Leibon, a cidermaker at Farnum Hill.  Farnum Hill also worked with April White on a book, Apples to Cider – How to Make Cider at Home.

Price:  n/a (retails for $17.99+)
Where Bought:  n/a (through Cidrbox)
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  I’ve heard of Farnum Hill ever since I got into the cider world, as they were one of the first cideries in the new cider movement (around 1995).

Photo Sep 23, 3 21 27 PM.jpg

First Impression:  Light golden yellow.  Very low carbonation.  Flavorful scent, of rich cider apples and caramelized sugar.

Tasting Notes:  On the drier side of semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Low to moderate tartness.  Moderate acid.  Hints of bitterness.  Low to moderate tannins.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of caramelized sugar, apple skin, brown sugar, and lemon.  Moderate length finish.  Moderate apple flavor, sessionability, and complexity.  Low flavor intensity.

My Opinion:  I enjoyed this one.  It was the most flavorful and richest of the three ciders.  I think a bit of residual sugar really goes a long way in a cider such as this to bring out the flavor.

Most Similar to:  A mild English cider, or Dragon’s Head Traditional, Westcott Bay Semi-DryEve’s Kingston Black, and E.Z. Orchards Williamette Valley.

Closing Notes:  This concluded my Farnum Hill Cidrbox tasting.  Semi Dry ended up being my favorite, as well as the group’s favorite at my cider tasting, as it was the most flavorful (as it was sweeter).

Have you tried Farnum Hill cider?  What did you think?

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Farnum Hill Kingston Black

Review of Farnum Hill’s Kingston Black. I got this as part of the September Cidrbox.  I previously tried samples of their Extra Dry and Dooryard, plus I reviewed Extra Dry from this Cidrbox.

Photo Sep 22, 5 06 01 PM.jpg

>>This is a review of a sample bottle provided to Cider Says by Cidrbox.  Although I will take care to treat it the same as any other review, there is always the potential for bias as I received it for free.  The only consideration I knowingly made was pushing this up in my cider review cue.  I love free stuff, especially cider!  Want your cider or cider-related product reviewed here?  Contact me.<<

Cider:  Kingston Black Reserve
Cidery:  Farnum Hill
Cidery Location:  Lebanon NH
ABV:  8.5%
How Supplied:  750ml corked & caged bottles
Style:  American artisan cider, single varietal from Kingston Black

Photo Sep 22, 5 06 18 PM Photo Sep 22, 5 06 46 PM

Availability:  This is a special release so it will probably be more difficult to find, but in general their ciders are distributed in CT, NH, MA, ME, NJ, NY, and RI (see here).  I haven’t seen their cider in the Seattle area for awhile.

Cider Description:  Kingston Black technically is a “bittersharp” apple variety, which in the English-speaking cider world means that its high tannin and acid levels make it a suitable cider apple: however, its sugar level, at least growing here, regularly yields 8.5% alcohol. We release a hundred or so cases of ‘Special Reserve,’ made only from this apple, in years when our KB is showing all its charms.

This is a still cider, in a 750ml bottle with straight cork. Its aromatic and flavor hooks range from floral through fruity (muskmelon) through hormonal suggestions on to further sensory tricks, viz. whiffs of candle-flame and turning off the phone. Like many distinctive flavor signatures, that Kingston Black je ne sais quoi is loved by some but not all.

With food it performs a version of the FHC effect, lending savor and vividness to many different foods. However, unlike our other ciders, Kingston Black in our view belongs with subtle dishes, rather than with spicy or otherwise rowdy flavors. Note that not only Kingston Black’s alcohol but also its price is quite high for a cider. But it’s worth it when you have time to pay attention to the treats before you.

P.S. In old apple variety names, the word “black” means “extremely dark red.”

Cidery Description:  On Farnum Hill, we use the word “cider” to mean an alcoholic beverage fermented from particular apples, just as “wine” is fermented from particular grapes.  Cider is a word that covers an enormous variety of adult beverages made from apples.  Our style is all about flaunting the delights of the fruit that grows best on this place.

Farnum Hill Ciders, at 6.5-7.5% alcohol, tend toward the dry, sharp, fruity and bountifully aromatic. We make them to gladden the moment and light up the flavors of food. During Prohibition, apple-growers urgently needed a new teetotal image. That PR problem helped cut the normal old word “cider” from its normal old meaning, and paste it to the sweet brown ephemeral juice of autumn, normally called “apple juice” or “sweet cider.”  So even now, a lot of our fellow Americans find Farnum Hill ciders a bit startling.

We are proud of Farnum Hill Ciders, and delighted to see more and more small-scale cider-makers coming onto the U.S. cider scene. Meanwhile, we’re also encouraged to see skilled commercial apple-growers planting for cider. As in the wine world, cider-apple growers may want to make their own, or to sell their fruit to cidermakers.  Already, the price of cider apples is many times the processing price that eating apples bring. That makes cider orchards valuable.  Here’s hoping the future of distinctive American orchard-based ciders will outshine the past!

Here is a nice podcast with transcript from an interview by Cider Guide’s Eric West with Nicole Leibon, a cidermaker at Farnum Hill.  Farnum Hill also worked with April White on a book, Apples to Cider – How to Make Cider at Home.

Price:  n/a (retails for $17.99+)
Where Bought:  n/a (through Cidrbox)
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  I’ve heard of Farnum Hill ever since I got into the cider world, as they were one of the first cideries in the new cider movement (around 1995).

Photo Sep 23, 3 09 40 PM.jpg

First Impression:  Medium straw yellow hue.  Still.  Smells of rich cider apple.

Tasting Notes:  On the sweeter side of dry.  Light bodied.  Low tartness, acidity, and tannins.  No bitterness, sourness, or funk.  Notes of cider apple, caramel, brown sugar, lemon, and green apple.  Moderate length finish.  Low flavor intensity.  Moderate complexity, sessionability, and apple flavor.

My Opinion:  I liked this one.  It was less rich and intense and thinner than I was expecting though, more similar to a NE American heirloom apple cider than an English cider.  However, like the Extra Dry, it became more rich and flavorful at room temperature.  I’d recommend this to folks of dry still cider.

Most Similar to:  I’ve also had Kingston Black single varietals from Whitewood, Dragon’s Head, and Eve’s.  My favorite of those was the Whitewood, as it was intensely flavorful, likely at least partially due to the whiskey barrel aging.

Closing Notes:  Next up is Farnum Hill’s Semi Dry.

Have you tried Farnum Hill cider?  What did you think?

Farnum Hill Extra Dry

Review of Farnum Hill’s Extra Dry.  I got this as part of the September Cidrbox.  I previously tried samples of their Extra Dry and Dooryard, but haven’t done a full review.

Photo Sep 22, 5 07 24 PM (1).jpg

>>This is a review of a sample bottle provided to Cider Says by Cidrbox.  Although I will take care to treat it the same as any other review, there is always the potential for bias as I received it for free.  The only consideration I knowingly made was pushing this up in my cider review cue.  I love free stuff, especially cider!  Want your cider or cider-related product reviewed here?  Contact me.<<

Cider:  Extra Dry
Cidery:  Farnum Hill
Cidery Location:  Lebanon NH
ABV:  7.5%
How Supplied:  750ml corked & caged bottles
Style:  American artisan cider from cider apples, fully dry, lightly carbonated

Photo Sep 22, 5 07 24 PM Photo Sep 22, 5 07 52 PM

Availability:  This is their flagship cider so it is probably the easiest to find, but they appear to primarily be distributed in CT, NH, MA, ME, NJ, NY, and RI (see here).  I haven’t seen their cider in the Seattle area for awhile.

Cider Description:  Pale gold, bubbly, radically dry. Richly aromatic, suggesting myriad fruits of the earth, and the earth itself, with a complex, palate-cleansing balance of fruit, astringency, and acid. Sugar content zero, fruit notes rampant! Made, like Semi-Dry, from a range of specific apple varieties bred and/or selected for excellent cider.

Cidery Description:  On Farnum Hill, we use the word “cider” to mean an alcoholic beverage fermented from particular apples, just as “wine” is fermented from particular grapes.  Cider is a word that covers an enormous variety of adult beverages made from apples.  Our style is all about flaunting the delights of the fruit that grows best on this place.

Farnum Hill Ciders, at 6.5-7.5% alcohol, tend toward the dry, sharp, fruity and bountifully aromatic. We make them to gladden the moment and light up the flavors of food. During Prohibition, apple-growers urgently needed a new teetotal image. That PR problem helped cut the normal old word “cider” from its normal old meaning, and paste it to the sweet brown ephemeral juice of autumn, normally called “apple juice” or “sweet cider.”  So even now, a lot of our fellow Americans find Farnum Hill ciders a bit startling.

We are proud of Farnum Hill Ciders, and delighted to see more and more small-scale cider-makers coming onto the U.S. cider scene. Meanwhile, we’re also encouraged to see skilled commercial apple-growers planting for cider. As in the wine world, cider-apple growers may want to make their own, or to sell their fruit to cidermakers.  Already, the price of cider apples is many times the processing price that eating apples bring. That makes cider orchards valuable.  Here’s hoping the future of distinctive American orchard-based ciders will outshine the past!

Here is a nice podcast with transcript from an interview by Cider Guide’s Eric West with Nicole Leibon, a cidermaker at Farnum Hill.  Farnum Hill also worked with April White on a book, Apples to Cider – How to Make Cider at Home.

Price:  n/a (retails for $16.99+)
Where Bought:  n/a (through Cidrbox)
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  I’ve heard of Farnum Hill ever since I got into the cider world, as they were one of the first cideries in the new cider movement (around 1995).

Photo Sep 23, 3 01 10 PM.jpg

First Impression:  Light gold yellow hue.  Low carbonation.  Mild scent, clean, with a hint of honey.

Tasting Notes:  Dry.  Very light bodied.  Creamy texture.  Low tartness.  Moderate to high acidity.  Low tannins.  Hints of bitterness.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of honey, floral, lemongrass, orange, and green apple.  Moderate length warming finish.  Low flavor intensity and apple flavor.  Moderate complexity and sessionability.

My Opinion:  I didn’t dislike it, but this cider was a bit underwhelming for me and the others which tasted it with me.  It gained more flavor intensity and acidity as it warmed up from fridge to room temperature, which was helpful, so I’d recommend drinking it at nearly room temperature (and so does the cidery).  It was also really different from the version of Extra Dry I tried a couple years ago (see here), which my notes say was more acidic, tannic, and carbonated.  Craft ciders can really vary batch to batch.  However, it was very well made and food friendly.  I think it would appeal best to true dry cider lovers.  If you typically drink semi-dry to semi-sweet like I do, the flavor just won’t be there for you, as this is a very nuanced cider.  This is definitely a cider to take some time with to ponder.

Most Similar to:  Alpenfire Pirate’s Plank (although that one is a bit more intensely flavored, possible as it is less filtered) and Brooklyn Cider House Still Bone Dry

Closing Notes:  Next up are Farnum Hill’s Kingston Black and Semi Dry.

Have you tried Farnum Hill cider?  What did you think?

Book Review #5, Apples to Cider – How to Make Cider at Home

For the fifth book review here at Cider Says (see here for the first four):  “Apples to Cider – How to Make Cider at Home”, by April White, with Stephen Wood of Farnum Hill Ciders, published February 2015.  It is currently $18.72 on Amazon.

This is a review of a book provided to Cider Says by Farnum Hill Ciders.  Thanks Farnum Hill!  Although I will take care to treat it the same as any other review, there is always the potential for bias as I received it for free.  The only consideration I knowingly made was pushing this up in my review cue.  I love free stuff, especially cider!  Want your cider or cider-related product reviewed here?  Contact me.

2015-10-05 13.52.24 2015-10-05 13.51.58
<front & back covers; click to biggify>

Unlike some of the other books in the earlier four part series of books from my library, I read this one cover to cover.  It was a fairly quick read, and I was lucky enough to be on an airplane, so I read it in one sitting.  It was written by April White (not associated with Farnum Hill), but it appears she spent extensive time with the Farnum Hill folks, and there are some subsections written by Steve Wood from Farnum Hill.

Although the main focus of this book is presenting a cider making method for amateur home cidermakers to follow, there is a great amount of information which would appear to anyone who has an interest in cider.  I especially liked some of the history of Farnum Hill Cider / Poverty Lane Orchards, cider styles & regions, cidermaking methods, extensive cider apple variety descriptions, and the terminology & glossary sections.  They also included some information on the cidermaking methods used at Eden Ice Cider (Ice Cider, VT), E.Z. Orchards (French Cidre, OR), and Eve’s Cidery (Methode Champenoise, NY) in addition to Farnum Hill (NH).

Pros:

  • Very well laid out and easy to read.
  • Lots of beautiful and helpful photos!
  • Although I didn’t test out the cidermaking instructions, they were very clear, including specific equipment lists, timelines, methods, measurements, etc, in a way I haven’t noticed in the other cidermaking books I’ve seen.

Cons:

  • They used some terminology without defining it.  After a bit I realized there was a glossary, so that would mostly solve that issue for the true beginner cider reader.
    • The only term I don’t think was very well defined is tannin, which can be difficult to describe and understand.  They only defined it as “A substance present in apples that provides the structure, astringency, and bitterness in cider.”  Maybe there was some assumption of a wine background?  I think information such that they contribute to bitterness and astringency, can cause a mouth-puckering taste, and in excess can dry the mouth, would be helpful.
  • The book left me wanting more (which could also be a good thing)

Chapters:

Introduction (including Farnum Hill Ciders Story and Farnum Hill Ciders Philosophy)

What is Cider? (including History, Perry, Science, Styles, Methods, Tastes, Terms, Trends, and Farnum Hill Ciders Style)

Tasting Cider (including Preparing, Process, Resetting Sense of Smell, Training Your Nose, Vocabulary, Defining What You Like, and Other People’s Cider)

Starting with Apples (including In The Orchard, The Apple, A Sampling of Apples, Turning Apples into Juice, Sources for Juice, and An Apple Grower and His Apple Trees)

Your Cider Room (including Where to Make Cider, Equipment, Ingredients, Best Practices for Sanitation, and A Commercial Cider Room)

Your First Batch of Cider (including Adding Sulfur Dioxide, Testing, Pitching the Yeast, Waiting, Moving the Carboy, Adding the Bored Bung, Adding the Airlock, Feeding the Yeast, Waiting, Testing, Racking, Tasting, Maturing, Bottling, and Our First Ciders)

Your Second Batch of Cider (including Excess Hydrogen Sulfide, Unintended Malolactic Fermentation, Acetic Fermentation, Other Potential Flaws, I Don’t Love It, and Don’t Fear the Stink)

Your Third Batch of Cider and Beyond (including Blending, Carbonation, Returning Sugar, Methode Champenoise, Cidre (French), Ice Cider, and Respecting the Apple)

Conclusion, Glossary, Resources, The People Behind Farnum Hill Ciders, About April White, Photographer Credits, Acknowledgements, Index

Some Quotes of Interest:

  • When blended and fermented, the most celebrated cider apples — often called inedible — reveal flavors such as apricot, black tea, honey, and pine.
  • A cidermaker’s responsibility is to coax the best from the fruit without unnecessary additives or techniques that would obscure the apple.
  • Cider, like wine, is an agricultural product and each batch you make will be unique.
  • The sugar is the food for the yeast, which will convert it into alcohol and carbon dioxide.
  • A cidermaker’s choice of apples has the biggest impact on the cider produced.
  • A geographic style develops over decades, or perhaps centuries, as cidermakers in a specific region, working with similar types of apples grown in similar conditions learn from and influence each other.
  • You can learn the most from your cider tasting if you develop a procedure and a vocabulary for tasting that controls as many variables as possible and allows for consistent and objective evaluation of each batch of cider.
  • And don’t taste with food, which will change your perception of smell, taste, and sensation.
  • The ideal tasting temperature is about 60 deg F…the aromas, tastes, and sensations of a cider are stronger and any flaws are more noticeable,
  • The tongue can only perceive acid, bitter, sweet, sour, salty, and savory flavors.  Your sense of “taste” is truly your nose at work again, perceiving the changing aromas of a food in your mouth.
  • Tasting is really noting more than an effort to objectify characteristics that are essentially subjective.
  • During the fermentation process, the carbon dioxide produced by the yeast forms a protective layer over the developing cider, preventing the cider from coming into contact with oxygen.
  • Typically, over time, the tannins in the cider round out, becoming less astringent, and acids soften, becoming less harsh.
  • There’s one piece of advice every would be cidermaker needs:  It’s all about the apple.

In summary, it is a well-written book which is a great addition to anyone’s cider library.  I’d recommend it for folks interested in making their own cider at home as well as those who just want further information on cider, how it is made, cider apples, cider styles/regions/methods, Farnum Hill Ciders, etc.

About half of the book was specific to cidermaking, but I even found that interesting despite no current plans to get into cidermaking.  In case you are curious, I don’t want to put a lot of effort into something and be disappointed, I don’t like to start something without the time to truly devote myself to it (I tend to get a bit obsessive so everything else gets ignored), and there is so much awesome cider in my area that is ready to drink already!