My Favorite Ciders of 2017

Happy New Year!  Now that it is 2018, it is time for a list of some of my favorite ciders of 2017.  This is becoming a tradition; see here for my list from 2016 and here for my list from 2015.  To make it a bit different and easier, I put them into categories instead of trying to do a top ten list or similar.

Note that I wouldn’t try to make a list of the best ciders, just those I enjoy, as it would be an impossible task to try every cider out there and be impartial.  The cider world is very regional, so likely only readers in the NW would have a similar selection.  My only criteria for this list is that I drank the cider in 2017.  Some of the categories overlap.  Truth be told, for the most part, I made the list first, then determined categories to put them in!

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Budget-Friendly French Cidre:  Dan Armor Cuvée Spéciale Cidre Brut (Brittany) or L’Hermitiére Cidre Brut (Normandy) – These selections retail for $4.99 and $7.99 respectively.  The Dan Armor is only sold at Trader Joe’s.  Both are on the sweeter side of semi-dry and are true to their respective styles (although the Normandy one is more beginner friendly than many others, as it lacks sourness and only has minimal funk).  The Dan Armor is one of my top picks to introduce folks to good cider with, as it is different from sweet commercial selections, but not so out there as to turn folks off to it.  Its also a nice gauge on sweetness, as it is in the middle of the range.

 

Fancy French Cidre:  Domaine de la Minotiere Cidre Fermier Bio Doux or Pierre Huet AOC Pays D’Auge Cidre – I tried so many amazing French cidres this year that I had to include more than one!  These selections cost a tad more than the previous two, $12 and $19.99 respectively, but also have more complexity.  Both of these are low ABV selections, and the Doux was significantly sweeter, as expected for the classification.

 

English Cidre:  Newton Court Gasping Goose (330ml bottles) or Henney’s Vintage (500ml bottles) – Both of these English imports are very budget friendly and tasty.  A bit sweeter than some English ciders (on the sweeter side of semi-dry), rich, and tannic, but not bitter.  Newton Court is available in Seattle, but I’ve only seen the Henney’s in Portland (and only tried the one bottle).

 

Swiss cider:  Cidrerie du Vulcain Premiers Emois – This cider from Switzerland reminds me of French cidre, but has a style all its own.  It was made from Organic native heirloom apples, and wild yeast fermented using traditional methods.  The result was a semi-sweet cider with an awesome fluffy texture and complex fruitiness (but with less apple and yeast forward flavor as most French cidres).

European-Style U.S. cider:  2 Towns Traditions Cidre Bouche – This cider is by far the closest to a French cidre than any other U.S. cider I’ve tried.  It was a noticeable improvement from last year’s vintage as well.  Lots of rich ripe bittersweet apple flavor.  Unfortunately it costs more than most French cidres, as even with the import cost, their production costs are lower, as cider apple varieties aren’t rare like they are here.

 

Perry:  Ramborn Perry – I tried two selections from Ramborn Cider in Luxembourg.  This perry was complex and amazing, with notes of canned pear, dried pear, mango, pineapple, and guava.  Like most perries, as pears have unfermentable sugars, it was a bit sweeter, semi-sweet to semi-dry.

New England style:  Cockrell Colonial Winter – This cider is of true New England style, a high ABV cider with the addition to raisins and brown sugar.  Rich, complex, and perfect for winter.  It is my favorite version of this style so far.

 

Food-Friendly Cider:  Eden Semi-Dry or Eden Guineveres Pearls – Of these, the Semi-Dry is drier, much easier to find, and less expensive.  Both however are excellent selections, quite flavorful, but without anything that would overwhelm or clash with most meals.  They are also some of the most tannic on this list, same as the English selections.

 

Rosé:  Alpenfire Glow – This sweet cider is made from rare red fleshed apples, and similar to Eve’s Rustica (listed below), is amazingly fruity, with a high flavor intensity.  Here the flavor notes were watermelon, strawberry, and rhubarb.  It was a perfect Valentine’s Day cider (a gift from my husband – he knows me well)!

Barrel Aged:  Finnriver Fire Barrel – Note that this pertains to the previous releases of this cider.  I haven’t been nearly as big of a fan of Fire Barrel once they moved to 750ml bottles, as it was not nearly as flavorful (plus the price increased significantly).  In the older version, I love the complexity, intense barrel aged flavor (which is rarely found in cider), and high tannins.

 

Fruity:  2 Towns Prickle Me Pink ^2 – This cider was made using prickly pear cactus fruit, plus, new for this year, watermelon.  The result is a fluorescent pink fruity cider which is surprisingly complex and flavorful, yet fairly dry.

Rich:  Angry Orchard Maple Wooden Sleeper – This cider was made from bittersweet apples, with Crown maple syrup, then bourbon barrel aged for 12 months.  It resulted in a 12% ABV cider, super rich and complex, with a flavor profile including caramel, brown sugar, maple, oak, vanilla, bourbon, and molasses.  This was a truly artisan small batch cider, worlds away from their typical commercial releases.

 

Spicy:  2 Towns Man Gogh – I’ve never been a fan of spicy ciders, but I finally found one I could enjoy!  Here the hint of spice (from habaneros) was balanced by the fruitiness, sweetness, and acidity of the cider with mango.  This was an imperial cider, but way too easy to drink.

Commercial:  Spire Mountain Dark & Dry – I typically drink craft ciders, but I still drink commercial ciders from time to time.  This one is far from dry (more like semi-sweet), but is dark, and has some great molasses flavor.  It pairs really well with greasy food, like a burger or fish & chips.

 

Unique:  Eve’s Rustica – This is Eve’s sweetest cider (besides their ice cider), and my favorite.  I loved all the flavor they were able to showcase without any additions (just apples & yeast), with notes of honey, cream, vanilla, melon, strawberry, watermelon, pineapple, and peach.

Unexpected:  Snowdrift Cidermaker’s Reserve – This cider was made from heirloom & cider apples, but in contrast had a very unique unexpected flavor profile, with pomegranate, white grape, stone fruit, leather, butterscotch, and citrus notes.  It is unique, complex, and bubbly.  My husband is also an especially big fan of this cider.

 

Value:  Schilling King’s Shilling – I’ve picked up a 22oz bottle of this for as low as $4 (at Total Wine, actually cheaper than at the Cider House), which is a steal for a tasty barrel aged brandy infused cider.  This is more sessionable than you’d expect too.  Semi-dry and semi-sweet, with notes of honey and citrus, plus hints of maple syrup, oak, and spice.

Unexpected & Value:  Finnegan Cider Harvest Blend – This was another unexpectedly awesome cider which was also a great value.  I picked this up in Portland, for just over $7 for 500ml of cider from cider apples.  Semi-dry, with richness, high carbonation, and notes of rich ripe apples, caramel, leather, orange, stone fruit, honey, oak, and apple brandy.

 

Favorite from a New-to-Me cidery:  Woodbox Double Barrel Whiskey Barrel Ice Cider – This was the first (and only) cider I have tried from Woodbox, at Cider Rite of Spring in Portland.  I bought a bottle, but haven’t wanted to open it yet.  Lots of whiskey flavor in addition to caramel, vanilla, oak, and more.  It was rather budget-friendly for an ice cider too, at $17 / 375ml.

Pommeau:  2 Towns Pommeau – This remains my favorite Pommeau.  Super flavorful, rich, and complex, with notes of ripe apples, oak, dried fruit, leather, brown sugar, caramel, burnt sugar, vanilla, tropical fruit, and peaches.

 

Ice Cider:  Eden Cellar Series The Falstaff – This year I was spoiled with an amazing treat, a bottle of Eden’s 7! year barrel aged ice cider.  This ties with Alpenfire Smoke for the most complex cider I’ve ever drank.  The flavor was all over the place, from molasses, caramel, and brown sugar, to tart green apple and lemon, to raisin, to pie spices.

Overall:  Alpenfire Smoke – This 16% ABV sipping cider has an amazing complexity, with rich oaky smokey flavor.  If I had to name just one favorite cider, this would be it.  However, it is not an everyday sort of cider.  They recently released a new batch of it, but I haven’t tried it yet (I’m still working on my stockpile of the old version).

Other:  Also, while I’m at it, my favorite cider event in 2017 was Cider Summit Seattle, my favorite (and only) class was by Rev Nat, and my favorite bottle shop & bar was Schilling Cider House.

Well, there you have it, a list of 26 of my favorite ciders from 2017.  They have a lot in common–most are rich and full-flavored.  What are some of your favorite ciders?

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My Favorite Ciders of 2015

What a wonderful year 2015 was!  Cider Says has now been up for just over 6 months, and I’ve published 120 individual cider reviews, plus tasting notes, trip reports, news, and other posts.  Like other cider bloggers, I thought it would be fun to make a list of my favorite ciders of 2015.  To make it a bit different and easier, I put them into categories instead of trying to do a top ten list or similar.

Note that I wouldn’t try to make a list of the best ciders, just those I enjoyed, as it would be an impossible task to try every cider out there and be impartial.  My only criteria for this list is to only include ciders I reviewed at Cider Says (which is probably 99% of what I drank since I started the blog).

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Favorite dry cider:  Eden Sparkling Dry.  I’m usually not a huge dry cider fan, but I was impressed by this one.  Its made from a blend of heirloom apples (including 50% Kingston Black) using traditional labor-intensive methode champenoise.  I was lucky enough to try it with cidermaker Eleanor Leger.  Its also oak aged, but that influence remained mild.  I enjoyed how well-crafted and balanced the flavor was, and think its a great alternative to champagne.  Interestingly enough I didn’t like the Sparkling Semi-Dry (review not yet posted), as it barely had any carbonation and had some sourness & funk, but its possible it wasn’t the intended result.

Favorite sweet cider:  Moonlight Meadery How Do You Like Them Little Apples?  This is a tasty draft-only cider with rich ripe apple, honey, oak, brown sugar, floral, and whiskey notes.  I’ve really enjoyed everything from Moonlight Meadery so far, and they have quite a lineup between meads, ciders, and cysers.

Favorite barrel aged cider:  Traditions Bourbon Barrel 2012.  This was my favorite cider from Seattle Cider Summit 2015.  Its made with Dabinett & Kingston Black cider apples.  Traditions was a line of ciders made by 2 Towns, but they recently decided to re-label them all under 2 Towns.  I was able to pick up a bottle, and wish I bought more.  It was closely followed by Whitewood Whisky Barrel Aged Kingston Black (80% Kingston Black and 20% Porter’s Perfection), which I also tried at Cider Summit.  Both were dry, rich, full-flavored, and had significant barrel & spirit influence.

Favorite fruity cider:  tie between Eaglemount Quince and Snowdrift Red.  Both are wonderfully but subtly fruity.  Eaglemount adds quince fruit to the apples for their cider, but Snowdrift used red-fleshed apples (no other fruit additions).  Both are quite complex.  I picked up a lot of tropical fruit with Quince, plus some vanilla and honey.  With Red, I picked up berry, watermelon, and cranberry notes, which is amazing to have all come from the red-fleshed apples.

Favorite herbal cider:  Finnriver Lavender Black Currant.  I tried this on Nitro, which added a unique creamy froth.  Although the addition of lavender wasn’t overtly noticeable, I enjoyed this even more than their regular Black Currant (probably as it wasn’t as tart).  Although the apple is well hidden with this cider, the black currant flavor is wonderful.

Favorite single varietal: Liberty Ciderworks Manchurian Crabapple.  This was a very unique 12.5% ABV cider that Liberty described as port-style.  It tastes like it was fortified with apple brandy, but wasn’t.  Bold and boozy (in a good way).  Manchurian Crabapples have a unique flavor, and this cider isn’t as tart and in your face as cider I’ve had which used other crabapple varieties.

Favorite spiced cider:  2 Towns Nice & Naughty.  I used to think I didn’t like spiced cider, but I’ve found I do, as long as it isn’t overly spiced or sweet (which I haven’t found to be the case yet).  I’ve tried both the regular and barrel aged versions of Nice & Naughty, and oddly enough liked the regular version better.  This is an imperial spiced cider (10.5% ABV), and I enjoyed it better at closer to room temperature.

Favorite hopped cider:  Cider Riot! Champoeg X-17.  Although I’m not a big hopped cider fan (I don’t even like beer), I’ve tried a handful of hopped ciders at tastings and such.  I like those which are milder on the hops, coming across more with herbal & floral notes.

Favorite Imperial style cider:  2 Towns The Bad Apple.  This is a 10.5% ABV barrel aged imperial style cider.  Apple-forward with rich apple, honey, vanilla, and oak notes.  I think this is a great deal too at $7.50 for 500ml.

Favorite perry:  Eric Bordelet Poire Authentique.  This is a tasty easy drinking 3.5% ABV French perry with a bold clean balanced flavor.  A close second is a similar French perry, Domaine Pacory Poire Domfront.  Both were quite different from the American perries I’ve tried, and tasted more like cider from Brittany France–sweet, rich, and sparkling (or at least the Eric Bordelet was sparkling when it was first opened but not by the time I got a sample).

Favorite cyser:  Moonlight Meadery The Last Apple.  Cysers are made from fermenting apple juice and honey, so are a cross between cider and mead.  This is a lovely 16% ABV bourbon barrel aged cyser with complex honey notes.  I tried this on tap and was excited to find a bottle of it, although its quite pricey.

Favorite East Coast cider:  Slyboro Ciderhouse Old Sin.  My review of this cider from New York isn’t up yet, but I really enjoyed it.  Semi-dry with butterscotch, caramel, and tropical fruit notes.  Rich and full-flavored with moderate tannins.

Favorite multipack craft cider:  Reverend Nat’s Revival.  I reviewed this cider before it became available in a six pack, which is a great change as it makes it significantly less expensive per ounce.  I hope more craft ciders I enjoy become available in multipacks, as it really helps the affordability.  This is a tasty cider with some tropical fruit notes which were amazingly created only from the yeast varieties used.  However, I’ve found the topical fruit and yeast notes in this cider vary by batch…sometimes I enjoy it much more than other times.

Favorite English cider:  Aspall Imperial.  I’m a huge fan of Aspall, and have really enjoyed every cider from them I’ve tried so far.  However, Imperial is by far my favorite.  I loved how rich and full-flavored it was, with some mild tannins from using cider apples.  I think Aspall is a great value as well, at approximately $8 a 500ml bottle, which is actually less than many local craft ciders.  Sheppy’s Oak Matured would probably be a close second, with strong oak influence (the most I’ve found so far).

Favorite French cider:  Dan Armor Cuvee Speciale Cidre Brut.  Bubbly, sweet, and rich…what’s not to like?  This was also a great deal at only $5 for a 750ml bottle at Trader Joe’s.  They appear to have stopped carrying it though (and they appeared to have been the only ones offering it in the U.S.).  Also, although the first time I tried it was amazing, the second time wasn’t quite as good.  Le Brun Organic and Celt would probably be close seconds.  Note that all three of these are ciders from the Brittany France area…so far I haven’t been a fan of any cider from the Normandy France area, which have tended to be drier, less carbonated, funky, and sour.

Favorite canned cider:  Downeast Original Blend.  I obtained a sample case of ciders from Downeast, their Original, Winter, and Cranberry blends.  They were all quite tasty, but Original was my clear favorite.  Until this I hadn’t been too impressed with any canned cider.  Too bad they aren’t available in WA, as they would have a place in my fridge.

Favorite local canned cider:  Cascadia Ciderworks United Dry.  This was the first local canned craft cider I enjoyed.  I find most canned ciders to be very mild, likely as they are intended to be sessionable (easy drinking, low ABV), when in contrast I prefer a full-flavored cider.  Cascadia Dry (more semi-dry) however had some richness and even noticeable tannins.

Favorite commercial cider:  Woodchuck Winter Chill.  Although I am pro craft cider, I still enjoy commercial cider from time to time.  This cider is full-flavored with great oak and vanilla notes.  Its definitely sweet, but a bit less than many other commercial ciders.  I also enjoy Woodchuck GumptionSpire Mountain Dark & DryAce Joker, and Crispin Original.

Favorite ice cider:  Eden Heirloom Blend.  I’ve only tried a few ice ciders so there weren’t many to consider, but Eden’s Heirloom Blend was amazing…rich and sweet with notes of caramelized sugar, brown sugar, caramel, vanilla, and honey.  I look forward to trying more ice ciders from Eden.

Favorite other cider:  Locust Bittersweet Reserve.  I wasn’t sure what category to put this in, but its a unique and enjoyable cider made with bittersweet apples.  I found orange, spice, raisin, honey, caramel, and coffee notes.  Its also super local, made probably 20 or 30 minutes from me in Woodinville WA.

Favorite cider-related beverage:  Finnriver Pommeau.  This is related to cider as its made with apple juice and apple brandy.  Its a real treat…rich, high ABV, and full-flavored, with notes of burnt caramel, vanilla, and oak.  I’m hoping to pick up a bottle when I do the Port Townsend cider loop next month.  A close second would be Schilling Barrel #2.

Well, I think that does it, a list of 32 of my favorite ciders from 2015.  They have a lot in common–most are rich and full-flavored.  Still, it seems like so many great ciders didn’t make the cut, which is unfortunate.

What are your favorite ciders?