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.

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>>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

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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).

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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/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?

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Eve’s Cidery 2015 Kingston Black, Dry Still Cider

Review of Eve’s Cidery 2015 Kingston Black, Dry Still Cider.  It is my first time trying this one, but I’ve previously had their Beckhorn Hollow and Autumn’s Gold.

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Cider:  2015 Kingston Black, Dry Still Cider
Cidery:  Eve’s Cidery
Cidery Location:  Van Etten NY
ABV:  8.6%
How Supplied:  750ml corked bottles
Style:  American artisan cider, a single varietal from Kingston Black cider apples

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Availability:  sold out (21 cases made)

Cider Description:  100% Estate grown Kingston Black.  Primary fermentation in stainless steel.  21 cases bottled.  Residual sugar 0.0%. Titratable Acidity 7.1 g/L.  pH 3.8.  On the nose, dried apples, macadamia nuts and dusty roses. On the palate, calendula flowers, cloves, wood and tobacco with tense, springy tannin. The finish is kerosene and sour apple.  

More info on the cider is available here.

Cidery Description:  Eve’s Cidery is a small family run orchard and cidery located in Van Etten, in the Finger Lakes region of New York State. We grow apples and other tree fruits and ferment artisanal ciders. We believe in nature, art, good food and hard work. These beliefs influence the way we farm, make cider and sell our product. We hope you can taste some of it in the bottle.

Their official tasting room is at the Finger Lakes Cider House in Interlaken New York.

Price:  $16
Where Bought:  Eve’s Cidery’s online store
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing Eve’s Cidery’s website, as they were having a free shipping offer in December.

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First Impression:  Moderate amber hue.  Still (no carbonation).  Smells amazingly rich and sweet.

Tasting Notes:  Completely dry (the nose on this cider is definitely deceiving).  Light to medium bodied.  Low tartness and bitterness.  Low to moderate acidity and tannins.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of concentrated apple juice, brown sugar, caramel, wood, and lemon.  Moderate to long finish length, with a slight alcohol burn.  High apple flavor.  Low sessionability.  High complexity.  Moderate flavor intensity.

My Opinion:  I really enjoyed it, although I think I would have liked it even more with a touch of residual sugar (I prefer semi-dry to dry).  This unique wine-like cider is definitely on the serious side.

Most Similar to:  It reminds me of ice cider, except with all the sugar sucked out somehow.  I’ve had two previous Kingston Black ciders – from Dragon’s Head (single varietal) and Whitewood (with a bit of Porter’s Perfection).  All three were quite different from each other.  The Whitewood one had some added complexity due to the whiskey barrel aging (and also had the highest ABV).  Eve’s seemed the most characteristically Kingston Black if I had to guess.

Closing Notes:  Awesome complexity and an amazing value!  Its my favorite from them so far.  I still have one bottle from Eve’s left, Rustica.

Have you tried any Kingston Black single varietals?  What did you think?

Dragon’s Head Kingston Black

Review of Dragon’s Head Kingston Black cider, a single varietal from Vashon Island Washington.  I’ve previously tried their Wild Fermented and Traditional ciders.

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Cider:  Kingston Black
Cidery:  Dragon’s Head
Cidery Location:  Vashon WA
ABV:  7.9%
How Supplied:  750ml bottles
Style:  Kingston Black single varietal craft cider

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Availability:  Limited release (I bought this a few months back so I assume they are sold out by now).  Dragons’ Head ciders are only sold in OR and WA.

Cider Description:  Kingston Black apples are known for being the ultimate cider apple, producing a well balanced, full bodied cider with a distinctive rich flavor.  This cider is made from 100% Kingston Black apples.

Cidery Description:  At Dragon’s Head Cider, we believe in producing high quality hard ciders with a traditional approach, which means you will never find us using apple juice concentrate, over sweetening our ciders, or adding other flavors to our ciders. We love the story that apples and pears can tell all by themselves. And so we keep it simple. Press high quality apples and pears, ferment the juice, put it in a bottle.  We believe one of the keys to creating great cider is to have control over the entire process. For this reason, we do the pressing, fermentation, blending and bottling all right here on the farm.

Wes and Laura Cherry moved to Vashon Island in 2010 with the dream of planting an orchard and starting a cidery. Dragon’s Head Farm, named for the dragon who guards the apples of immortality in the Garden of Hesperides, is now home to over 2,200 cider fruit trees as well as our production facility.

They have a tasting room on Vashon Island open Saturdays and Sundays.

Price:  $19.99
Where Bought:  Schilling Cider House in Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  The cider house posted about it on Facebook, and I was glad it was still in stock when I made it there.  Didn’t see any more next time I was there.

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First Impression:  Medium straw yellow.  Very low carbonation, a mix of tiny and large bubbles.  Some small bits of sediment.  Smells rich, slightly sweet, boozy, of caramel, oak, & vanilla, and acidity & tartness.

Tasting Notes:  Dry.  Moderate tannins, tartness, and acidity.  A hint of bitterness.  No sour or funk.  Medium bodied.  Not as rich as the scent suggested, but had a smooth almost buttery texture with light carbonation.  Notes of oak (although it doesn’t appear to be barrel aged), vanilla, and caramel.  Long warming finish.  Low to moderate apple flavor.  Low sessionability.

My Opinion:  I enjoyed this cider, but I think I had too high of expectations due to it being a Kingston Black single varietal, and was slightly disappointed.  I think with less tartness the other flavors could have better shined through and made it more to my liking.  Barrel aging this cider would also have been amazing.

Most Similar to:  Other dry and tart ciders with slightly rich flavors, although I can’t think of any in particular that are similar to this one.

Closing Notes:   Kingston Black ciders don’t disappoint, but I enjoyed Whitewood’s Whisky Barrel Aged Kingston Black cider more than this one.  Too bad in the U.S. they are all really limited release (due to the lack of cider apples), as I couldn’t buy a bottle of either of them if I tried.  Farnum Hill also just released a Kingston Black cider, although it won’t make it out here to Seattle.

Have you tried any Kingston Black single varietal ciders?  What did you think?