Kite & String Royal Cider

Review of Kite & String’s Royal Cider, ice cider fortified with apple brandy then oak barrel aged.  It is my first time trying this, but I have had their Baldwin and Honeoye.

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Cider:  Royal Cider
Cidery:  Kite & String (Finger Lakes Cider House)
Cidery Location:  Interlaken NY
ABV:  18%
How Supplied:  375ml bottles
Style:  American craft barrel-aged brandy-fortified ice cider

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Availability:  limited, probably only in the Northeast, plus online sales

Cider Description:  Fortified desert cider. A cold concentrated ice cider partially fermented then blended with a young apple brandy. Aged briefly in American oak. Deeply textured layers of caramel and vanilla balanced with refreshing acidity. Unfiltered and unfined.

Cidermaker’s Notes:  Following a passion for port wines, Royal Cider was born.  Beginning with a a high acid blend of heirloom apples cold concentrated in the winter of 2015 to 40+ brix. Fermented to 13% ABV then fermentation was arrested via fortification with apple brandy to 18% ABV. Then barrel aged to soften the edges and allow the brandy to settle in. Naturally clarifying, requiring no filtration.

Apple Varieties:  Newtown Pippin, Northern Spy, Honeycrisp, & Baldwin

Cidery Description:  ‘Kite’ means light, playful, balanced, fun.  ‘String’ means grounded to a place, our small farm.  Kite & String Ciders are produced at Finger Lakes Cider House on our organic and diversified farm in Interlaken, New York.  Please come visit us in the tasting room any time of year.

Price:  $28
Where Bought:  their website
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  online discussion

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First Impression:  Medium caramel amber hue.  No carbonation.  Smells sweet, high ABV, and of caramel & spice.

Tasting Notes:  Sweet.  Medium bodied.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  Hints of bitterness and tannins.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of rich baked apple, caramel,  vanilla, and spice.  Long warm finish.  High apple flavor, overall flavor intensity, and complexity.  Low sessionability.

My Opinion:  I liked it.  More ice cider than Pommeau.

Most Similar to:  ice cider + a bit of Pommeau

Closing Notes:  I think Eden ice ciders are still my favorite so far.  My favorites from Eden are are The Falstaff and Brandy Barrel Aged Heirloom.

Have you tried Kite & String Royal Cider?  What did you think?


Herout Pommeau

Review of Herout’s Pommeau, from France.  Pommeau is Calvados apple brandy + cider.  I sampled this at Cider Summit 2018 (see my notes here), and I’ve also had Herout’s Cotentin Extra-BrutCotentin BrutPommeauCoup de FoudreD-Day Commemorative Brut, and Micro-Cuvée No. 1,

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Cider:  Pommeau de Normandie
Cidery:  Maison Herout AOC
Cidery Location:  Cotentin Peninsula, Normandy, France
ABV:  17%
How Supplied:  750ml corked cap bottle
Style:  organic French Pommeau (1/4 apple brandy + 3/4 cider) from cider apples

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Availability:  In Washington, through Beauchamp Imports, plus online at their French Cider Inc. website (at the time of this review, they are able to ship to WA, OR, ID, CA, NV, NM, AK, ND, NH, & DC).  They also offer a number of other selections from Herout, plus ciders, Pommeaux, and Calvadoses  from many other French makers.

Cider Description:  Produced from apples in specially designated organic orchards on the Cotentin peninsula, this aperitif wine is made by mixing 3/4 fresh apple cider and 1/4 one-year-old Calvados (a cognac-style spirit made from apples) then aging it for at least 14 months in old oak barrels at the Vergers de la Chapelle estate in Normandy, France.

Cidery Description:  Since the 1940s, Hérout cidre has been produced by the Hérout family on the Cotentin Peninsula on the Northwest coast of Normandy France, in Auvers, where apples thrive in its lush and oceanic climate.  They are the newest cidre AOC in France, since May 2016.  The cidermaker Marie-Agnes Herout was awarded the highest civilian honor in France for her 16 years of work getting the AOC recognized – Le Croix de Chevalier, Legion d’Honneur (Knights Cross for the Legion of Honneur).

See here for more info on the Pommeau and here for more info on the cidery.

Price:  $40
Where Bought:  Cider Summit Seattle 2018.  Now that the 2019 event is coming up (see here), I thought it was about time I opened it!
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  sampling it at Cider Summit Seattle 2018 (see here)

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First Impression:  Caramel hue with a hint of pink.  Still (no carbonation).  Smells of apple brandy, sweet and rich.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness, acidity, bitterness, and tannins.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of bittersweet cider apples, smoke, caramel, orange, leather, brown sugar, and of course, brandy.  Long warming alcohol-forward finish.  Moderate apple flavor.  No sessionability.  Moderate to high flavor intensity.  High complexity.

My Opinion:  Awesome!  I loved how smokey it was, and the level of sweetness.  Lovely flavor profile and complexity.  Note that I prefer this cold with one ice cube, as I’m not super accustomed to drinking spirits and such straight, and the slight dilution didn’t significantly change the flavor.

Most Similar to:  Although I have tried one other French Pommeau, from Etienne Dupont, that one perceived sweeter and had a much different flavor profile, more vanilla than smoke.  Therefore, I’d say this is closest to a more complex version of 2 Towns Pommeau.  Most others I’ve tried were drier or sweeter than this.

Side Notes:  Due to the high alcohol content and being still, Pommeaux can be kept open much longer than a cider, weeks or even months, so no need to avoid purchasing (or opening) it due to the larger bottle size.  This is also an excellent value, as it is no more expensive than local Pommeaux (which run ~ $20 / 375ml, and this is ~ $40 / 750ml), but I think it is superior.

Closing Notes:  French Cider Inc has an awesome selection of French Pommeaux and ciders.  They now also have some selections available at Total Wine, at least in Washington, which makes their imports easier to buy than ever.  A favorite of mine from them is La Chouette Cidre Rosé.

Have you tried Pommeau?  What did you think?

Alpenfire Rosy Pommeau

Review of Alpenfire’s Rosy Pommeau.  This is apple brandy from bittersweet & heirloom apples + cider from Aerlie red-fleshed apples.  It is my first time trying this, but I have had their DungenessSparkSmokeApoCalypsoEmberSimple CiderCalypsoPirate’s PlankGlowCindersShrubSpiced Tonic ShrubTraditional Heirloom CiderFlameTempest, and Foxwhelp SV.

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Cider:  Rosy Pommeau, 2015 vintage, 2018 release
Cidery:  Alpenfire
Cidery Location:  Port Townsend WA
ABV:  18%
How Supplied:  375ml tall bottles
Style:  American craft Pommeau from bittersweet & heirloom apple brandy + Aerlie red-fleshed apple cider, oak aged

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Availability:  limited, 58 cases released in 2018, likely only available in WA, plus online sales

Cider Description:  Alpenfire’s Rosy Pommeau, Rich, red, high acid juice from Aerlie red apples is partially fermented before halting the fermentation with the addition of the eau de vie. The eau de vie is distilled from our estate organic cider varietals and locally grown organic heirloom apples. Once blended pommeau is aged in neutral oak for 15 + months before bottling. Great as an aperitif or accompanying dessert.

Cidery Description:  We invite you to experience the distinctive flavors of our estate grown ciders. Shaped by our maritime climate’s mild summers and tempered by the foggy mist rolling off of Discovery Bay, our apples maintain the qualities they’ve been treasured for by generations of cider lovers.  Soft tannins, high sugars, hints of bitterness, and an incredible flavor range are the tools the apples bring us.   Slow, cool fermentation, lengthy maturation, and attention to detail is the way we say thank you!

Price:  $26.99
Where Bought:  Schilling Cider House in Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  browsing

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First Impression:  Pink-orange hue.  Still (no carbonation).  Smells of caramelized strawberry alcohol.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  Hints of bitterness.  Low tannins.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of strawberry, watermelon, kiwi, and rich apple.  Long finish.  Low to moderate apple flavor.  Very low sessionability.  Moderate to high flavor intensity and complexity.

My Opinion:  I liked it.  However, I prefer Alpenfire’s red-fleshed apple cider Glow, or a Pommeau from typical apples, not so much this combination, as for me the fruity red-fleshed apple flavor competed a bit with the rich boozy Pommeau.  My husband really enjoyed it however.

Most Similar to:  I’ve never had Pommeau from red-fleshed apples, although I’ve had several ciders from red-fleshed apples (Alpenfire Glow, Alpenfire Cinders, Snowdrift Red, Tieton Russian Red) and several Pommeaux (from 2 Towns, Wandering Aengus, EZ Orchards, Etienne Dupont, Finnriver, and Stem).

Closing Notes:  My favorite Alpenfire dessert cider is Smoke.

Have you tried Pommeau?  What did you think?

Phillippi Fruit Snow Dance

Review of Phillippi Fruit Snow Dance, an apple brandy fortified cider (aka Pommeau).  I tried this at a tasting event a couple years ago (see here), but hadn’t ever seen it in stores, so I was thrilled to find a bottle when traveling.

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Cider:  Snowdance
Cidery:  Phillippi Fruit
Cidery Location:  Wenatchee WA
ABV:  16%
How Supplied:  750ml cork-top bottles
Style:  Pommeau (cider + apple brandy)

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Availability:  very limited, likely only in central WA

Cider Description:  We love winter for the snowpack in can bring to the Cascades. In fact, we are dependent on snowy winters for skiing, whitewater, and the agriculture we enjoy here. Sometimes winter needs a little help, and that’s where Snow Dance come in. Inspired by the French pommeau de normandie, Snow Dance is a hard cider containing 19% alcohol by volume. We fortify partially fermented cider with double distilled apple brandy to preserve the fresh-off-the-farm aroma. Snow Dance brings a wonderful flavor while not being cloyingly sweet. We’re pretty sure this is going to be your new winter warmer!

Cidery Description:  Welcome!  At Phillipi Fruit, we craft spirits and cider from the world famous tree fruits that surround us in Wenatchee, Washington.  With six generations of fruit growing experience to our name, starting a ciderhouse and distillery was a natural extension for us as well as a way to express ourselves, share our heritage, and showcase one of the world’s premier growing regions.  Find the perfect place, surround yourself with people you love, have fun, and great things will happen. We’re excited for what’s next for Phillippi Fruit, and look forward sharing it with you. Cheers!

Price:  ~ $23 ?
Where Bought:  Broken Barrel in Leavenworth WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  I read about this shop online when planning a repeat visit to Leavenworth (a Bavarian-themed mountain town about 2.5 hours East of Seattle).  We went in December so all the lights were up, but mid-week, without the crowds.  Broken Barrel focuses on wine and cider.  The cider selection (both on tap and in bottles) was great, and I picked up this bottle plus a new to me cider.  The shopkeeper said I chose her two most expensive ciders – I guess I have good taste!

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First Impression:  Light gold hue.  Still.  Smells of alcohol, honey, and apple.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness, acidity, bitterness, and tannins.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of honey, ripe apple, caramelized sugar, oak, and tropical fruit.  Long finish.  Low apple flavor, sessionability, and barrel influence.  Moderate flavor intensity and complexity.  High spirit influence.

My Opinion:  Awesome!  I love the flavor of this.  Definitely alcohol-forward, but for me it drank more like a sweetish wine than a Pommeau, meaning that I sipped on it all evening, not just after dinner.  It also reminded me a lot of cyser (made from honey + apples), as I found it to have a lot of honey flavor.

However, note that I found this didn’t keep as well as I expected for a high ABV beverage.  I’d recommend finishing the bottle within a few days.  I left the last little bit sit for over a week, and it tasted like the flavor was sucked out of it, leaving only the alcohol.  Previously I had found ice cider and Pommeau and the like to maintain their flavor pretty well for up to 1-2 weeks.

Most Similar to:  This was lighter / less rich than most of the Pommeaux I’ve had (such as from 2 Towns, Etienne DupontEZ Orchards, Finnriver, Stem, and Wandering Aengus).  I found it most similar to an Imperial style cider which also had a lot of honey flavor, Central City Limited Edition Imperial Cider.

Closing Notes:  It doesn’t appear that Phillippi makes any regular cider, but they also list an Applejack (unaged apple brandy), Kirschwasser (cherry brandy), and Pear Brandy on their website.

Have you tried Phillippi Fruit Snow Dance?  What did you think?

E.Z. Orchards ‘Pomme’ Pommeau

Review of E.Z. Orchards’ Pommeau, ‘Pomme’, an apple dessert wine (cider fortified with apple brandy).  It is my first time trying this, but I have tried Pommeaux from 2 Towns, Etienne DupontFinnriver, Stem, Tieton, Traditions, and Wandering Aengus, and have tried E.Z. Orchards’ Semi DryRoman BeautyHawk HausPoire, and Williamette Valley 2011 Cidre.

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Cider:  Pomme
Cidery:  E.Z. Orchards
Cidery Location:  Salem OR (but bottled in Rickreal OR)
ABV:  17.9%
How Supplied:  750ml bottles (with a re-usable plastic cap with attached cork)
Style:  American artisan Pommeau (cider from bittersweet cider apples, fortified with apple brandy), barrel aged for 2 years

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Availability:  Limited release, through Artisanal Imports, although in general EZ Orchards’ ciders are sold in CA, OR, and WA

Cider Description:  The body and texture of Pomme is of tree-ripened fruit and fresh baked apple, with a subtle toasted wood and winter fruit aroma. The prominent tannin structure of the fruit is defined but not overwhelming, contributing a lasting, elegant finish. The alcohol is softened by extended aging, showing warmth and livening the baked, tree-ripened apple nuance.

Here is a great article on this year’s ‘Pomme’ release, including quotes from the cidermaker, Kevin Zielinski.  Based on that info, I must have a bottle from a previous year (as this is a higher ABV), which doesn’t surprise me, as these sorts of high end releases often sell slowly.

Cidery Description:  E.Z. Orchards is a family-owned and operated farm, orchard and cidery located in Salem, Oregon. The Zielinski family has been cultivating the bounty of Willamette Valley since 1929, and began specifically growing cider apples in 2000, reshaping its entire operation around their production. Through traditional French cider-making methods, E.Z. Orchards crafts world-class, perfectly blended ciders from ground to glass. Learn more about the cidery at

Price:  $24
Where Bought:  Capitol Cider in Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  It was on their bottle list.  It had been on my radar as I had read about it online, where it is well reviewed.  They also offer bottle pours and flights of Pommeaux.

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First Impression:  Dark amber hue.  Still (no carbonation).  Smells of boozy syrupy rich apple juice.

Tasting Notes:  On the sweeter side of semi-dry.  Medium to full bodied.  Low tartness, acidity, tannins, and bitterness.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of caramel, brown sugar, leather, orange, coffee, vanilla, and oak.  Long warming finish.  High apple flavor, complexity, and flavor intensity.  Very low sessionability.

My Opinion:  I really enjoyed it.  Rich and complex, whats not to like?  However, it was a bit less smooth and more harsh than some others I’ve had, possibly as it is a bit drier and higher ABV.  I think this is ideally drank when well-chilled, and I even dropped in one small ice cube (which I think is acceptable as it is more brandy than cider).

Most Similar to:  Stem Ciders Pommeau 2016 release and Traditions Pommeau 2013 release (Traditions was a 2 Towns brand which has since been absorbed)

Closing Notes:  2 Towns‘ Pommeau continues to be my favorite, although I have enjoyed every Pommeaux I’ve tried.  This E.Z. Orchards Pommeau was an especially good value as it is a 750ml bottle, but costs only a few dollars more than most 375ml bottles of Pommeau.  However, I would personally prefer paying less for a smaller bottle, as it is less of a commitment, and Pommeau isn’t something I’d drink in large quantities.  This bottle did well in the fridge for the few weeks it took me to drink it, and didn’t have any flavor changes.

Have you tried Pommeau?  What did you think?

Stem Cider Pommeau

Review of Stem Cider’s Pommeau.  It is my first time trying this, although I’ve also had their Le Chene, Malice, Blood Orange Cyser, Remedy, Branch and Bramble, and Whiskey Barrel-Aged Apricot, and also tried Pommeau from 2 Towns, Etienne Dupont, Finnriver, Tieton, Traditions, and Wandering Aengus.

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Cider:  Pommeau
Cidery:  Stem Ciders
Cidery Location:  Denver Colorado
ABV:  18%
How Supplied:  375ml corked bottles
Style:  American craft Pommeau (apple brandy + apple cider), oak aged

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Availability:  Only at their tap room, released December 2015

Cider Description:  Apple dessert wine aged in oak for 8 months.  Full of cherry and fruit skin notes, with distinctive oakiness perfect for sipping slowly.

Cidery Description:  At Stem Ciders, we are committed to creating ciders of the highest quality that honor the purity and complexity that is inherent to the apple. We can’t wait to introduce you to your perfect cider match. We are dedicated to reviving the cider tradition, which goes far beyond what you enjoy in your glass. We hold our growers in the highest regard, and by fostering relationships with them we reward their hard work and promote the regrowth of heirloom apple cultivation. We love our home-base in Denver, and embrace the Colorado lifestyle that makes us lug a bottle to share up a mountain to enjoy a drink with a view. Most importantly, we love nothing more than seeing that smile on your face when you have your first sip of one of our crisp, refreshing ciders.

Price:  $20
Where Bought:  Stem’s tap room
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  My husband picked this up for me when travelling.  He made a special trip to the Stem tasting room just to buy me cider.  I’m spoiled!

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<cider tasting event glasses like this one from Cider Rite of Spring make perfect vessels for Pommeau, ice cider, and the like!>

First Impression:  Medium amber hue.  Still (no carbonation).  Smells sweet, rich, and of caramel.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Low to moderate tartness and acidity.  Low tannins and bitterness.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of caramel, brown sugar, leather, and orange.  Long finish.  High apple flavor.  Very low sessionability.  Moderate complexity.  Moderate flavor intensity.  No overt oak influence.

My Opinion:  I liked it.  However, it didn’t seem to have quite the amount of complexity of some others I’ve tried (possibly as it wasn’t quite as sweet as some).  However, it is more budget friendly than many other options.  This year’s Stem Pommeau release was aged 20 months, so I’m curious if that gave it more complexity than this batch.

Most Similar to:  The Traditions Pommeau, as it had a similar level of sweetness and complexity.

Closing Notes:   My favorites remain the 2 Towns, Etienne Dupont, and Wandering Aengus Pommeaux (the plural of Pommeau…very cool).  However, I wouldn’t say I’ve disliked any Pommeau I’ve tried.

Have you ever tried Pommeau?  What did you think?

Finnriver Pommeau

Review of Finnriver’s Pommeau, which is a mix of cider and apple brandy.  I tried a bottle pour of this awhile back.  I picked up this bottle in February when my husband took me to Port Townsend for cider tasting for my birthday (see here, plus posts on Finnriver, Eaglemount, and Alpenfire).  I’ve previously tried most of Finnriver’s line-up; see here.


Cider:  Pommeau
Cidery:  Finnriver
Cidery Location:  Chimacum WA
ABV:  18.5%
How Supplied:  500ml square short bottle (cork in cap)
Style:  American craft Pommeau apple wine (cider + apple brandy), oak aged

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Availability:  Likely difficult to find outside of their Port Townsend area cidery & farm and their booth at the Ballard Farmer’s Market.  In general, Finnriver ciders are sold in WA, OR, CA, AZ, NV, TX, IL, CO, and Alberta & BC Canada (detailed info here).  They also have an online store (which can ship to WA, OR, CA, AK, CO, MN, FL, & WA D.C.).

Cider Description: Fermenting at Finnriver is a process of discovery – a blend of ancient wisdom, modern chemistry, farm ingenuity, and nature’s magic.  We are inspired by the generosity of the orchard and by the possibilities of the apple.  We hope this bottle of elegant, aged apple wine gives you a rich and rewarding sip of the earth’s bounty.

Pommeau in general is made from apple juice (typically unfermented but sometimes fermented) and apple brandy.  This one was oak aged, and released in January 2016.

Cidery Description:  At Finnriver we gather and ferment the flavors of the land to offer you farmcrafted hard ciders and spirited fruit wines. We are inspired by the allure of the fruit, the ancient history of the craft of fermentation and the lively traditions we now seek to revive.  Our mission is to inspire a deeper connection to the land that sustains us….Some of these ciders are small-batch, seasonal and labor-intensive. Others are produced with contemporary methods and more readily available year-round…Finnriver grows over twenty varieties of traditional and heirloom apples in our organic orchard, to feature in our traditional and specialty ciders.  They have a tasting room open seven days a week, noon to 5pm, and are on the Olympic Pennsylvania cider route along with Eaglemount and Alpenfire cideries.

Price:  $40
Where Bought:  Finnriver’s tasting room in Chimacum WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  I tried this awhile back when some friends brought it to a cider tasting party at my house.

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First Impression:  Medium amber.  Still.  Smells boozy, apple forward, and of caramelized and brown sugars.

Tasting Notes:  I preferred this with an ice cube or two.  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Low tannins.  Hints of bitterness.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of brown sugar, caramel, vanilla, honey, leather, oak, and hints of spice.  Long warming finish.  Moderate to high apple flavor.  Low sessionability.  Moderate complexity and flavor intensity.

My Opinion:  I really liked it.  However, it wasn’t nearly as good as when I tried it before; the flavor seemed muted and it had an odd texture in the mouth.  Maybe as this bottle had a lot of floating particulates (yeast?).

Most Similar to:  Other Pommeau.  Besides Finnriver, I’ve tried selections from 2 Towns (2015 release), Traditions (2 Towns, 2013 release), Etienne Dupont, and Wandering Aengus.  I’d put Finnriver’s Pommeau somewhere in the middle of the list as far as my favorites go.  I like the sweet flavorful ones best.

Closing Notes:   This was a special treat!  One of the great things about Pommeau is that due to the high alcohol content, it has a longer shelf life after opening it than other ciders, so I can enjoy this bottle for weeks to come.

Have you tried Finnriver Pommeau?  What did you think?