Sandford Orchard Straw & Oak

Review of Sandford Orchards Straw & Oak, an English cider from cider apples pressed through straw, then oak barrel aged.  It is my first time trying this cider, although I’ve previously had The General and Chestnut Cask from this cidery, and English ciders are a favorite of mine.

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Cider:  Straw & Oak
Cidery:  Sandford Orchards
Cidery Location:  Crediton UK
ABV:  6.9%
How Supplied:  500ml bottles
Style:  English cider from cider apples, pressed through straw, oak barrel aged

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Availability:  semi wide release, imported into the U.S. by B. United International Inc. out of Oxford CT (the cidery also has an online store if you are in England)

Cider Description:  Pressed through wheat reed and barley straw in 2013 this cider is full of fresh grapefruit, pear and elderflower aroma and has developed a superb astringent, mature oak finish.  (aged for one year in oak barrels)

Apple Varieties:  Harry Masters Jersey, Michelin, and Browns

Cidery Description:  Sandford Orchards is craft cider producer from the heart of idyllic, rural Devon. Our methods are simple and so is our ethos: we only bottle the best. We are enormously proud to have been recognised for our endeavours. We are a family business full of passion for our products, we believe that Devon ciders and juices are the best in the world – we want you to taste them!

This appears to be a for-export-only cider variety for them.  Sandford Orchards was founded in 2003, so they are well-established, but not one of the very old English cideries (like Aspall and Sheppy’s).

Price:  $6.85
Where Bought:  Bushwhacker Cider in Portland Oregon
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing

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First Impression:  Medium amber hue.  Low carbonation.  Smells rich, of caramel and bittersweet apples.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry to dry.  Light bodied.  Moderate to high tartness and acidity.  Low to moderate bitterness.  Moderate tannins.  Low funk.  Hints of sourness.  Notes of orange, grapefruit, leather, caramel, must, oak, earthiness, and bittersweet apples.  Moderate length finish.  Moderate apple flavor, sessionability, and flavor intensity.  High complexity.  Low oak flavor.

My Opinion:  I loved the flavor notes of this cider, but didn’t enjoy the bitterness and mouth-puckering tartness/acidity.  More sweetness probably could have balanced out those qualities.  Pressing through straw added a unique twist to this one, and there was an interesting combination of tart fruitiness with richness.

Most Similar to:  Sandford Orchards Chestnut CaskSandford Orchards The GeneralHecks Tremletts Bitter, Ross on Wye, and Merridale Scrumpy Cider

Closing Notes:  Imported English ciders can be an awesome value, and I’m always on the lookout for new ones to try.  However, I prefer English ciders more like Dunketons, Aspall, and Sheppy’s.

Have you tried Sandford Orchards cider?  What did you think?

Sandford Orchards Chestnut Cask

Review of Sandford Orchards Chestnut Cask, an English chestnut wood aged cider.  It is my first time trying this cider, although I’ve previously had The General from this cidery, and English ciders are a favorite of mine.

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Cider:  Chestnut Cask
Cidery:  Sandford Orchards
Cidery Location:  Crediton UK
ABV:  6.8%
How Supplied:  500ml bottles
Style:  English cider from cider apples, Chestnut wood aged

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Availability:  semi wide release (they also have an online store if you are in England)

Cider Description:  Pressed in 2013 fermented and aged in Chestnut wood.  Rich and round tannins with a delicate residual sweetness and bitter finish that will please a cultured palate.

Apple Varieties:  Sweet Alford, Court Royal, Dabinett

Cidery Description:  Sandford Orchards is craft cider producer from the heart of idyllic, rural Devon. Our methods are simple and so is our ethos: we only bottle the best. We are enormously proud to have been recognised for our endeavours. We are a family business full of passion for our products, we believe that Devon ciders and juices are the best in the world – we want you to taste them!

This appears to be a for-export-only cider variety for them.  Sandford Orchards was founded in 2003, so they are well-established, but not one of the very old English cideries (like Aspall and Sheppy’s).

Price:  $6.85
Where Bought:  Bushwhacker Cider in Portland Oregon
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing

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First Impression:  Light orange amber.  Still (no carbonation).  Smells rich, tannic, slightly sweet, and of caramel.

Tasting Notes:  On the drier side of semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Moderate bitterness.  Moderate tannins.  Hints of sourness and funk.  Notes of wood, earth, almonds, caramel, and butterscotch.  Long bitter finish.  Low to moderate apple flavor.  Moderate sessionability, flavor intensity, and complexity.

My Opinion:  This cider was too bitter for my liking, especially on the finish.  However, I really liked the flavor profile and tannins.  I think a touch more sweetness could have helped to balance out some of the bitterness too.

Most Similar to:  English and English-style ciders with are drier and more bitter, such as Sandford Orchards The GeneralHecks Tremletts Bitter, Ross on Wye, and Merridale Scrumpy Cider

Closing Notes:  If you don’t mind bitterness, Sandford Orchards make some solid ciders, and they are a great value at under $7 a bottle for a cider made from cider apples (and imported too!).  However, I prefer less bitter English ciders, like Dunketons, Aspall, and Sheppy’s.  I think this is the first time I’ve had (or even seen) a Chestnut wood aged cider (oak is most common).

Have you tried English cider?  What did you think?