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 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?

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Liberty Ciderworks Golden Russet SV

Review of Liberty Ciderworks’ Golden Russet, a reserve series single varietal cider made from golden russet heirloom apples.  It is my first time trying this, but I’ve had their Manchurian Crabapple Single VarietalCrabensteinEnglish StyleAbbessStonewall Dry Fly Whiskey Barrel AgedGravensteinCellar Series #G15New World StyleCellar Series (unknown), and McIntosh ciders.

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Cider:  Golden Russet SV
Cidery:  Liberty Ciderworks
Cidery Location:  Spokane WA
ABV:  9.8%
How Supplied:  750ml corked & caged bottles
Style:  American craft single varietal cider from golden russet apples

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Availability:  Likely only in WA, plus their online store (although this variety is no longer listed)

Cider Description:  Reserve Series #516.  Golden Russet apples are one of America’s greatest cider discoveries, found in New York – a chance seedling – in the early 1800s. This version presents characteristic butterscotch aromas with baked/dried stone fruit flavors. Golden Russets seem to thrive in our region, with off-the charts sugar levels in our 2015 vintage, giving this cider a 9.8% ABV.

Cidery Description:  Carrying the torch for Artisan Cider. Located in the largest apple-growing region on the planet, Liberty Ciderworks is all about the apple, showcasing the diversity and wonders of locally grown fruit. From well known apples like McIntosh and Jonathan to rare, cider-specific fruit like Kingston Black and Dabinett, Liberty ciders put apples in their proper place: Front and center. We started Liberty Ciderworks in 2013 with a simple, two-part mission: 1) Using apples from local farms and fields, create unique, wonderful ciders, and 2) Share them with friends and neighbors across the great Pacific Northwest. Welcome to the cider revolution.  Cheers!  Rick & Austin

Liberty has a tap room in Spokane WA.

Price:  $17.00
Where Bought:  Schilling Cider House in Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  I’ve tried much of their lineup and liked most of them.

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First Impression:  Light caramel amber hue.  Nearly still.  Yeast sediment floaters.  Smells rich and boozy.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry.  Light to medium bodied.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Low bitterness.  Low tannins.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of butterscotch, stone fruit, honey, orange, earthiness/wood, leather, and a buttery starchiness.  Long warming finish.  Moderate apple flavor.  Low sessionability.  Moderate flavor intensity.  High complexity.

My Opinion:  I really enjoyed it.  Nice rich flavor.  However, I would have guessed this was a spirit barrel aged cider or even a brandy-fortified cider, as it was that strong (although it is only from the high-sugar apples in this case).  I agree with the label’s suggestion to drink it in between fridge and room temperature.

Most Similar to:  Liberty Stonewall Dry Fly Whiskey Barrel Aged, Aspall Imperial2 Towns Bad Apple, and Wandering Aengus Golden Russet (also, although not very similar, I’ve also tried another Golden Russet SV, from Reverend Nat’s, which was whiskey barrel aged with black currant and excellent – see here)

Closing Notes:  This is a heavy-hitting cider, probably best suited for winter sipping (its been sitting around my house awhile…), but enjoyable and an excellent value any time of year.

Have you tried Liberty Golden Russet?  What did you think?

 

Eden Cellar Series Guinevere’s Pearls

Review of Eden’s Guinevere’s Pearls, part of their Cellar Series (#4), only available to club members.  It is my first time trying this cider, but I have previously sampled their Sparkling Dry, Cellar Series Cinderella’s Slipper, Heirloom Blend Ice CiderSparkling Semi-Dry, Northern Spy (Barrel Aged) Ice Cider, Honeycrisp Ice Cider, Imperial 11 Rosé, and Heirloom Blend Apple Brandy Barrel Aged Ice Cider.

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Cider:  Guinevere’s Pearls
Cidery:  Eden Specialty Ciders
Cidery Location:  Newport VT
ABV:  11.0%
How Supplied:  750ml bottles
Style:  American Artisan Imperial-style semi-sweet Northern Spy apple single varietal

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Availability:  Eden’s online store, for cider club members, 50 cases of 12 bottles.  However, in general, their ciders are available in CA, CO, CT, DE, MA, MD, ME, NC, NH, NJ, NY, PA, SC, VT, WA, WA D.C., and Alberta B.C. Canada.

Cider Description:  In deepest winter’s ice and snow, four containers of fresh apple juice began their journey.  We pressed this juice at Eden Orchards from Northern Spy apples conscientiously grown in Vermont by Ezekiel Goodband and Jessika Yates.  As the cold set in, the water in the juice began to freeze, intensifying the sugars and flavors in the remaining unfrozen residual apple sweetness to balance this regal apple’s notable acidity.  Like Guinevere’s pearls, which she gave to King Arthur as a talisman for his knightly pursuits, the precious drops of sweetness in this unique cider may inspire you to accomplish heroic deeds and win your Queen or King…or just encourage you to sip a little slower to enjoy the beauty they add to your drinking experience.

Cidery Description:  Eden Orchards and Eden Ice Cider began on a trip to Montreal in 2006 when we first tasted ice cider and wondered why nobody was making it on our side of the border.  We had dreamed for years of working together on a farm in the Northeast Kingdom; it was a dream that had vague outlines including an apple orchard, cider, and fermentation of some sort.  That night we looked at each other and knew ice cider was it.  In April 2007, we bought an abandoned dairy farm in West Charleston, Vermont and got to work.  Since then we have planted over 1,000 apple trees, created 5 vintages of Eden Vermont Ice Ciders, and have introduced a new line of Orleans Apertif Ciders.  Out goals are to create healthy soils and trees in our own orchard, to support out Vermont apple orchard partners who do the same, to minimize our carbon footprint, to contribute to the economic and environmental health of our employees and our Northeast Kingdom community, and most of all to make world-class unique ciders that truly reflect our Vermont terroir.

They have a tasting bar on the main floor of the Northeast Kingdom Tasting Center in downtown Newport VT.

Price:  $20
Where Bought:  Eden’s online store
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  browsing

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First Impression:  Light golden amber.  Moderate to high carbonation.  Smells of cider apples and yeast.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Medium bodied with a frothy mouthfeel.  Moderate tartness.  High acidity.  Low to moderate bitterness.  Low to moderate tannins.  Moderate funk.  No sourness.  Notes of apple pomace, yeast, must, stone fruit, honey, and brown sugar.  Long warming finish.  Moderate to high apple flavor.  Low sessionability.  Moderate to high complexity.  Moderate flavor intensity.

My Opinion:  Awesome!  I loved the uniqueness, with the combination of high acidity, richness, sweetness, high ABV, and carbonation.  The only thing I would change would be to have less bitterness.

Most Similar to:  I don’t think I’ve had anything similar.  It reminded me a bit of a French cider as it is apple and yeast forward and is fizzy.  However, it is more acidic and fruity and has a higher ABV.

Closing Notes:  I’m glad I got a chance to try this.  Its an excellent value too.  I also picked up some Sparkling Semi-Dry and Heirloom Blend Apple Brandy Barrel Aged Ice Cider at the same time which I have to look forward to.

Have you tried Eden Guinevere’s Pearls?  What did you think?

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?

Longdrop Over Yonder

Review of Longdrop’s Over Yonder, from Idaho.  I’ve previously tried their Tanager Pear Cider, Vanilla Honey, Derby Canyon, Semi-Sweet, and Electric Cherry.

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Cider:  Over Yonder
Cidery:  Longdrop
Cidery Location:  Eagle Idaho
ABV:  6.9%
How Supplied:  22oz bottles (and draft)
Style:  American craft cider from Idaho-grown Jonathan apples (single varietal)

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Availability:  Year round in Idaho, Seattle WA, and Portland OR.

Cider Description:  Idaho Jonathan cider.  Fresh pressed in Fall.

Cidery Description:  The wise chef knows to start with the ingredient, not the recipe. That’s our philosophy as well. We work with a team of local and regional foragers who source ingredients for ciders that respect the seasons. We never use stuff like high fructose corn syrup, or phony colors and flavors. Just Northwest and Idaho grown apples and other of the earth’s goodness. Enjoy.

They will soon have a Cider House in Boise Idaho.

Price:  $7.99
Where Bought:  Schilling Cider House
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  I have tried the other Longdrop varieties available locally, but keep missing this one on draft, so I picked up a bottle.

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First Impression:  Light straw yellow.  Low to moderate carbonation.  Smells mild, of sharp apples, honey, and citrus.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Moderate tartness.  High acidity.  Low bitterness and tannins.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of sharp apples, citrus, honey, mineral, and floral.  Moderate to long bitter finish.  Moderate apple flavor and sessionability.  Low to moderate flavor intensity and complexity.

My Opinion:  I found this a bit average.  There was some bitterness and sharpness I wasn’t expecting from it being made from dessert apples (Jonathans).  My favorite part was the honey notes.

Most Similar to:  Wandering Aengus Wanderlust

Closing Notes:   Longdrop’s Vanilla Honey remains my favorite so far.

Have you tried Longdrop Over Yonder?  What did you think?

Hecks Somerset Tremletts Bitter

Review of Hecks Tremletts Bitter, from Somerset England.  Its the first time I’ve tried their cider, although I’ve sampled many other English ciders.

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Cider:  Tremlett’s Bitter
Cidery:  Hecks
Cidery Location:  Street, Somerset, United Kingdom
ABV:  5.5%
How Supplied:  750ml clear glass twist-top bottle
Style:  Somerset England farmhouse-style, single varietal from Tremletts Bitter apples

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Availability:  Unknown.  Imported by B. United International Inc., Oxford CT.

Cider Description:  A butterscotch aftertaste is just one of the surprises of this cider from the popular Devon variety. It is sharp and dry without too much acidity, a popular choice wherever cider is made.

Cidery Description:  We have been making traditional Somerset Farmhouse cider since 1841. Today we offer a range of traditionally made farmhouse ciders, single variety ciders, farmhouse perry, single variety perry, non-alcoholic apple juices, cider vinegars and a range of other products, all produced from the harvests in our own Somerset orchards. Our products are made following family traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation, using tried and tested methods. We hope you enjoy our delicious products as much as we enjoy making them.

Price:  $14
Where Bought:  Schilling Cider House in Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing

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First Impression:  Medium amber.  Still (no carbonation), with a foam/bubble ring.  Smells rich, tannic, apple-forward, of must, caramel, and some funk.

Tasting Notes:  Dry to semi-dry.  Very light bodied.  Flat dull mouthfeel.  Low tartness and acidity.  Low to moderate sourness, at the back of the palette.  Moderate funk/barnyard.  Moderate bitterness.  Moderate tannins, but they were of an interesting sort, coating the teeth instead of drying the mouth, maybe due to the combination of tannins and sourness.  Notes of leather, orange, and caramel.  Moderate length finish with lingering sourness.  Moderate apple flavor.  Low sessionability.  Moderate flavor intensity.  Moderate complexity.

My Opinion:  I wasn’t a fan.  The flavor was odd and not what I expected from an English cider.  I guess I hadn’t previously tried a Farmhouse-style English cider.  I thought it smelled much better than it tasted.

Most Similar to:  This cider seemed to combine the qualities of English cider (richness & tannins) with American Farmhouse-style cider (sourness & funk).  I can’t think of anything similar.

Closing Notes:   This isn’t a style I enjoy.  However, if you like your cider with some sourness & funk, you may enjoy it.  This is the only variety from Hecks I’ve seen locally.

Have you tried Hecks Cider?  What did you think?

Alpenfire Cider Glow

Review of Alpenfire Cider’s Glow rosé cider, made from red-fleshed Hidden Rose apples.  I’ve tried a number of their ciders; see here.  They also make a Methode Champenoise version of this cider called Cinders, which is quite different; see my tasting notes on that cider here.

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Cider:  Glow
Cidery:  Alpenfire Cider
Cidery Location:  Port Townsend WA
ABV:  8.2%
How Supplied:  750 ml bottles
Style:  American craft single varietal cider from Hidden Rose red-fleshed apples

These are actually a dessert apple variety (rare for Alpenfire, as they use primarily cider and heirloom apple varieties).  Hidden Rose apples are rare in the U.S. as the majority are shipped to Japan, where they can fetch $12-$15 per apple!  They tried to grow these in the Alpenfire orchard, but they weren’t thriving in the cool climate, so now they source them from Oregon, where the variety was discovered in the 1960s.

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Availability:  Likely only in Western Washington.  This is part of their Burnt Branch Reserve, so it also isn’t as prevalent as some of their other varieties such as Pirate’s Plank.

Cider Description:  Glow is a single varietal rosé cider.  The color in this unique cider comes not from the skin like in a wine rosé, but from the bright red flesh of the Hidden Rose apple.  This incredible apple makes a cider with a crisp acidity and a tropical fruit flavor.

Cidery Description:  Alpenfire Organic Cider is made from our estate and locally grown organic apples. We planted our WSDA certified organic orchard in 2004 with over 800 trees and 10 varieties of English, French & Early American cider specific apples. These apples have been used for hundreds of years for the unique qualities they bring to cider production. Namely the tannins and bitters not found in dessert style apples. While the juice, much less the fruit, of many of these apples would be hard to enjoy by the glass they become amazing with a little fermentation. One of our favorites, the “Muscadet de Dieppe”, has a viscous, winey, yes, even musky juice. It takes months of slow, cool fermentation for that to develop the subtle aroma and flavor you will find in our bone-dry cider. We augment our juice and mellow the flavors with organic apples from other local orchards.

Price:  $28
Where Bought:  the Alpenfire cidery (although it is available near me in the Seattle area)
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  I was there for a tasting (my first time trying Glow).  See my post here.

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First Impression:  Beautiful deep rosé hue.  Smells sweet & apple forward (reminds me of ice cider) and fruity (strawberries & watermelon).  Almost no carbonation upon pouring.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-sweet to sweet.  Moderate to high tartness when I first opened it, but after sitting overnight it was down to mild tartness.  Moderate acidity.  A hint of bitterness and tannins.  No sourness.  Still.  Medium bodied.  Notes of sweet apple, cherry, strawberry, and watermelon.  The flavor starts tart and finishes sweet.  Moderate finish length.  Moderate to strong apple influence.  Low to moderate sessionability.

My Opinion:  Awesome!  I love how unique, flavorful, and fruity this is.  However, I like it better when it is lower tartness (I think the complexity can better shine through).  So, when I have this again, I’ll let it breathe first.

Most Similar to:  The only other rosé red-fleshed apple cider I’ve had is Snowdrift Red.  That one is closer to $20 and has greater distribution, but isn’t a single varietal.  I find Snowdrift Red to be slightly drier and much higher carbonated.  Both cider are fairly tart and very fruity.

Closing Notes:   Another winner from Alpenfire.  This is one of my favorites from them.  I think my absolute favorite however is Smoke.  I love that they make such a wide range of ciders, and have a real commitment to being a small artisan cidery who produces outstanding ciders (and vinegars).

Have you tried Alpenfire Glow?  What did you think?