Burrow Hill Medium Dry Cider

Review of Burrow Hill’s Medium Dry Cider, from Somerset England.  It is my first time trying this cider, although I’m a fan of English cider.

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Cider:  Medium Dry Cider
Cidery:  Burrow Hill
Cidery Location:  Somerset England
ABV:  6.0%
How Supplied:  500ml bottles
Style:  English cider from cider apples

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Availability:  semi wide release

Cider Description:  A blend of at least 11 varieties of vintage apples “the cider-maker’s craft at its best”. Medium Dry.

Update – The cidery informed me (based on the label style) that this bottle is at least four years old.

Cidery Description:  The ancient craft of blending vintage Somerset cider apples to produce fine ciders has been handed down through generations.  In our orchards we grow 40 varieties on more than 7,000 apple trees. In the autumn the fruit s harvested, blended, and pressed.  The juice is then fermented and matured in oak vats.  At Burrow Hill we sell traditional prize winning ciders direct from wooden barrels.

Price:  $8.99
Where Bought:  The Cave in Kirkland WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  This is the only English cider brand that gets distributed here that I haven’t tried.

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First Impression:  Medium amber hue.  Still (no carbonation).  Smells of cider apples, tannins, and a hint of funk.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry.  Light bodied.  No tartness.  Low acidity.  Moderate tannins.  Low bitterness.  No sourness.  A hint of funk.  Notes of bittersweet cider apples, apple pomace, caramel, brown sugar, leather, and orange.  Long tannic finish.  Moderate apple flavor, sessionability, flavor intensity, and complexity.

My Opinion:  I enjoyed it.  It was well balanced, although slightly commercial tasting and a bit on the watery side (although plenty tannic).  Its not one of my favorite English ciders though, which would be Aspall Imperial, Sheppy’s Oak Matured, and Dunkertons Dry & Black Fox.

Most Similar to:  I found this very very similar to Ross on Wye Medium Dry Lightly Carbonated Cider.

Closing Notes:  I’ll have to see what else I can find from this cidery.

Have you tried Burrow Hill cider?  What did you think?

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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?

Worley’s Premium Vintage 2013

Review of Worley’s Premium Vintage 2013 (Lot 9).  Note that apparently the “Premium” refers to Worley’s believing this was the best cider they made of that vintage.  This is real proper English craft cider, similar to Sheppy’s, not the fake stuff they import in larger quantities here in the U.S. such as Strongbow Gold Apple or Blackthorn (although Sheppy’s has been around far longer than Worley’s).  I’ve tried one other variety from Worley’s, their Special Reserve, at Cider Summit Seattle 2015 (my tasting notes here).

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Cider:  Premium Vintage 2013
Cidery:  Worley’s
Cidery Location:  Shepton Mallet, Somerset, UK
ABV:  6.4%
How Supplied:  500ml (16.9oz) clear glass bottle

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Availability:  limited in the U.S., but any higher end bottle shops which carry imported cider would probably carry it / be able to get it

Cider Description:  A medium-dry, slightly sparkling cider – with good tannin and a spicy finish. Best served chilled.  The 2013 Premium Vintage is a blend of early-season cider apple varieties from some of South Somerset’s finest orchards. Freshly pressed juice is fermented under the influence of natural yeasts then slowly matured on the cool slopes of the Mendip Hills. The full-juice cider is sweetened, filtered and lightly carbonated at bottling to produce an unparalleled cider with plenty of flavour and a long, spicy finish.

Cidery Description:  A hobby that got out of control.  We first made cider as a bit of fun for ourselves and our friends. Now here we are nearly a decade later and we’re still having fun but we’re making a lot more cider!  Our first experience of making was when we bought 50 gallons of juice off the farm press from the iconic Roger Wilkins in Mudgely, Somerset. We made the mistake of adding in a bit of sugar and ended up with 10.5% cider. It was lethal and one of the neighbours spent a few hours in a ditch as a result of downing a couple of pints.  Lesson learned, we began to find our own fruit in various small Somerset orchards and gradually started to master the mysterious arts of fruit selection and fermentation.  A few years ago we decided if wanted to carry on making cider we’d need the cider to start making a contribution to its upkeep. So we gradually started selling a bit. Now we’re making over 30,000 litres a year and don’t have time to have proper jobs any more!

Traditional cider made with care.  Here at Worley’s our main philosophy is that the best cider allows the fruit to do the talking.  All our ciders are made from fresh-pressed cider apple juice, once a year at apple harvest time. Using very high levels of apple juice is an approach only used by craft makers of traditional cider.  We always allow all our ciders to ferment at the cool ambient temperatures of autumn and winter, using only the natural yeasts found in and on the fruit and in the fermenting environment. This approach leads to complex but mellow flavours with maximum fruity tastes and aromas. It’s a bit of a gamble using wild yeasts as things don’t always go according to plan, which is why the larger makers don’t do it, but the results are well worth the risk in our opinion.  To make the best cider you need to use the best fruit at the peak of its ripeness. All the apples we use are the finest vintage cider apple varieties from the sun-drenched orchards of south Somerset. We use anywhere up to 16 different varieties, which we aim to blend into a decent cider before pressing. Then we do another round of blending once the different ciders have matured, which usually takes place in late May.

Price:  $11.75
Where Bought:  Full Throttle Bottles in the Georgetown neighborhood of Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  The best selection of Worley’s I’ve seen in the Seattle area by the way was the Lake Union area Whole Foods, which had three varieties (Premium Vintage, Special Reserve, and Mendip Hills).  Full Throttle Bottles had Premium Vintage and Special Reserve I believe.

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First Impression:  Significant yeast sediment at the bottom of the bottle.  Deep gold amber.  High carbonation upon pouring with residual foam.  Rich slightly funky sweet cooked apple scent.  This is one of those ciders I just wanted to sniff for awhile as it smelled scrumptious!

Opinion:  On the sweeter side of semi-dry (some sources say this is back sweetened, which I find interesting).  Moderate to high tannins and astringency (definitely made from cider apples!).  Moderate lingering bitterness.  Low acidity.  Well balanced.  Rich sharp complex almost smokey flavor.  I pick up some wood notes although as far as I know this wasn’t barrel aged (but was aged both before and after bottling).  Full bodied.  Slightly funky with noticeable yeast presence (note that this was wild yeast fermented, which is rare as it is more unpredictable & risky; more commonly cidermakers kill off any natural yeast present and use a commercial yeast strain).  The carbonation started out rather high but rather quickly it went a bit flat.  This is a great example of what I believe to be real English cider!  Hopefully someday I’ll make it to England and see for myself (I’ve been before but as a child).  I enjoyed this cider more as it warmed up to between fridge and room temperature, as it smoothed out a bit.  My husband really liked this cider too, which is rare.

Most Similar to:  Other English and English-style ciders.  The closest I’ve probably had is Liberty Ciderwork’s English Style or Alpenfire Ember, both of which I tried at Cider Summit Seattle 2015 (tasting notes here).  The Liberty one was lower tannin than this and the Alpenfire one was higher tannin than this.

Closing Notes:   Very good!  However, my favorite English cider so far is still Sheppy’s Oak Matured, and here in the U.S., Liberty Ciderwork’s English Style.  I especially like the strong oak barrel flavor from the Sheppy’s.  Both are a bit more affordable too, especially the Sheppy’s at $7 instead of almost $12 for a 500ml bottle (the Liberty runs $14 for a 750ml).  I look forward to trying more English ciders such as from Worley’s.

Have you tried any ciders from Worley’s?  What did you think?

Sheppy’s Oak Matured Somerset Cider Vintage Reserve 2013

Review of Sheppy’s Oak Matured Somerset Cider Vintage Reserve 2013.  I had been on the lookout for a cider with a bold barrel influence, and this one matches that description!

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Cider:  Oak Matured Somerset Cider, Vintage Reserve 2013
Cidery:  Sheppy’s
Cidery Location: Somerset, Taunton, UK
ABV:  6.9%
How Supplied:  500ml brown glass bottle

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Availability:  Wide release in UK, but likely limited in the U.S.

Cider Description:  Vintage Reserve is a fine traditional English cider from the Sheppy family cidermakers.  This quality sparkling cider is crafted from apples from a single year’s harvest grown in the Sheppy orchards in Somerset, England.

Cidery Description:  Farming 320 acres at Three Bridges Farm since 1917, three generations of the Sheppy family have weathered the ups and downs of farming and cidermaking by embracing change and opportunity.  Craftsmen cidermakers for over 200 years.  Quality is central to all our ciders, which are produced from local and home-grown apples here at Three Bridges Farm. Modern technology has been used to assist the completely traditional production of fine English cider, but never to compromise the quality which is associated with the name Sheppy’s Cider.  We are proud to share with visitors from far and wide our beautiful farm and orchards, and to show you as much as possible of how and where we make our delicious ciders.

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Price:  $7.00 / 500ml bottle
Where Bought:  Full Throttle Bottles in Georgetown neighborhood of Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  browsing, remembering a recommendation from Sarah of Cider Log

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First Impression:  Golden amber.  Little carbonation.  Distinct rick oak apple scent.

Opinion:  Semi-dry.  Wow, this is actually heavily oak aged!  I had been on the lookout for a cider I could say that about, and found it.  For me, it is a favorable heavy oak flavor.  I also pick up caramel, burnt sugar, and vanilla.  My only complaint is the moderate bitterness with the medium-length finish.  However, once it warmed up a bit from fridge temperature, it became less bitter and the flavor smoothed out a bit.

So, I’d recommend between fridge and room temperature with this cider.  At room temperature it got a bit funky.  I find it odd this was described as sparkling cider when I found little carbonation, but maybe they meant not still?  It was also a relatively non-descriptive description on the bottle, which didn’t do this cider justice.  I like that they vintage this cider, as I’d imagine the cider crop can vary significantly year to year, which can definitely impact the flavor, so this way consumers know they may be getting a slightly different product than they had previously.  This is a thick, rich, earthy, and smokey cider with a strong oak barrel flavor.

Most Similar to:  English ciders, but with a more rich & heavy oak flavor.  If you want something sweeter with a less intense but still bold flavor, I’d recommend Thistly Cross Whisky Cask.

Closing Notes:   Yum!  I started off questioning whether I liked this cider, but it really grew on me, and I was sad when the bottle was empty.  For an imported craft cider this seemed to be a good deal at $7.  Full Throttle Bottles is the only shop I’ve seen Sheppy’s at so far, and they had one other variety when I bought this one (Somerset Draught Cider I believe).

Have you tried Sheppy’s Oak Matured cider?  What did you think?

Do you have any other recommendations for me for ciders with a heavy barrel influence?