Vermont Cider Company Wassail

Review of Vermont Cider Company’s Wassail.  This and Addison are their first two releases, described as “ultra-premium”.  Vermont Cider Company is part of Vermont Hard Cider (along with Woodchuck, Magner’s, Wyder’s, Hornsby’s, and Blackthorn).

>>This is a review of a sample bottle provided to Cider Says by Vermont Cider Company.  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.<<

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Cider:  Wassail
Cidery:  Vermont Cider Company
Cidery Location:  Middlebury VT
ABV:  6.9%
How Supplied:  four pack of 12oz bottles (thick champagne glass, but capped)
Style:  commercial cider from American dessert apples with mulling spices, rum barrel aged (note that I personally classify this as commercial not craft as it is made by a large company, the first ingredient is “hard cider” not apple juice, and they added apple extract for color)

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Availability:  This is a limited edition cider, only available in the Northeastern U.S., released December 2016

Cider Description:  Wassail is inspired by the age-old tradition of celebrating with the orchards to ensure a good crop. Wassail begins with small batch hard cider infused with traditional mulling spices, including vanilla bean, ginger and cinnamon. The cider is then aged in rum barrels to produce a unique, rich cider that is ideal for the holidays. Like Addison, Wassail is made only from 100 percent fresh pressed Vermont and Northeastern apples.

Cidery Description:  Vermont Cider Co. introduced the U.S. to the craft cider category 25 years ago. Dedicated exclusively to cider making, they are the proud producers of the original American hard cider, Woodchuck®, the circus of ciders, Gumption®, the west coast native, Wyder’s® Cider, and importers of Magners® Irish Cider and Blackthorn®. With an unparalleled focus on quality and innovation, Vermont Cider Co. leads the category in releasing the most premium liquid and pioneering new ciders made from the finest ingredients. Under the watchful eyes of two award winning cider makers, Vermont Cider Co. produces and distributes from Middlebury, VT, blending together the passion of their consumers, their creativity, and their heritage within the green mountains.

Price:  n/a (retails for $10.99 / four pack)
Where Bought:  n/a
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  I heard about it online and requested samples.

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<No, this color isn’t only from the barrel aging – they added “apple extract” for coloring.>

First Impression:  Still (no carbonation).  Caramel amber hue.  Smells of sugar, spices, rum, and oak.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-sweet.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Hints of bitterness and tannins.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of brown sugar, burnt caramel, cinnamon, allspice, clove, ginger, and vanilla.  Moderate length finish.  Moderate spice.  Moderate rum flavor.  Low oak flavor.  Low apple flavor.  Moderate flavor intensity.  Moderate sessionability.  Mild complexity.

My Opinion:  I liked it.  My favorite component was the rum flavor.  I’m usually not too into spiced ciders, but I don’t dislike them.  I could have done without the ginger here (I really dislike the stuff, although here it was very very mild) and had the mulling spices toned down a bit (although I wouldn’t say it was overpowering).  One of the spice additions was Cardamon, but I picked it up as allspice and cloves, which are more recognizable.  Overall it still tasted a bit commercial though, more like something Crispin would make as a special release, but its a good value for the price point (ie. I wasn’t expecting a cider on par one to I would pay $20 / 750ml for).  I think the mulling spices and rum barrel aging paired well together.

Most Similar to:  I’ve had a number of spiced ciders (such as Sea Cider Wassail, 2 Towns Nice & Naughty, Elemental Seasonal Spiced AppleTieton Spice Route, Reverend Nat’s Winter Abbey Spice, AEppelTreow Sparrow Spiced, and Carlton Cyderworks Sugar & Spice) and some rum barrel aged ciders (Crispin 15 Men, Sea Cider Prohibition, and Alpenfire Calypso), but not combined.

Closing Notes:  Next up, a review of Vermont Cider Company’s Addison.

Have you tried Vermont Cider Company’s Wassail?  What did you think?

Do You Know How Many Cider Bars there are in the U.S.?

Have you ever been to a cider bar?  Or did you not know they even exist?  Yes, they do–an entire bar devoted to hard cider!  Most have an extensive tap selection.  Some serve food.  Some have a bottle shop for you to have a bottled cider there or one to take home.  Some also serve other types of alcoholic beverages.  We are lucky enough to have two in the Seattle area, but I was curious how prevalent they are in the U.S.  I was able to find 11.  Are there any others?  Do you have any information to share about any of them?

My definitions for inclusion were cider-focused bar/pub type establishments (although some places also have other beverages) that offer cider from more than one cidery (ie. a tap room for a single cider company was not included, but it was if they also offer ciders from other cideries).  Many cideries have great tap rooms that are more like a bar than a tasting room though.  Note that “The Northman” is also planned in Chicago IL but hasn’t opened yet.

A “cider bar” is quite a new trend, as all of these opened in the last few years as far as I know (although apparently Ace gets credit for the first modern cider bar, which opened in 1999 but closed in 2010; they have a tap room now though).

Capitol Cider (Seattle WA)
20 cider taps
250+ bottles (list available online)
beer, wine, & cocktails also available
full gluten free kitchen

Schilling Cider House (Seattle WA)
32 cider taps (2 Nitro)
250+ bottles
no food (allowed to bring in outside food)
also carries their own line of ciders

Bushwhacker Cider (Portland OR, Woodlawn location)
14 cider taps
bottles available
full kitchen
also carries their own line of ciders

Bushwhacker Cider (Portland OR, Brooklyn location)
8 cider taps
350+ bottles
limited food menu
also carries their own line of ciders

Portland Cider House (Portland OR)
28 cider taps
no food (allowed to bring in outside food)
also carries their own line of ciders

McMenamin’s Tavern & Pool (part of their Portland OR location)
6 cider taps
full restaurant
also carries their own line of ciders (Edgefield)

Upcider (San Francisco CA)
cider on tap & bottled
limited food menu

Scrumpy’s Hard Cider Bar (Fort Collins CO)
18 cider taps
limited food menu
also carries their own line of ciders

Urban Orchard (Asheville NC)
7 cider taps
limited food menu
beer & wine also available
also carries their own line of ciders

Wassail (New York City NY)
13 cider taps
full restaurant (vegetarian)
wine, beer, & cocktails also available

Finger Lakes Cider House (Interlaken NY)
has cider from five local cideries (Good Life, Black Diamond, Eve’s, Redbyrd, & South Hill)
23 cider taps
limited food menu

It looks like the Schilling CIder House wins for the most number of cider taps, at 32!  Check out my review.