Artistraw – Woodseaves Oak Apples 2019 – Reviewed

Producer:  Artistraw Cider http://www.artistraw.co.uk
Cider Name: Woodseaves Oak Apples 2019
Region: Herefordshire
ABV:6.4
Taste: Full-bodied earthy pet nat, Medium Dry
Served:  750ml Bottle Chilled
Smell: Fruity, floral
Colour: Bright Amber
Clarity: Clear
Carbonation: Sparkling (Pet Nat) plenty of Fizz

Review / Tasting notes

“This is an orchard blend of apples picked a pip’s throw away from the famed Great Oak of Eardisley. Recorded in the Domesday Book this stately 900 year old tree is much revered but perhaps has only become so because of its age. It serves as a wonderful reminder to protect and indeed plant young trees, so that they too might reach the same lofty status! Light and refreshing, reflecting the earlier styles of Herefordshire Cider.”

Artistraw have produced a cider on the drier side of medium which is quite a departure from their earlier ‘Shrews’ flight. The result here is a far more complex cider which is floral and earthy on the nose and beautifully balanced on the palate.

A trace of lemon citrus acidity and sweetness sits beneath a fruity and tannic blast upfront. There is a definite nod to the French with this pet-nat which fizzes on the pour and sparkles in the glass.

Verdict:

Racked a little less and fermented for longer than some of its predecessors, this ‘Straw has great depth and body. A super table cider that would accompany most meals.

Rating: This is a Cider of Merit in the category (Craft cider)

Ranking: To be announced (01/07/2021)

Ross-on-Wye – Foxwhelp – Reviewed

Producer:  Ross-on-Wye http://rosscider.com
Cider Name: Fowhelp (2021 – Pressed 2019)
Region: Herefordshire
ABV:6.0
Taste: Bittersharp and Acidic
Served:  500ml Bottle Chilled
Smell: Fruity, citrus
Colour: Golden
Clarity: Clear
Carbonation: Lightly Sparkling

Review / Tasting notes

“Foxwhelp must surely be the most iconic cider apple: a lovely fruity aroma leads immediately into a burst of acidity that has sharpness, intensity and depth like no other variety can offer.”

This is not for the faint-hearted at all. Imagine you are sucking on an alcoholic lemon that tastes of apples…that’s Foxwhelp!

In our opinion, Ross sets the standard for single variety cider and perry. Foxwhelp looks fabulous in the glass: golden and clear with a buttery shine. The aroma is mostly fruity, a little phenolic, and a little citrus.

On the palate, Foxwhelp is like no other. Upfront bittersharp turns to sour acidity on the tongue leaving a lemony aftertaste that lingers pleasantly for an age.

Verdict:

This is an extremely challenging cider for most but highly rewarding for those who can rise to the challenge at least once to appreciate the complexity, intensity, and acidity of this iconic apple.

Rating: This is a Good Cider in the category (Craft Cider SV)

Ranking: To be announced (01/07/2021)

Pilton Cider – Tamoshanta – Reviewed

Producer:  Pilton Cider http://www.piltoncider.com
Cider Name: Tamoshanta
Region: Somerset
ABV:4.7
Taste: Medium sweet and smokey with a whiskey and charcoal infusion
Served:  750ml Bottle Chilled
Smell: Smokey, Fruity, vanilla
Colour: Amber
Clarity: Clear
Carbonation: Lightly Sparkling

Review / Tasting notes

“A fruity keeved cider, partially fermented in oak barrels.”

This cider takes its name from the epic poem Tam o’ Shanter by Robert Burns, as on Burns Night, the young keeved cider is transferred to Scotch whisky barrels to finish and mature.

In the poem, Tam journeys home on his horse in a storm after a long drinking session to face the wrath of his disapproving wife, Kate, “Gathering her brows like gathering storm, nursing her wrath to keep it warm.”

I’m sure many of us have experienced that particular scenario…no…just me then!

Pilton’s Tamoshanta is a wonderfully presented cider: amber in colour and as clear as spring water. On the nose, there are notes of smoke and vanilla alongside lots of fresh apples.

The taste is clean and crisp before the smoke and tannins add body. Like Burn’s epic poem, this cider has depth; the Scotch Whisky barrel fermentation really works. I’m sure that Tam would have approved.

In the last stanza of the poem, Burns warns his readers to think carefully before turning to drink and women with short skirts…what does he know anyway?

Verdict:

This is an easy-drinking, clean, crisp cider with plenty of smokey depth. At 4.7%, a 750ml bottle is perfect for two on a summer evening.

Rating: This is a Cider of great Merit in the category (Craft cider)

Ranking: To be announced (01/07/2021)

Cranbourne Chase – The Whitewigs – Reviewed

Producer:  Cranbourne Chase Cider http://www.cranbournechasecider.co.uk
Cider Name: The Whitewigs
Region: Dorset
ABV:6.0
Taste: Sweet
Served:  500ml Bottle Chilled
Smell: Sweet Apple
Colour: Golden
Clarity: Clear
Carbonation: Lightly Sparkling

Review / Tasting notes

“Enriched by our own Dorset Apples, our crafted ciders reveal delightful, refreshing fruitiness, coldly fermented exposing their natural yeast and sugars.”

Sweet apples greet you as you open the bottle and this aroma remains as it settles into the glass.  However, the sweet apples are not evident in the taste which, whilst refreshing, is quite watery.  It is clear the sugars are present, not so much in the taste which has a faint sweetness, much more so in the aftertaste.

Verdict:

This is an easy-drinking, clean, crisp cider with a small hit of sweetness.  It lacks depth, as there is little apple fruitiness to be found, having more in common with a weak apple cordial.  It also leaves a sugary aftertaste that coats your teeth and mouth.

Rating: This is a Good Cider in the category (Craft cider)

Ranking: To be announced (01/07/2021)

Skyborry – Pommage – Reviewed

Producer:  Skyborry Cider & Perry
Cider Name: Pommage 2019
Region: Powys
ABV:5.0%
Taste: Medium Sweet
Served:  375ml Bottle Room Temperature
Smell: Fresh Apples
Colour: Amber
Clarity: Clear
Carbonation: Lightly Sparkling

Review / Tasting notes

“Fruit from the main cider orchard harvested at Hawkswood Farm: a short distance from the town of Hay on Wye on the Welsh border. Stoke Red (bitter sharp), Kingston Black (bittersharp), Bulmer’s Norman (bittersweet), Chisel Jersey, and Dabinett (both bittersweet) were blended throughout the pressing season.”

This is vintage 2019 Medium Sweet cider produced in limited numbers, which is a blessing if you can find a bottle, and a curse if you can not, as it is a real treat.  The aroma of fresh, ripe apples – which have been expertly blended – gives a lovely, smooth, sweet taste that you will not get bored of in a hurry.

Verdict:

Never judge a book by its cover and never judge this cider by its bottle.  The bottle itself, only giving the basic information, belies the delights within.  This is an extremely moorish, beautifully balanced, crisp, clean, refreshing cider with just the right hint of sweetness.  It smells and tastes great and well worth finding those extra pennies for, as you won’t be disappointed.

Rating: This is a Cider of Merit in the category (Craft cider)

Ranking: To be announced (01/07/2021)

Artistraw Cider – Across the Shrewniverse – Reviewed

Producer:  Artistraw Cider http://www.artistraw.co.uk/cider
Cider Name: Across the Shrewniverse (2019 Dry)
Region: Herefordshire, Uk
ABV:6.0%
Taste: Bitter and woody finish, Fruity, Clove, Oak, Smoky
Served:  375ml Bottle Room Temperature
Smell: Fruity Apple, Fragrant, Grass, Grapefruit
Colour: Golden
Clarity: Hazy
Carbonation: Naturally Sparkling – Pet-Nat

Review / Tasting notes

“Across the Shrewniverse’ is a blend of handpicked fruit from a beautiful traditional standard orchard in the Grey Valley in Herefordshire. Wild fermented, this dry, unpasteurised, unfiltered and naturally sparkling cider beautifully compliment smoked cheese. Cosmic sparkles propel stellar flavour supernovae into the olfactory black hole before eclipsing towards tellurian toffee apple orbits ”

Artistraw are really making a name for themselves in the world of craft cider. This is another great example of why that is.

The deep golden cider pours hazy in the glass lending it a buttery shine that looks stunning. The aroma is full-on apple briefly, before giving way to notes of bitter fruit, clove, and grass.

On the palate, there is a brief hit of acidity and sweetness before the bitterness and astringency really kick in. Clove and oak dominate the long-lasting smoky, bitter and astringent finish that will delight more discerning cider drinkers.

Verdict:

Although this is a very good cider indeed, it lacks the balance of others in the range. The finish is long and astringent but also a little too oaky and bitter for our liking.

Rating: This is a Cider of Merit in the category (Craft cider)

Ranking: To be announced (01/07/2021)

Pilton Cider – Fox, Dog, Cat – Reviewed

Producer:  Pilton Cider http://www.piltoncider.com/products/foxdogcat
Available at: https://orchardexplorers.club/pilton-cider-fox-dog-cat
Cider Name: Fox, Dog, Cat – Season 2020 – Episode 1
Region: Somerset, Uk
ABV:5.5%
Taste: Bittersweet, Smoky, Biscuity
Served:  750ml Bottle Room Temperature
Smell: Kiwi, Passionfruit, Smokiness, Funk
Colour: Golden
Clarity: Crystal Clear
Carbonation: Lightly Sparkling

Review / Tasting notes

“A super-smooth blend of mature Jonagold, with just a touch of funk and a dash of smoke on the finish; sweetened with our classic bittersweet keeved cider.”

Pilton Cider is renowned for the quality of their keeved ciders and this is simply stunning. The selection of the sharper mature Jonagold apples to balance the keeved bittersweets in this blend works very well.

The aroma is fabulous. There are notes of kiwi and passionfruit in the nose and the keeved cider smells typically sweet.

On the palate, there is plenty of upfront sweetness, acidity, and a touch of bitterness. There is a smokiness to the finish that isn’t overpowering at all, like some. There is a biscuity taste to the finish too. The aftertaste lingers alongside a drying mouthfeel.

Verdict:

From the wonderfully unique label to the stunning clarity of the cider presentation, this is cider making at its very best. Beautifully balanced and idiosyncratic enough to be memorable on the palate.

Rating: This is a Silver Award Winner in the category (Craft cider)

Ranking: To be announced (01/07/2021)

Artistraw Cider Subterranean Homesick Shrews 2019 – Reviewed

Producer:  Artistraw Cider http://www.artistraw.co.uk/cider
Cider Name: Cloudy Cider (Medium Sweet)
Available at: https://orchardexplorers.club/artistraw-cider-subterranean-homesick-shrews-2019
Region: Herefordshire, Uk
ABV:6.6%
Taste: Astringent Finish, Fruity, Straw, Biscuity
Served:  375ml Bottle Room Temperature
Smell: Fruity Apple, Fragrant
Colour: Orange
Clarity: Hazy
Carbonation: Naturally Sparkling

Review / Tasting notes

“Artistraw Cider Subterranean Homesick Shrews 2019 is a naturally sparkling, dry, pure juice Herefordshire Cider, made from a handpicked blend of Dabinett, Chisel Jersey, Ellis Bitter, Yarlington Mill, and Bramley. Pressed in December 2019, it has been wild fermented and finished in the bottle pet nat style.”

Artistraw are really making a name for themselves in the world of craft cider. This blend is a great indication of just why this is. Everything about Subterranean Homesick Shrews 2019 oozes class. The bottle and label is a work of art, raising expectations of the cider within.

The deep orange colour and fragrant aroma promise quality and Artistraw deliver this in abundance. The wild yeast lends this perfectly balanced cider a biscuity, champagne-style finish, very much in the style of Little Pomona’s Table Cider or Dunkerton’s Medium Dry Organic.

Verdict:

Everything about this pet-nat, cider blend oozes class. An astringent finish, so this won’t please everyone. Purists will appreciate this and we think it is a great table cider: perfect with food and for sharing.

Rating: This is a Cider of Distinction in the category (Craft cider)

Ranking: To be announced (01/07/2021)

Bushel & Peck – The Gribble – Reviewed

Producer:  Bushel & Peck  http://www.bushelpeck.co.uk
Available to buy from https://orchardexplorers.club/
Cider Name: The Gribble (Yarlington Mill Single Variety Cider)
Region: Gloucestershire, Uk
ABV: 7.0%
Taste:  Rich and full-bodied, Bittersweet
Served:  750ml Bottle Room Temperature
Smell: Floral, Fresh Grass
Colour: Deep Amber
Clarity: A little cloudy
Carbonation: Lightly Sparkling

Review / Tasting notes

“A rich and full-bodied cider with lingering tannic complexity typical of this wonderful bittersweet cider apple.”

I’m not quite sure where the name came from for this gem of a single variety cider from Bushel and Peck’s 2019 Limited Edition. Quite frankly, I don’t care. The best “Gribbles” I could find was a species of marine isopod from the family Limnoriidae and Dale Gribble: Hank Hill’s next-door neighbour in The King of the Hill. I’m going with the second offering, so as Dale Gribble would say “Boil up some Mountain Dew; it’s gonna be a long night.”

This is just about as complex as a single variety cider could aspire to be. Despite an understated floral and grassy aroma, this cider packs plenty of punch on the palate. Up-front sweet juice is followed quickly with bitterness, traces of licorice, mandarin, tannins aplenty, and a bitterness that lingers. Despite this being a bittersweet apple, there is acidity and sharpness to add to the complex mix, brought about by the addition of a little malic acid to the fermentation tank. The finish is smooth and mellow and there is a dryness to it.

‘The Gribble’ is wild fermented and bottled before primary fermentation has finished: the Petillant Naturel (Pet-Nat) method. The result is a biscuity flavour that adds, rather than detracts, from the quality of the cider.

Verdict:

An outstanding example of a single variety apple cider. This is not a vintage to miss out on if you are serious about your cider.

Rating: This is a cider of Distinction in the category (Craft Cider – Single Variety Apple)

Ranking: To be announced (01/07/2021)

Simon’s Cider – Browns Medium-dry (2017)- Reviewed

Producer: Simon’s Cider http://simonscider.co.uk
Cider Name: Browns Medium Dry
Region: Cambridgeshire, UK 
ABV: 6.4% 
Taste: Medium Dry, Tannic, Sharp 
Served: Room Temp 
Smell: Fruit and spice 
Colour: Golden
Clarity: Mostly clear with a slight haze 
Carbonation: Still
Award Category: (Regionally Produced Cider) 

Review / Tasting notes:

“Browns brings gentle tannins and a wonderful acidity, bottled as a medium dry this cider is a fantastic example of how good a cider apple can be.”

On pouring, my wife described this as an upside-down sunrise in a glass. A very apt description for this golden still apple cider from Simon’s Cider.

The nose is fruity with plenty of Christmas Spice and clove. Some vanilla and almonds add to this fantastic aroma. Tiny slithers of light pectin give this a raw and full body in the glass with a scrumpy-like quality on the palate.

Upfront tannic bitterness is followed by sharpness and a drying mouthfeel. Furthermore, there is a dirtiness and fullness to the mouthfeel which adds real depth to this exemplary cider.

The presence of acidity lends balance to an already complex flavour. If anything, the sharpness may be a little too sharp for some and some might prefer it if the aftertaste could linger a little longer.

Verdict: Browns Medium Dry is a superb Single Variety cider. We agree with Simon’s assessment that this 2017 vintage is a fine example of just “how good a cider apple can be.”

Rating: This is a cider of distinction in the category (Regionally Produced Cider)

Ranking: To be announced (01/07/2021)