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)

Crumpton Oaks – Apple Cider – Reviewed

Producer:  Crumpton Oaks http://crumptonoaks.co.uk
Cider Name: Apple Cider
Region: Malvern Hills
ABV:5
Taste: Medium
Served:  500ml Bottle Chilled
Smell: Fruity Apple
Colour: Golden Amber
Clarity: Clear
Carbonation: Lightly Sparkling

Review / Tasting notes

“Our award winning crisp and refreshing golden apple cider. Full of fruity flavour from the finest bittersweet apples harvested from our orchard family and balanced with dessert apples for a perfect medium taste and crisp finish.”

This is the cheapest cider that has been tasted and reviewed though in some areas it punches above it’s weight.  Aroma is nice enough, it has a nice golden amber colour and the taste is pleasant though won’t set the world on fire.  Though it is cheap for a reason and the biggest reason is that the added sugar and sweeteners are very evident and whilst providing a level of sweetness, it is not the fresh, pleasant sweetness provided by the more natural apple sweetness present in some more expensive ciders.

Verdict:

For 85p for the bottle, you can forgive this cider for some faults.  The aroma is nice, it tastes pleasant enough and you could enjoy a few of these on the kind of hot day being experienced as this is being written.  In terms of those faults, the added sugars and sweeteners are very evident in the taste and after-taste as you are left with a sugary coating in your mouth.  It is also on the watery side and whilst sweet, this is from the added sugars and sweetener which over power the actual apples.

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

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 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)

Gwatkin Cider – Cloudy Medium Sweet Cider – Reviewed

Producer:  Gwatkin Cider Co http://gwatkincider.co.uk
Cider Name: Cloudy Cider (Medium Sweet)
Available at: https://orchardexplorers.club/gwatkin-cloudy-cider
Region: Herefordshire, Uk
ABV:4.5%
Taste:  Medium Sweet, Juicy with honey notes and light citrus
Served:  500ml Bottle Chilled
Smell: Fruity Apple, Lemon zest, Honey
Colour: Golden
Clarity: Cloudy
Carbonation: Still Cider

Review / Tasting notes

“Gwatkin Cloudy Cider is a medium-sweet, traditional style farmhouse cider, with a natural taste.”

This cloudy cider, made from 100% apples, is very good indeed. The blend is dominated by the russet apples, giving an upfront taste of pure juice and honey before the sweetness kicks in. Beneath the caramel and light acidity, there are enough sharps to make themselves present on the palate. A trace of citrus, possibly lemon zest, occurs naturally and adds to the complex flavours.

Pure sugar is used to sweeten this blend and for some, this may be just too sweet to enjoy. However, as a reviewer who enjoys dry ciders, I was surprised by how much I loved this.

Verdict:

Gwatkin make cider in the traditional way. This cloudy, medium sweet apple cider is rated very highly by our tasters. Expect to see it appear in our Top 100.

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

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

Cranes – Blueberries and Apple Cider- Reviewed

Producer: Cranes https://www.drinkcranes.co.uk/
Cider Name: Blueberries and Apple
Region: Cambridge, Uk
ABV: 4%
Taste: Fruity, naurally sweet fruit of cranberry blueberry and apple
Served: 750ml bottle (Chilled)
Smell: Fruity
Colour: Red (cranberry juice colour)
Clarity: Clear
Carbonation: Lightly Sparkling

Review / Tasting notes

“Ben & Dan brew the finest cranberries alongside apples to deliver this refreshingly crisp cider with blueberries and apples for that delicious fruity taste. We have managed to create a naturally light cider by utilizing the sweetness of the fruit..”

This is a delicately balanced collection of complimentary flavours that culminates in a refreshing cider. At just 4% ABV it isn’t syrupy like some fruit ciders.

The upfront fruitiness of the blueberries and cranberries remains throughout. The apples bittersweet tones are overwhelmed by the berries a little too much for this to be regarded as an apple cider but we loved it nevertheless.

Verdict: From the first sip, the fruit quality was extremely high. Although destined for a commercial market, this is a thoroughly enjoyable and refreshing fruit juice cider.

Rating: 7.85 (Bronze Award)

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

Oliver’s Vintage Fine Cider (Dry, Season 2018) – Reviewed

Producer: Oliver’s https://www.oliversciderandperry.co.uk/
Cider Name: Vintage Fine Cider (Dry, Season 2018)
Region: Herefordshire, Uk
ABV: 8.4%
Taste: Burnt Oak, Vanilla, blue cheese
Served: 750ml bottle (Cool room temperature)
Smell: Oak
Colour: Dark Amber
Clarity: Clear
Carbonation: Still

Review / Tasting notes

“Still, dry cider matured in a vanilla oak cask for 18 or more months. Plum pudding nose, rich burnished colour and full of apple skins, autumnal orchard floor and the old oak barn, got a touch of blue cheese too.”

The high alcohol content of this vintage cider allied by the subtlety of it’s oak barrel-infused flavours, makes this a cider for only the most discerning of palates. Whilst we enjoyed the subtlety of the flavours, we found the fruit taste to be overwhelmed and almost lost.

The up-front bitterness is replaced by smoky burnt oak and vanilla. Smooth and full-bodied, this feels more like an after dinner spirit than a cider. The after taste doesn’t really linger long enough to savour the flavours.

Verdict: This is a mature and very dry cider. It is full of intriguing subtle notes and high in alcohol content (for a cider). We found it a little too subtle and lacking in fruit flavour to score well.

Rating: 4.9

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

Oliver’s – Bottle Conditioned Medium (Season 2018) – Reviewed

Producer: Oliver’s  https://www.oliversciderandperry.co.uk/
Cider Name: Bottle Conditioned Medium (Season 2018)
Region: Herefordshire, Uk
ABV: 5.4%
Taste: Bittersweet, well-balanced, great depth of apple flavours
Served: 750ml bottle (Cool room temperature)
Smell: Strong nose, earthy, cheesy
Colour: Amber
Clarity: A little cloudy
Carbonation: Sparkling

Review / Tasting notes

“Sparkling through conditioning in the bottle with a full, natural apple sweetness. Hints of clove and spice and red apple skins. Beautifully integrated. The cork and wire is back.”

An exquisitely well balanced sparkling cider with incredible depth. This poured like amber champagne and gave off a distinct aroma which we felt was quite pungent and not as pleasing as the great taste.

The upfront sweetness is followed quickly by earthy bitter-sweetness and broad tannins. The level of acidity never dominates the overall flavour leaving a smooth and delicate mouthfeel. The aftertaste is stunning and should be savoured as the hint of spice and tannins linger on the palate.

Verdict: This is an early contender for a position near the summit of our Top 100. Oliver’s Bottle Conditioned Medium (Season 2018) is the first cider to be awarded the silver medal by our reviewers.

Rating: 8.71 (Silver Award)

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