Mac Ivors Traditional Dry

Greg MacNeice is a Northern Irish specialist in Armagh Bramley apples, which were grown on the farm in County Armagh since 1855. In 2012, Greg has launched Mac Ivors Cider making a step from an apple grower to a cider maker. Today Mac Ivors Ciders is a successful family-owned and operated business, with a range of four ciders, featuring Traditional Dry, Medium, Plum & Ginger and Vintage Reserve.

I’m trying their Traditional Dry today, launched in 2012 and made from ten apple varieties, including Armagh Bramley and cider apples such as Michelin, Dabinett and Harry Master’s Jersey.

Greg’s Traditional Dry has picked up a number of awards, including the International Brewing & Cider Awards 2017 (Gold), Great Taste 2016 (Gold Star), National Trust Fine Farm Food Award 2017, Blas na h’Eireann Awards 2016, Irish Quality Food and Drink Awards 2015 (Silver) and National Trust Fine Farm Food Award 2017. Quite impressive!

Company: MacIvors Cider

Place of Origin: Ardress, Portadown, Armagh County, North Ireland, the UK
Apples: a blend of ten apple varieties incl. Armagh Bramley and cider apples such as Michelin, Dabinett and Harry Master’s Jersey
Sweetness as per label: dry
ABV: 5.8%
Package type: 500ml brown glass with crown cap

Recommended type of glass: pint glass, white wine glass or snifter

Appearance: pours a clear golden with a tiny short-lived foam. Medium carbonation. Body is low.

Aroma/Nose: the nose is fruity and exhibits notes of yellow apple, red apple, red berries. with wild hints and a distant note of sulphur.

Taste: my first taste is lightly sweet (rather medium dry than dry) with low to medium lemon-like acidity. Subsequently, notes of honey, yellow and red apple, moderate grapefruit-bitterness, light red berries and moderately astringent taste appear on the mid-palate. Also, I can pick up a light vinous and smoky note (only in the beginning). A lingering grapefruit skin-like bitterness with a slightly sharp taste and biting carbonation with a distant sulphur note in the aftertaste.

Overall: Dry from MacIvors is a very pleasant and refreshing everyday cider. It has a wide palate, full of fruity notes of apples and red berries. Also, red berries and lemon-like acidity with the crisp apple taste add freshness making the Dry a perfect Summer pour. On top of that, it’s a good entry cider as it’s tasty but not too dry or too sharp but still has depth. I wish their Dry was available in every Irish pub instead of the industrial Magners. Overall, a very nice Irish tipple. I could have it again. 4/6

Availability: widely available within the UK and Ireland, e.g. from Wines & Spirits or Emersons. In Germany from Bierkontor in Nuremberg, Bierothek LeipzigGetränkefeinkostDr. Hops, Uptown Coffee Bar and Olea in Leipzig, Getränkehandel Köthen  and The Shamrock – Irish Pub in Köthen, Fliese, Die Bierkanzlei and Rosis’s in Halle, Hopfenspeicher in Chemnitz, Der Shop am Hassel and Flowerpower in Magdeburg, Schankwirtschaft “Zur schwarzen Kunst” in Görlitz, Altes Handelshaus in Plauen, Landgasthof Dehnitz in Wurzen-Dehnitz, Getränkehandel Mierisch in Freital, Quedlinburger Wein- und Tabakhaus Trense in Quedlinburg. In Italy from Sidro & Cider. In France through Craft Cider Selection.

Price: MacIvors Dry was a sample provided by Greg from MacIvors Cider.

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Beard & Sabre Yardarm

Sailors favourite time of the day on the ship was just around 11am when the Sun passed the yardarm (the spar and mast to which the sails are set), and the first-morning drink was allowed. Hence, the Yardarm, a medium cider crafted by guys from a British cider maker Beard & Sabre is supposed to help you relax and enjoy the moment.

Yardarm is fermented for 6 months at room temperature with champagne yeast, subsequently undergoing malolactic fermentation.

Company: Beard and Sabre Cider Company 
Place of Origin: Cirencester, Gloucestershire, UK
Apples: a blend of cider apples
Level of Sweetness: medium
ABV: 5.5%
Package type: 500ml clear glass bottle with crown cap
Recommended type of glass: pint glass, snifter or white wine glass

Appearance: pours a lightly cloudy amber with light orange hues and no head. No carbonation. Body is low to medium.

Aroma/Nose: the nose exhibits notes of crisp and fresh red apple, fermented apple, caramel, vanilla, hints of funk and a very distant note of nail polish.

Taste: it begins with a medium sweetness and a note of a sweetener, followed by low to medium acidity (like biting into a crisp tart red apple). On the mid-palate notes of red apples, apple skin, a strong note of smoked cheese, oak, caramel and hints of lemon and funk. It finishes dry with a moderate astringent taste, red apple note and a sweetener-like taste with a very distant bitter note.

Overall: guys from Beard & Sabre have been producing consistently good cider at least based on my experience. Also, their Yardam is a very drinkable cider with a good level of tannins, lovely apple forward taste, nice sweetness and level of acidity (slightly higher than usually found in an English cider). All these flavours produce a refreshing and easy going cider suitable for everyone. Briefly, it tastes like a refreshing lemon iced tea, but with the buzz. Only the sweetener taste is a bit of a turn-off to me, but overall it is a really decent drop. I think I wouldn’t say no to another pint of the Yardam. 4/6  

Availability: Beard & Sabre attend many food festivals in the UK. Otherwise, check Eebria or Fetch the Drinks, I wasn’t able to find any other store outside the UK selling their cider.

Price: came with my Orchard Box subscription.

Cider Bohemia Barrique

When I posted the review of the Cannabis Cider from Cider Bohemia some were saying that I have to try their Barrique. I got intrigued and when the opportunity occurred I’ve purchased a bottle through a Czech online shop Opily Jabko. The Barrique is made from apples grown in the Pilsen area. After the apple juice is pressed out, it is fermented and after three months moved to new Slovenian oak barrels. Don’t know how about you but I can’t wait to try the Barrique!Company: Cider Bohemia
Place of Origin: Pilsen, Czech Republic
Apples: Czech apples from Pilsen area
Sweetness as per label: semi-sweet
ABV: 4.8%
Package type: 330 ml brown glass bottle with crown cap
Recommended type of glass: pint glass of flute

Appearance: pours a lightly hazy straw yellow with a short-lived white head. Slightly sparkling. Body is medium.

Aroma/Nose: the nose is rich and exhibits notes of ripe yellow apple and red apple, apple juice, apricot jam, peppermint with hints of vanilla, oak cask and lightly medicinal notes.

Taste: the initial taste is moderately sweet, with very low acidity. On the mid-palate crisp yellow and red apple, apple juice, elderflower, pear, vanilla, oak, a taste of oak cask and distant vinegar. It finishes dry with a distant peppermint, and a light medicinal and herbal taste to it.

Overall: indeed, the Barrique is one of the better tasting and most intriguing Czech ciders I have tried until now. It has many interesting and rare notes, has an apple-forward taste with unique and strong lingering oak cask notes in the aftertaste. However, I found the Barrique a bit too sweet to my palate, but if you prefer sweet ciders then I’m sure you’d be satisfied with this Czech cider. Summarizing, a nice cider with an extraordinary palate from Cider Bohemia. Definitely worth trying. 4/6 

Availability: at many food and farmers markets across The Czech Republic. Online from their online shop or Opily Jabko (they ship abroad!).

Price: purchased through Opily Jabko at 45 CZK (1.80 EUR)

Abavas Premium Brut

Premium Brut from Latvian Abavas is produced from three Latvian apple varieties. After pressing, the juice is fermented at low temperatures for eight months. I guess their efforts paid off since Premium Brut from Abavas has picked up the Pomme d’Or from the prestigious Apfelwein International 2017 in Frankfurt.

Company: SIA Abavas dārzi, “Kalējkrāmi”
Place of Origin: 
Slampes country, Tukuma region, Latvia
Apples: 
a blend of three Latvian apple varieties
Sweetness as per label: brut
ABV: 8.5%
Package type: 750ml wine bottle with natural cork
Recommended type of glass: flute or chalice glass

Appearance: pours a clear pale straw with a short-lived white head. High carbonation. Body is medium.

Aroma/Nose: the nose is fruity and vinous with notes of yellow apple, crisp green apple, and oak. In the background light green notes.

Taste: the initial taste is dry with a moderate lemon-like acidity. On the mid-palate lightly watery and vinous with notes of green apple, apple stems, a lightly smoky note with a subtle astringent taste. The finish is dry and a bit chalky with a lingering touch of lemon, crisp green apple with ripe yellow apple and distant bitterness.

Overall: a refreshing balanced acidity with a broad palate make the Premium Brut indeed to a premium product. Not to mention the beautiful bottle. Similarly to the previously reviewed Abolu Vins Sausais it tastes more like a quality sparkling white wine made from white grapes with pleasant and refreshing notes of fresh apples. Since the Premium Brut is not too dry it can be appreciated by a wider audience. A very pleasant pour to celebrate. 4.5/6 

Availability: in Finland from ALKO, in Sweden from all System Bolaget shops, In Belgium from Cideris, in the Netherlands from CiderCider, and in Latvia from Spirit & Wines.

Price: Premium Brut was a sample sent by Abavas.

Note: Abavas will attend the craft cider concept exhibition – “same but different” at ProWein in Düsseldorf in March 2018.

Orchard Pig Explorer

Orchard Pig, a cider maker from Somerset, seems to grow really fast as they already introduced three ranges of cider. The Explorer, The Navelgazer, and The Ginger & Chilli are available only on draught, whereas the Charmer and Truffler (see my review on the Truffler here) seem to be available only in bottles. The Reveller and the Hogfather, on the other hand, can be found both in kegs and bottles. There used to be the Philosopher once as I remember I tried it once, but it looks it was taken off the market. The Reveller is the only cider available in cans. What do you think of canned cider?

Today’s review is on the Explorer.Company: Orchard Pig
Place of Origin: Glastonbury, Somerset, UK
Apples: a blend of Somerset cider apples
Sweetness as per label: medium
ABV: 4.5%
Package type: draught
Recommended type of glass: pint glass 

Appearance: pours a clear golden body with a white long-lasting head. Lightly sparkling. Body is low.

Aroma/Nose: the nose is sweet with notes of ripe yellow apples and more distant green notes. This is all I’m getting.

Taste: it starts very sweet with very low acidity. On the mid-palate apple juice, crisp yellow apple, pear, light bitterness with a slightly astringent taste. It get’s a bit chalky towards the finish with a light apple-seed bitterness and a note of sweet apple juice.

Overall: first of all, I want to stress that there was no acetic note simply because the Explorer was kegged. Secondly, I would classify this cider as sweet, not medium as it tastes like a sugar-loaded apple juice mixed with pear juice. The Explorer lacks any depth, so there is nothing to explore here. I honestly can’t explain where did the name come from as the Explorer is very boring. I guess it can be likeable if you enjoy sweet cider but if you are more dry cider oriented like I am, a pint of Explorer will be too much to drink. After a few sips, I gave the rest to my friend who prefers sweet cider. She thought the Explorer was ok, but nothing special either. 2.5/6

Availability: on draught in pubs around the UK. In bag-in-box from Fetch the Drinks, Weymouth Cider Company, Cider Supermarket or Matthew Clark.

Price: paid 5 GBP (5.67 EUR) in The Head of Steam in Liverpool.

Gutshof Kraatz Cydonia 2016

The word ‘Cydonia’ has at least two meanings. It can be a region on Mars or a fruit if referring to Cydonia oblonga M.better known as quince. For his quince wine, Florian from Gutshof Kraatz uses only fruits from local orchards in the North of Uckermark. To be honest, I haven’t had a quince wine before. But I have very pleasant memories with quince liquor made by my friend’s dad. I remember the fruity, lightly acidic taste breaking down the sweetness and a lovely astringent taste to it. Hopefully, the Cydonia crafted by Florian will bring back these memories.Company: Gutshof Kraatz
Place of Origin: Nordwestuckermark-Kraatz, Germany
Fruits: made from quinces coming from local orchards
ABV: 6.5%
Package type: 750ml clear glass wine bottle with screw cap
Recommended type of glass: white wine glass

Appearance: pours a beautiful, crystal deep clear pale straw with no head. No visible carbonation. Body is low.

Aroma/Nose: the nose is intense, rich and fruity with notes of mirabelle plum, peach, unripe and ripe quince, ripe pumpkin and ripe juicy cantaloupe.

Taste: the initial taste is only slightly sweet with a pleasant medium lemon-like acidity. Then it gets more fruity with notes of ripe and unripe quince, the mirabelle plum, pumpkin, ripe cantaloupe and a light astringent taste. It finishes dry with lingering fruity notes of mirabelle plum, quince, cantaloupe, a lightly chalky taste and a note of lemon drops with a distant herbal note.

Overall: Cydonia is another great wine from Florian of Gutshof Kraatz, only this time it’s made from other fruits than apples, quinces. Interestingly, the Cydonia has nothing in common with the liquor from my memories as it is sophisticated, very rich with a nice balance of sweetness and acidity, with extremely long lingering wonderfully captured fruity notes, which are typical for wines made by Florian as I’ve noticed. Cydonia is a light and refreshing wine, which can be consumed alone or with food. A wine to fall in love with. 5/6

Availability: from their online shop, through Q Regio. In Frankfurt from Apfelweinkontor and Apfelweinhandlung. In Berlin from Schaufenster Uckermark located in the Markthalle Neun. In Poland through Vinoteka in Szczecin.

Price: Florian contacted me and asked if I’d like to try their Apfelwein.

Megalithes La Flibuste

Guillaume Buisson is an entrepreneur from Brittany, who as a kid loved visiting his neighbours in Vannes as they would always open a bottle of delicious cidre for him. You know what they say, forbidden fruit tastes the sweetest. Having this sweet memory in mind, Guillaume introduced in 2016 his own cider brand, La Flibuste made from locally grown cider apple varieties. La Flibuste is a French term for freebooter or privateer, who operated in ports of Brittany and were involved in piracy-related activities such as forcing English or Spanish ships to pay tribute for passing up the Channel, stealing cargo or other valuables, but never attacking French ships. That’s why the French authorities didn’t combat them letting them live their La Flibuste-lifestyle. Company: Megalithes
Place of Origin: Saint Briac sur Mer, Brittany, France
Apples: a blend of Douce Coetligné, Douce Moen, Kermerrien, Marie Menard, Chevalier Jaune, Peau de Chien, Guillevic and Rouget de Dol
ABV: 4.5%
Package type: 330ml clear glass bottle with crown cork
Recommended type of glass: flute, chalice glass, wine glass or straight from the bottle

Appearance: pours a clear pale amber with light orange hues and white short-lived head. Medium carbonation. Body is low.

Aroma/Nose: the nose is tannic and lightly acidic with notes of red apples, overripe apples, dried fruits such as apricots, raisins and figs. Also, hints of beeswax, funk and vanilla. Smells like proper cidre.

Taste: it starts moderately sweet with low acidity. Then the taste moves to notes of oak, lightly burnt strawberry jam-like bitterness, dried fruits including apricots and figs, red apples, light smokiness and medium astringent taste. It finishes dry with a lingering jam-like bitterness, red apples and astringent taste.

Overall: La Flibuste is a true pirate that stole my heart. Brittany is known for its great cidre but I didn’t expect La Flibuste to taste as divine and sophisticated. It has a riot of flavours, which are very nicely balanced. I found the smooth strawberry burnt jam-like bitterness absolutely amazing. I know that it is difficult to imagine a bitter taste as a turn on, but it’s like someone would be waving a magic wand while you’re drinking it. It’s not disturbing at all, quite on the contrary, it gives a very nice twist. However, due to a quite low acidity, it’s better to drink La Flibuste in small quantities just like suggested 330ml and properly chilled. Otherwise, it may get too tiring if you like your cider on the drier side. But overall, a very high-quality and brilliant tipple. Highly recommended.  5/6 

Availability: currently locally in Brittany and Normandy in France. Hopefully, cider aficionados in other countries in Europe will be able to appreciate this lovely drop soon.

Price: Gullaime contacted me and asked if I wanted to try La Filibuste.

Note: Megalithes also have a non-alcoholic version on offer of La Filibuste so you don’t have to feel excluded if you’re driving. I think it’s a great idea. Only the non-alcoholic version tastes ultra-sweet with no acidity to balance it so it’s rather an option for those having a sweet tooth.