Oliver’s Shezam

‘The Godfather of cider’, ‘one of the world’s best cidermakers’, ‘global cider superstar’ or even ‘the greatest cidermaker in the world, a real artist’. This is how Tom Oliver of Oliver’s Cider and Perry is described in the cider world by his colleagues, friends and competitors. Also, after speaking to Martin Egon, cider maker at A.K. Cider at Slavnost Cideru 2017 in Prague I heard ‘you have to try Tom Oliver’s cider’. So after reading and hearing so much about Tom Oliver, I was almost dying to try one of his ciders. An opportunity occurred during my business trip to Vienna, where I sampled the Shezam!Company: Oliver’s Cider and Perry
Place of Origin: Ocle Pochard, Herefordshire, UK
Apples: vintage varieties
Sweetness as per label: medium dry
ABV: 6%
Package type: 500ml clear glass bottle with crown cork
Recommended type of glass: pint glass or snifter

Ingredients: cider apple juice, water, sugar, sulphites (carbonated and pasteurised)

Appearance: pours a clear pale amber with orange hues and no head. Lightly sparkling. Body is medium.

Aroma/Nose: the nose is rich and slightly sweet with notes of caramel, cinnamon, vanilla, barnyard and a hint of wood. I found it very inviting.

Taste: it starts slightly sweet with a light to moderate lemon-like-acidity. The taste move then to a flavour of a smoked cheese, overripe and red apples and medium to high astringency. Lingering light grapefruit-like bitterness and a slightly watery flavour in the aftertaste.

Overall: wWhen I had the Shezam it was 29 degrees Celsius in Vienna although it was already 9 pm. I was thirsty, craving for cider more than you can think and was looking for something light and refreshing. Luckily, I’ve picked the Shezam, which met my needs. It tasted refreshing and was well-rounded with a beautiful and rich palate. The level of acidity was higher than in a typical English cider but I liked it. Perhaps this is why I thought of it as refreshing. However, the Shezam tasted slightly watery and giving the fact that water was actually added to this cider (as per ingredient list) I think the proportion was slightly disturbed. Anyway, Shezam is a nicely drinkable cider that should appeal to everyone. 4.5/6 

Availability: from their online shop or Cyderstore. Locally in London from the Cider House and Bristol from the Bristol Cider Shop or  The Salutation Inn in Ham,  and many others. In Amsterdam from Appels en Perren. In Vienna from Mel’s in Vienna.

Price: had it at 6.80 EUR in Vienna at Mel’s 



De vergeten Appel Het Bonte Appeltje 2016

Today I’m sampling Het Bonte Appeltje, which is another cider from the Dutch cider maker, De vergeten Appel based in Tilburg in the province of North Brabant. Similarly to the previously sampled Moesj 2016, it comes in two versions, matured without and with oak chips. Johan, the cider maker at De vergeten Appel told me that Het Bonte Appeltje is his favourite cider.

Company: De Vergeten Appel
Place of Origin: Tilburg, North Brabant, Netherlands
Apples: made from apples coming from orchards, The Raakveld in Tilburg and ‘de Regte Heijden’ Riel and also from Moergestel and Schijndel
ABV: 6%
Package type: 375ml green champagne bottle with crown cork
Recommended type of glass: flute or wine glassHet Bonte Appeltje 2016 

Appearance: pours a slightly hazy pale golden with a massive short-lived head and beautiful bubbles. High carbonation. Body is low to medium. Some sediment in the bottle. Aroma/Nose: the nose is vinous, slightly sweet and exhibits notes of yellow apple, some funk, white grapes and wood with a distant floral touch. Inviting. Taste: the first sip is dry with some residual sweetness to it and a quite high level of lemon-like acidity. The mid-palate has notes of fresh sour apples, yellow apples, unidentified flowers, with notes of white wine or champagne. The finish is dry with a distant hint of grapefruit bitterness. Very gentle astringency with a woody touch, flavour of lemon and spicy bite in the finish. Overall: it’s like like biting into a freshly cut, juicy sour apple with a quite high level of acidity. Its taste is not dominating, with a lovely apple taste, which is certainly not boring. 4.5/6

Het Bonte Appeltje 2016 Met Eikenhout gerijpt

Appearance: pours a clear golden with a small white head. Low carbonation. Body is low to medium. Aroma/Nose: the aroma is weak and slightly vinous with overripe yellow apples, pears and vanilla. Taste: it begins dry with some residual sweetness to it and a medium to high level of acidity. The mid-palate has notes of lemon, pear, baked apples, white wine with a hint of yellow apple and vanilla. The finish is dry and slightly astringent with notes of lemon. Overall: the acidity seems to be again slightly lower than in the version that was not aged with oak chips, but it’s still high. The taste is heavier, with an additional note of vanilla. 4/6

Final verdict: Het Bonte Appeltje 2016 matured with oak chips appears to be richer in terms of flavours than the cider that was matured without oak chips. But in my view, the first one is more balanced, tastes lighter and therefore is more drinkable. Hence, I personally prefer the first one. However, I think that both taste lovely, yet different. I’m sure that the cider matured with oak chips will appeal to many as well. It’s just a matter of preferences. Both versions of Het Bonte Appeltje 2016 have a quite high level of acidity and therefore might not please every crowd. However, they will certainly pair well with fish or Asian dishes.

Availability: Apples en Perren in Amsterdam. CiderCider in Rotterdam, Cafetaria ‘t Hofke in Eindhoven, De Bierbrigadier and De Burgerij in Tilburg, Kamp & Rozen in Doorn. Online in the Netherlands from Sans Blah Blah.

Price: both versions of Het Bonte Appeltje 2016 were kindly sent to me by Johan from De vergeten Appel for testing.

Marks & Spencer Somerset Oak Matured Vintage 2015 (Sheppy’s)

This is the last cider review of a series of ciders bought from Marks & Spencer in Wroclaw. In addition, it is another cider produced for Marks & Spencer by Sheppy’s.Company: Sheppy’s Cider 
Place of Origin: Taunton, Somerset, UK
Apples: fresh, ripe British bittersweet ciders from a single year’s harvest
Sweetness as per label: medium dry
ABV: 7.4%
Package type: 500ml amber glass bottle with crown cap
Recommended type of glass: pint glass, snifter or white wine glass

Ingredients: apple juice, water, sugar, carbon dioxide, malic acid, preservative E223 (sulphites), yeast.

Appearance: pours a clear golden with pink hues and a short-lived head. Lightly sparkling. Artificial carbonation.

Aroma/Nose: on the nose flavours of barnyard, overripe and fermented apples with a light vinegary touch, Some floral notes perceivable as well.

Taste: it starts slightly watery with a low level of sweetness and low acidity. The mid-palate is moderately astringent with a smoky note, light touch of wood and overripe apples. The finish is dry with a lingering taste of plum butter, also called powidl and light bitterness. Alcohol is not perceivable despite high ABV.

Overall: Kill me, but I can’t help it. I enjoyed having the Somerset Oak Matured Vintage 2015 although, similarly to other ciders produced for Marks&Spencer, it was made from apple juice with other additives. I was especially fond of the extremely good tasting plum butter/powidl lingering aftertaste. Just a note that I read the label before opening the bottle, so I was aware of the ingredients and was really sensitised to them. But I couldn’t get any weird flavour. I simply loved this cider. I think it would pair well with sweet pancakes. 4.5/6 

Availability: online and locally from Marks & Spencer.

Price: purchased from Marks & Spencer in Wroclaw, Poland at 12.03 PLN ( 2.87 EUR). Marks & Spencer has recently closed their shops in Poland.

Dorset Nectar Old Harry Rocks

If you have recently decided to acquire a piece of land as a retirement plan, to have pigs or because you needed a barn outside the city for your hobby, and the piece of land happens to have an orchard with cider apples or old apple varieties attached, be warned as you are in a high-risk group. Soon you will end up making hectoliters of award-winning real organic cider like Oliver and Penny from Dorset Nectar in the UK. You’ve been warned!

It’s my first time trying any cider from Dorset Nectar. I’ve chosen to start with the multi-award-winning Old Harry Rocks. Company: Dorset Nectar
Place of Origin: Bridport, Dorset, UK
Apples: a blend of Brown, Dabinett, Coate Jersey, Michelin, Tremletts Bitter, Taylor, Chesil Jersey, Sweet Coppin, Harry Master’s Jersey, Yarlington Mill and Porter’ Perfection from organic orchards

ABV: 6%
Package type: 500ml clear glass bottle with crown cap
Recommended type of glass: white wine glass or flute
Note: no sulphites, fermented with natural yeast

Appearance: pours a cloudy pale amber with no head. No carbonation. Body is medium.

Aroma/Nose: the nose is funky, tannic and exhibits crisp and sour red apples, cider apples, barnyard, caramel and beeswax. It’s strong and pleasant.

Taste: it starts quite dry and slightly watery with low acidity and a touch of grapefruit-like bitterness. Subsequently, you get a strong tannic kick with high tartness and astringency with a touch of lemon. The aftertaste is dry with refreshing lemon and again, grapefruit-like bitterness with a flavour of red apple.

Overall: the first sip was like a giant explosion of flavours in my mouth. If you could compare it to music it would be like a jazz jam session. Each flavour would play it’s own music at the same time creating a wonderful, balanced, refreshing and unique piece. It’s a cider to please any crowd. I loved it. 5/6

Availability: from their online shop, Eebria, Dike & Son, Artisan CidersBottles and Books in Bristol.

Price: came with my monthly subscription from Orchard Box.

Manzanova Sidra Ecologica

Manzanova is a Spanish brand belonging to the Hijos de Rivera group, which also have Maeloc among other brands in their portfolio. Manzanova was produced by Custom Drinks from Spanish apples sourced from organic farms. Company: Custom Drinks, which is part of the Hijos de Rivera group
Place of Origin: Chantada, Lugo, Galicia, Spain
Apples: Spanish apples from organic farms
ABV: 4.0%
Package type: 250ml green glass bottle with pull-off cap
Recommended type of glass: pint glass or white wine glass

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

Aroma/Nose: the nose is slightly funky and sweet and exhibits notes of apple juice with leather and a hint of vinegar.

Taste: it starts medium sweet with low to medium vinegary acidity. On the mid-palate apple juice with a touch of bitterness, leather, and a smoky note with overripe apples. The aftertaste is dry with apple juice taste and gentle astringency.

Overall: Manzanova is a pleasant drop. Not very challenging and a bit too sweet to my palate, but quite complex and enjoyable. I remember I had it once before I started this blog and I didn’t appreciate it at the time. Now, however, I find Manzanova drinkable and ok. For those having a sweet tooth. Also, it pairs well with paella. 3.5/6

Availability: I couldn’t find it online, but Manzanova should be available in Spanish restaurants, tapas bars or any stores carrying Spanish products.

Price: purchased at 2.20 EUR from Lola Spanische Feinkost located in the Marheineke Markthalle in Berlin. Btw, they serve very tasty and authentic Spanish food if you are interested.


Ramborn Farmhouse

Farmhouse is another cider from the Ramborn’s lineup that I’m trying out. It is a blend of three apple varieties Erbachhofer, Holzapfel (also known as the European crab apple), and Wiesenapfel, all indigenous to Luxembourg and surrounding areas, where the cidery is located and sources its apples.Company: Ramborn Cider Co.
Place of Origin: Born, Luxembourg
Apples: a blend of Erbachhofer, Holzapfel and Wiesenapfel
Sweetness as per label: dry
ABV: 6.5%
Package type: 330ml clear glass bottle with crown cap
Recommended type of glass: pint glass, white wine glass or snifter

Appearance: pours a clear pale amber with orange hues and a short-lived white head. Carbonation is artificial but long-lasting and low. Body is light.

Aroma/Nose: the nose exhibits fruity flavours of red crisp apples and apple juice, which then give way to more intense notes of caramel and wood.

Taste: my first sip is dry with a nice level of residual sweetness and moderate, refreshing lemon-like acidity. Crunchy red apple, yellow apple, pear, white wine and wood with a distant freshly milled wood come through on the palate. It finishes with a delicate lingering wood-like, but not spoiling, bitterness and astringency with a hint of honeydew melon.

Overall: the mix of flavours results in something that could be described as “mild diluted whisky sour meets crisp red apple”. Sounds weird, but tastes amazing.  I actually liked it more than their Original simply because the level of sweetness was more to my liking and tannins were more abundant. Farmhouse is an easy-drinking and delicious crisp cider to celebrate the end of your day, every day. When you can’t decide between cider and whisky, this is a perfect in-between. That said, it’s not a cider for everyone due to its distinctive taste. You either love it or hate it. But, if you love it, the Farmhouse lures you back for more. I think I’m lost. 5/6

Availability: locally everywhere in Luxembourg, e.g. in a supermarket Cactus in Remich. In Germany available at this moment only from The Hop Shop Trier.

Price: Ramborn Cider Co was kind enough to send me a sample of this cider.

Legacy Irish Craft Cider

Given the fact that the first written mention of cider in Ireland dates back to 1155, you’d expect a huge number of cider makers out there. But it’s not the case. The craft cider boom has only recently reached the green island just like the rest of Europe. This created a terrific opportunity to Liam McDonnell from Dungarvan, Co Waterford, to start a new business based on apples from orchards that were planted by his grandfather Willsie McDonell in the 1930’s and subsequently researched by his father, Dr Pat McDonnell. Apple growing, apple studies, cider making. Apple-related activities just run in the McDonnell family. Hence the name, Legacy.Company: Legacy Irish Craft Cider
Place of Origin: Carrigoe, Dungarvan, Co. Waterford, Ireland
Apples: three apple varieties are used in the blend
Sweetness as per label: medium dry
ABV: 5%
Package type:  500ml brown glass with crown cork
Recommended type of glass: pint glass, wine glass or flute

Appearance: pours a slightly cloudy pale golden with a huge, quickly disappearing white head. High natural carbonation. Body is light.

Aroma/Nose: the nose exhibits lovely notes of crisp sour apples, yellow apples, fermented apples, wood and something floral with a hint of funk and distant paint remover.

Taste: the first sip is slightly sweet with low acidity and a hint of lemon. On the mid-palate yellow apples, pear, a gentle funky and smoky note with a touch of astringency. Distant notes of the grapefruit and apple seed-like bitterness in the aftertaste.

Overall: This is the 3rd Irish cider I have ever tried after the Finnbarra’s Dry and Longueville House Cider. However, I can’t compare Legacy Cider to any of them as it simply has its own style.  It’s refreshing and very quaffable. Legacy is a cider I could have with every meal, every time of the year, simply every day. Just a casual but extremely pleasant drop. It’s indeed medium dry as advertised. Interestingly, it’s lovely taste disappears very fast, it doesn’t linger on. This is perhaps the reason why you crave for the next sip and the bottle gets empty in no time. Summarizing, well-rounded, light and delicious, the Legacy Cider is a crowd pleaser. I would buy more. 5/6

Availability: only in Waterford and Cork county in Ireland for now, but they are planning to go nationwide.

Price: this cider was kindly sent to me by Liam from Legacy Cider.