Another year comes to an end. Although I’ve never expected this, Cider Explorer has experienced fast growth this year and continued to spread the word about cider in Europe. 2018 was full of interesting activities and amazing learning experiences. Cider Explorer had the chance to attend the 5th Manchester Beer & Cider Festival, CiderWorld 2018 in Frankfurt and Slavnost Cideru 2018 in Prague. Also, I have visited cider makers such as Downeast Cider in Boston, Cydr Ignaców in Ignaców and a few cider makers based in Normandy.
In terms of achievements, Cider Explorer has been selected by Feedspot as one of the Top 40 Cider Blogs on the web making it to the 18th place. Also, award-winning writer and author at Imbibe, Susanna Forbes mentioned Cider Explorer in her book, The Cider Insider in the section on Germany, Italy & Elsewhere in Europe and in the Acknowledgments.
Undoubtedly, the highlight of this year and the greatest achievement was being selected as a jury member for the CiderWorld Awards 2018. It was an incredible honour and privilege that I have been asked to join the judging panel and I really never thought it could happen. Besides, at CiderWorld 2018 I had the chance to meet cider makers e.g. Tom Oliver and exchange thoughts on cider, cidermaking and the cider market. Actually, Albert from Ross On Wye Cider & Perry Co. also invited me to be a guest judge at their Cider Competition in June 2018. Unfortunately, due to other obligations, I was unable to attend. Next year, perhaps?
Finally, I made a trip to Normandy, which helped me to understand how much work still has to be done in terms of cider education, a popularization of cider and changing the mindset of many cider makers. As cidermaking is not about lumping a number of apple varieties all in together. It’s about blending, taking what’s best about each fruit and creating a masterpiece in a bottle. As this is exactly how wine is made.
Last but not least, I am still overwhelmed by the positive feedback and many encouraging words that Cider Explorer received in 2018.
Thank you to those who made 2018 a successful year!
As for the best cider of 2018. In 2018, I’ve reviewed exactly 146 ciders from such European countries as Italy, Hungary, Poland, Russia or Switzerland. Not to mention the obvious cider countries such as the UK, France, Spain or Germany. But I also got to try cider from Canada, the U.S., Australia, Indonesia and New Zealand. If we include around 30 ciders tried during the CiderWorld Awards 2018, at various cider events and during cider visits, I trust the number of sampled ciders would exceed 300. Hence, putting together a list of the top ten best ciders of 2018 is very challenging. I’ve selected ciders that either stood out, impressed me most or which I found extremely quaffable. The ciders are in alphabetical order by cider maker. Cheers and a happy cider year 2018!
- Abavas Ābols Apiņos Hopped Apple, Slampes country, Tukuma region, Latvia, a blend of Cortland, Antonovka, Pelsamee, Serinka and Citra hops
Opening the bottle of Ābols Apiņos Hopped Apple releases citrusy and fruity aromas raising one’s curiosity. And, with your first taste, you hear angels sighing and I’m not exaggerating. A smooth combination of green unripe mango with yellow and green apples makes this cider decidedly moreish. With Ābols Apiņos Hopped Apple, you won’t keep asking yourself, whether you’re drinking cider or beer. Brilliantly balanced cider that will please every cider purist, including myself. And, a must try for a cider lover. A masterpiece! For the full review click here.
- BlakStoc, Buddha’s Hand, Vienna, Austria, made with zest and albedo of kaffir lime, bergamot, Meyer lemon, Buddha’s Hand citron, orchard apple juice, Hopsteiner’s experimental Lemon Drop hops
Buddha’s Hand is another hopped cider that managed to the top 10 of 2018. It’s a phenomenal citrusy blend, which is extremely refreshing, and acidic but without the sourness. I enjoyed every single sip full of richness while it lasted. Buddha’s Hand Lemon Cider has a structure, great taste and power. It’s a hopped cider with the wow effect. For the full review click here.
- Cidrerie Daufresne, Cidre Brut, Ouilly-Le-Vicomte, Normandy, France, a blend of 80% bittersweet apple varieties (Bisquet, Noêl des Champs and Domaine) and 20% sharp apples (Rambault)
Cidre Brut from Cidrerie Daufresne is like combining all your all-time favourite desserts in one treat. Luscious notes of dark bitter chocolate with vanilla, baked apples and oranges are simply mind-blowing. It’s extremely drinkable with many layers of delicious flavours that you uncover with each sip. Clear notes and rich palate make it a delicious cidre suitable for everyone. For the full review click here.
- Cydr Ignaców, Sicero 2016, Ignaców, Masovia, Poland, a blend of Kaiser Wilhelm, Bohnapfel, Ribston Pippin, Landsberger Reinette and other old apple varieties
I have never had such a strong craving for other Polish cider than for the Cydr Ignacow Sicero 2016. If served at the right temperature (lightly chilled) and right glassware (e.g. in a pint glass), Sicero is one hell of a cider. Lovely caramel notes, burnt caramel-like bitterness and smokiness make you feel like you are drinking very drinkable English cider of great quality but with a character of Polish apples. A lovely drop that I can’t stop thinking about. For the full review click here.
- Domaine Lesuffleur, Pyrrus 2016, La Folletière-Abenon, Normandy, France, a blend of three secret apple varieties
Actually, the whole cider lineup of Domaine Lesuffleur deserves to be included in the Top Ten of 2018. But if I had to limit myself to only one offering, it would be the Pyrrhus 2016. Pyrrhus is a wonderful, smooth and elegant cidre with a nicely balanced sweetness, light acidity and lovely notes of apples and bitter caramel. True champagne among cidre. Once you try it, it is difficult to go back to other cidre from Normandy.
- Dunkertons, Breakwells Seedling, Pembridge, Leominster, Herefordshire, UK, made with Breakwells Seedling
Although the Dunkerton Breakwells Seedling Cider is a single-varietal cider, it has a lovely complexity. Strong tannins, wild notes and flavours of fruity, crisp yet sweet and juicy red apples with citrus notes are simply amazing and make this cider extremely drinkable. It’s a cider to sip at a slow pace rather and than drinking without stopping. For the full review click here.
- Floribunda, Apfel-Cider, Salorno, South Tyrol, Italy, a blend of Pilot, Gold Rush and Topaz
The more you drink the Floribunda Apfel-Cider the more the taste comes through and more unique aromas and flavours you get to discover. The flavours might be not strong, but they are clearly there and transform all the time into completely new flavours that weren’t there just a minute ago. Set of flavours on both, the nose and the palate are really special. The Floribunda Apfel-Cider is a light and aromatic cider for connaisseurs, for those who take time and deeply explore what they drink. I loved it and can’t forget it. For the full review click here.
- Highbank Orchards, Medieval Cider, Farmley, Cuffesgrange, Co Kilkenny, Ireland, a blend of Irish apples and honey
The Highbank Orchards Medieval Cider is an ultra-tasty sweet (but not overly sweet) that starts with a gentle lick of sweetness, followed by a strong lingering tannic kick with a touch of red apples. The addition of honey gives extra flavours to an already tasty cider made from cider apples. It will go well on a summer afternoon but also in the winter due to the cinnamon flavour. Excellent cider. For the full review click here.
- Oliver’s Fine Cider, Gold Rush #5, Ocle Pochard, Herefordshire, UK, a blend of vintage bittersweet and sharp cider apples
Tom Oliver and Ryan Burk at their best. Their Gold Rush #5 is a rather light cider with a beautiful and rich array of aromas and proper cider components such as tannins, notes of funk, a very long and extremely pleasant aftertaste with refreshing grapefruit notes. It’s like a great play, filled with twists and turns. Its magnificent flavour is strong, lingers on and on and you don’t want it to stop. However, I can imagine it won’t be a cider for everyone due to notes of funk and strong tannins. For me, it was a pure joy in a glass. For the full review click here.
The Pirn’sche Kälterei ApfelGold Apfel 2016 has a beautiful, strong and complex aroma so every time you take a sniff you discover a new delicious flavour. The palate is similarly complex with great depth and beautiful array of flavours like rum or sour cherries that last very long. Just like with the aroma, you discover a new flavour with every taken sip. The Pirn’sche Kälterei ApfelGold Apfel 2016 is a liquid gold made with Saxonian apples. For the full review click here.