West Milton Dorset Starlight

Previously, I sampled the moreish Lancome Rising from the West Milton Cider Co, a cider maker based in Devon, UK. West Milton has also an interesting background. Nick Poole started making cider in 2000 cause there were too many apples in the orchard they rented for their horses. So once cider was made, Nick created a cider club, which evolved into the West Milton Cider Co. Today I’m sampling their award-winning Dorset Starlight.Company: West Milton Cider Co
Place of Origin: 1 Pear Tree Cottages, West Milton, Bridport, Dorset, UK
Apples: a blend including Dabinett, Yarlington Mill and Chisel Jersey
Sweetness as per label: medium
ABV: 6%
Package type: 500 ml clear bottle corked bottle with crown cap
Recommended type of glass: pint glass, snifter or white wine glass

Note: No sulphites, unpasteurised

Appearance: pours a hazy pale amber with orange hues and no head. No visible signs of carbonation. Body is low. Sediment in the bottle.

Aroma/Nose: the nose is tannic, a bit acidic as well, with red apples, hints of funk, lemon, fermented apples, caramel, and toffee. My mouth gets watery as it is a proper cider smell.

Taste: the first sip is only slightly sweet with low to medium acidity of lemon. The taste gets slightly watery with an earthy note and flavours of red apples, apple seeds, medium astringent taste, a smoky note, and of sweetener, caramel and watermelon. Lightly biting feeling on the tongue due to carbonation toward the end with light beeswax, leather,  and a hint of grapefruit.

Overall: this is first-rate stuff. It tastes exactly how cider is supposed to taste like. Delicious palate, multiple notes that are essential to name any cider a proper drop. The Dorset Starlight tastes light and refreshing yet complex with yummy apple forward notes and lovely tannins. Tannins are not too strong, but still there. Not too sweet, not too wild, not too sour. A true cider for everyone. Looks that I have another favourite cider company. Only the light watery note could be less watery, but this is just a cosmetic change. I’ll be definitely ordering this drop again. 4.5/6 

Availability: in the UK from Cider Supermarket and Scrattings. In other European countries e.g. from Cider Lab.

Price: purchased online from Scrattings at 2.80 GBP.

Dorset Nectar Medium

Did you know that Dorset Nectar’s cider maker, Ryan Strong was recently named a cider superstar by Imbibe? This young guy has recently obtained a BA degree in history, heritage and archaeology from Strode College and is considering to study Archaeology to get a Master’s degree. In the meantime, he supports his family in Bridport, Dorset, UK by making delicious organic cider.

Previously, I sampled their Old Harry Rocks and the Wildcat.Company: Dorset Nectar
Place of Origin: Bridport, Dorset, UK
Apples: local organic cider apples 
Sweetness as per label: medium
ABV: 5%
Package type: 500ml clear glass bottle with crown cap
Recommended type of glass: pint glass or white wine glass
Note: no sulphites added, fermented with natural yeast

Appearance: pours a cloudy amber with an orange hue and no head. No carbonation. Body is medium. Sediment in the bottle. Little flecks floating on top.

Aroma/Nose: the aroma is fruity and sweetish with notes of fermented apples, cider apples, red apples, caramel and beeswax.

Taste: it begins slightly sweet of caramel with a low to medium level of lemon-like acidity. On the mid-palate red apples, beeswax, light bitterness, light bubblegum, grapefruit, some oakiness, medium astringent taste, a slightly watery and lightly smoky note. It finishes dry with a lingering light astringent taste, hints of blood orange, grapefruit and red apples.

Overall: this is proper stuff! It’s less sweet than advertised so I would rather classify it as medium dry than medium. Anyway, the palate is very rich with a lovely set of flavours and nice smooth tannins. Boys and Girls, this is how real English cider should taste like. Fantastic! I’m going to order this one definitely more often. 5/6

Availability: in the UK only. From their online shop, Scrattings, Eebria, Cider Supermarket.

Price: purchased from Scrattings at £2.50 (approx. 2.87 EUR). Karl and Susan were kind enough to take up the challenge and ship some cider to Berlin. Thank you!

Taunton Cider Medium

It looks that the revival of the Taunton Cider Company is far more important to the people of Taunton, Somerset than I initially imagined. When in 1805, local farmers formed a co-operative at Norton Fitzwarren to make cider it was the beginning of a great West Country product, which in 1911 led to the creation of the Taunton Cider Company. Although the producer has disappeared for many years from the UK cider map and only recently resumed operations, people of Taunton seem to be very proud of this company. At least this is my impression after reading the comments below my review of the Original Dry, which I also posted on Facebook. Today, I’m reviewing their Medium. Company: Taunton Cider Company
Place of Origin: Taunton, Somerset, UK
Apples: locally sourced Yarlington Mill, Dabinett and Harry Masters Jersey
Sweetness as per label: medium
ABV: 4%
Package type: 500 ml clear glass bottle with crown cork
Recommended type of glass: wine glass or snifter

Appearance: pours a clear very pale amber with a white quickly dissipating head. Initially medium carbonation reducing to lightly sparkling within a minute. Artificial carbonation. Body is medium.

Aroma/Nose: the nose is moderately strong. I can get notes of caramel, bittersweet apples, smokiness, hints of funk and sulphur.

Taste: my first taste is moderately sweet with a light acidity of lemon. On the mid-palate notes of caramel, cider apples, yellow apple, smokiness, bubble gum, watery, very low astringency and light oakiness. Finishes with a touch of bitterness and a hint of sulphur.

Overall: The level of sweetness is not the only difference between this cider and the Dry that I have previously reviewed. First of all, it’s much less watery (meaning that less water was added). Secondly, the Medium was clearly made with wild yeast as you can get the notes of funk and sulphur. Also, the taste was smoother but similarly rich in terms of flavours and good length. Despite the fact that it is classified as medium, it’s not overly sweet (because it was watered down). The Medium from the Taunton Cider Company is a good cider. I would buy it again and pair with moules-frites. 4/6 

Availability: only in the UK from Fetch the Drinks or British Corner Shop.

Price: a sample was provided by the Taunton Cider Company

Hogan’s Medium

2005 is the year when Allen and Jane Hogan brought their 20-year-old hobby to the next level and established Hogan’s Cider in Alcester, Warwickshire, UK. They sold their first cider at Stratford Farmers market and quickly gained happy returning customers. Profits allowed Allen and Jane to expand and focus entirely on cider making and experimenting with various ingredients such as elderflower or dark muscovado sugar.

Hogan’s have a very impressive line-up featuring Dry, Medium, Vintage Perry, French Revelation, Killer Sharp, Hip Hop, Libertine and High Sobriety available in bottles. And, Original Draught, Harvest Press, Hazy Rays, Lonely Partridge Perry, Panking Pole, Wild Elder and Mulled on tap. I’m giving their Medium a go. Company: Hogan’s Cider
Place of Origin: Alcester, Warwickshire, UK
Ingredients: English cider apple juice, water, sugar, carbon dioxide, malic acid, preservative: potassium metabisulphite (sulphites)
Sweetness as per label: medium
ABV: 5.4%
Package type: 500ml amber glass with crown cap
Recommended type of glass: pint glass or white wine glass

Appearance: pours a clear golden with a quickly dissipating white head. Slightly sparkling. Body is low.

Aroma/Nose: smells slightly vinous and fruity with notes of yellow and red apples, red fresh apples, red fruits, berries, grapefruit with hints of funk and a distant acetic acidity.

Taste: my first taste is slightly sweet of caramel, with a low acidity of both lemon and distant vinegar. Notes of yellow and red apples, light funk, lightly syrupy, some smokiness with a light astringent taste and a touch of light apple seed bitterness, which with time transforms to a grapefruit bitterness. The finish is dry and has a lingering note of caramel and a pleasant lingering bitter note of grapefruit peel.

Overall: after reading the label I was quite sceptical at first, but honestly, the Medium tastes natural. The aroma resembles dessert apples with an acetic note typical for Spanish sidra. Taste-wise you will find many flavours, but classical English cider notes clearly take over the palate. Therefore, I would describe Hogan’s Medium as a fusion of English cider with Spanish sidra and eating apples (although Hogan’s claim it is made entirely from cider apples). Despite many interesting notes on the palate, I thought Hogan’s was quite average. I didn’t think it was special as some sort of balance was missing. Anyway, I think that Hogan’s Medium can be likeable especially by those having a sweet tooth. 3.5/6 

Availability: from their online shop. In Germany exclusively from Cider Kultur. In the UK from Crumpton Hill Farm Shop.

Price: Hogan’s Dry was a sample provided by Cider Kultur, a recently opened webshop run by two cider aficionados offering a selection of great cider.

Sheppy’s Falstaff

Sheppy’s, a cider maker from Somerset, usually blends typical cider apple varieties with eating apples. But cider I am sampling today is a single varietal cider made only from Falstaff. Falstaff is an eating apple, which was developed by the East Malling Research, UK in 1965 and is claimed to be popular in the UK. This apple cultivar is a hybrid of Golden Delicious, and James Grieve producing crisp, sweet and juicy red apples. Previously I’ve tried their Somerset Traditional Cider and Somerset Oak Matured Vintage 2015, both created for Marks &  and their Dabinett.Company: Sheppy’s
Place of Origin: 
Taunton, Somerset, UK
Apples: 
single varietal, made from Falstaff
Sweetness as per label: 
medium sweet
ABV:
 5.6%
Package type:
500ml clear glass bottle with crown cap
Recommended type of glass:
pint glass, snifter or white wine glass

Appearance: pours a clear pale golden with no head. Lightly sparkling. Also, the body is light.

Aroma/Nose: smells of sulphur, lots of it. Other notes include sweet red apples with red apple skins, pears and elderflower. Rather unpleasant due to dominating sulfur notes.

Taste: it begins sweet but less sweet than I would expect from a medium sweet cider.  Tastes little watery with low to medium lemon-like acidity. Notes of red apples with a light smoky taste on the mid-palate. In the aftertaste, I pick up a gentle astringent taste, a note of red apples with a touch of bitterness.

Overall: Briefly, Sheppy’s Falstaff tastes like a slightly watery fizzy apple lemonade. I would say that it tasted just average. Perhaps because Falstaff is an eating apple, not a cider apple, but I have had many ciders made from eating apples, which tasted far much better than the Falstaff. And, this unpleasant note of sulphur appearing once you open the bottle. Like matches. Summarizing, if you want your cider on the light and lemonade side, this cider is for you. Unfortunately, I can’t recommend Sheppy’s Falstaff. 2.5/6 

Availability: very broad. In the UK from Waitrose, Sainsbury’s or Booth’s, online from Beers of Europe, eebria, dike and son, Beer Ritz. In Germany online from ciderhofbanneke, gourvinodrinks of the world, Weinkontor Goldene Krone. Locally in Karstadt, Getränke Hoffman, Galeria Kaufhof or Kadewe.

Price: purchased locally in Berlin from Getränke Hoffman at 2.99 EUR.

Mac Ivors Plum & Ginger Cider

Launched in 2016, Plum & Ginger is basically Mac Ivor’s Medium cider (for the past review click here) combined with plum and ginger juice. Interestingly, a combination of plum with ginger seems to be getting more and more popular in the UK & Ireland as Mac Ivor’s is not the only cider maker offering plum and ginger flavoured cider. The Garden Cider Company released a similar cider a while ago as well. 
Company: 
Mac Ivors Cider
Place of Origin: Ardress, Portadown, Armagh County, Northern Ireland, UK
Ingredients: a blend of ten apple varieties incl. Armagh Bramley and cider apples such as Michelin, Dabinett and Harry Master’s Jersey and plum and ginger juice
Sweetness as per label: medium
ABV: 4%
Package type: 500ml clear glass with crown cap
Recommended type of glass: pint glass, white wine glass or snifter

Appearance: pours a clear raspberry red with a white short-lived foam. Low to medium carbonation. Body is low.

Aroma/Nose: the nose is rather sweet, fruity and spicy of ginger. The aroma exhibits notes of red fruits, strawberries, raspberries and plums.

Taste: it begins moderately sweet with low acidity. On the mid-palate, a watery note, ginger and plum juice. The finish is dry and short with a lightly spicy with a note of ginger.

Overall: Plum & Ginger Cider is an offering for those who are looking for a refreshing combination of flavours. Admittedly, flavours of plum & ginger go well together. I enjoyed the gently spicy aftertaste to it. However, I wouldn’t call it cider. Rather an easy drinkable fortified plum and ginger juice. Plum & Ginger has no depth, no tannins, no apple flavours, thus I wouldn’t classify it as cider. Which doesn’t mean that Plum & Ginger is not drinkable or tastes somehow commercial? Not at all, it tastes natural and goes down easily, doesn’t taste too sweet and it’s pleasant for a juice. I just wouldn’t call it cider though. 3/6

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: Mac Ivors Plum & Ginger Cider was a sample provided by Greg from MacIvors Cider.

Gibbet Oak/Nightingale Cider Company Tenterden Cider

This is another cider from Gibbet Oak, which came with my cider subscription offered by Orchard Box. Tenterden is the name of a cider I am reviewing today and a city in Kent, UK. The name Tenterden apparently comes from ‘Tenet Waraden’, which in the Old English means a clearing in the forest, belonging to the men of Thanet.

Gibbet Oak rebranded recently so their new name is Nightingale Cider.
Company:
Gibbet Oak
Place of Origin: Tenterden, Kent, UK
Pears: apples grown on the farm
Sweetness as per label: medium dry
ABV: 5.7%
Package type: 500ml amber glass bottle with crown cap
Recommended type of glass: white wine glass, pint glass or snifter

Appearance: pours a slightly hazy straw yellow with no head. Still. Body is light.

Aroma/Nose: the nose has a light funk with notes of fresh red apples, green notes with a distant light sulphur.

Taste: the first sip is a bit watery with a moderate level of sweetness and low lemon-like acidity. Then comes the lingering smokiness with a flavour of red and yellow apples and a touch of alcohol. Very light tannins, green notes with elderflower and a touch of lemon peel to the end.

Overall: I thought the Tenterden was unspectacular. It’s drinkable but easy to forget. I think that the amount of eating apples used is just too high, thus making this cider taste pretty average. Moreover, the Tenterden could be slightly less sweet. Also, the booze note in the aftertaste is disturbing. In summary, Gibbet’s Oak Tenterden can be eventually regarded as an alternative to commercial ciders but that’s all. Personally, I wouldn’t buy it again. 2.5/6 

Availability: seems to be available locally in Kent from Gibbet Oak Farm Shop and online from eebria.

Price: arrived with my cider subscription from Orchard Box.

Abavas Apple Cider Medium

It wasn’t Australia or France, as it is in many cases, that inspired Mārtiņš Barkāns to make cider. It was his honeymoon in the beautiful Toscana in Italy that made him want to produce wine in Latvia. Exactly, wine from grapes, not cider. But since it can take up to three years or even longer to establish a grapevine plantation that can make the first vintage, Mārtiņš’s focus turned in the meantime to fruit wines. Surprisingly, making cider, apple wine and wine from various fruits became Abavas’ core business and today cider makes an important part of their product portfolio.

Today I’m sampling Abavas’ Apple Cider Medium, made from selected Latvian apple varieties and matured 8 months at low temperatures. Previously I’ve tried their Ābolu Vīns Sausais, Premium Brut and Ābols Apiņos Hopped Apple.

Company: SIA Abavas dārzi, “Kalējkrāmi”
Place of Origin: 
Slampes country, Tukuma region, Latvia
Apples: 
a blend of selected Latvian apple varieties
Sweetness as per label: medium
ABV: 7.5%
Package type: 750ml amber glass champagne corked bottle
Recommended type of glass: flute or chalice glass

Appearance: pours a clear pale golden with a massive short-lived white head. High carbonation. Body is low to medium.

Aroma/Nose: the nose is fruity and lightly vinous with notes of yellow apple, melon, guava and some fresh sawdust.

Taste: it begins moderately sweet with a moderate crisp acidity of lemon. The taste moves then to light notes of fresh sawdust and ripe yellow apples, lingering overripe yellow apples, light tropical fruits of melon, some pear and a light vinous note. It finishes dry with a lingering lemon candy acidity, some distant bitterness with notes of grapefruit, light herbal notes in the aftertaste and a touch of alcohol.

Overall: Abavas Apple Cider Medium comes in a champagne bottle, which suggests that that the cider maker thought it tastes best at higher carbonation level. I have to disagree. When I poured it into a champagne glass, I thought it tasted average. But when I let it stay for a couple of minutes and tried again, I thought I’m drinking a completely different cider. I found it then very elegant, fruity, apple flavour driven, not overly sweet with a beautiful long finish. I enjoyed their Apple Cider Medium, but I think that high carbonation level is a disservice to this cider. Overall, a very drinkable and tasty cider that is best to consume a few minutes from opening. But I encourage you to make your own opinion about Abavas’ Apple Cider Medium. 4.5/6 

Availability: in Finland from ALKO. In Belgium from Cideris, in the Netherlands from CiderCider, and in Latvia from Spirit & Wines.

Price: Apple Cider Medium was a sample provided by Abavas.

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

Mac Ivors Medium

Did you know that County Armagh, where Mac Ivors Cider is based, is Ireland’s apple capital? Annually the County Armagh orchards produce 40,000 to 50,000 tonnes of apples. More than that, there is even the famous apple festival, Apple Blossom Festival taking place each year in May celebrating Armagh’s heritage. Legend says that it was Saint Patrick in person, who planted the first apple tree at Ceangoba, east of Armagh City. However, the most orchards were set up in this fruit-growing region in the 1600’s. But the MacNeice orchards, where apples for Mac Ivors Cider come from, were established around 1855 and today manage around 110 acres. I’m having their Medium today, another award-winning cider from Mac Ivors’ line-up.Company: Mac Ivors Cider
Place of Origin: 
Ardress, Portadown, Armagh County, Northern Ireland, UK
Apples: 
a blend of over ten apple varieties incl. Armagh Bramley and cider apples such as Michelin, Dabinett and Harry Master’s Jersey
Sweetness as per label: 
medium
ABV:
4.5%
Package type:
500ml brown glass with crown cap
Recommended type of glass:  
pint glass, chalice glass or snifter

Appearance: pours a clear straw with light greenish hues and a white short-lived foam. Medium carbonation. Body is low.

Aroma/Nose: it has a sweet and funky aroma with notes of lemon candy, pineapple, yellow, red and green apples and distant sulphur.

Taste: it starts medium sweet with low acidity. Pineapple, yellow apples, red apple with a hint of green apples, light red berries, light oak, lemon juice and lemon candy, light astringent taste and hints of funk appear on the mid-palate. In the aftertaste light grapefruit or bitter lemon bitterness with a light sulphur note and an earthy hint to it.

Overall: Mac Ivor’s Medium is a nicely refreshing cider with delicious notes of apples, lemon and pineapple. Surprisingly, it’s only slightly sweeter than their Traditional Dry, which I reviewed previously. In short, Mac Ivor’s Medium tastes like a lovely fusion of cider and lemon candy. I would like to taste it again served cold in the summer when it’s warm as I can imagine it would be truly refreshing. Food wise, I would pair it with poultry or a light meal. 4.5/6

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 was a sample provided by Greg from MacIvors Cider.

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.