Aspall Harry Sparrow

Harry Sparrow was launched in 2012 by Aspall, a British cider maker, who last year made the headlines after being snapped up by the US beer giant Molson Coors. This cyder is named after Aspall’s cider maker who had worked for the Aspall family for 50 years. I wonder what would he have to say about the acquisition. Anyway, the Harry Sparrow is advertised as a more sessionable cyder than other ciders from Aspals lineup. Company: Aspall 
Place of Origin: Debenham, Suffolk, UK
Apples: made from bittersweet apple varieties such as Kingston Black & Medaille d’Or
Sweetness as per label: medium dry
ABV: 4.6%
Package type: 500ml brown glass bottle with crown cork
Recommended type of glass: pint glass, flute or white wine glass

Appearance: pours a clear golden with gentle orange hues. Lightly sparkling. Body is low.

Aroma/Nose: the nose is not very strong, but rich with notes of caramel, vanilla, red apple, red apple skin and red berries. Smells quite nice.

Taste: the first sip is moderately sweet, rather medium than medium dry, with low acidity. Subsequently, I pick up a smoky note, a bit watery note with flavours of red apple, caramel, and red berries. It finishes dry with a taste of red berries, crispy red apples, a low astringent taste, a light buttery note and a hint of burnt caramel.

Overall: the Harry Sparrow is claimed to be made from bittersweet cider apples, which are known for their high tannin content giving an astringent and/or bitter taste. But I can get only a very lightly astringent taste and no bitterness. Also, a quite low ABV of 4.6% makes this cyder look very suspicious. My guess is that this cyder was diluted with water. Another option is that eating/cooking apple varieties were also used in the blend. Either way, The Harry Sparrow is a light and drinkable cyder from Aspall. It tastes sweeter than advertised so I would classify it as a medium cider, not medium dry. A tiny bit too sweet to my liking, but I think it can be enjoyable. In addition, a flavour of red berries makes the Harry Sparrow quite refreshing. I would recommend this cider if you’re at the beginning of your cider journey or you’re looking for a light and sweet tasting cider. 3.5/6 

Availability: in the UK from their online shop, Morrisons, Tesco, Beers of Europe. In Germany from Cider and More. In terms of shops locally in Berlin from Hopfen und Malz. In the Czech Republic from Dobry Cider and Delikatesy online,

Price: purchased from Hopfen und Malz at 4.5 EUR n Berlin.

Thatchers Gold

After reading the article ‘A fine cider sommelier judges the UK’s worst ciders‘, I’ve looked at the comments and noticed that Thatchers Gold was the only cider that was regarded by the readers as an actually quite pleasant tasting cider. I was really surprised to read this so I’ve decided to sample Thatchers Gold next.Company: Thatchers Cider
Region of Origin: Somerset, Winscombe, England
Apples: selected apples, many of which are harvested in Somerset (and the rest? where do they come from?)
Sweetness as per label: medium dry
ABV: 4.8%
Package type: 500ml brown glass bottle with crown cap
Recommended type of glass: pint glass or chalice glass

Appearance: pours a clear pale golden with a white foam, which quickly dissipates. Carbonation level is medium and likely artificial. Body is low.

Aroma/Nose: the nose is weak and exerts notes of dessert apples, including red and yellow apples with a light hint of sulphur (like matches) and candies.

Taste: it begins watery and moderately sweet with low citric acid-like acidity. The mid-palate has faint notes of yellow and red dessert apples, apple juice, light sulphuric note and a hint of green apples. In the aftertaste, I can detect a light caramel note with a touch of apple seed-like bitterness.

Overall: Gold is a typical cider made from dessert apples judging by the taste. It’s drinkable, even refreshing due to the light acidic and crisp taste, but still average. It’s not bad, but I can’t say it stands out of ciders made from dessert apples. The nose is very similar nose to the Aspall dry with a sulphur note resembling matches. However, the Aspall’s nose was much worse. Taken together, I would consider the Gold as an alternative to ciders made from concentrate, but that’s all. 3/6

Availability: from most supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s or Tesco. Online from Booze Cruiser. In Berlin from Hopfen und Malz, Drink DrunkGetränkefeinkost and Flaschbierschop. In Germany from The English Shop, Flaschbierschop, Cider & More. In the Netherlands from CiderCider.

Price: purchased online from The English Shop at 3.49 EUR.

Crest Cyder Golden

If you are wondering why the Crest Cyder is called Crest Cyder, the answer is quite simple. The Browns, who make this cider have a family crest. The crest was adapted into a cider-themed logo with apples and trees, which you can see in the picture below.Company: Crest Cyder Company Ltd
Place of Origin: Eaton Crescent, Somerset, UK
Apples: a blend of bittersweet and bitter-sharp varieties
Sweetness as per label: medium dry
ABV: 
6%
Package type: 
500ml clear glass with crown cork
Recommended type of glass: 
wine glass

Appearance: pours cloudy pale amber with an orange hue and no head. No carbonation. Body is medium.

Aroma/Nose: the aroma is strong with notes of honey, the spiciness of pepper, caramel, apple seeds, notes of funk, alcohol and distant herbal notes.

Taste: it starts dry with a light residual sweetness with low to medium acidity of lemon, orange and vinegar. Moderate astringency, caramel, funk, spicy of pepper, notes of honey, a bit watery. Finishes with low bitterness and a not of orange blossom.

Overall: briefly, the Crest Cyder Golden is an English farmhouse cider that comes with some pleasant flavours like orange blossom and caramel and notes that might be considered by some as off-putting such as funk, vinegar. It has a bit more acidity to it than farmhouse style ciders I tried until now. In addition, this acidity makes this cider taste more refreshing. I thought that the spiciness was also quite interesting as it seems to be quite rare. Anyway, the Crest Cyder Traditional is still my favourite. The Crest Cyder Golden is worth trying though! 4/6 
Availability: online through Scrattings. in the UK and in many European countries
Price: a sample was provided by Michael and Carol from Crest Cyder. 

Oliver’s At The Hop #7

Inspired by American cider makers who add hops to almost every cider they make, Tom Oliver created his own hopped cider, At The Hop. Tom infused cider with UK grown Cascade hops and Czech grown Kazbek hops, which supposedly add citrusy and floral notes to otherwise bland and dull cider.

In 2014, At The Hop picked up the first place at Royal Three Counties Agricultural Society show.

Company: Oliver’s Cider and Perry
Place of Origin: Ocle Pychard, Herefordshire, UK
Ingredients: US Cascade and Czech Kazbek hops
Sweetness as per label: medium dry
ABV: 5.5%
Package type: 500ml clear amber bottle with crown cork
Recommended type of glass: pint glass, wine glass or snifter

Appearance: pours a clear pale amber with a light orange hue and a tiny white head that quickly dissipates. Medium natural carbonation. Body is low to medium.

Aroma/Nose: the aroma is strong and actually pours out of the glass. The scent is rather sweet with notes of ripe honeydew, apricots, grapefruit flesh, orange and grapefruit peel. In the background apple flavour with hints of funk, leather and distant cucumber.

Taste: it starts with a low sweetness and a medium citrusy acidity. Light watery with some smokiness, medium astringency, notes of grapefruit flesh, orange and lemon, low apple flavour and hints of funk on the mid-palate. The finish is dry with a lingering grapefruit peel – like bitterness with a touch of lemon.

Overall: I’ve tried already a number of hopped ciders and none of them tasted any similar to what Tom Oliver has crafted. I can imagine that this is partly due to Czech Kazbek hops that were used in the blend. Both the scent and the palate are very unique and rich with lots of intensive flavours that linger on and on. Also, I thought it was very refreshing due to the lovely citrus flavours. But it’s not going to be my favourite cider of Tom. Personally, I found the apple flavour too far in the background. Also, the bitter note was a bit too strong for my liking. Hence, in my humble opinion, Tom’s At the Hop could be considered a good introductory cider for those who drink beer but want to try something new as the taste of the At The Hop is somewhere between beer and cider. As a cider drinker, I think I’ll stick to Tom’s cider made only with apples. 4.5/6

Availability: from Oliver’s online shop or Beer Revolution. Locally in London from the Cider House and Bristol from the Bristol Cider Shop or  The Salutation Inn in Ham, and many others. In Austria from Beer Lovers. In Copenhagen from Holm Cider. In Germany exclusively from CiderKultur.

Price: Oliver’s At The Hop #7 was a sample provided by CiderKultur.

Dunkertons Browns

Browns is an English cider apple variety from South Devon producing a sharp juice that Dunkertons used for their single-varietal cider, the Browns. When I searched for other reviews about Dunkertons Browns, all I could find was oohing and aahing. I haven’t found a single bad review for the Browns. It seemed that literally, everybody likes the  Browns. In contrast to the wide appeal among cider drinkers, the Browns picked up only one award, first place in the International Cider Challenge 2016. As you can imagine, I got very intrigued.  Company: Dunkertons
Place of Origin: Pembridge, Leominster, Herefordshire, UK
Apples: a single-varietal Brown’s from organic farms
Sweetness as per label: medium dry
ABV: 7.5%
Package type: 500ml amber glass bottle with crown cap
Recommended type of glass: pint glass, white wine glass or chalice glass

Appearance: pours a clear golden with a white short-lived foam. Medium carbonation.

Aroma/Nose: the aroma is strong, slightly sour and fruity. On the nose hints of funk, vinegar, yellow apples, with a touch of sulphur.

Taste: my first taste is medium sweet with a low to medium acidity of lemon, and a touch of orange. Smokiness, yellow apples, light bitterness, again smokiness, a light to medium astringent note on the mid-palate. Finishes dry leaving a lingering orange and lemon note with medium astringency.

Overall: the Browns from Dunkertons is indeed an outstanding drop. It’s light, yet complex. Although the initial taste is rather sweet with no detectable acidity, suddenly and unexpectedly the sharpness kicks in and stays accompanying other tasty flavours that appear next. Admittedly, the lingering orangy/lemon aftertaste makes this cider taste very refreshing and unique. Also, I loved the bubbles in this cider, which truly complemented the taste. Overall, a great thirst quencher and perfect summer offering that I could drink over and over again. Now I understand why it is everyone’s favourite. 5/6

Availability: in the UK through their online shop, BristolCiderShop, CraftDrink The Belgian Beer Company, Hop Pocket Wine Company or Beers of Europe. However, outside the UK the availability is limited. In the Netherlands look out for Ciderwinkel and Appels en Peren. In Switzerland from Ciderhouse.ch. In Estonia from Siidirimaja. In Germany from CiderKultur.

Price: Dunkertons Browns was a sample provided by CiderKultur.

Ty Gwyn Medium Dry

Ty Gwyn from Wales (and previously Latvian Mr. Plume) proves that a combination of music and cider making is simply perfect as both take passion. Before focusing on cider making, Alex Curpin of Ty Gwyn played in a band called Tiny Monroe and supported The Pretenders, Radiohead and Suede at the Glastonbury Festival near Pilton, Somerset. I can imagine that Alex tried cider from the Brothers at Glastonbury, which inspired him to craft a much better cider.

Company: Ty Gwyn Cider
Place of Origin: Pontrilas, Herefordshire, UK
Apples: Yarlington Mill
Sweetness as per label: medium dry
ABV: 5.8%
Package type: 500ml clear glass bottle with crown cork
Recommended type of glass: white wine glass, pint glass or snifter

Appearance: pours a clear pale amber with an orange hue and a little quickly dissipating white head. Light carbonation. Body is low.

Aroma/Nose: the nose is strong, aromatic and sweet with notes of caramel, red apples, bittersweet apples, butterscotch, liquid toffee, polyfloral honey and earthy notes.

Taste: it starts with medium sweetness of caramel and low acidity. On the mid-palate notes of bittersweet apples, red apples, baked apples, caramel, light to medium astringency. Finishes dry with a light burnt caramel, low alcohol and polyfloral honey.

Overall: The Medium Dry from Ty Gwyn tastes light but still extremely complex so I would never tell that it is a single varietal cider. It has a lingering taste with beautiful caramel notes, smooth tannins and a flavour of baked apples. It basically tastes like a liquid toffee. Personally, I’d prefer a bit higher acidity level. But my friend who I shared the bottle with thought the Medium Dry tasted simply perfect. A very decent drop for the fans of liquid butterscotch. Now I understand why it has such a wide appeal. 5/6

Availability: in the UKfrom their online shop, Crafty Nectar, Hop Pocket Wine Company, Fetch the Drinks.  In Germany exclusively from CiderKultur.

Price: Ty Gwyn’s Medium Dry was a sample provided by CiderKultur.

 

 

 

 

Dunkertons Court Royal

Dunkertons like to experiment with single varietal ciders. Previously, I’ve tried their brilliant single varietal Breakwells Seedling. This time, however, I’m about to sample their Court Royal. Court Royal is a sweet cider apple with low tannin and low acid, which originated in East Devon.
Company: 
Dunkertons
Place of Origin: Pembridge, Leominster, Herefordshire, UK
Apples: a single-varietal Court Royal from organic farms
Sweetness as per label: medium dry
ABV: 7.5%
Package type: 500ml amber glass bottle with crown cap
Recommended type of glass: pint glass, white wine glass or snifter

Appearance: pours a clear golden with a white short-lived head. Medium carbonation.

Aroma/Nose: the nose has still fermenting apples, fresh yellow apples, lightly acidic. some green apple. The nose is not so strong.

Taste: it starts medium dry with a medium acidity of lemon. On the mid-palate green and yellow apples with a smoky and vinous note. The aftertaste has hints of fresh green and yellow apples, apple skin of green apples with a light biting taste of alcohol and a touch of bitterness.

Overall: briefly, the Court Royal tastes like a flavourful cross between cider made from eating apples and traditional cider. Meaning it’s easily drinkable, light yet very refreshing and absolutely not boring. Taste wise perhaps not extremely rich, but it still has a nice depth and structure for a single-varietal cider. The nose is not strong but is clear and full of apple aromas. The Royal Court is a cider for everyone and will taste great on a day like this with lots of sunshine. I assure you it will uplift your mood after a bad day at work as well. I’d like t to have it again. 4/6

Availability: broad in the UK through BristolCiderShop or Beers of Europe. However, outside the UK the availability is limited in the Netherlands to Ciderwinkel and Appels en Peren. In Switzerland from Ciderhouse.ch. In Estonia from Siidirimaja. In Germany to CiderKultur.

Price: Dunkertons Court Royal was a sample provided by CiderKultur.

Dunkertons Breakwells Seedling

There is a constantly rising trend of organic foods, beers and wines in the market around the world, but also of organic ciders. And, Dunkertons is one of the few British cider makers producing cider from organic cider apples. More than that, Dunkertons were one of the first to introduce organic farming to the apple orchards in Herefordshire. It was in 1988, long before the boom begun.

Today I give you Dunkertons Breakwells Seedling, a single-varietal cider made form  Breakwells Seedling, an apple variety that was discovered at Perthyre Farm, Monmouth, Wales over a century ago.Company: Dunkertons
Place of Origin: Pembridge, Leominster, Herefordshire, UK
Apples: a single varietal from Breakwells Seedling from organic farms
Sweetness as per label: medium dry
ABV: 7.5%
Package type: 500ml amber glass bottle with crown cap
Recommended type of glass: pint glass, white wine glass or chalice glass

Appearance: pours a cloudy pale amber with faint orange hue and a large, white short-lived foam, which leaves a white ring around the glass. Medium carbonation. Low to medium body. There is some sediment in the bottle.

Aroma/Nose: the nose is tannic and sweetish with lovely notes of juicy red apples and a hint of apple juice. Also, I can get wild notes, beeswax, leather, distant acetic note and nail polish.

Taste: the first sip is medium dry of caramel with a moderate acidity of lemon. Strong astringent taste and bitterness on the mid-palate followed by notes of nail polish, vinegar, barnyard, smoked cheese, red apples, grapefruit and a light watery flavour. It finishes dry with lingering astringent notes and a hint of grapefruit-bitterness with red apples. Alcohol is well hidden despite the high ABV of 7.5%.

Overall: Dunkerton’s Breakwells Seedling Cider is a cider that every cider lover needs to try as it tastes simply extraordinary. The combination of strong tannins, wild notes and flavours of fruity, crisp yet sweet and juicy red apples with citrus notes is simply mind-blowing and make this cider suitable for every palate. However, it’s a cider to sip at a slow pace rather and than drinking without stopping. I think that the Breakwells Seedling is another masterpiece from Dunkertons’ apart from Black Fox that I tried earlier. To be honest, I wouldn’t tell that the Breakwells Seedling is a single-varietal cider. So yes, I would definitely buy it again! 5/6

Availability: from their online shopbroad in the UK Bristol Cider Shop, Beers of Europe,  Abel&ColeCrumpton Hill Farm Shop,  However, outside the UK the availability is rather limited to CiderKultur in Germany, Ciderwinkel and Appels en Peren in the Netherlands, Opily Jabko and Dobry Cider in the Czech Republic. In Switzerland from Ciderhouse.ch. In Estonia from Siidirimaja. In Copenhagen from Holm Cider.

Price: Dunkertons Breakwells Seedling was a sample provided by CiderKultur.

SeaCider Medium Dry

Mark Francis is a former brewer from Brighton, Sussex, UK, who went to the cider side. What made him switch to cider? Abandoned apple orchards with apple trees covered with apples that he would pass on the way to pubs in the Sussex countryside with his beer delivery. And, no local cider in Sussex pubs. So together with Matt Billing he founded SeaCider, which is now one of the largest cider producers in Sussex.

Company: SeaCider

Place of Origin: Ditchling, Hassocks, Sussex, UK
Apples: Gala and Bramley among others
Sweetness as per label: medium dry
ABV: 5.8%
Package type: 500ml clear glass with crown cap

Recommended type of glass: pint glass or white wine glass

Appearance: pours a cloudy golden with no foam. No visible carbonation. Body is low.

Aroma/Nose: the nose is sweet and fruity with notes of yellow apples, raspberry, strawberry and honey.

Taste: it begins very sweet, far sweeter than advertised medium dry. Also, I can’t get any acidity able to balance the sweetness. On the mid-palate notes of raspberry, strawberry, yellow apples with a light astringent taste. The aftertaste has a faint acidic touch with notes of crisp yellow apples and a distant bitter taste.

Overall: the taste of SeaCider’s Medium Dry is similar to an apple juice, not cider. It’s very sweet and nicely fruity with some depth. It doesn’t taste too bad, but the lingering sweetness is extremely tiring. Especially for those preferring dry cider like me. SeaCider’s Medium Dry is an okey-ish and drinkable cider, but not great. I wouldn’t buy it again as for me it’s simply too sweet. But it is a good offering for an average consumer who likes hers/his cider on the sweeter cider and is looking for a tipple made from real fruit, not concentrate. 3/6

Availability: only in the UK. Mainly in Sussex. Online through Fetch the Drinks.
 
Price: paid 4.90 GBP for a pint in The Grapes in Liverpool (not to confuse with the Beatles pub).

Ramborn Kingston Black

No, Kingston Black is not an apple variety typical for Luxembourg. Kingston Black comes actually from Kingston, near Taunton, Somerset, the UK and produces a bittersharp juice, which is just splendid for making cider. It contains a nice balance of tannins, sugar and acids, which make this apple variety suitable for single-varietal cider. But how did Kingston Black end up in Luxembourg? It’s easy. Ramborn has entered into a collaboration with Peter Mitchell, who is an internationally renowned cider and perry authority.

Kingston Black is a limited edition cider from Ramborn Cider. Only 3000 bottles were produced. I’m trying one of them. Company: Ramborn Cider Co.
Place of Origin: Born, Luxembourg
Apples: single variety Kingston Black
Sweetness as per label: medium dry
ABV: 7.3%
Package type: 330ml clear glass bottle with crown cap
Recommended type of glass: pint glass, white wine glass or snifter
Ingredients: contains sorbic acid

Appearance: pours a clear pale amber with a little quickly dissipating white head. Almost no carbonation. Body is medium.

Aroma/Nose: the nose is slightly sweet with an acidic touch and exhibits notes of red and yellow apples, caramel, butter toffee, juicy fresh apple with a hint of green apples.

Taste: the first sip is moderately sweet with a faintly watery note and low acidity. Subsequently, a hint of green apple, red apple, freshly pressed red apple juice, crisp apple with a delicate astringent taste appears. It ends with an apple seed, apple stems, and a lingering caramel-like bitterness, which moves to a red apple taste. It has a spicy alcohol bite to it and tastes lightly chalky as well.

Overall: Kingston Black tastes like a cross between English cider and German cider (not to confuse with German Apfelwein). It’s a good drop, but not mind-blowing simply because the alcohol burn in the aftertaste doesn’t allow you to appreciate lovely initial tastes of crisp apple, red and green apples with caramel. Due to the alcohol burn, I have the impression that Kingston Black is slightly out of balance so I think I prefer Ramborn’s experiments with local fruits than with English cider apples. Summarizing, the Kingston Black is a nice tipple with a kick. 4/6

Availability: since it is a special edition cider the availability might be limited to Ramborn’s farm. In Germany available perhaps from The Hop Shop Trier.

Price: Kingston Black was sent to me by Adie from Ramborn Cider Co.