Thistly Cross Original

Scotch whisky is a key part of Scottish culture. And, cider? Well, Scotland has only a few cider makers, and Thistly Cross Cider is one of them. Thistly Cross Cider was set up only in Autumn 2008 and is made by Peter Stuart (cider maker) and Ian Rennie (farmer) on Belhaven Fruit Farm, close to Dunbar. The Original is claimed to be an award-winning cider, but I haven’t found a single award for the Original. Only for the cider manufacturer or for other ciders from their lineup. Company: Thistly Cross
Place of Origin: Dunbar, East Lothian, Scotland
Apples: a blend of Scottish heritage apples
Sweetness as per label: sweet
ABV: 6.2%
Package type: 500ml brown glass with crown cap
Recommended type of glass: pint glass

Appearance: pours a clear golden with a short-lived white head. Medium carbonated. Body is medium.

Aroma/Nose: smells fruity of red apples, apple juice, light raspberry and other red fruits with notes of white wine. Slightly sweetish.

Taste: the first sip is moderately sweet with low acidity. The mid-palate has fruity notes of red apples, apple juice and red berries with white wine notes. The aftertaste is also fruity with notes of apple juice and berries. Also, light bitterness and some spiciness from alcohol. It gives you a light warming effect of the alcohol.

Overall: I’m not a big fan of ciders made from dessert apples, as they tend to be too sweet, watery and boring. Perhaps the Original didn’t taste boring and watery, exceptionally sweet. I’m sure it will find a grip on people, who will find it appealing as it’s not bad. It’s just not a cider for me. 3/6 

Availability: Widely available. Locally from Asda, Sainsbury’s. From their online store, Fetch the drinks, Cider & More, Britische Biere, Depot Shop Kiel, Ciderwinkel. Locally in Berlin from Hopfen & Malz or in the Monterey Bar. In Frankfurt from Naiv.

Price:  when I was cider shopping at Hopfen & Malz in Berlin.

Apps Apple Cider

Apps Apple Cider is produced by the New Product Group, a company producing beverages and snacks in Ukraine. They export their products to a number of countries including Germany.Company: New Products Group (APPS Brewery) Bev PLUS GmbH
Place of Origin: Kiev, Ukraine
Ingredients: fermented apple juice from apple juice concentrate (60.3%), water, sugar, carbon dioxide, natural aroma, citric acid, potassium sorbate, sulphites
Sweetness: sweet
ABV: 5.9%
Package type: 330ml amber glass bottle with crown cork
Recommended type of glass: pint glass or white wine glass

Appearance: pours a clear pale golden with no head. Lightly carbonated. Body is low.

Aroma/Nose: smells sweet on the nose with flavours of commercial apple juice, apple pie and vanilla. This is all I could pick up.

Taste: the initial taste is syrupy sweet with no detectable acidity. Followed by a taste of commercial apple juice and a hint of pear. It leaves an unpleasant chemical aftertaste. No tannins detectable.

Overall: No. There will be no surprises. Artificial flavour with a dominating taste of commercial apple juice makes this so-called cider undrinkable. HORRIBLE! Apps Apple Cider tastes sickly sweet with a typical note for ciders from concentrates. There was absolutely zero drinking pleasure. I can’t recommend this to anyone. Unless one doesn’t mind a cider from concentrate. As for me, this one went down the sink. 0/6 

Availability: it was introduced to the German market two years ago I believe. A number of off-licences and kiosks seem to carry their products in Berlin.

Price: purchased from Drink Drunk in Berlin at ca. 1.5 EUR, if I remember correctly. Never again.


Schwäbi Cider Holunderblüte

Making a syrup from Holunderblüten (German for elderflower) is still very common in Germany. I remember selling lots of citric acid in July that is required to make the elderflower syrup when I used to work in a pharmacy in Berlin. Since the flavour of elderflower is so popular in Germany, it should not be a surprise to anyone that Schwäbi released a cider flavoured with elderflower. Previously I’ve tried their Cider ApfelCompany: Juninger Fruchtsäfte
Place of Origin: Niederstotzingen, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Ingredients: apple cider, apple juice, water, sugar, natural elderflower flavour, carbon dioxide, sulphites
ABV: 2.5%
Package type: 330ml clear glass bottle with crown cap
Recommended type of glass: pint glass or flute

Appearance: pours a clear golden with a tiny white fizz that is gone after a few seconds. Lightly sparkling. Medium body.

Aroma/Nose: the nose is strong with notes of pears, dried fruits incl. apricot, baked apples, and a hint of commercial apple juice. No traces of elderflower in the scent.

Taste: my first taste is extremely, syrupy sweet with a very low acidity to balance the sweetness. Notes of red and yellow apples, dried fruits, incl. apricot, pears, baked apples, some herbal notes of thyme and low astringency on the mid-palate. Finishes after 10 seconds with notes of pears.

Overall: after I recovered after the initial sugar high, I can tell the Schwäbi Holunderblüte is not for everyone. Those who prefer their cider syrupy sweet will be satisfied as it is a quality cider with pleasant flavours of apples, pears and dried fruits both in the scent and on the palate. But not elderflower. I was really looking for this flavour but without any luck. Still, I think it is a good alternative to commercial or industrial cider. Could go well as a dessert wine after meals served with sour fruits. 4/6

Availability: online in Germany from Ciderei.

Price: Schwäbi Cider Holunderblüte was a sample provided by Ciderei.

Piparkakuja Cidre Ledový Cider 2017

Today’s cider review will be very special. Special, because cider that is to be reviewed today has not been commercially launched yet (partly because of bureaucratic reasons). This Ledový cider (Czech for ice cider) was crafted by Petr Vacek from Prague with apples coming from an orchard based in Kamenice nad Lipou and Český Dub owned by his grandparents and grandparents of his wife. Since Petr prefers his cider on the sweeter side and he’s well familiar with the winemaking methods since he was nearly 5 years old (the advantages of living in a vineyard in the Czech Republic), he has started straight away three years ago with making ice cider. The name of Petr’s cider is ‘Piparkakuja’, which is supposed to mean ‘gingerbread’ in Finnish.Company: Piparkakuja Cidre
Place of Origin: Prague, Czech Republic
Apples: unknown apple varieties from orchards in Kamenice nad Lipou and Český Dub
Sweetness as per label: 
ice cider
Package type: 
500ml amber glass bottle with flip top cap
Recommended type of glass: 
white wine glass or snifter

Appearance: pours a cloudy pale amber with a giant foam that only slowly dissipates. Medium carbonation. Body is high with a creamy texture.

Aroma/Nose: the nose is very aromatic and has notes of oak, vanilla and strong alcohol. Also, light smokiness, baked apples and strong whisky notes with pears, fresh apples, caramelised apples and toffee.

Taste: the first sip is medium to strongly sweet with a high acidity of lemon. On the mid-palate, a strong note of alcohol followed by oakiness, notes of stems, baked apples, caramel, vanilla, caramelised apple, a touch of orange. Finishes with light medicinal notes, raisins, low astringency and light bitterness.

Overall: Petr’s ice cider is very aromatic with clear notes and aromas. It has an array of strong and delicious apple flavours. Every sip felt like an interesting journey. Also, the sweetness was nicely balanced by the high acidity. What I also loved were the strong oaky/woody notes (note: this cider wasn’t aged in oak at all!). Yet, the flavour of alcohol was very strong. Way too strong, overpowering other yummy flavours so I had a feeling I was drinking a whisky mixed with ice cider or at least a bit outbalanced ice cider with an ABV of 12%, not 7.5%. Personally, I liked it but I can imagine that not everyone will be a fan of this ice cider. Overall, Petr’s ice cider is unique in a way and could be an interesting offering if not the aggressive taste of alcohol. It has a great potential and will most probably find fans but I think it could be much better without the overpowering boozy taste. 4/6

Availability: not launched yet.

Price:  a sample of Piparkakuja Cidre Ledový Cider 2017 was provided by Petr.

Oliver’s Making Hay

‘Make hay’ is a slightly shortened version of ‘make hay while the sun shines’, dating back to the mid 16th century. This idiom basically means to take advantage of good opportunities while they last. It has other meanings as well, but I’m not going to discuss them here.

Anyway, I’m confident that with the Making Hay, cider created by Oliver’s Cider & Perry, Tom Oliver really tried to make the best cider as good as it can be with the best available cider apples Herefordshire has to offer. The Making Hay is the next cider of Oliver’s Cider & Perry that I’m reviewing after the Shezam, the Fine Cider Golf Rush #5 Dry and the Traditional CiderCompany: Oliver’s Cider and Perry
Place of Origin: Ocle Pychard, Herefordshire, UK
Apples: bittersweet and bittersharp cider apple varieties
Sweetness as per label: sweet
ABV: 6%
Package type: 500ml clear glass bottle with crown cork
Recommended type of glass: pint glass, wine glass or snifter

Appearance: pours a clear pale amber with a small white head that slowly dissipates. Medium artificial carbonation. Body is low.

Aroma/Nose: the aroma is strong, sweetish and lightly acetic with notes of caramel, vinegar, bittersweet apples with oaky notes and beeswax.

Taste: my first taste is lightly sweet with the low to medium acidity of lemon. On the mid-palate a hint of vinegar, caramel, orange, bitter notes of grapefruit, lingering smokiness, medium astringency and a touch of pepper. The finish is dry with bitter notes of grapefruit, lingering astringency, smokiness and notes of caramel.

Overall: From a cider advertised as sweet I have expected much more sweetness to be frank. But luckily for me, I don’t have a sweet tooth so I wasn’t complaining at all. Perhaps those with a sweet tooth may be slightly disappointed. The Making Hay is a complex cider with typical notes of English cider and bittersweet cider apples. It has a beautiful balance of sweetness, acidity and a touch of spiciness to it. I thought it was refreshing, not too sweet and extremely drinkable. Yet, the Making Hay did not surprise me in any way. Just a very well made true English cider. It will taste great on its own but will also pair well with Asian dishes. For everyone. I would buy more. 5/6 

Availability: from Oliver’s online shop, Hop Pocket Wine Company, Crumpton Hill Farm shop, 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 Germany exclusively from CiderKultur.

Price: Oliver’s Making Hay was a sample provided by CiderKultur.

B. Nektar The Dude’s Rug

B. Nektar is a cidery, meadery and brewery based in Ferndale, Michigan, U.S.A consisting of Brad, Kerri and their friend Paul – three passionate home brewers. An idea to make a living out of creating beers, meads and ciders began to grow after Brad and Kerri’s wedding when the guests gave very positive reviews about their homemade mead.  When Kerri lost her job in 2006, the trio decided to turn brewing into a full-time business. Today B. Nektar is one of the largest meaders in the U.S. and their products are distributed also in several European cities like Berlin.Company: B. Nektar
Place of Origin: Ferndale, Michigan, U.S.A.
Ingredients: apple cider, chai tea (black tea with cardamom, clove, cinnamon, ginger and vanilla)
Sweetness as per label: sweet
ABV: 5.5%
Package type: draught
Recommended type of glass: pint glass or white wine glass

Appearance: pours a clear deep, dark amber with no head. Slightly sparkling. Body is low to medium.

Aroma/Nose: the nose is moderately strong with notes of caramel, coca-cola, tea and hints of cinnamon, cloves, vanilla and cardamom.

Taste: my first taste is medium sweet, light watery with the low sourness of a lemon. Further notes are of tea, lemon, vanilla, cloves with low astringent taste. It gently numbs the tongue – due to eugenol present in cloves. The finish is lightly citrusy with chai spices and a hint of astringency.

Overall: Jenia from the Muted Horn told me that The Dude’s Rug tastes like Christmas according to her. I would rather compare The Dude’s Rug’s to coca-cola yet made from natural ingredients, with a much deeper taste and better length. Despite many delicious notes of spices, I thought it was refreshing and tasted pleasant on this hot day in Berlin. But to my palate, it was too sweet. The longer I drank it, the less I wanted to take another sip. So this is definitely a thing for those who prefer their cider on the sweeter side. Sadly, I couldn’t pick up any apple notes. Summarizing, an interesting and nicely balanced…Christmas cider or natural coke. 4/6

Availability: B.Nektar ciders seem to be widely available in many European craft beer bars. In Belgium from Bieres Gourmet

Price: purchased 0.4l from the Muted Horn in Berlin at 5.20 EUR.

Mr. Plūme Ābolu Sidrs Saldais 2016

I’m sure that most of you have already noticed by now that bottles from the Latvian cider maker Mr. Plūme have one of the most eye-catching and intriguing labels out there. Since Māris is an artist, it was obvious that the label of his product has to be artistic as well. A friend of Māris, Aleksandrs Bētiņš who designed the labels found inspiration in works of the Belgian surrealist painter René Magritte who often used the image of the apple in his paintings. As a side note, Magritte’s apples inspired also Paul McCartney who used the green apple as the logo of the Beatles’ record label Apple Corps.

Today I give you the Ābolu Sidrs Saldais 2016, a sweet cider from Mr. Plūme.
Mr. Plūme sidra darītava
Place of Origin: Jumpravas pagasts, Lielvārdes novads, Latvia
Apples a blend of local apple varieties
Sweetness as per label: sweet
ABV: 6.5%
Package type: 
750ml clear glass with natural cork
Recommended type of glass: 
wine glass or snifter

Appearance: pours a clear pale golden with no head. No visible carbonation. Body is medium.

Aroma/Nose: the aroma is intense and fruity with notes of quince, lychee, yellow apples and light caramel.

Taste: it starts medium sweet with low to medium acidity of lemon. On the mid-palate note of quince, fresh yellow apples, a smoky note with light caramel. It finishes with a lingering note of quince and baked apples with a very light astringent note and a touch of lemon candy.

Overall: sweet yet refreshing. Saldais is a sweet but not overly sweet apple wine with a good level of acidity balancing out the sweetness. So even those who prefer their cider on the drier side will not complain. The fruity flavours smoothly move from one to another and offer a very pleasant journey in the glass. More to that, the aromas and the finish have a good intensity and length. Māris, if you had entered the CiderWorld 2018 competition with this cider, you would have most probably received an award. But since you haven’t, you’ll get 5 out of 6 points from me. A really good cider that will satisfy every palate.

Availability: available from Mr. Plūme. At farmers markets and many other places in Latvia. Possibly also from Siidrimaja in Tallinn, at Sarkozy in Vilnius, Holm Cider in Copenhagen and MostBirnHaus in Austria.

Price: Ābolu Sidrs Saldais 2016 was a sample provided by Māris from Mr. Plūme.

Martin’s Cider Jablkovy

Martin’s Cider is a Slovak Nitra-based cider company, which was established only in 2014. Martin spent a few years in Cornwall and Somerset and fell in love with English cider and generally with cider making. Hence, once he returned to Slovakia he set up the first cidery in his home town Nitra. Their range includes cider, perry and cherry flavoured cider.
Company: Martin’s Cider
Place of Origin: Nitra, Slovakia
Apples: apples grown at the Czech-Slovak border
Sweetness as per label: sweet
ABV: 4.8%
Package type: draught
Recommended type of glass: pint glass

Appearance: pours a clear golden with a large foam, which quickly falls down. High carbonation. Body is medium.

Aroma/Nose: smells of freshly pressed apple juice from red apples. This is all I’m getting here.

Taste: it starts quite watery with a low level of acidity and moderate sweetness. The mid-palate has a flavour of apple juice with a distant hint of fermented apples. That’s basically it.

Overall: If someone passed me a glass of Martin’s Cider and told me it was an apple juice I would believe him. The Jablkovy has a strong refreshing apple juice flavour but the taste overall has nothing to do with cider. It simply tastes like a freshly pressed apple juice. I’m convinced it will appeal to those preferring sweet apple juice-tasting cider though but not to cider lovers. 2/6 

Availability: through their online shop or in InCider Bar in Prague.

Price: had 0.2L at Slavnost Cideru 2017 at 25 CZK (1 EUR)

Beard & Sabre Dark Raven

Technically, it will be my first apple cider from the craft cider company, Beard and Sabre. As the last time, I’ve tried their Pumpkin Cider (you can see the review here) and I was astonished because the Pumpkin Cider was not only drinkable but really tasty. I think it it’s time for one of their real ciders made from apples, the Dark Raven! Dark Raven came fifth of twenty in the 2016 Cider and Perry Trials, Hereford as per their website.Company: Beard and Sabre Cider Company 
Place of Origin: Cirencester, Gloucestershire, UK
Ingredients: traditionally pressed vintage cider apple blended with burnt sugar molasses, caramel.
ABV: 4%
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 orange with no head. No carbonation.

Aroma/Nose: the nose has green apples, toffee, cream, sweet, fermented apple, red apple, apple skin. Quite fruity.

Taste: it starts with a moderate sweetness, nicely balanced out with a moderate and pleasant acidity. Apple skins, red apples, fermented apples, pears and caramel on the mid-palate with a hint of cloves. The finish is dry and mildly astringent with a touch of bitterness. Strangely enough, it has a sweetener-like aftertaste.

Overall: I was slightly confused by the Cider Drinker, who reviewed the Dark Raven before me (see here for the link to his video). I expected an overly sweet toffee-like tasting cider. Well, this is not what I thought of this cider. The Dark Raven is indeed sweet, but not too sweet for my liking. I would describe it rather as a medium sweet cider with the right balance of sweetness and acidity. Also, many flavours on the palate make this cider very rich and drinkable. Briefly, I loved it! This cider is one of my favourites right now. 5.5/6 

Availability: from their online store. Also, they attend many food festivals in the UK. Otherwise, check 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.

Hunt’s Sweet

If you take a look at the car or IT industry, you will clearly see that literally every second a new, better, faster or more efficient device, software, etc. is developed. But, it seems that the cider making business doesn’t need such progress. Like the water-hydraulic press to press apple juice, which was installed on the Hunt’s farm over 70 years ago by Robert Hunt’s grandfather, and is still in use. Perhaps a new press would be more efficient in pressing juice, but would their cider taste any better? I don’t think so.Company: Hunt’s Cider
Place of Origin: Grove Orchard, Stoke Gabriel, Totnes, Devon, UK
Ingredients: apples grown on the farm
ABV: 6%
Package type: 500ml clear glass with crown cap
Recommended type of glass: pint glass or white wine glass, eventually snifter

Appearance: pours a clear golden with no head. No signs of carbonation. Body is medium.

Aroma/Nose: the nose is wild with notes of barnyard, wood, fermented apples, and a gentle vinegary flavour. Can’t wait to take the first sip!

Taste: it is advertised as sweet, but I would put it at the less sweet end of that classification, medium dry I think. The sweet taste is accompanied by low lemon-like acidity. Fermented apples, strong tannins, wood, vinegar and a hint of solvent on the mid-palate. The Sweet is highly astringent in the finish with a distant bitter and slightly watery taste.

Overall: the Sweet from Hunts is a very tasty and decent cider. I enjoyed it. It’s rich, complex and definitely made from quality cider apples. However, I would advise drinking this drop when you want to enjoy the end of the day by relaxing in the hammock or on a couch when you don’t plan to chat to anyone. The Sweet is highly astringent and makes your mouth very dry, thus making speaking a very difficult task. Trust me on this. Anyway, I would have it again. 4.5/6 

Availability: Hunts introduced a new range, but the Sweet should be still available locally in Bristol at Bottles & Books (they open only in September 2017).

Price: it came with my cider subscription from Orchard Box.