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.

Marks & Spencer/Guillet Frères Brittany Breton Cider

Marks & Spencer offers also French cidre from Brittany, which is produced by Guillet Frères, a company known for widely available Kerisac cidre. I have reviewed one of Kerisac cidres here. As per Marks & Spencer’s website, this cidre has won Bronze from the International Cider Challenge 2013 and a trophy and gold medal for sweet cider at the International Cider Challenge 2016.
Company: Guillet Freres 
Place of Origin: Guenrouët, Brittany, France
Apples: five different apple varieties Local Brittany apples are harvested between mid-September and early December, it’s then blended and fermented using traditional techniques.
Ingredients: Concentrated apple juice, water, yeast, carbon dioxide, sulphites.
ABV: 2%
Sweetness as per label: sweet
Package type: 750ml green glass champagne corked
Recommended type of glass: flute

Appearance: pours a clear pale orange with a white short-lived head. Champagne type of carbonation.

Aroma/Nose: the nose is sweet and has notes of dried apricot and fermented apples, with caramel.

Taste: the first sip is very sweet and has low to medium acidity. The mid-palate is syrupy and has notes of wood, dried apricot and overripe apples.

Overall: Despite the fact that this cidre is made from apple juice concentrate it doesn’t taste like one. The taste is quite complex with delicious notes of dried apricots both on the nose and the palate. It’s way too sweet for my liking and I don’t think I would buy it again, but I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it. I think it could be a good alternative if you don’t have a better cider on hand. 3.5/6 

Availability: online and locally from Marks & Spencer

Price: purchased it from Marks & Spencer in Wroclaw at 15.79 PLN (3.80 EUR)

Gwatkin Stoke Red

The farm in Dore Abbey, which is run by the Gwatkins since 1919, has a very rich history of cider making dating back even to medieval times. Cider has been simply always made here. Interestingly, similarly to many other families and cidery’s, they went to the commercial stage of cider making only in 1992. Their ciders have picked up countless awards so when I saw that the Williams Ale & Cider House has one of their ciders on draught I knew I had to try it! Even though it happened to be the sweet Stoke Red…Company: Gwatkin Cider
Place of Origin: Moorhampton Park Farm in Abbey Dore, Herefordshire, UK
Apples: Stoke Red
Sweetness as per label: sweet
ABV: 7.5%
Package type: on draught
Recommended type of glass: pint glass, flute or snifter

Appearance: pours a hazy amber with raspberry hues. A little bit of foam in the beginning with flat carbonation. The body is oily.

Aroma/Nose: The Stoke Red smells slightly vinegary with wild notes of beeswax, leather, and barnyard. Also, it’s fruity, with refreshing sweet raspberry and a touch of strawberry with red apples.

Taste: As you could expect from a sweet cider, it begins very sweet (too sweet for me) with a rather low-acetic acidity. The mid-palate is funky with flavours of beeswax, barnyard, leather and wood. Also, notes of raspberries with a delicate strawberry and red apple skin appeared. The finish has a lingering astringent taste.

Overall: Although I usually don’t drink sweet cider, this time I have decided to go for the Stoke Red, which is a sweet cider. The reason is that I have never tried cider from Gwatkin before and wanted to take the opportunity. I assumed at the start it would be too sweet and hence less appealing to me. I was right only about the level of sweetness. The Stoke Red was indeed too sweet for my liking, but those notes of funk and red berries with a strong astringent taste are really something! Only the level of sweetness stopped me from taking another pint. Great scrumpy! 4/6

Availability: in their farm shop, and online store.

Price: 4.75 GBP (5.45 EUR) at The Williams Ale & Cider House in London.

Opre’ Perry

The idea of making cider from Slovak apples was born, when Gabriel Oprendek returned from one of his trips and brought a bottle of cider with him. At the time nobody produced cider in Slovakia. Cider was exotic to everyone. This inspired his younger brother Radoslav, who has a background in biology, to experiment with cider made from locally grown apples. After one year of experimenting the recipe was developed and Opre’ Cider could hit the shelves in Slovakia, Czech Republic and other countries. I tried their Perry at Slavnost Cideru 2017.Company: Opre’ Cider
Place of Origin: Budimir, Slovakia
Pears: locally grown pears
Sweetness as per label: sweet
ABV: 3.1%
Package type: draught
Recommended type of glass: pint glass or flute

Appearance: pours a slightly pale golden/pale amber with no head. Medium carbonation. Body is medium as well.

Aroma/Nose: The nose is rich and has overripe pears and apples along with pear skins, raisin-like sweetness and a touch vinegar.

Taste: it tastes very sweet with low acetic-acidity. The mid-palate has notes of ripe juicy pears and pear juice with a note of baked apples. Also, I’m getting green notes with a light bitter taste and a touch of bubble gum flavour. The finish is sweet and has ripe pear notes.

Overall: When you sip Opre’s Perry you are not quite certain, whether you are drinking a pear juice or a perry. It’s very sweet with dominating flavours typical for pear juice. However, some flavours such as of vinegar or light bitterness remind you that it is actually a perry that you are drinking. Opera’s Perry is a pleasant and pretty decent summer beverage for those having a sweet tooth. To me, this perry was way too sweet. But again, if you don’t mind the sweetness Opre’s Perry can be your thing. 4/6 

Availability: widely available across Slovakia and in restaurants, bars, cafes in the Czech Republic, Austria and Estonia. Online from Drinkshop, Since recently available through in the Netherlands.

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