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.

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!

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.

Hoxton Cidersmiths Harry Masters’ Jersey

Last year, after publishing the first review on cider from Hoxton Cidersmiths, the Michelin & Brown’s I learned that guys from Hoxton Cidersmiths don’t make their cider themselves. Their cider is made under contract by cidermakers at Sheppy’s Cider and bottled as Hoxton Cidersmiths cider. So I’m not exactly sure how does it make them a craft cidery. Anyway, Harry Masters’ Jersey is an English cider apple variety coming straight out of Somerset.
Company:
Hoxton Cidersmiths 
Place of Origin: 
London, UK
Apples:
 Harry Masters Jersey
Sweetness as per label:
 medium
ABV: 4.5%
Package type: 
500ml amber glass bottle with crown cap
Recommended type of glass: pint glass, snifter or white wine glass

Appearance: pours a clear pale golden with a short-lived head. Carbonation is artificial. The body is light.

Aroma/Nose: the nose exhibits notes of funk, barnyard, leather, caramel, red apples, hay, and a hint of sulphur.

Taste: the first sip is very sweet with only low acidity. On the mid-palate light smokiness resembling the rind of camembert, followed by yellow fresh juicy apple and light astringency. The finish is dry with a lingering smoky note of smoked cheese and distant sulphur.

Overall: if you like your cider on the sweeter side and enjoy light cider then this cider is for you. I found it too sweet and too average. It tasted balanced and rich, yet something was missing. This is pretty common among single varietal ciders. Anyway, if you are only at the beginning of your cider adventure I think this cider is a good one to start with as it is quite sweet and mild. For the record, the sulphur hint is just there, adds complexity, but I can’t say it’s anyhow disturbing. Goes well with fish & chips. 3.5/6 

Availability: online through Ciderlab or locally from  The Cider House in London.

Price: purchased in the Curator in Terminal 3 at London Heathrow Airport at 5.75 GBP.

Cornish Orchards Gold (draught)

It all started in 1992 when Andy Atkinson arrived at the Duchy of Cornwall farm and planted three apple orchards. In 1999 he had one of the largest collections of Cornish apple varieties and established a cider producing company, Cornish Orchards, which was then acquired in 2016 by Fuller’s, the London Brewer and Pub Operator. It’s my first time trying anything from this cider maker. The Gold is a triple-filtered cider made from a mix of cider and dessert apples. Company: Cornish Orchards
Place of Origin: Duloe, Cornwall, UK
Apples: a blend of cider and dessert apples from Cornwall
ABV: 4.5%
Package type: draught
Recommended type of glass: pint glass

Appearance: pours a clear pale golden with a little white foam. Medium carbonation. Body is light.

Aroma/Nose: not so much on the nose. Smells of commercial apple juice with notes of lemon with a hint of citric acid.

Taste: it starts very dry and sour, you can actually taste citric acid throughout the whole sip. A note of commercial apple juice and a hint of green apples on the mid-palate. The finish is dry and sour with a lingering flavour of citric acid.

Overall: I didn’t find the Gold drinkable at all. Well, perhaps only in gulps, but not in sips. It’s really sad to see what happened when an award-winning company was taken over by Fuller’s. Also, this is a good example of what happens to cider after it is triple-filtered. Only a flavour of citric acid with a faint apple note remain. I wouldn’t buy it again. 2/6

Availability: broad in the UK. Bottled from Demon Drinks in Germany.

Price: paid 5.30 GBP at Heathrow Airport Terminal 2 in the London’s Pride Pub.

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.

Hogan’s Hip Hop

Hogan’s is another cider maker trying to provide additional flavours by using Cascade and Chinook hops. Hogan’s efforts have been recognised by the jury panel of the International Cider Awards 2018 this year as the Hip Hop picked up Bronze in the category ‘flavoured cider’.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), Cascade and Chinook hops
Sweetness as per label: dry
ABV: 4%
Package type: 500ml amber glass with crown cap
Recommended type of glass: pint glass or white wine glass

Appearance: pours a clear pale orange with a large quickly dissipating white head. Medium carbonation. Body is low to medium.

Aroma/Nose: the nose is dry and smells of grapefruit, zinc oxide-eugenol cement used in dentistry, lemon, yellow apples, orange, a hint of tangerine.

Taste: it begins dry with no detectable sweetness and low to medium acidity of lemon. On the mid-palate notes of grapefruit, a slight astringent taste, a watery note and a smoky note, with something that numbs the tongue like eugenol. Also, a hint of tangerine, orange and a hint of elderflower. Finishes dry with a grapefruit note, some smokiness and light astringency.

Overall: interestingly, Hogan’s Hip Hop doesn’t really taste like a hopped cider. Let me explain why. Most flavours that you can get such as grapefruit or orange usually can be found also in a cider that was made from proper cider apples and/or barrel-aged. I couldn’t get much of the dry hop character such as hop bitterness or herbal aromas that often associate hopped ciders. Perhaps a hint of elderflower that often comes with hops. The aroma is pleasant and clear, the palate has an interesting array of flavours and a pleasant structure and length. The Hip Hop is citrusy and refreshing. I’d wish perhaps more apple flavour here but I can’t say I’m not enjoying this drop. Smooth and drinkable cider to celebrate the end of the day. 4/6 

Availability: from their online shop. In Germany exclusively from Cider Kultur.

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

Oliver’s Traditional Cider

When I learned that Tom Oliver of Oliver’s Cider & Perry will attend CiderWorld in Frankfurt I got very excited. It’s not every day that your idol stands right in front of you. Even better, when your idol is even aware that you exist and even reads your blog posts! Tom is not only a great cider maker but a warm and witty person of fascinating personality as it turns out. Today I give you Oliver’s Traditional Cider. Company: Oliver’s Cider and Perry
Place of Origin: Ocle Pochard, Herefordshire, UK
Apples: bittersweet and bittersharp cider apple varieties
Sweetness as per label: dry
ABV: 6.5%
Package type: 500ml amber glass bottle with crown cork
Recommended type of glass: pint glass or snifter

Appearance: pours a lightly hazy pale amber with no head. Still. Body is medium.

Aroma/Nose: the nose is strong and spicy with notes of juniper berries, a hint of cloves and vanilla. Also, fresh red apples, cider apples, smokiness with some green herbal undernotes.

Taste: my initial taste is dry with medium acidity of lemon. what comes next is a pungent smoky note, which lingers on and on. Then a flavour of olive brine, ripe yellow apples, strong astringent taste with a bit watery flavour and law saltiness appear. The finish is dry with a light aftertaste of juniper berries.

Overall: before I even tasted the Traditional, just took a sniff, I knew it would pair well with savoury dishes such as sausages or tapas. My first sip only confirmed it. Oliver’s Traditional Cider is a cider that should be served with food, especially based on pork and beef. But I guess vegetarians could enjoy it with quiche as well. Good length, good nose, nice structure. I must admit that I tried it at CiderWorld in Frankfurt at CiderKultur‘s booth first and wasn’t really fond of it. But at home, I’ve tried it at a pretty low temperature and it turned out to be a good idea. Therefore, I would definitely buy it again. But it has to be properly chilled to really enjoy it. A unique offering that will complement your food. 4.5/6 

Availability: from Oliver’s online shop. Locally in London from the Cider House and Bristol from the Bristol Cider Shop or  The Salutation Inn in Ham,  and many others. In Amsterdam from Appels en Perren. In Germany exclusively from CiderKultur.

Price: Oliver’s Traditional cider was a sample provided by CiderKultur

Hogan’s Dry

John Stewart was a very special person in Hogan’s life. John was Hogan’s neighbour and the person who actually introduced Alan Hogan to cider and cider making. It is thanks to John Alan learned how to make cider from locally grown cider apples and how to appreciate it. Think about John Stewart next time you drink Hogan’s cider.

Today I’m trying their Dry, which is advertised as peaty and smoky.Company: Hogan’s
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: dry
ABV: 5.8%
Package type: 500ml amber glass with crown cap
Recommended type of glass: pint glass or white wine glass

Appearance: pours a clear golden with no head. Slightly sparkling. Body is low.

Aroma/Nose: the aroma is tannic with hints of funk, notes of lemon, grapefruit and beeswax with a distant acetic acidity.

Taste: it starts relatively dry with a low acidity of both lemon and acetic acidity. Then the taste moves to notes of grapefruit (quite prevalent), blood orange, light beeswax, a light watery taste, smoky note and a medium astringent taste. It finishes dry with citrusy notes of grapefruit and with a smoky note. Also, there is a lightly biting taste due to carbonation.

Overall: similarly to the previously reviewed Medium, the Dry from Hogan’s could be described as a cross between English cider and a Spanish sidra. But it’s drier, similarly rich, yet light and watery. It’s a nice cider with a refreshing citrusy and smoky twist, exactly as advertised. Too watery perhaps so I would suggest considering to not water down this cider that much. Overall, it didn’t hook me but I thought it was quite ok. A pleasant, refreshing and light cider for every palate. 3.5/6 

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

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

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.