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Tasting two very different but tasty ciders….

14 Jan

Today, I enjoyed two bottles of cider. The first was a bottle of Dan Kelly’s Cider from Drogheda, Ireland. The second was a bottle of Yarlington Mill Cider from Gwatkin’s in Herefordshire. I picked the Dan Kelly’s first because I wanted to open a bottle of Irish cider in memory of my sister. It would have been her birthday today and she was a great lover of cider. Because my wife was enjoying the cider with me, we had to open a second bottle and I chose a bottle I knew would be very different for contrast.

Dan Kelly’s Cider

Dan Kelly's front labelFor me, Dan Kelly’s Cider is quite a lightly flavoured cider with a taste of apple peel. It’s fizzy and slightly cloudy. At 4.5% it’s not too strong. The light flavour comes from a mixture of both cider, cooking and eating apples.

According to the website: “Cider apples are blended with Bramley and dessert fruit to give the cider a dry finish.” I’m a little perturbed by the inclusion of Bramley as a specific named variety in this list. Does this mean that Bramley make up a lot of the volume of apples.

Dan Kelly's cider back and glass

Ingredients: Apple juice, water. Interestingly it says “May contain Sulphites”. This is just to cover themselves as the website says: “We don’t use sulphites or cultured yeasts. We don’t add acid, artificial colours, sweeteners or anything else. We simply press the apples and let wild yeasts do their thing. We then add some juice before pasteurising to allow the crisp, fresh and refreshing flavour develop.” Nice!

Yarlington Mill Cider from Gwatkin’s

Gwatkin's front label

Selected for contrast was a bottle of Yarlington Mill Cider from Gwatkin in Herefordshire. This is a cider with a much longer tannic structure that goes all the way across the middle of the mouth down to the throat. It has a floral, sherry perfumed scent and tastes quite sweet – probably partly due to the maturation in oak barrels. It was lightly sparkling and is a stronger cider at 7% vol. It’s a single apple variety – Yarlington Mill which is a bittersweet apple. “Ingredients: Apple juice, natural sugars and sulphites (trace)”

Gwatkin side one

Gwatkin side 2

More “natural” yeasts

Both of these bottles of cider include the word “natural” for their yeasts. To be more precise Dan Kelly’s talk about “natural wild yeasts”. For the purposes of understanding how the ciders are made, the word “wild” is a more useful. Using wild yeasts that are present on the apples and in the air is likely to include many different types of yeast that will give the cider a variable flavour profile. Dan Kelly are very clear about this on the website which is interesting and useful information.

In contrast, Gwatkin’s describe a cider that is “Matured in oak barrels with natural yeasts”. This could imply no addition of cultured yeast but it’s not very clear. ‘Cultured yeast’ are also natural and since they don’t say wild it difficult to be sure. The website shows a wide range of ciders that are made and include a shop that sells bottles and bag in boxes but doesn’t provide much extra information about how the cider was made. This was a little disappointing.

In summary, these are two ciders that reflect the local tradition of cider making in their area. They are both interesting and well made drinks. I enjoyed them. The variation in style and taste is one of the things I enjoy about cider.


Day trip to Herefordshire… and a bottle of Oldfields Orchard Cider…

18 Dec

Today, I took a day trip to England, to the county of Herefordshire. I went to pick up three apple trees from a high quality apple tree grower, John Worle. I was very lucky as John offered to show me some of his nursery fields. One field contained 200,000 trees.

On the way home, I visited the Cider Museum in Hereford City. The Cider Museum has the widest selection of ciders, I have ever seen. I was keen to pick up a few bottles of local good quality cider. I bought 14 different bottles of cider from the vast array and I am excited about tasting them over the few weeks or so.

On arrival home, I decided the best reward was to open a bottle. I chose Oldfields Orchard Medium Dry Cider. The bottle (below) has a lovely illustration on the front and a nice story of a tipsy wasp on the back. It includes good cider apple varieties: Dabinett, Harry Masters Jersey and Yarlington Mill.

Interestingly, the phrase “real cider” is missing. The cider is quite modest in alcohol at just 4.8% which I think suggests that it’s been diluted with water. Looking at the website, the makers give some great detail about how their cider is made. The website say that they “test various blends to come up with our final ‘recipe’ which would decide sweetness or dryness, desired alcoholic content and flavour. The raw cider from each tank was then blended with water, our own apple juice, sugar and SO2”.

The cider is lightly sparkling and gives a scent resulting from the inclusion of good quality cider apples. It’s light on the palate with a light taste of tannins too. It’s pleasant and I like the relatively low alcohol of 4.8%. The flavour is very clean and my wife enjoyed her share. However, I would prefer more flavour in my cider than is apparent in this bottle – either of apples or tannins. As a light, lower alcohol cider, it’s a good choice.

Front of Bottle

Front of Bottle

Back of bottle

Back of bottle


Scotts Irish Cider

19 Sep

Just finished a bottle of Scotts Irish Cider. I love the stags on the bottle but it’s not overwhelmed with information. Their website lacks any additional information. However, the twitter feed seems to suggest it might be made in Armagh….

So what about the cider. It’s nice. A clear golden colour. Sparkling but not overly so. It tastes of cider apples with good cheeses tannins and a nice long finish. At 5% alcohol by vol, it’s not too strong.

As a question, I wonder if it’s possible to brew cider to 5% alcohol by volume. My pressings always come to over 6% as judged by specific gravity. Does that suggest that cider makers are diluting their juice to make a 5% brew?

Interestingly, Scotts don’t use the term ‘real cider’ on their label. In fairness it tastes pretty good. I would like to know the percentage juice and the types of apples use, more out of interest than anything else.

It’s recommended as a drink – it’s good quality cider for those who can cope with that proper cider flavor.


Longueville House Cider from Mallow, Co Cork

5 Sep


Tonight, I am enjoying a bottle of cider produced in Co. Cork in Ireland.

This is a probably a cider makers cider. According to the bottle, it’s made from Dabinett and Michelin apples. These are two proper cider making apple types. According to John Worle, a well respected apple tree grower, both apples are bittersweet apples. The bitterness reflects the presence of tannins. Tannins give the cider structure. You can smell the tannins in this cider and you can certainly taste the tannins. They fill the mouth and last after the cider is swallowed. My personal taste would be for just a little less tannins in my cider so I would characterize this as a tannic cider.

It’s also cloudy. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. It says on the back of the bottle that it’s cloudy. I don’t always read the back of the bottle before I open it but I do usually read it :-). I do kind of think that ‘better’ cider should be clear. This bottle is an example that cider clarity isn’t essential for a good drink.

All in all Longueville House Cider tastes like a well made and interesting cider. Probably best consumed with food which softens the tannins on the palate, I think. I recommend it.

5% vol

Orpens Fresh Pressed Apple Cider

9 Aug

Continuing my exploration of the Irish cider scene, yesterday I enjoyed some Orpens Fresh Pressed Apple Cider. According the information it was a “medium dry cider, slightly tart, golden honey finish”. It is made in the Guinness Enterprise Centre in Taylors Lane in Dublin.

It was a nice tasty sparkling cider. It had a tannic nose and medium bodied taste that implied the use of real cider apples. It has a long finish on the tongue. The bottle was 330ml and I was sorry to see the end of it. Enjoyable.

There is lots of fun information on the label including a story about “Galloping Granny” Charmian (Hill) Orpen and a “not from concentrate” statement. However, there was no information about the types of apples used.

Interestingly, the bottle says it corresponds to 1.4 units of alcohol in ROI but 1.8 units of alcohol in UK. This is a bit of a puzzle. I guess the Republic of Ireland and the UK calculate alcohol units separately.


Stonewell Dry Irish Craft Cider

18 Jul

Last week, we had a kind of international cider exchange, my sister-in-law did some purchasing in Ireland and brought over some Irish craft ciders. On her way back to Ireland, I sent her off with a few British ciders as part exchange. One of the bottles she brought was this – Stonewell Dry Irish Craft Cider made by Nohoval Cidery in County Cork.

Details: 2012, 5.5% alc vol, clear pale yellow. Fizzy . Lovely cheesy on the nose. A dry tannic full bodied flavour.
According to the information on the bottle it’s made from Dabinett, Michelin, Jonagored, Elstar & Falstaff apple varieties. This seems like a nice blend of apples that adds a lot of complexity on the pallet. There is a sort of cheese and honey flavour that is long.

I think this might be one of the best Irish ciders I have drunk. It’s very nice and feels like very well made cider. Good job.


As a passing comment, I quote their sales blurb on the back of the bottle. They use:

“a specially selected natural yeast for fermentation”

So this raises the question in my mind of “what is a natural yeast” and if they wanted to use an “unnatural” one where would they get that from?

I work in a building where there are various genetically modified yeast. These are also specially selected although I can’t imagine anybody using them to make cider. Mmm… what do you think the good people at Nohoval Cidery mean by “specially selected natural yeast”? I don’t mind that much – they make good cider 🙂

Stonewell Cider




Prize winning cider

7 Jul

While not wanting to brag too much, it was nice to win third prize in the drinks category in the Rhiwbina Village Fete. I bottled up some of the light dry cider we made this year and the result was a tasty brew.


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