Thursday, January 9, 2014

Cider Review: Woodchuck's Private Reserve Barrel Select

Pardon the slightly noir photograph. I promise that Woodchuck's Private Reserve Barrel Select isn't particularly mysterious. I just haven't had many moments of sunshine for cider photos lately, so I had to shoot quickly. This is a perfectly approachable cider, nothing nefarious here.

Woodchuck gives us some fairly effusive copy about their cider: "Woodchuck Private Reserve Barrel Select is our ultra-limited cider crafted in small batches for a rare taste of sweet, crisp apple cider combined with smoky, dry bourbon flavors. Aged in genuine white oak Kentucky bourbon barrels, this copper-hued gem pairs excellently with cheese, pork roast and chocolate cake. Served best at 50 degrees, Barrel Select is truly an exclusive joy to relish."Drawing from that, let's just look at the information shared. This is aged in used bourbon barrels from Kentucky (Yay Kentucky!). They recommend pairing it with some fatty, sweet, intense flavors, so I'm guessing that this will be a very flavorful sweet cider. No mention of apple varieties. The ABV on this cider is 6.9% which does limit the places where it can be sold. Curse you, labyrinthine prohibition remnants haunting our alcohol laws!

Anyhow back to the cider at hand. Let's see how it looks.

Color and Appearance: Brilliant, almost no visible bubbles, orange

This cider is deeply and devotedly orange. You could call it copper or persimmon or even vaguely bourbon like, but it is a bold orange cider. Like most Woodchuck ciders, it has been filtered to complete brilliance.

Aromas: vanilla, cooked apples, whiskey, wood

Very dessert smelling. The apples are much more like my grandmother's stovetop cooked apples than anything more raw and natural. I also get some vanilla, caramel, almost butterscotch notes. Its all over the place so long as the place is sweet and candy related. More distantly I can also smell the wood and bourbon elements, but only through a fog of sugary food smells.

Sweetness: Too. Sweet.

This can be a recurring problem for barrel aged ciders and for Woodchuck's ciders. It doesn't always strike though. So for fans of sweet cider, this might be right up their respective alleys. It is however sweet even by those standards. The sweetness comes across with some of the same notes as the aroma but also with a maple flavor more than the caramel I smelled.

Flavors and Drinking Experience: Overwhelming on its own. Better with food.

I can taste some wood and some fruit but mostly dessert sweetness: maple, vanilla, caramel, booziness. I don't care for it as a sipping cider. However, when I sat down with some veggie chili and cornbread, that smoothed out the experience for me. Chili has a lot of strong vibrant roasty flavors and those pair well with Woodchuck's Barrel Select.

Socially, this is a great time for chili. We're all cold and stir-crazy. Maybe invite some folks over and try a whole bunch of new ciders along with a few different chili variations. This combo is not a bad one.