If you read here regularly, you may have come to suspect a certain style bias in my cider drinking. I love many many sorts of cider, but higher tannin ciders often with some oak and funk to them are frequently favorites. I've been teased for preferring English-style ciders as much as I love UK bands or Victorian literature. I suppose I should confess. I am, in fact, guilty as charged.
So, when I chose a cider to relax with on a dark chilly night recently, my expectations rose when I chose an English cider by a company I've never tried before. Henney's is based out of Worcester, England and the founder Mike Henney has been making cider since 1996. I got my bottle of Henney's Vintage Dry from Franklin County Cider Days last year when bottles left over from the two cider salons were sold at incredibly reasonable prices at the end of the harvest dinner. I spaced out my enjoying of these hard to find ciders, but I believe this bottle was my last of that haul.
Speaking of Franklin County Cider Days, I highly encourage everyone to go. You can read about the cider celebration here: http://www.ciderdays.org/ (It just breaks my heart that I cannot go this year.)
(I wrote about my fabulous experiences there last year in this entry: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/11/franklin-county-cider-days-2013-few.html
All my adoration of Franklin County Cider Days aside, it pleases me to no end to get to review something so unfamiliar and intriguing.
Henney's website is beautiful. Lots of use of illustration and clean simple graphic design. They don't go into vast detailed explainations, but they do talk about apple varieties specifically naming Dabinette, Ashton Bitter, Michelin, Yarlington Mill, and Tremlett's Bitter as varieties they prefer. Their website can be found at: www.henneys.co.uk/
This is what they have to say about the Vintage Dry 2012
"Henneys Vintage is made from a single year’s pressing and is naturally still. It is dry in style with a rich and flavoursome palate. This vintage cider is made from a single year’s harvest. It is naturally still and has been only coarsely filtered in order to retain as much flavour as possible. Sip or quaff, we don’t mind, as long as you enjoy it. Cheers!"
Appearance: Dark reddish orange, brilliant, obviously still
I know I go rather off the charts in my associative color descriptions, but you'll find no apologies for that here. This color reminds me of certain fall leaves, dark amber grade B maple syrup, or cinnabar. This is a color for the smell of woodsmoke and the crunch of leaves already fallen to the ground.
Aromas: woody, tannic, hints of fruit
Though the primary smell is apple, it offers something more specific: the deep dark but subtle sweet aura of bittersweet cider apples. At this point that smell just means tannins to me. The fact that this comes along with hints of wood and leather, make that prediction a safe one.
Sweetness: off dry
This is not a completely dry cider, but what sweetness is there is entirely fruity and understated. I think this is a textbook definition of off dry.
Flavors and drinking experience: tannins, astrigency, farmy, approachable
This cider is so tannic that it starts to dry the mouth and cause a peculiar but very pleasant feeling of astrigency and puckering. Definitely not for everyone, but I adored it. It also has notes of rocks and mist but without tasting watery. This is a tremendously interesting cider with just a bit of farminess to it. The mouthfeel creeps up on being cottony. Very English. I appreciate that the ABV is only 6.5% which keeps it very refreshing and drinkable.
In my enthusiasm for tannins and texture I don't want to forget about fruit because this has some lovely overripe apple characteristics along with hints of jam and biscuit dough. At one point, tasting this cider provoked me to say, "Sweet sweet Pomona, thou art good," If that helps to indicate my level of enthusiasm.
Ideally, I'd have this with something creamy and spicy with a hint of seafood saltiness, like a shrimp curry with loads of coconut milk. I'd want something with broth and liquid just to balance out the drying characteristics of the cider, but also something flavorful and stimulating. Anything bland or too mild would simply fade in the presence of so much flavor.
This is not a cider for everyone, but it is certainly one for me!