Thursday, November 12, 2015

Cider Review: Aspall Imperial English Cider

 Finally November! This has to be one of my favorite months because it means my birthday and Thanksgiving and all this nesting! Right now, it gets dark just before 5pm, and I'm so ready to be at home with my darling cats and goofy husband. Yes, I am a hobbity nesting type and not at all ashamed of it. 

In fact, I'm celebrating with some warming and extra luscious ciders, at least I hope so.

You've not heard much about Aspall cider here, though they've been around since 1728. Yes, that's not a typo. 1728.This is the year James Cook was born and Cotton Mather died. The world was a very different place, and the original Aspall family is still making cider and running the business eight generations later. Let that blow your mind for a moment.
While you're contemplating all of that, load up the website with all of its lovely photographs and enticing recipes:

All of this cider love happens in Suffolk, starting with Clement Chevallier and continuing today. Aspall ciders deserve more time and attention from this blog, as they is one of the core cidermakers in my cider history, and one I still like frequently. On my first trip to England as a devoted cider fan, I was in the midlands and Aspall was the cider most often on tap. So, I spent a lot of time with it early on.

My brief review of the Aspall Grand Cru appears in this roundup along with a few other ciders: 

Tonight I'm reviewing the Aspall Imperial English Cider, but I cannot explain that name. Sometimes Imperial means higher ABV, but I associate that with beer and not cider. Mind you what confuses me is to see the words Imperial and English right next to each other without really meaning that the cider has anything to with England's empire either now or in the past.  But that's me have a lit major digression on a cider blog, so my apologies!

Anyhow, The Imperial English Cider is call the Imperial Vintage on the website and has a subtly different label, but it is clearly the same product. My info all comes from the Aspall website.

This cider has won many awards in the UK between 2013 and the present. Here's how Aspall describes it.

Taste descriptor

Rich fudgy, tantalising flavour enhanced by bitter-sweet apples from a single year’s crop. Notes of raisins, dates and prunes. Sweet mellow finish. 

Serving suggestion

Delightful with lamb & casserole dumplings, pheasant, and strong cheeses such as Brie de Meaux, Stinking Bishop and Blue Stilton.

Appearance: dark topaz, visible bubbles, brilliant 
This dark color color represents higher alcohol, higher tannin, barrel aged UK ciders very well. I'd call it dark topaz. The cider shows visible bubbles because it is totally brilliant.
Aromas: mellow, caramel, yet piquant

What tantalizes me in the Imperial English Cider's aromas is the dual presence of both piquant notes that make me anticipate a reasonable level of acidity, but also the dark caramel and mellow scents that I associate with rich tannic ciders. It has some raisiny, boozy dark notes as well.

Sweetness/dryness: semi sweet 

This cider would be called a semi-dry in a pub in England, but I call it a semi-sweet. The subtle bitter and astringent notes only complement that. These flavors are so much more than just the level of sweetness though; its dark and rich and well balanced.
Flavors and drinking experience: semi sweet, naturally sparkling, intense mouth coat
The Aspall Imperial English Cider offers up some coffee bitterness right at the start. But then it expands, becoming so rich and big. A lot of this comes from both the high tannins and higher than typical ABV. It warms the mouth and the tummy. I find this cider extremely well balanced, truly something to write home about. It tastes like cider first and foremost but there are notes of toffee and popcorn and barrel. The profile is just so classic. A dessert cider for sure. That higher alcohol of ABV 8.1 numbs the tip of the tongue. 
Not very fruity; it tastes more of fermentation than fresh apple, which I appreciate so much right now. The Imperial English Cider is a mature cider for those who still want some sweetness. It has medium low levels of acidity but still enough to stimulate the salivary glands. What I simply cannot get over is this amazing texture. It's so creamy! That creaminess reminds me of brie with a teeny bit of chalky finish.
This is more than good with nuts, or a very late waffle breakfast in winter. Or creme brûlée, but it already practically *IS* creme brûlée.