Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Cider Review: Seattle Cider Company's Gin Botanical Hard Cider

Usually, I'm not a spirits person. Not meaning that I don't enjoy haunted houses, but that I rarely go to the cocktail list when I'm out. My own liquor cabinet doesn't get much love either, sadly. But for gin, I occasionally make an exception. There's something about its zest and bite and heady aromas. Thus, when I learned that Seattle Cider Company makes a Gin Botantical Cider, I knew I had to try it. Trouble is, Seattle is far away from Upstate NY.

I could not buy it locally, so when I got a box in the mail with not one but three Seattle Cider Company offerings, it made my day! (You can look forward to the Basil Mint and Three Pepper reviews in the spring.) I knew I had to try the Gin Botanical, preferably with my favorite gin fan, Phil Sandifer (He writes strange and significant things here: http://www.eruditorumpress.com/blog/author/phil/). So when he put together a vegetarian cider pairing feast, we chose Seattle Cider Company for one the early courses.

Seattle Cider Company has a great website. I love the process pictures to illustrate the processes of cider making and the clean layout. Great work. Check it out:


When I look at the presentation of cider companies, I want to learn about their priorities. Its inherently intesting, and it sometimes clues us in to what we can expect about the cider. Here are a few tidbits that Seattle Cider Company on their website. 
Their Mission: "Produce, package, sell, and promote the finest quality craft cider by cultivating a work environment of innovation and exploration."

Their Vision: "Be a national leader in the transformation of the cider industry, admired for our dedication to real ingredients and original products."

While those statements are their most clear and identifiable statements of identity, I don't see as much content in them as I do in other parts of the website, "Seattle Cider Company is Seattle’s first cidery since Prohibition, bringing true craft cider back to Seattle and across the country. Bridging the gap between wine and beer with flavorful, small-batch cider, Seattle Cider’s initial offerings – Dry and Semi-Sweet – break the mold of overly sweet cider, bringing the natural flavors of Washington apples to the forefront" and "Naturally gluten free and made from a custom blend of fresh pressed, locally grown Washington apples, Seattle Cider’s products are handcrafted with real ingredients, successfully distinguishing themselves from the mass market cider found in stores today."
From these descriptions I infer that Seattle Cider Company's will use culinary fruit because they focus on the locality of their apple source. I also see a nod to wine which doesn't come up as often as it should in cider promotion, if you ask me. A nod to wine could mean a still cider, a drier cider, or a more understated presence of yeast compared to other profiles of cidermaking. Or it could not. We'll have to taste to know.

First a few facts about the Gin Botanical Hard Cider from Seattle Cider Company

ABV: 6.5% 
BRIX: 1.8 
APPLES: Granny Smith, Fuji, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Gala 
TASTING NOTES: Fermented with spent gin botanicals from Batch 206 Distillery, our Gin Botanical is a semi-dry cider showcasing lemon, orange rind, juniper, cucumber and verbena. Like the spirit that inspired it, this cider is complex, clean, aromatic and refreshing. 
FOOD PAIRINGS: Herbed Chicken,Fresh Melon, pickled ginger

Appearance: palest white gold, like morning sunlight in winter

The color of this cider does not give away its secrets; it pale and subtle rather than blazing or warm. I can see a few visible bubbles but not a notable number.

Aromas: men's aftershave, mint gum, apples

Whoooaaaaa, I smell a blue cold mint herbal blast followed by apples. These combine to give the impression apples on a ski slope surrounded by pine trees. There's also some lychee in the array of smells.

Sweetness/dryness: semi-dry

I noticed that Seattle Cider Company lists the brix in this cider. That's very unusual. Most places rely on more perceptual descriptors or even a graphic scale that shows a dry to sweet continuum. Almost universally these skew towards describing or depicting dry and offering a little sweeter. I'm pleased to say that this is a semi-dry that was described as a semi-dry.

Flavors and drinking experience: herby, high acid, funky

Those gin botanicals taste immediately arresting! I get mint, basil, hops, citrus, and a hint of clean sweat. The cider activates my salivary glands intensely. Texturally, I notice big bubbles that show the cider is force carbonated: not really a surprise. The carbonation amplifies the herbal gin infused flavor in a brute force way. The Gin Botanical offers high levels of acidity but no tannin. I do get some pleasing minerality.

The cider rolls through immediate bitterness into more fruitiness. The herbal notes remain present throughout the experience. It tastes like you'd hope gin and cider would taste together—as much a funky gin cocktail as a cider. They use spent gin botanicals for it: juniper, orange peel, coriander.

If memory serves, we paired this cider with the sun-dried tomato flatbread course. I could see pairing this cider in a number of ways though. right now I'd like to pair it with herb and lemon coated baked salmon. I think keeping something juicy but not overpowering is key. This cider has a lot to say, and I wouldn't want it to get lost in something too sweet or spicy. For activities, drink this cider while playing a board game with friends, perhaps Dixit or something equally dreamy.

This is a fun and delicious cider that pairs its creativity with successful execution and balance. I'm hoping to taste it again when I'm nearer the west coast for Cider Con!