Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Cider Review: Shacksbury Classic

Autumn is well and truly here, even Halloween has recently come and gone. With the cold nights, my cider cravings tend toward darker and richer flavors. So, I'll be hunting around my cider stores for the beverages that might fit such a desire in the coming weeks and months. This is how I ended up choosing the Shacksbury Original for today's review.

During my trip to Vermont this summer, I had the pleasure of wandering around Windfall Orchard with David Dolginow of Shacksbury Ciders. You can take a look here:

As far as learning about Shacksbury from the website, I think the most direct way is to let these folks describe themselves.

Far from ordinary, apples are the most diverse food plant on earth. Unfortunately, only a handful of varieties are cultivated at scale in America, and all of those are designed for eating, not cider making. 
At Shacksbury, we believe cider can, and should, be daring and complex. From gnarled trees on New England farmsteads to Old World orchards in England and Spain, our cider will change the way you think about this amazing fruit.
Find out more at the website:

Let me just take a moment to appreciate the crisp and lovely photography on the website. It takes time and effort to share high quality photos like these, but what a difference it makes!

This official description is presented on the website as a series of bullet points. 

Bold, earthy, lightly sparkling, and dry
The best pizza cider, ever
Apple varieties - Browns, Ellis Bitter, Dabinett, Michelin, Jonagold, McIntosh, Empire, Spartan, and Somerset Redstreak
Apples grown by Sunrise Orchards in Cornwall, Vermont and Dragon Orchards in Herefordshire, England
Slow, partial native yeast fermentation in stainless steel and aged for 9-12 months
500ML, 6.0% ABV
Produced and bottled by Shacksbury Cider in Shoreham, Vermont
Based on what I'm reading about the Shacksbury Classic, I expect high tannins, plenty of aroma, good body, and possibly bits of funkiness. The anticipation is real.

Appearance:brilliant, harvest moon, lots of bubbles

This certainly looks more like an English cider in color compared to most of what I see in my glass. This color looks just like a harvest moon low in the sky. The picture reveals a totally brilliant cider with loads of visible bubbles.

Aroma: overripe apples, golden raisins, petrol

Gracious goodness, this has all the richness in aroma I could have asked for. Primarily I smell golden raisins and delightful overripe apples. Secondarily I detect some sappy green freshness, citric acid, petrol, rubber, and steel (!) Totally complex.

Sweetness/dryness: Off dry

This was a little more difficult to parse than usual. Different folks tasting together disagreed on whether this was just off dry but with lots of fruit characteristic or if it was sweeter. The sweet folks argued that the sweet perception was blunted by acidity. I say off dry. If other folks have tried it and want to weigh in, please feel free!

Flavors and drinking experience:high acid, high tannin, UK influenced, mild to medium funk

This cider offers up LOADS of flavor; its very very good. My first surprise is how high acid and high tannin it is—like a high acid UK cider. I taste lots of fruit with the tiniest petrol funk, but really pleasant and understated. Some of the sharpness reminds me of Spanish ciders but none of the volatile acidity. There's plenty of both tropical fruit and lactic acid playing together. This cider has great rich mouthfeel with honey and leather aromas in the finish.

Overall the Shacksbury original is golden and rich. high tannin. It is off-dry, but really drinkers can perceive the sweetness. They really get glorious high tannins, lingering flavor, and depth.

I enjoyed this cider with a warm pecan apple crisp after trick or treaters took every bit of the candy at my house, but I'm sure you could pair it with a lot of other foods and experiences. Because it has so much of  both acid and tannin, I'd let it be the centerpiece and not choose a food that goes heavy on acidity. Let this tasty cider be the star!