Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Cider Review: Dunkerton's Black Fox and Old Hill Cidermaker's Barrel

Good morning, cider-loving friends! This past weekend, Spring finally arrived. We had some glorious sunshine, gentle breezes, and warmer temperatures over the weekend. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt more grateful for any break in the weather. I walked trails, watched a marching band, and participated in one of my favorite seasonal traditions: spring cleaning! I cleaned up my screened in porch, so now I have my favorite cider drinking spot back. Picture happy tired people drinking these ciders on a screened-in porch on sunny afternoon.

My first review for today is Dunkerton’s Black Fox Organic Cider. I did receive this sample for review from the american distributor for the Dunkerton’s brand. As always, this does not sway my feelings or writing on a cider. This Herefordshire cider maker uses only organic local fruit, supports many environmental causes, and consistently wins prestigious awards for making delicious ciders.
My previous reviews of Dunkerton’s beverages include

Dry Organic Cider: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/10/cider-review-dunkertons-dry-organic.html This cider achieved gold and then first in class in the traditional cider, dry category at GLINTCAP in 2017.

Organic Perry: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/05/very-perry-may-pt-2-woodchuck.html This perry also won gold at GLINTCAP 2017 and took first in class in the traditional perry category.

You can find tons more info on the website: https://www.dunkertonscider.co.uk/
Today’s cider is their semi-dry Black Fox Organic Cider and it too did well at GLINTCAP, earning a silver medal.

The cider’s official description reads, “Dunkertons Organic Black Fox cider has fragrant notes of traditional cider apple varieties which we have carefully blended together to give a deliciously robust cider leaving your mouth full of lively sweet and tangy after tastes. Translucent in colour with light golden honey hues.” 7% ABV

The site also lists all of the apples in the cider, something that always makes me happy! The apples listed include: Brown Snout, Foxwhelp, Kingston Black, Balls Bitter Sweet, Stoke Red, Dabinett, Court Royal, Breakwells, and Yarlington Mill.

These exciting cider apples make my expectations quite high, perhaps dangerously so.

Appearance: transparent, harvest orange, some visible bubbles

This cider looks so traditionally english with its deep orange color and slight haze. I’d not call it brilliant but rather transparent. I can see some bubbles at the base and surface of the glass.

Aromas: cooked apples, tea, leather, salt

The Black Fox smells salty, leathery and slightly sweet.

Dryness/sweetness: semi-dry or a solid english medium dry

This is exactly what is called a medium or medium dry in UK cider parlance. It translates roughly to a semi-dry in the language I see more often on american cider labels.

Flavors and drinking experience: tannic, fresh peach, caramel

I love how tannic and rich this cider tastes! It’s absolutely brimming over with ripe fruit character including notes of peach, citrus, and overripe apple. But’s not simple; the Black Fox is also a little funky and spicy. The spice notes are more gingery and zesty rather than like baking spices.

The cider mellows through the mid palate. It offers up lots of traditional UK cider features like flavors reminiscent of barn wood and clean sweat along with medium acidity. The gentle level of oxidation does impart a caramel sheen to the whole drinking experience. It’s remarkable, and it’s lovely.

Up next is Old Hill Cider’s Cidermaker’s Barrel.

This is my first review of anything by Old Hill Cider. My charming partner Alex picked it up for me on a trip to Virginia. The cidery was formed eight years ago, but the orchard on which it is based, Showalter’s Orchard and Greenhouse, has been in operationg for more than 50 years. Old Hill seems to take its sense of history and local food very seriously, offering up a cidery history segment on the website and partnering with farm-to-table endeavors.

Find out about the company online at: http://www.oldhillcider.com/

Here’s the official description.
Cidermaker’s Barrel 
This reserve cider boasts our most complex flavor profile. Natural yeast fermentation lends layers of flavor including vanilla and fruit sweetness. A tannic, charred-oak finish enhances this traditional Shenandoah Valley Farmhouse style cider. 
Serve and enjoy this Virginia indigenous cider with salty pork, VA ham, aged cheddars, sheep’s milk cheese, rich, spicy stews and foods equal in complexity.

Appearance: brilliant, bright straw, no visible bubbles

This cider has a shining bright color with total brilliance. I don't see any bubbles, and I don't know how much petillance to expect.

Aromas: Barrel, grain, vanilla

This is going to be so very much about the barrel; I can tell! The aromas are vanilla, barrel, grain and booze. I don’t get any fruit on the nose.

Dryness/sweetness: dry

This is a very dry cider with lots of barrel character.

Flavors and drinking experience: tart, sour, petillant, barrel-y

This cider is extremely tart! I’d go so far as to call it sour; this is not an uncommon profile for wild fermented ciders. The sparkle level is petillant, or only mildly bubbly. The Cidermaker’s Barrel does come across as more boozy than average.

The barrely flavors make this woody and drying in addition to tart and wild. It does have a very rustic character. I like that the vanilla aromatic notes give a gentle counterpoint to some of the more rugged flavors. This one is an excellent sip and read or sip and think cider. I think that’s how I would ideally approach it more than as a food pairing cider.