Thursday, May 22, 2014

Cider Review: Distillery Lane Ciderworks Kingston Black

I received a fabulous array of awesome Mid-Atlantic ciders; many thanks to Patrick Huff of Cider Nation ( and Crafty and The Beast ( He also does regular cider chats on Twitter. Check out the hashtag #ciderchat most Thursday evenings, and you'll find something useful and interesting. So tonight's cider review comes from that store of deliciousness.

I'm reviewing Distillery Lane Ciderworks' Kingston Black.

Previously, I reviewed their Traditional Dry Sparkling Cider. Here's a link to that review:
You'll find a lot more background information on the company there.

I made an interesting discovery when looking up Distillery Lane's website. It is not only available at but also now at  Both sites offer identical information on the cidery's history, name, event and availability. What I could not find enough information about was their selection of ciders, althrough their Facebook page has more info there than the main website.

 To set this scene, this cider came with me to a dinner party with my husband and a couple of his fellow professors and their families. Lovely lovely people, many of whom already love good cider and wine. So of course, I asked them to help me taste through a bottle of something new over dinner. So these observations are not the products of only my fevered brain, but also those of my companions.

This is what Distillery Lane Ciderworks says about their Kingston Black.
It is rare amongst the hundreds of apple varieties grown today that one apple has proper amounts of sugar, acid, and tannins to make a high-quality, single varietal cider. Kingston Black, an apple first grown in Somerset, England, is one of these rare apples. Highly prized, but scarcly cultivated in America today, Kingston Blacks grow very well in our orchard.  It has a wonderful tartness and lovely finish. Serve chilled with poultry, mild fish or pork. We also bottle limited quantities of Kingston Black sparkling.
Additionally, I'd like to note ABV listed is 7.5%.

Appearance: Rich honey color, brilliant

This poured beautifully. Everyone appreciated the rich golden honey color. No visible bubbles to speak of, but I really didn't expect them in a still cider.

Aromas: oak, hints of apples, brightness

The Kingston Black smells fresh and bright, but with a hints of fresh apples, cherry, honey, and a few  interesting phenols. The oak aromas really jumped out at us after a few seconds.

Sweetness: semi-dry

Like other single varieties of cider I've tasted, issues of sweetness and dryness are almost swept aside because the flavors are about so much other than that. Even so, this has some sweetness and fruitiness, but it is more dry than sweet. Definitely a semi-dry in my book.

Flavors and drinking experience: complex, tannic, buttery

Because of the tannins and oak, this tastes in some ways like a REALLY gentle whiskey, or a bit of warming apple brandy. The individual notes in that experience are butter with a whipped cream aftertaste. Rather like the overall impression made by some bourbon barrel aged ciders, one can get hints of pancakes. Someone in the group astutely tasted notes of white chocolate. I found it a little minerally. The cider has very high tannins and fairly low acid. It tastes relatively little like apple, but we could detect bits of apple core, skin, and wood.  The Kingston Black tastes best when you let it flow over the whole tongue. You warm up to it and the cider itself is warming.

 We enjoyed this cider with grilled salmon and asparagus, wild rice salad with dried cranberries, and chocolate covered strawberries. The meal was delicious and the cider stood up well to all of those varied strong flavors. This is a cider to enjoy with food. I liked it plenty, but overall I still find cider blends to be more approachable than most single varietals. None the less, this one hit plenty of high notes for me. I love tannins, and this cider delivered them in spades.

Thanks again to my dinner companions and cider sharers!