Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Cider Review: Tandem Cider's Smackintosh

I love that Tandem Ciders has a section on their website labelled "Cidery Philosophy." That's something I want to know from every cidermaker I encounter, but usually I find it by bits and pieces gleaned through reading their histories, cider descriptions, about sections and social media presence. Usually it is gleaned between the lines as much as by direct statements. But Tandem is making it easy for me, which says to me that they care about having and sharing a cider philosophy. Here's the opening sentence, "The intention at Tandem Ciders is to produce ciders that reflect the beauty of the apple." Very direct and bold. Much of the following section is a loving paen to apples and their mythos, but the last paragraph begins to get specific, and I love that.

Here's what Tandem Ciders say about their cider philosophy.
As with any craftsman, the ability to transform raw materials into a composition requires patience, passion, and a little elbow grease. With these ideals in mind, Tandem Ciders strives for culinary artistry in its ciders. Our products will begin with superior apples that will echo farmers’ time and hard work. Each small batch of fruit will be turned into juice with a traditional rack and cloth press. The juice will then be fermented using standard styles, and the resulting cider will be bottled ‘straight’ or blended with a little Leelanau County imagination. As we keep on fermenting, we hope to keep on improving with each passing season.
You can read much more about them at: http://www.tandemciders.com

I was given a bottle of the Smackintosh at GLINTCAP with only the context that it is one o their sweeter and more popular ciders. Fair enough, but I wanted to know more, so I found their official description.
POW! Right in the Kisser
McIntosh, Rhode Island Greening, and Northern Spy. Everything's better with a little Smack. This crowd pleaser is sweet and tart with full apple flavor.
Apple Growers: Smith-Omena Heights Farm, Steimel Brothers, Christmas Cove Farm, & Schultz Orchards
These apples are classic varieties. Northern Spy have been popular for pies and baking for decades, and Rhode Island Greening has been a sauce apple for longer than most of us have been alive. The McIntosh serves as a fantastic apple in a number of contexts: raw, cooking, and processing. There's so much neat history there that I recommend reading the Wikipedia article about it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McIntosh_%28apple%29

What I can surmise though is that this blend of apples will offer more sweetness and less acidity and virtually no tannins. I'm curious about what "full apple flavor" means in this context, but I'm hoping for a nice rich mouthfeel. The ABV for this cider is listed as an unusually low 4.5%. 

Appearance: straw, tiny visible bubbles in the glass, clear

This cider looks lovely with its mellow straw color and unusually tiny bubbles. It appears clear rather than brilliant.

Aromas: fresh apple all the way

Just smells exactly, almost freakishly, like an apple. The aroma is so fresh that it seems luscious and wet.  How a smell can seem wet, I don't really know, but that's how it was.

Sweetness/dryness: sweet

This is going to get repetitive, but I must emphasize how much like eating a fresh apple this cider tastes. The sweetness is the sweetness of fresh pressed juice, and there's plenty of that sweetness present.

Flavors and drinking experience: apple, apple, and more apple and relatively low level of carbonation

The Smackintosh tastes like a dessert apple, rather specifically like a McIntosh or a Golden Delicious. It's nearly goofy to me how much this tastes like an apple; partly I attribute this to halted fermentation and a relatively low ABV.  It tastes great with pieces of real apple. The taste feels low in the mouth in a way that reminds me of many French ciders. The mouthfeel is not super crisp or tart but rather soft and mellow. The cider is juicy iwth low acid, making it not bright but nicely minerally. Very low level of sparkle. I find it very pleasant and natural for its type of a cider: arrested fermentation, low abv, and sweet. 

I enjoyed this cider with a little picnic on my porch: fresh mozzerella, lemon and raw garlic hummus, cucumbers, carrots, grape tomatoes, apples, and fresh brown bread. Perfect balance for the sweetness.

Last blog post before England! I've stored a few entries and set the blog to post them automatically, but I still feel like I'll miss this (and all of you) while I'm gone. Drink some tasty ciders for me! I promise that's what I'll be doing in London and Cornwall.