Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Cider Review: Black Diamond Cider's Hickster

Outside, its snowing and has been for hours. I've been bonding with my cats and my couch and some pretty fantastic fantasy novels. I switched over from long walks to hibernation mode after the nights started arriving earlier and the wind began getting colder. My cider choices changed too. Tonight I want to review a cider chosen for the season: Black Diamond's Hickster.

Folks around here who care about cider know of Ian Merwin's works in Pomology, and locals flock to the Black Diamond stall at the Ithaca Farmer's Market for interesting apple varieties. In 2014, this apple legacy expanded to include hard cider. They use their own apples which means they have access to mature trees that grow some fascinating apples: both those traditionally grown for cider and other heritage varietals.

I reviewed the Rabblerouser back in September of 2015:

But today I'm considering the Hickster. This bottle was shared with me for review by the kind folks at Black Diamond, but I've tasted it and formed my impressions from a handful of tastings. Here's the official description. "Estate grown. Semi-dry. Sparkling. A blend of heirloom russet and bittersweet apples. Bold tannins and sharp acidity on the front. Smooth, yet complex finish with hints of vanilla and fresh apple. (7.4% ABV, 1.5% RS)"

Appearance: brilliant, dark intense color,

This cider looks very harvesty in color, like autumn leaves against a bright yet cloudy sky. Thankfully my picture shows the brilliance of the liquid. One could easily read through the filled glass. What the photo does not show as clearly are the active bubbles. They are present: trust me.

Aromas: cooked apples, stony, rich, dusty,

Wow! The Hickster offers up so much amazing scent! I love how this cider smells. First, I can smell cooked apples, but something about them makes me think specifically of deeply flavored russet-y apples. The aromas enforce a sense of richness, and I anticipate tannins based on what I smell.

Sweetness/dryness: off dry to semi dry

This is a fabulously rich not-quite-off-dry but more towards off-dry than semi-dry cider. What a funny mouthful. I'm meaning to say that the cider isn't austere and has both fruit and a pleasant hint of sweetness. I'd not quite call it semi-dry, but that's where the official description places it.

Flavors and drinking experience: mellow acidity, high tannin, balanced, rich

The thing I want to note first is that the anticipations I formed based on the official description and the aromas were largely correct! Hooray! How rich. The Hickster tastes mellow and warm in flavor. Some specific notes i can taste are warmed apples, baking spices, pears, caramel, vanilla, and biscuits.

Overall the impression I get is gently roasty. high tannins, mellow acidity. Overally, its just shockingly good and balanced. This is a fantastic cider.

Recommended pairings from me include the Hickster with Cranberry Wensleydale and wheaty crackers or a harvesty soup with big chunks of butternut squash. The cider is balanced enough that one doesn't have to create a contrast to make it work. You can also just enjoy this cider with a cozy view or a good book. I've had this cider a few ways and every time it wins me over.