Thursday, November 8, 2018

Cider Reviews: Finnriver's Lavender Black Currant and Peckham's Cider with Boysenberry

Hey cider friends. I am so sorry to have a late blog post up this week, but I’m glad it’s here late rather than not at all. I got knocked out with a cold late in the weekend, and I’m only just now crawling out from under the germs. But before falling ill, I was able to try two really intriguing ciders this week. But before we get to the reviews I do want to give one last show out to Cider Week NYC!

It's happening all over the city from through November 11th. Read about it here:

One of the most tempting events is the Lower East Cider Fest coming up November 8th! There are a ton of fantastic cideries sharing samples and pairings in a beautiful historic market setting. Read all about it and buy tickets here:

On to Finnriver’s Lavender Black Currant Cider!

Finnriver is a farm based cidery on the north Olympic Peninsula of Washington state in the Chimacum Valley. The cidery is organic and very locally minded. They have a year round cider garden and an active events calendar for visitors. 

You can find out all about the company on it’s website:

I have previously reviewed only one cider by Finnriver, the Dry Hopped:

The official description of Finnriver’s Lavender Black Currant is divided into sections online, so I will share a few including the Cidermaker’s Notes.

 “Our botanical ciders share the earthy essence of life in the fields and forests of the Olympic Peninsula. Small batch seasonal production features cider fermented on the farm, blended cider with organic black currant, and then steeped with organic lavender flowers sourced from local farms (Jardin de Soleil and Wilderbee Farms) A final addition of unrefined organic cane sugar adds depth, sweetness and flavor. Lightly carbonated.” 6.5% ABV

And the aromas and flavors are described, “Bright apple fruit balanced by berry complexity and the rich, floral depth of local, organic Royal Velvet lavender. Notes of purple and chocolate.” The apples aren’t listed super specifically, but they are organic eating varieties from Washington state. 

Appearance: Deepest glow of purple, impossible to tell clarity, few visible bubbles

Wow! I am amazed by this cider’s impossibly deep color; it looks black at most angles. I can see deepest purple color when light shines through the cider but only then. I cannot tell how brilliant versus hazy this cider is. The color is so dark that the question is difficult. There aren’t many visible bubbles.  

Aromas: lavender, black currants, and ripe apples

This cider smells like all of its constituent parts: lavender, dark berries, and apples. I appreciate that all elements are distinct and notable. The overall impression is one that’s primarily herbal but also fruity. I also get hints that make me think this cider will be semi-sweet. For those who fear that lavender might smell too soapy, rest assured it’s only one note in the whole.

Sweetness/dryness: semi-sweet

This is a semi-sweet cider that might perceive as semi-dry to some drinkers. The level of acidity and complexity of flavors make this one a little challenging to quantify.

Flavors and drinking experience: high acidity, lots of black currant flavor, medium-low sparkle

The first thing I notice when I sip the Black Currant and Lavender is the different balance of the three elements when compared to the cider’s aroma. The cider loses intensity of apple flavor as compare to its aroma, but it increases the black currant flavor and maintains a consistent lavender presence. Both levels are lovely, but they are distinct.

Other elements of the drinking experience that stood out to me is how the cider is a medium-low level of bubbly but with lots of body. Again and again the cider’s tartness makes its presence felt. The very first hint of flavor introduces that tart zing and it lasts through to the cider’s finish.

I had mine with a dinner of a fried egg with savory carrots and little broccoli and cauliflower patties. The cider’s sharpness was a pleasurable contrast to my salty, garlicy, vegetables and egg. I like the body and tartness very much, and I appreciate that the lavendar isn’t overpowering. I could still enjoy a bit stronger apple presence to balance both of the adjunct flavors, but it was plenty tasty as is. 

Peckham’s cider with Boysenberry

I found this cider on a trip home to Louisville to visit my family. After having tasted some of Peckham’s ciders at CiderCon, I was thrilled to have the chance to try another one. Finding these ciders is something of a rarity because the cidery is in New Zealand. Luckily Shelton Brothers imports some varieties, but they still aren’t seen everywhere.

Caroline and Alex Peckham planted their current orchard in New Zealand in 2007, but the couple has been orcharding in New Zealand since 2004. Though the company is now bigger than its roots as a two person operation, it still has the feel and approachability of a small family agricultural business.

Here’s a link to  the Peckham’s website which describes all of the company’s ciders:

I have reviewed one Peckham’s cider before, the Wild All the Way:

Here’s the Official description: “This delightful cider is made with heritage Moutere apples and boysenberries grown in the Peckham’s orchard. 120 grams of Riwaka Choice boysenberries in a pint deliver a fresh-picked, intense berry taste, but the background cider still comes through. It pours a rich deep red.” ABV of 5.7%.

Appearance: deep deep red, brilliant, no visible bubbles 

This is a lovely cider to see. It looks like a rich red wine with its deep dark red color. When looking carefully I can see that it’s brilliant, and it doesn't show much in the way of visible bubbles. 

Aromas: grape, black currants, malic acid

The cider with Boysenberries smells to me  like grapes and black currants. I don’t know Boysenberries particuarly well as a fresh fruit. I’ve eaten them but not more than a few times. It’s a tart berry not unlike a blackberry, but I’ve found them often less sweet. 

Certain smells in the cider remind me of both citric acid and malic acid. A few notes add depth and darkness like dark malt and chocolate too. It’s a wholly intriguing smell that makes me even more excited to try the cider. 

Dryness/sweetness: Semi-sweet

Like many berry balanced ciders. It it almost certainly more sweet than it tastes because the berry notes add so much flavor that’s not in a traditional apple-only cider.

Flavors and drinking experience: balanced, burnt sugar, dark berries

I can definitely still taste a dark berry flavor, but something I didn’t expect from the aroma is a fun burnt sugar note. This is not an American berry cider. There’s some different flavors and the overall profile is much less acid based. 

I think this cider has a beautiful balanced finish. Maybe it’s because I am American, I do find it a teensy bit low on acid, then a full second later the apple flavor comes through to give the finish a great boost. It gets plenty of tannins from berries and likely some of the apples as well.

Overall, I find this cider very pleasant and balanced. I had this cider with a homemade hearty vegetable soup, and it was excellent.