Sunday, 28 September 2014

Custard and Co - Vintage Dry Apple Cider

Man oh man, Ian Rayner and his Custard Cider seem to be the rock stars of Aussie cider at present. The ciders are produced naturally at his fully sustainable cider works in Donnybrook, Western Australia. Being in such an isolated area of Australia has by no means been detrimental to their presence in the market. The range of ciders are here, there and everywhere, and it’s a true testament to the product and philosophies. Rayner seems to be producing traditional styled cider, yet still please all the discerning commercial cider drinker's tastes. Hard feat! His mix of traditionalism and modernism seems to be a winning mix. This is a cider brand making cider for the right reasons. I take my hat off to Ian, who quite funnily enough is from the cider crazy county of Somerset in England. Now let’s try the Custard Vintage Dry!
Loved the nice cloudy golden colour, and also loved the lightish carbonation. Nothing worse than an over carbonated cider. I don’t know if I was drunk, but the cider seemed to be thick and viscous in the glass. It almost seemed if it was sticking to the sides of the glass. Interesting indeed.

The nose showed exactly why wild ferments are the real way to make cider. There was some very inviting primary floral pineapple/tropical fruit notes here. But hints of funk and earthiness, along with a creamy/buttery angle added good complexing depth. There was some evidence of VA and just a touch of geranium too, but all in balance. Initially, it seriously smelt like a fresh crunch apple. Impressive.

The palate was a little bit of a mystery at first. I was expecting a full hit of Western Australian apple dryness, instead greeted with big upfront apple sweetness. The sweetness was moreish, with great weight and fattiness. The lower level of carbonation was perfect for the style. The acidity was on the lower side, yet flabbiness wasn’t an issue with the higher sugar. Texture was at a minimum, yet the crisp complexity was high. The flavour does die off a touch towards a washy finish, but holy hell this was one smashable cider. To be honest, it was like alcoholic apple juice but it all worked so well. I could see this being consumed in copious amounts. A respectable 5.5% alc, would also ensure this. 
What I loved about this cider is the example of wild ferment funkiness. This really highlighted the complexity you get out of indigenous yeasts. Real cider is made this way. This is real cider. Simple. I do question why ‘dry’ is on the label, considering it’s a more medium to medium sweet. But the Custard Vintage Dry is a seriously top drop. Well played!  

Producer: The Real River Company
Country: Australia (Donnybrook, Western Australia)
Alcohol: 5.5%

Rating: 17.5 out of 20

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Willie Smiths Organic Cider - Bone Dry

Oh Willie, Willie Willie, we meet again. No, that is not a euphemism either, so get your minds out of the gutter! The last time Willie Smiths graced All About Cider, they score the one and only top marks which I have awarded. The cider showed unbelievable quality and style for a dessert apple cider. I remember being blown away, and it showed good cider can be made from the humble dessert. How they could make it taste like a good quality Norman Cidre was beyond me. I was hooked! So now WSOC have released their lasted addition ‘Bone Dry’. When I say ‘latest addition’, that’s not to say it’s new. The cider has been out for quite some time, but I have only got my hands on some now! Hint hint Sam!
So it says on the cider label that this new release was inspired by Sam and Rowl’s trip to England and France. I guess they were drinking lots of Norman Brut! I have heard whispers Rowl has now moved on as Cider Maker which is a shame. The label also points out the cider was aged in oak for three months – now that’s what I like. I am confident that this Bone Dry is just Willie Smiths Organic Cider (white label), without any apple juice added back for sweetening. Essentially a base cider aged in oak for three months. Could be wrong, call it a hunch.
So the cider pours very low in carbonation which is a huge tick. Perfect for this style. The colour is a lovely golden straw too. Happy days. So what do you expect to see from a dry? Sugar adds body and weight to a cider, hence the sweet one's are fatter with more substance. Dry ciders don’t have this luxury. Building layers of flavour and texture are key in my mind. Definitely some oak age, LOTS of lees stirring etc.

The nose in true Willie Smiths fashion is dominated by oxidised red apple notes. Some lovely spiced apple characters also shine through. There is a touch of older oak, yet also a fungal/mouldy note too – not saying this is a bad thing. It’s quite earthy in stature, and quite complex. Tick.  

Unfortunately for me, the palate is a little of a letdown. It definitely shows a likeable softness with some green apple flavours. However, the flavour is a touch lacklustre and fades to a twangy sour finish. I do enjoy the powdery tannin which adds texture, and also the apple seed like bitterness. I would liken this more to an English Scrumpy when it comes to style, as I find it’s quite wild and untamed. The hot alcohol would also suggest this too. I guess what I would love to see here is some more apple punch, and some more added layers. The best way to describe the palate is it lacks a little personality. Still totally and utterly drinkable.  
All in all, a solid effort. I am not sure how the fanatical Willie Smiths fans would go with the Bone Dry against the original cider. Happy to be proven wrong. Again, the nose takes me to Normandy and I love that about Willie Smiths. I am still a huge fan of this producer and put them in my top 5 in Australia.

Producer: William Smiths and Son’s
Country: Australia (Huon Valley, Tasmania)
Alcohol: 6.8%

Rating: 14 out of 20


Friday, 19 September 2014

Sorry for the inactivity!

Hi cider lovers!

I must apologise for the lack of reviews/posting lately. I have been busy, busy, busy! I have judged at the inaugural Adelaide Cider Competition, and the Royal Sydney Beer and Cider Show. Two well run shows which were fun to judge at. I have composed a Tassie Cider section with reviews in the new Tasmania's Table book which will be published soon. I must say I had a lot of fun tasting through all the amazing Tassie ciders! I have also been tasting through some quality English cider, and a few popular Aussies too so will get the reviews up soon. My side project Adams Orchard Cider is doing very well, but taking up a lot of my time. The passion to make cider is so infectious, and I always say my talents lie in making the stuff, rather that writing about it. Check it out at if you're interested.

But the warmer weather is coming which means two things.

1. Cider season is coming! (Yay!)
2. More producers will come out to play which means more new ciders to try and review. 

Until then, keep supporting local producers who are making real, honest booze. What more could you ask for? Perfect!