Two ciders, both alike in dignity,
From fair Vermont, where arctic winter bites
And chills the air with such voracious cold,
That apples, lately pressed, do freeze themselves.
From these all-natural blocks of frozen juice
A slowly-dripping liquor newly seeps,
Far sweeter yet than that which flowed first forth
When apples, fully ripe, were ground and crushed.
For all-diluting water stays behind
As from the block melts acid, sugar, must.
The ice discarded and this potion gleaned
Now yeasts begin to do their hungry work
In turning juice to cider and upon
The sugars happily they feast so deep
That alcohol springs forth full ten per cent.
And yet such sweetness in this juice is locked,
So richly concentrated from the ice
(And from the juice itself for these were not
Just any apples, meek and underripe,
But mighty Ashmead’s Kernel, picked by hand
And sorted such that only best remained)
That valiant yeasts are thwarted by their feast
And, being sated, finish ferment’s work
When still much sugar in the drink is left.
This mighty thing, this cider sprung from ice,
Still far from readiness to drink remains;
For Ashmead’s Kernel (an old Gloucester fruit)
Has acid in its veins so vicious-sharp
As, drinking in this concentrated state,
Would so repel the tongue and sting the gums,
That lemons would look mild and dentists all
Would rub their hands and hear their wallets creak.
Instead, to barrel is our ichor sent,
No humble cask, but one prepared in France
By cunning coopers for to hold their wine.
(That country’s oak being so fine of its grain
That sawing will not work – it must be split –
And so its flavours less vanillin are
Than coarser-grainéd oak of USA.)
Within this special cask the cider sleeps,
Not for a usual rest of only months
But eight long years. And in its oaken dream
Do acids soften, flavours slowly steal
From sides of cask staves adding toast and spice
To taste of apple, and does barrel breathe
That, all unseen, will particles of air
Steal in and lightly kiss the sleeping juice
To soften acid more. Then, breathing out,
Do tiny drops of cider – fine as dust –
Evaporate away, as like ‘twere burglary
By hidden angels drinking from the cask.
Eight years being spent, the cider fully aged,
Transformed to something far from what was pressed,
Its makers, gallant Eden, drew it forth
And bottled it in vessels half the size
As those which hold their drier apple drinks.
And on their labels printed they the names
Of folk from Shakespeare, bard of Stratford fame
(Which tenuous link and for no other cause
Inspired the writing of this piece in verse).
The first of those creations was Queen Mab,
When Eden’s Eleanor had leant her voice
And insights to our column – then on Malt.
Such wondrous flavour did that cider yield
That I declared it first and best of all
The many hundreds that I’ve here reviewed.
And now to privileged glass the vintage comes
That followed after, though again was made
In just the way as I’ve described above.
This heir to Mab was named for Shakespeare’s Puck,
That impish spirit who confusion sows
When lovers flee to wood in Summer Night,
And seeks a rare and precious-juicéd flower
As tasked by Oberon. That rarity
Upon this cider has bestowed its touch,
For only to these trans-Atlantic shores
Were four-and-twenty bottles lately sent;
(Who, though their website finished isn’t yet
Deliver from your e-mail order straight)
And some from ever-worthy Cat in th’Glass.
Each one was priced at thirty English pounds
(a tenner less than what was asked for Mab)
And in all haste I swiftly purchased two.
The first to hide away for years to come,
The second that I here and now review.
Eden Puck Ice Cider 2012 – review
How I served: But half an hour refridgéd
Appearance: Deeply walnut-brown and still.
On the nose: I smell Queen Mab returning.
Aromas broad and vast; of such rare weight
That ‘ere the cork from bottle neck was drawn,
By perfumes richly-hued were nostrils met,
Filling them with such luxurious notes
As lend their breath to pen. Here did I find
Dark caramels, figs, walnuts crushed and chopped
As ‘twere the meeting place for apple tart
And sherry made from Pedro Ximenez.
And all amidst these notes did weave the tones
Of barrel – sweet and sav’ry in its spice.
Again, ‘twas very like Queen Mab’s return;
A nose to make a cider writer swoon.
In the mouth: A shock is here presenting.
No sooner had I tipped the glass to lips
Than zingy, zesty, thrilling acid comes,
Eight years in wait but still as fresh today
As many ciders of an eighth its age.
All through the sugars toothsome acid cut
Lending such freshness to viscosity
That mighty sweetness never dares to cloy.
The flavours greatly followed from the nose
With muscovado, darkest cherries dried,
Pure apple compote and more walnuts chopped.
Were I to taste this next to Royal Mab
I’d wager Puck a smidge the lighter drink,
But who can say without comparison.
In either case, this cider is sublime –
On UK shelves it has no current match.
In a nutshell: All that I had hoped for.
A worthy follower to good Queen Mab,
And such a thing as can’t be found elsewhere
In all the land – eight years of patient age
Have pushed this to a point beyond the norm
Of that which younger ice ciders can reach.
My second bottle will be closely kept;
I would I had a third. To you I urge
You buy it if you find it still on shelves.
Another champion from Eden sprung.
With which assessment now my piece is done
Good reader – thanks for getting here with me.
Next time we’ll back to prose, though verse was fun.
Lord what fools these cider reviewers be.