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The Yarlington Millathon

As Ryan Holmes once said “you can run a sprint, or you can run a marathon, but you can’t sprint a marathon”. This is an article I’ve been writing for weeks now, why because I’ve had a very long line of bottles to taste through. Temptation was to open them all, taste, write notes and have it ready,  but then I’d be left with a rather large haul of open bottles. A high number of which are 750s and there’s not enough cider drinkers in the Finch house to help me through them. So here is the follow up to the Dabinettiad, the second series if you will, but this time the focus is on the Yarlington Mill.

Yarlington Mill is a very well-known and popular bittersweet cider apple, originally discovered growing out of a wall at a Mill in Yarlington (innovative naming there) by a Mr Bartlett at the end of the 19th Century, it was then made very popular by Harry Masters, of HMJ fame. First established across Somerset, it’s now planted widely across the cider making counties of the West of the country. The trees tend to develop biennial cropping (every other year), but when they do they produce a high yield.

Next to Dabinett it’s probably my second favourite cider apple, which is why I added four trees to my orchard last year. That’s no surprise given the similar flavour profile of citrus orange and spicy tannins. However, where Dabinett can be a little leaner and lighter, Yarlington Mill tends towards richness and a fuller body, it certainly gains complexity and depth a bit quicker when aged in my opinion.  In fact the more I consider it, the more I think it’s a better single variety than Dabinett, due to that increased complexity. Whereas Dabinett definitely benefits from an additional variety to enhance it, especially a bit of acidity to lift the fruit.

I’m not going to give you a massive intro because let’s face it, I’ve got 15…yes 15 different bottles to run through here and I don’t want to lose you before the end because there are some crackers down there. So sit back, pour yourself some tea/coffee if it’s Sunday morning (or cider if you so wish) and join me as I drink my way through a marathon of bottles. Interestingly I’ve got seven from the South West, against eight from Herefordshire…care to have a wager? 

Axeminster Craft Cider Co – Yarlington Mill SV (6%)

Based in Somerset, where a cider house has been in existence on their farm for hundreds of years. All of their cider is made from 100% juice, no added water and wild yeasts. They sold their first batches of a Dabinett and Sweet Coppin blend in 2019 and added the Yarlington Mill to their range last year in 2020. Described as “lightly sparkling, naturally refreshing”and “crisp, clean” it was a gold winner in the “Taste of the West” 2021. No ingredients on the label.

How I served it: cellar temperature

Colour: amber

On the nose: dried toffee apples, cinnamon, clove and some orange peel and citrus notes, but above all that there is a fairly strong oxidised acetic character and it smells sweet, like sugar syrup and raisins.

In the mouth: definitely more on the sweet end of medium than dry I would say. There is juicy oranges and apples coupled with cloves (really feeling the clove in this one), but that acetic acid is creeping in significantly and over powering the finish for me. Its not acidic though, I suspect due to the added sugar and after a while it became too sweet for me, almost cloying. I couldn’t finish the bottle

In a nutshell: some promise but the acetic acid and overpowering sweetness ruined this for me.

Temple Cider – Yarlington Mill (6.5%)

Based in Dorset, Paul and Jo and their three rescue dogs (which feature on some of their labels) have been making cider since 2019. Currently using apples from other orchards they make their cider from 100% juice, wild and cultivated yeast and no additives. They have now planted their own orchard on their farm for the future. They focus on dry ciders, but also make a keeved Michelin and a slightly sweeter blend (Millie’s Magic) which is back sweetened with juice.

Described as “dry, light and refreshing” it’s made from only apples that have fallen from the tree, which means the pressing took place twice, with a four week gap between them. Bronze winner at the International Wine and Spirit competition 2021. The label instructs to “serve at cool room temperature”, so I will. 

How I served it: cool room temperature 

Colour: deep amber

On the nose: baked apple, toffee, burnt orange and cinnamon, with whispers of vanilla. It’s a really inviting nose, a little bit overly cooked apple if I’m being really picky, but that’s not a fault, just a nasal observation (can you observe through your nose?). If you like that kind of apple pie/crumble aroma, then you’ll love this.

In the mouth: really juicy, with a little bite of orange like acidity. The body is quite light and fruity, ripe apple, juicy oranges, dried fruit and spice (raisins and cinnamon). Caramelised apples and tarte tatin. A little thin for a Yarlington Mill, but a really great finish which is dry and full of fruit. 

In a nutshell: it’s juicy, fruity and dry, wish there was a little more body (if i’m being picky) but that may come with time.

Woodredding – Yarlington Mill (Medium Sweet) 6.8%

Based in Herefordshire, cider has been made on the farm for at least 200 years. Their current cider production stint, started in 2007 when they stopped supplying Westons, and are still using the old 18th century press. They have a wide range of bittersweet varieties in their orchards. Described as

I first tasted this cider back in 2017 (my tweet is on their website), and I found it to be rich, complex and very enjoyable. The label for this one shows supreme champion at the Royal Bath and West show 2013 and describes the cider as an “award winning single variety”.

How I served it: Room temp

Colour: rusty ochre (it’s a worrying colour with a lack of clarity)

On the nose: oranges, cloves and brandy are there but all are intertwined with a bold oxidised  acetic character. It smells sweet too, like balsamic glaze and sugar syrup.

In the mouth: tangy orange squash, charred wood and sweet cinnamon. It’s earthy and tongue furring, a bit chewy. Finish is sweet which is a bit conflicting given the astringency, perhaps sweetened with artificial sweetener as it’s still. That acetic character is there, it tastes acetic but there’s no acidity, apart from a slight burn of the throat every couple of sips. Absolutely nothing like the bottle I tried back in 2017.

In a nutshell: this was not for me, so much acetic acid that it overpowered and a clash of astringency and sweetness. 

Rawlins Family Cider – Yarlington Mill (5.9%)

Hailing from Somerset, Rawlins have a very small online presence, they’ve only been posting on Instagram since June 2020. They use handpicked fruit from local orchards but I’ve struggled to find any other background on how they got into cider making. This 2019 batch was bottled in June 2020. Zero info about ingredients or sweetness level on the label. Update, Rawlins got in touch and confirmed that the tropical, caramel nose come fro the addition of keeved Yarlington Mill to add sweetness.

How I served it: out of the fridge for 30 mins in a chalice glass

Colour: hazy pale amber

On the nose: cinder toffee and burnt orange, caramel and clementine, lots of orange citrus and cooked sugar. Some mild cinnamon spice and a hint of tropical, which makes me think there’s sweetener in here. Update: no sweetener, just added keeved Yarlington Mill

In the mouth: the nose follows through to the palate but with less intensity, almost zero acidity, a gentle bitterness and the finish is somewhat juicy with a little clash of sweetness and mouth drying astringency. There’s ripe apple, orange and caramelised sugar but its a little thinner than the nose suggested. I’d say medium as there’s almost a syrup like quality to the sweetness. It’s captured the Yarlington Mill fairly well but something has accentuated the orange and sugar a bit above the apple and everything else.  A little sweet for my taste and wish there was a bit of sparkle to lift that. 

In a nutshell: definitely one for the sweet toothed but the fruit is poking through.

The Newt

Not a huge introduction needed here as we’ve covered The Newt many times (most recently here), but of worthy note here is their proximity to Yarlington, which is less than a couple of miles and one of their orchards containing that variety is within Yarlington, so the very roots of the apple. As stated on the 2020 bottle, they’ve planted 225 Yarlington Mill trees, less than a mile from where it was discovered. What excites me about the trio I have here, is that the first is a prototype, an unlabelled bottle that their cider maker; Paul Ross, gave me at the 2019 Cider Salon, before the Newt formally released any “Cyder”.

Yarlington Mill (2018)

How I served it: Out of the fridge for 30 mins in a red wine glass (it’s all I had)

Colour: light copper

On the nose: very french, rich apple desserts and woody spice. Some burnt orange and cinnamon. Wooden barn and apple brandy. Really complex, rich and very inviting, What Yarlington Mill should smell like.

In the mouth: dried apples, a little smidge of citrus like acidity shining through which then bows out to chewy and astringent tannins which overpower the palate for a little while. But then the apple comes back, big and bold along with that woody spice of cinnamon and cloves. It’s very complex and full bodied. Cracking dry finish. 

In a nutshell: superb, if The Newt still made stuff like this, I’d still be signed up to their cider club.

No. 3 Yarlington Mill (2019 – 6.1%)

How I served it: cellar temperature

Colour: dark gold

On the nose: apple desserts, tangerine, cloves and a hint of wood, but less than the 2018. A wisp  of a soapy note, but it dissipates fairly quickly. Some of the apple brandy is there but again its subdued. 

In the mouth: quite well balanced, a slight acidity, ripe tannins and lots of juicy apple. Nice astringency and mousse mouthfeel, but it seems a little lighter than the 2018, and that soapy note is starting to come through. With the tangerine citrus it has a bit of a detergent quality to it. It’s not overpowering but it is there.  

In a nutshell: a restrained version of the 2018 with a slight soapiness. 

No. 3 Yarlington Mill (2020 – 5%)

Described on the bottle as “rich, full bodied and deliciously sweet

How I served it: As above

Colour: pale gold

On the nose: a bit closed at first, red apple skins, buttery vanilla and some clove spice. Less wood and complexity than the 2018. There’s some Pear brandy spirit and apple bon bons.

In the mouth: compared to the 18 it’s leaner and less complex. Tannins are a little edgy, coarse in the mouth. It’s all apples and cloves, nose through to the palate. Astringency is there but it’s not got the same chewy mouthfeel as the 2018. It’s a medium finish I would say, with some upfront sweetness. Orange notes come through as it warms, but as does a soapy character. Is it the lower abv year on year reducing the body? I’m not sure, but something is weakening the spirit of the fruit with each batch. I would not describe it as rich or full bodied, but it is reasonably sweet.

In a nutshell: please go back to 2018 and revise your style, I feel like there’s a bit too much filtering going on which is ruining the depth and body of the fruit. 

Presshead Fine Cider – Hubbabubba (6%)

Denis France sadly stepped back from making PressHead cider in late 2019 I believe. A fantastic producer with a great palate and some excellent blends it was sad to see him stop. His 2018 ‘Ital Drop’ was a particular favourite of mine. I picked up this bottle from Bristol Cider Shop during the Cider Salon in 2019, just after Denis had done a talk on his new releases, including this one. This is so named due to Denis picking up aromas of bubble gum from the freshly pressed Yarlington Mill apples. I apologise if this one turns out to be spectacular as sadly you can’t buy it anywhere anymore.

How I served it: in the fridge for an hour before opening

Colour: rusty amber

On the nose: tonnes of apple dessert; tarte tatin, apple pie, caramelised apples and calvados, all intertwined with mandarine, orange oil and candied oranges. It smells fruity, boozy, sweet and juicy. A little hint of clove and star anise to round it off.

In the mouth: apples and orange zest, with an earthy caramelised carrot element. There’s a really juicy quality but it’s cut short by a lovely cheek drying astringency. The finish is chalky with a hint of bitter citrus pith. Being uber critical it’s slightly thin on the palate compared to the nose, but it is incredibly quaffable and a textbook capture of the apple variety. That spice is very delicate and more clove than anything else, which all just partners wonderfully. Stewed (but not a cooked apple taste) apples, orange slices and cloves, would be marvellous in winter.

In a nutshell: absolutely superb! I look longingly as the level in the bottle slowly drops wishing there was more.

I definitely can’t add anything you don’t already know about Tom Oliver, especially given his very thorough chat with Adam earlier this month. This trio really intrigues me, as I’m keen to explore the barrel influence, but also as I know Tom openly admits to meddling with his Single Varieties to aid the balance. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a little bit of Foxwhelp lurking in 1 or 3 of these…

Oliver’s

Yarlington Mill, matured in oak 2018 (6.7%)

How I served it: cool room temperature

Colour: tangerine gold

On the nose: the instant hit is peat smoke which does overpower somewhat, I can pick out a bit orange rind and clove but it’s definitely earth and whisky on the nose.

In the mouth: that peaty whisky element is front and centre again but it steps sideways a little to allow the apple to come through. Dried apples, apple brandy and bitter pith are all there along with the littlest smidge of oxidation. The barrel brings salinity, grassy herbaceous notes and earthy savoury character. Underneath it though there is a juicy rich fruitiness just bursting to unfurl, but it’s restrained, held back by the barrel somewhat,

In a nutshell: it’s a little too much barrel for my taste, which overpowers the fruit, but if you’re a fan of the whisky influence, you’re on to a winner.

Yarlington Mill 2019 Season (6.5%)

How I served it: cool room temperature

Colour: copper

On the nose:. Apple brandy, wooden barn, tobacco and citrus. There’s medicinal notes and forest floor aromas. Ripe red apples and new oak barrels. Such a complex and inviting nose. 

In the mouth: Where the matured in oak 2018 was over powered by the barrel, in this the rich fruit is very much on show. Juicy orange and clementine dance with delicate clove and cinnamon and a light dust of vanilla. Chalky tannins coat the sides of the mouth, while a soft bitterness touches the tongue. It’s not pithy like the 2018 in oak, but the tannins still feel a little bit edgy, like another 6-12 months would round them off perfectly. Easily my favourite of Tom’s three that I’m tasting here. Has an element been in barrel to give that woody, oakiness? Especially on the nose…I’m not sure. 

In a nutshell: a lovely manifestation of the fruit in liquid form, if you can find it in stock, buy it.

Oliver’s – Out of the Barrel Rooms Yarlington Mill Cider 2019 (6%)

“Short stay in a Jim Bean Bourbon Barrel”

How I served it: out of the fridge for an hour or so

Colour: gold

On the nose: peat, smoke, vanilla and grain spirit. Earthy, salty and meaty, like soy glazed tofu. The grain spirit is really strong, like smoked vodka and then oak chippings. Not what was I was expecting at all, without the label I would have put money on whisky barrel. 

In the mouth: really saline and savoury. There is so much smoke, barbecue salt beef with underlying layers of ripe apple fruit, not a typical combination but it does work. It’s got a sweetness to it and not a huge amount of fizz. “Live and juicy” it says on the label; live it may have been a year ago, but settled now I would say and as for juicy, the smoke is the dominant feature here certainly for the first glass, the apple fruit playing second fiddle and requiring some searching. Has this really not been in a malt whisky barrel? After warming the fruit does start to come out and the smoke subsides a little, but the typical vanilla bourbon notes are not there for me.

In a nutshell: a smokey surprise, this demands red meat and roasted root vegetables, winter is coming.

Note: Adam tasted this bottle about a year ago (yes I’m well behind…story of my life) and we had surprisingly similar takes.

Ross on Wye cider & Perry

Can I say anything here about Ross on Wye Cider and Perry that hasn’t been said before? I don’t think I can, only that the last minute addition I have is an exciting one, a collaboration with the lovely folk at Fram Ferment/The Station House in Durham (currently out of stock, but should be back in this week, our sources tell us). Susannah and Chris are very fond of Yarlington Mill, buying all the remaining bottles of C31 in 2020. This collaboration is an homage to that batch, so looking forward to seeing how it stacks up against it.

Premium Yarlington Mill (7.4%) – batch C31 (2016 I believe) [Ed – bottled 2016, pressed 2014]

How I served it: cool room temperature

Colour: brilliant amber

On the nose: orange and tangerines, calvados and grain spirit, cinnamon and clove, marmalade and gingerbread. Such a rich nose, which I could happily sit and smell all evening. Cold night, in front of a warm fire with a bottle of this…perfect.

In the mouth: wooden barrel with a hint of vanilla, juicy oranges and ripe soft apples. Tannins are smooth and velvety, there’s a little chewiness and astringency but on the whole it’s wonderfully juicy. A little dance of acidity meanders through the palate, leaving a long finish of orange pith and spice.

In a nutshell: one of the greats, a legendary batch, if you bought some before it sold out then enjoy you lucky sod. 

Yarlington Mill 2019 (6.3%)

Love the full ingredients on the label and this is described as a cider with “full body, complex spiciness and voluminous apple flavour”.

How I served it: cool room temperature

Colour: cloudy marigold

On the nose: plenty of spice up front, clove followed cinnamon, candied orange and apple brandy. It’s got a bit of Christmas pudding about it, but without the rich treacle character, it’s lighter.

In the mouth: less intense than the nose, really smooth and sumptuous. Orange without the citric acidity followed by juicy apples and those spices creeping through. There is a spirit like quality in the background, it was apple brandy on the nose, but it’s more delicate on the palate, like a Pommeau. Just a delight to enjoy to be honest, really expressive of the Yarlington Mill character (see our Apple and Pear Varieties by Taste). Definitely dry on the finish as per standard Ross.

In a nutshell: buy, buy, buy. A very fine example of the apple and a ridiculously good nose.

Fram Ferment/The Station House/ Ross on Wye Cider & Perry – Yarlington Mill Durham Blend 2019 (6.7%)

Last minute entry (hence not in the main photo) as only recently released. Out of stock on Fram Ferment’s web-shop already.

How I served it: cool room temperature

Colour: burnt orange, pale amber

On the nose: vanilla, apple brandy, orange oil, cloves and a hint of star anise. Pressed pomace and dried apple skins. Wonderfully complex.

In the mouth: super juicy, the barrel influence of vanilla and oak come through immediately and are then followed by orange and gentle spice. It’s very like C31 but with the vanilla dialled up a little bit. Extremely drinkable and I don’t have enough bottles.

In a nutshell: a testament to the superb palates of all involved to be able to reincarnate a legendary batch with a little twist. 

Bartestree – Keeved Yarlington Mill 2020 (4.7%)

Extremely last minute entry, hence not in the main picture again. I picked this up from Dave and Fiona at Ross On Wye Cider Festival for £8 last weekend and it was so good that it would be rude not to include it. 

Dave and Fiona Matthews have been making award winning cider in Bartestree for many years. They are passionate about cider and perry with many single varieties, and make unpasteurised, unfiltered and 100% juice creations. If you want to know more check out my Cider Women Instagram Live episode that I recorded with Fiona back in April. To buy, The Cat in the Glass is your place to go, as I suspect they have a bigger range than Dave and Fiona do, having bought most of it.

How I served it: out of the fridge for an hour

Colour: dark ruby amber

On the nose: cinder toffee, burnt orange and caramel. Along with green herbs of sage and thyme,  and an element of wood and leather. There’s a smidge of brandy too

In the mouth: marvellous mousse, rich and decadent natural sweetness runs the palate, interlaced are notes of cooked oranges, toffee and spice. There’s a gentle amount of clean acidity that peeks through with a chewy bitterness that lines the cheeks. Ultimately though, it’s juicy, rounded, rich red apples that leave you on the finish. Absolutely cracking stuff. 

In a nutshell: Definitely buy if you can find any in stock anywhere, although Lydia at Artistraw has probably bought them all already. 

Conclusions

As with all of these huge multiple reviews, there are some standouts but there are always some ‘not so goods’. Fortunately here, I feel there has been more of the former. I’m not going to focus on my bottom few as my tasting notes are enough to cover that. Instead I’ll focus on my top five, six, seven in no particular order:

  • Temple Cider – loved how much of the fruit was on show here. Needs a little more time to develop in the bottle I think, but as my first try from this producer I’m really impressed, must try the rest of their range.
  • The Newt 2018 – so much complexity and a wonderfully dry finish. I really wish they would go back to some properly dry creations, as their newer arrested fermentations seem to be missing the mark in terms of showcasing the fruit I think. The sweetness and the recent soapiness are overpowering. 
  • PressHead HubbaBubba – come back Denis! Please! This was even better than I remember from the 2019 Cider Salon, I think there’s a video kicking about on Facebook that I recorded of Denis introducing this one. 
  • Oliver’s 2019 Season – just a wonderful encapsulation of the apple on show here. For my taste compared to his other two, I find myself wondering why bother with the barrel because this fruit can hold it’s own. 
  • Ross on Wye 2019 (500ml) – because I could spend the rest of my life sniffing nothing else. “Voluminous” (love that word) apple flavour and aroma I say. I’m looking on Scrattings & The Cat in the Glass right now to see who has it in stock. 
  • Ross on Wye C31 – it was really hard to choose between this and the Durham blend and I reckon in a couple of years the latter will overtake the former, but for now, that 2016 oak cask fermented wonder is still shining bright. 
  • Bartestree Keeved – ok so I said earlier about The Newt and the sweetness overpowering, but with the keeve here, it’s a totally different ball game. This is just lovely, the keeving adds sweetness yes, but it also dials up all the elements of the apple. 

What an absolute joy this little journey was, to taste my way through 15 different manifestations of a single type of apple. Including trios from the same producer (always fun). I’m delighted to say that unlike my finishing paragraph for the Dabinettiad, there were many here that didn’t succumb to the need to sweeten and adulterate the variety, perhaps that was my choice of maker, but in reality I spent several weeks just searching the usual online bottle shops for Yarlington Mill single varieties, and took what I could buy. I’m struggling to think of a final point to this marathon except to say that in the battle of the regions, based on my top seven, Herefordshire pips the South West to the win by four to three. 

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