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A trio from Canterbury Cider

Just like waiting for a bus, you’ve all been longing for more coverage of Kent producers and here’s a second in a couple of weeks! We really spoil you.

I have to admit I wasn’t aware of Canterbury Cider until relatively recently when I started to see them pop up on social media advertising their wares. So when they reached out to us here at Cider Review and asked if we’d be interested in reviewing their current releases, we offered our unbiased services with a keen interest to see what North East Kent has to offer.

Turns out the Maylam family have been making cider for over two generations just outside Canterbury. Robert’s father Peter made cider in old sherry barrels (exciting) and now Robert along with his wife Catherine and eldest son George are reviving old recipes and bringing back cider making to the farm. They source desert fruit from local farms in Goudhurst and Chilham and the Dabinett apples come from Harry Fry (of Harry’s cider) in Somerset. They speak highly of Harry and his son Toby who both helped them with their cider journey in Kent. A link they continue to maintain as you will see in the ciders below. 100% juice which they have pressed off site (something I’ve done myself) and they then ferment and mature on the farm. Fermentation is carried out by cultured yeast and some blending is done prior to that. All of their labels feature animals from the farm and their first creation ‘Basher’ has been a finalist in the National fruit show cider awards, Lux life best Kentish cider & ‘produced in Kent’ finalist. A quick squint at their website reveals 5 star reviews including from a Mr Bill Bradshaw…

The blending of ‘East & West’, ‘acid & tannin’ and ‘desert fruit & cider apples’ has been a big draw for me as a cider maker. For a long time during the early part of my cider journey, I thought the two were mutually exclusive and being the tannin lover that I am, I wondered how I could make a cider with the local fruit on offer. Discovering that the two together can produce a cider even greater than the sum of their parts was a lightbulb moment for me. So without further delay let’s dig into this trio, a cider made from cider apples, one from desert fruit and one blending the two. 

The Duke (6%)

Single variety made from Dabinet apples and named after the Master Buck of the farms fallow deer herd.

How I served it: chilled

Colour: light gold

On the nose: wonderfully rich nose of orange rind, caramel, apple brandy, vanilla, everything you’d expect from Dabinett. Slight baked apple as it warms.

In the mouth: definitely Dabinett, juicy but with highlights of those bitter tannins which give a slight chalky texture.  Typical orange and vanilla with red apples, and a very slight whisper of acidity. It’s very light though on the palate, easy drinking and refreshing, I’d say medium dry is pretty accurate. I feel it’s not quite got as much depth as it could have, certainly not as much as Harry’s Dabinett (where the fruit came from), but they back sweeten with Dabinett juice. With The Duke, the light colour makes me wonder if it’s been filtered, but there’s still plenty of flavour to enjoy.

In a nutshell: a juicy Dabinett which although a little light is a good clean expression of the fruit.

Basher Original (5.4%)

The first cider they produced and named after one of the family farm’s Tamworth pigs. It’s a blend of four apples: Cox, Bramley, Jonagold and Dabinett (not sure of the percentages) and described as “medium”.

How I served it: chilled

Colour: gold with less effervescence than The Duke.

On the nose: hello Dabinett, elements of The Duke here with orange zest, vanilla and brandy. Followed by green apples, honeysuckle and wet nettles. There’s a slightly herby, florally note to it.

In the mouth: again the Dabinett is first to reveal in terms of flavour with orange flesh and vanilla bean then those eaters and cookers come through with green apples and elderflower. I feel like I’m mostly getting Dabinett and Jonagold. On taste there is a clash, but ultimately balance of bitterness and acidity. It’s a difficult feat, but both shine through independently before becoming intwined. It leads to a very clean finish, words like “crisp” and “brisk” come to mind, but what do they really mean? It’s refreshing and juicy and not as sweet as I thought it would be, which again, is refreshing. 

In a nutshell: easy to see why this has gone down so well locally, well balanced, fruity and refreshing (did I say that already?)

Bonagold (6%)

This is a single variety made from Jonagold apples and described as a lightly sparkling, refreshing and crisp, medium dry cider. The label features Bonnie one of the family’s Maltese x Poodles, the name being a combination of Bonnie and Jonagold.

How I served it: chilled

Colour: elderflower cordial

On the nose: a very floral bouquet with some subtle malolactic character. Think elderflowers, honeysuckle and roses paired with vanilla yogurt and ewes milk (very subtle though). A dash of tropical kiwi and melon thrown in for good measure. 

In the mouth: very delicate compared to the other two, obviously none of those bitter tannins, but no bold acidity either. A slight skirt along the tongue which quickly disappears and leaves a lightly juicy fruity taste of green apples, pear drops and elderflower. It’s weirdly perry like, I’m thinking Gin pear. I would have said this was towards the sweeter end of medium rather than medium dry to my palate on the finish.

In a nutshell: I’m not a huge fan of Jonagold as a single variety, but the Maylam’s have really managed to draw out the nuances of this delicate apple.

Conclusions:

Well I think they’ve scored a hat trick here! All clean, juicy, well balanced expressions of the fruit used. With blending, carbonation and sweetness all at spot on levels, nothing tasted too cloying. If I had to pick a favourite it would be The Duke, but I would have liked just a bit more depth to the Dabinett to my taste. All were warmly received when shared whilst tasting, and the Bonagold was taken off me once I had enough to write my notes from. I look forward to seeing more from the Maylam family, especially if they revisit the sherry cask “cider wine” recipes.   

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