A while back I wrote about cider pricing and hypothesised that those makers who are able to cater to more packaging types, serving sizes and price points are possibly in the best position to succeed in selling their wares. What I didn’t do is look at the possibility of it, how hard is it to cater to those many tastes? And how do you decide what to sell in what way and at what price? As someone who’s currently trying to start their cider making journey I have spent considerable time asking myself what is affordable, what would sell, how could I do it… etc.
So I thought I’d find a maker that has approached opposite ends of the spectrum (of which there are actually many), something in a small accessible serving at a lower price point, as well as a larger sharing size creation that pushes the upper limit of ciders pricing these days, and that led me to Eden. I appreciate being imported from America, these prices are going to be slightly higher, but the packaging and contents are my main focus here. So I’ve got two 330ml cans and two recent 750ml bottles to taste through and compare.
If you’d like to learn more about Eden Speciality Ciders then I point you to Adam’s excellent interview with Eleanor Leger.
So without further ado let’s get tasting and as I’m starting with the cans I have to say I love the transparency. Varieties, provenance, ingredients, methods and nutrition facts, it’s all here.
Deep Cut (6.2%)
Made from Golden Russet, Somerset Redstreak, Dabinett, Yarlington Mill, McIntosh and Empire apples. 100% locally and sustainably grown at Eden Orchards, Poverty Lane Orchards, Scott Farm, Sunrise Orchards and Windfall Orchard. Described as “ripe apples beautifully balanced with acid and tannin. Dry and refreshing.” 0 grams per litre of residual sugar and 5 grams per litre of malic acidity. Carbonated and pasteurised.
How I served it: fridge temperature
Colour: cloudy coppella
On the nose: green apple skins, pineapple juice and strawberry syrup. Hints of citrus peel and gin botanicals, juniper, spices and rose petals.
In the mouth: Fairly gentle carbonation and no significant sign of the tannins from those cider varieties, lots of green apples and tropical fruits; that pineapple juice (lots of that pineapple juice), plus guava and a smidge of foam bananas. Dry but tremendously fruity and pretty mellow on the acidity front, which gives a perception of sweetness. Honestly it tastes like I’m drinking pineapple juice.
In a nutshell: a juicy, tropical fruit bomb
Peak Bloom (6.2%)
Made from Dabinett, McIntosh, Empire, Spartan and Esopus Spitzenberg apples. 100% locally and sustainably grown at Eden Orchards, Poverty Lane Orchards, Scott Farm, Sunrise Orchards and Windfall Orchard. Described as “lush apple fruit balanced by light tannin and soft lingering tartness. Superbly crushable.” 12 grams per litre of residual sugar (so one teaspoons worth per can), plus 6 grams per litre of malic acidity. Filtered, carbonated and pasteurised.
How I served it: fridge temperature
On the nose: crisp, fresh apples but also dried apples, vanilla yogurt and perfumed lemon citrus. It’s vibrant, bright and floral.
In the mouth: creme anglaise and stewed apples then those perfumed citrus notes, lemon and grapefruit oil. Despite those Dabinett’s, there are no tannins to speak of on the palate, this is all about fresh, crisp, zingy apples. To my taste, there’s been some malolactic fermentation to create that creamy vanilla element, which the perfect level of carbonation intertwines with to create a perfect tasting mousse. Along with that small amount of sugar which also mellows the acidity, this feels quite balanced and smooth.
In a nutshell: smooth, fresh and easy drinking
Orogenies (9.1%) – 2019
This is a pet nat co-ferment of apples and grapes from two different sides of the Green Mountains. Itasca and Louise Swenson cold climate white wine hybrid grapes from Lapetus/Shelburne Vineyards on the West side in the Taconic Orogeny are matched with Gravenstein, St Edmunds Russet, Rubinette, Binet Rouge and Cherry Cox heirloom apple varieties from Eden orchards on the East side in the Acadian Orogeny.
How I served it: from the fridge
On the nose: ooof, I thought Peak Bloom had plenty of citrus, but this is another level. Limoncello meets, lemon balm and then lime mojito. Rich pollen flower; jasmine and honeysuckle.
In the mouth: velvet mousse, that is very quickly skewered by cheek tingling vibrant acidity. This is bold! It’s initially sharp and the finish is dry and tart, but in between there’s kiwis, limes, grapefruit, pineapple…tonnes of tropical acidity. As it warms you start to get some vanilla and lactic character, hints of lemon greek yogurt. There are little hints of apricots and nectarines too but ultimately this is about apples and grapes and you can pull out both the green apples and grape flesh.
In a nutshell: hello sunshine, this is a beautifully bold, sharp
Guinevere’s Pearls (11%) – 2019
Made from Northern Spy Apples (grown by Jessika Yates) from 90 year old trees, freeze concentrated in the cold winter weather. Arrested fermentation preserved the residual sugar and it has been aged on a small amount of French oak for 6 months before being filtered and then carbonated.
How I served it: out of the fridge for 30 minutes
Colour: honey gold
On the nose: candied apples, sweet calvados, ice cider, brandy and apple vodka. Lots of spirit like notes with a background of sweet apples.
In the mouth: damn! It’s like a bottle of ice cider and Tinston’s Anatomy had a bright sparkling baby. The first sip has a bold punch of acidity that zings, nay sings, along your palate. After that the sweetness seeps into the very lining of your mouth. It’s got all the elements, a gentle bitter undertone, bright but softened acidity (I’m getting some malolactic character of vanilla and cream) and tonnes of sweetness. That increased alcohol definitely adds an extra layer of complexity but you can also taste it, that spirit like note isn’t just on the nose. It coats the glass like a brandy.
So what does it taste like? Honeyed Cox apples dipped in sherbet maybe. There’s still plenty of acidity but it doesn’t quite reach the point of balancing the sugar I don’t think. For me the sweetness becomes too much after one glass, but as we’ve established my palate is on the drier end of the spectrum. The carbonation helps to lift it and I’m happily enjoying a single glass, but a whole bottle I could not drink. Definitely one for sharing and sipping.
It’s an interesting concept, basically a force carbonated partial ice cider, albeit at 30g/l of residual sugar much much lower than an actual ice cider (their Northern Spy ice cider has a residual sugar of 150g/l). By way of an experiment, I held a glass back in the bottle and had it a week later, and I’m happy to report it still tasted great, albeit a little less carbonated and a bit easier to sip.
In a nutshell: one to sip and savour with friends post meal
What a great varied quartet I had here; both the cans are immensely enjoyable, super refreshing and accessible, whereas the bottles are more complex and thought-provoking but exceptional to drink. My favourite of the four was the Orogenies just for its sheer boldness and depth of different elements. So what do I think to my original questions? Well the cans showed how a great blend can rival and destroy any mainstream offering. No amount of concentrate can be a decent substitute for pressed juice. Are the bottles worth the considerable price difference? Well yes; unlike the cans which have been produced, I would guess a little more quickly and en mass, the bottles have taken time, more skill and are catering to a different situation, one where you want something to drink slowly, to ponder over, to share and that is worth the higher price.
Beyond taste and price and methods though, these four really emphasised the point again that cider isn’t a one dimensional drink. We have made humongous strides in this area, but I still believe it’s one of the biggest (if not the biggest) perception that is affecting the growth of craft cider. It’s what has led to the majority of pubs having one line for cider and another for a “fruit cider”, it’s been perpetuated by the categorisation of cider into sweet, medium and dry implying it’s one flavour and it’s turned a nation off from what should be one of our native drinks. The biggest danger is that fruit flavoured ciders take over that gap, with their many different concoctions they offer the drinker much more variety. [Ed: rant over?] – not quite and can I still do those little “Ed” brackets when I’m the writer?? Probably not.
I’m not saying we need a complete shift, there is a place for cider in all its guises. There can still be a place for cider that comes in sweet, medium and dry if that’s what people want to make and sell, it’s actually quite a versatile approach for the customer and their specific taste preference, but there is so much more to it; and apple variety is a huge start. I think that’s probably the biggest shift we’ve seen in the last few years as craft makers embrace single varieties and listing what’s gone into their blends. It’s one of the simplest differences to the mainstream that we can exploit to craft’s advantage. So the sooner we all start talking more about varieties and describing the flavours they bring, the better.