Comment 1

Six ciders from the Thatcher’s Cider Barn series

Let’s talk Small Batch. It’s a release term many of you will be familiar with if you also take an interest in the world of whisky. A limited run of 1-5ish casks, vatted together, a chance to try something that deviates from the standard output of a producer. In cider terms, a Small Batch could indeed be a single barrel of a particular variety or blend of apples, fermented and then matured in say an ex-Islay whisky cask (Caledonian Cider Co’s Islay Cask); a highland whisky barrel (Nightingale Cider’s Highland Disco); or even a rarely seen ex-Armagnac (Ross on Wye’s Dabinett 2018 release. The yield that a 200 litre ex-bourbon barrel could provide for a small cider producer, could be somewhere in the range of 260+ 750ml bottles – a substantial output, even for a Small Batch release. It’s a chance to showcase something a bit more idiosyncratic, a lesser known apple variety perhaps, in a barrel type that may impart a rather unique flavour.

When you’re the UK’s second largest cider producer by volume (litres) per year, what do you do? As the interview with Richard Johnson, Head Cidermaker at Thatchers revealed, you set up a pilot plant alongside your main production facility, and allow your team to experiment on a smaller scale than they usually get to. Smaller scale in this sense includes three 1000 litre vessels, and one 7000 litre tank – presumably for blending different batches together. To put it in perspective, that one 7000 litre tank is the same total output that a lot of small-scale cider producers release to the public in one year (for duty and operational capacity reasons). It’s a dizzying thought! I find it commendable and a testament to the cidermakers and management team at Thatchers that the Cider Barn pilot plant exists. 

You can find most of the Thatchers range in supermarkets and pubs across the UK, and as Richard mentioned in his interview, a Thatchers Gold consumed in a Glasgow bar should taste the same as one in a small rural pub in Lincolnshire. A bottle or can of Thatchers Blood Orange cider will taste exactly the same in Northumberland as it will do in Bermondsey. The availability of this Cider Barn range however is limited to a visit to the cidery itself in Sandford, Somerset, or an online order direct from their webstore. Full transparency alert, the following 500ml bottles were review gifts from the Thatchers team, but as I’d never heard of this range before, I’d like to thank them for bringing them to my attention, and for the time that Richard took out of his busy schedule for the interview. On with the reviews!

Thatchers Cider Barn Grenadier – review

How I Served It: Fridge chilled, left to acclimatise in my sitting room for 15mins.

Appearance: Pale gold, golden reflections through a windowpane, straw bales.

On The Nose: A trailer for a film named “Acidity”

In The Mouth: There’s malic acidity here, but it’s been cloaked somewhat in a wrapper of back-sweetening. The sweetness dials down/balances what could have been a bit of a polarising SVC for those not accustomed with the worthwhile path of the Foxwhelp or Bramley SVC. Getting a very pleasant Kiwi note the more I go back to it.

In A Nutshell: Fantastic to try a Grenadier SVC, it’s been given a middle ground sweetness level I’d personally like to see stripped back a tad, but I understand the reasons behind it. Let there be a V.2 Dry Edit in the future please.

Thatchers Cider Barn Redstreak – review

How I Served It: Fridge chilled, left to acclimatise in my sitting room for 15mins.

Appearance: Beeswax varnished pine.

On The Nose: Red apple skin (that’s what the smell reminds me of), allspice, mild black pepper.

In The Mouth: Similar level of effervescence to the grenadier, again it’s evident it’s been back-sweetened, but this time it sits over some mild tannin. Apple candy bonbon. Cranberry spritz.

In A Nutshell: A flavour profile that belies the 8.4% abv – tastes like a breakfast spritz, but could be a sundowner sipper.

Thatchers Cider Barn The Classics – review

How I served it: Half an hour out of the fridge.

Appearance: Young, bourbon-barrel matured Scotch Whisky.

On The Nose: Ginger, Cucumber skin, Walnut, apple chutney.

In the Mouth: Is it the yeast culture or the back-sweetening…I feel there’s a lot going on here, but it’s masked somewhat by that level of sweetness. The triangle of harmony is rule by the sweetness apex, with acid and tannin balanced but below their sugary counterpart.

In A Nutshell: Great to try a cider from Thatchers that proudly says on the label “Single Orchard” and “a blend of 26 different bittersweet and Bittersharp apples”. Just wish it was a bit less sweet for my palate.

Thatchers Cider Barn Green Apple – review

How I Served It: Straight outa the fridge, nicely chilled like a fruity white wine.

Appearance: Radiant light gold. Great clarity with light effervescence.

On The Nose: Nosing this blind I’d have said it’s Aspalls, very Eastern Counties acidic apple hit. Gooseberry Jam.

In The Mouth: Very thirst-quenching, acid-forward, not quite as sweet as the Katy’s SVC. Richard informed me it’s a blend of Gala, Braeburn, and Jonagold.

In A Nutshell: Showcasing the versatility of acidic apples and their use in cider, a palate-cleansing, refreshing cider that could sit easily beside an Eastern Counties cider despite its Somerset origins. 

Thatchers Cider Barn Katy & Redstreak – review

How I Served It: Get up outa that fridge.

Appearance: Lightly bronzed, gentle effervescence with a small mouse on top.

On The Nose: Apple tea (the ones in the teabags from Tetley’s), slight green tea note.

In The Mouth: Somerset Redstreak benefitting from the additional acidity that Katy brings. There’s a spicy undertone which elevated the Katy SVC too. Getting a mild pleasant pastry note too.

In A Nutshell: You can try Katy SVC. You can try Somerset Redstreak SVC. In this instance, with the sugar levels that Thatchers goes with, I think the blend of the two works the most harmoniously.

Thatchers Cider Barn Spiced Apple – review

How I Served It: Fresh from a day in the fridge.

Appearance: Irn Bru Gold, dare I say it, Thatchers Blood Orange hue.

On The Nose: Apple and Ginger fruit juice. 

In The Mouth: Surprisingly one of the driest, well medium dry, of the Cider Barn range. I had expected this to be ramped up to 11 on the sweetness factor, but I’m getting more notes of Dabinett and Tremlett’s Bitter (the main constituent parts) than I was expecting. Juicy, stewed apple pie. Ginger is the dominant spice, very pleasant.

In A Nutshell: The abv may be lower than several other Cider Barn releases, but the flavour is ramped up with the addition of Ginger, Cinnamon, and Clove. Surprisingly medium dry in its approach, give it a try!


To wrap up, it’s very apparent that the Thatchers house style of cider leans on the sweeter side of medium than my palate prefers. That’s just the audience they’re catering to. It would be fascinating to see a really bone-dry release from them in the future. This Cider Barn range gives them the option to try that out however, and I really commend them for producing this evolving range of Small Batch ciders each year. These 500ml bottles are definitely worth a seek out to expand your knowledge of what a big producer like Thatchers can offer. Affordable, exploratory, and thirst-quenching!

1 Comment

  1. Oliver Dowding says

    Really interesting pair of blogs and info on something many won’t know of.
    The question I have is whether these are a rarity for Thatcher’s as 100%
    cider content? As opposed to the truly commercial ones where water is a
    big feature.

    Best wishes,

    Cider Championships Gold

    Our medium still cider was awarded Gold at the Somerset Cider
    Championships 2021 & The People’s Choice at the British Cider
    Championships 2021 & 2022. Our dry and medium sparkling ciders both won
    Gold at the Taste of the West Awards 2022, as did our apple juice. Our
    dry still cider & apple juice were both awarded Gold at the British
    Cider Championships 2022.| 01749 812652| | Southdown,
    Shepton Montague, Wincanton, Somerset, BA9 8JP


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