perry, Reviews
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Six random ciders and perries that I thought might be fun

I’m sometimes guilty of forgetting that this is all supposed to be just a bit of fun. In fact I’m constantly guilty of it.

I couldn’t be happier with the way that Cider Review has evolved, and I’ve been a beneficiary to a huge extent. We have a small collective of volunteers who submit brilliant, in-depth work which I am constantly fascinated to read. We’ve nurtured a little community of readers keen to engage in the same wonkish avenues of discussion around cider and perry as we are, and for whose continued interest I am enduringly grateful. And I’ve been lucky enough to meet a large number of remarkable folk from all around the world, taste a ridiculous amount of delicious cider, judge a good few competitions, speak at a few events and even get a bit of travelling in. It’s been, and continues to be, a privilege.

But amidst all that I sometimes lose sight of the fact that, at the end of the day, this is a sideline hobby blog born out of wanting to try a few ciders and perries and share my thoughts on them with fellow enthusiastic hobbyists. None of us earn any money out of Cider Review — indeed we lose a fair bit — we’re not professionals or experts (Barry aside). This should all be for fun, for interest, for love, or there’s no point to it.

Yet it’s very easy to get swept into taking it all very seriously. Nothing wrong with that to the right degree — cider is so flippantly treated by so many people (including some who should know better) that it deserves a little seriousness. I suppose I’m talking about the wholly unnecessary level of seriousness that causes lost sleep over someone on the internet having misrepresented Foxwhelp. Or the boil of frustration raised over comments surrounding cider’s relationship with other drinks that don’t seem to have been fully researched or considered. Most of all, the levels of seriousness that causes anxiety over whether the next article will be in depth enough, will cover ground hitherto entirely untouched, will be some Holy Grail of flashy prose and technical depth, and whether it’s worth even trying to write it if it isn’t.

Cider Review was born as a column on Malt, and it is very much in Malt’s image that our rough article format was conceived. An essay, essentially, disguised as a long pre-amble with a particular angle that happens to have a review tacked onto the end of it. It’s an odd format, but it worked on Malt and it seems to work well enough here. Where it becomes problematic, and occasionally exhausting, is in its creation of a self-imposed need to always come up with that angle — to put essay first and review second. When sometimes you don’t have time or energy or even inclination for an essay. Sometimes all you really want to do is review a few ciders that you reckon might be interesting, and jot out a few thoughts on them. But that irrational fear, born inevitably of imposter syndrome, that someone or other will say ‘oh no angle this time, no essay? Disappointed,’ pops up, and before you know it you’ve written a couple of thousand words on the flavour enigmas of Oldfield, the cultural history of cider in Spain, the ins and outs of malolactic fermentation, or whatever it may be, and possibly even emailed someone authoritative for a quote. 

Which, when all this writing is just a sideline hobby that I mostly do between 7 and 8:30 in the morning and on the occasional lunchbreak, is clearly not a healthy state of mind to consistently adopt.

So today I am taking a breath, reminding myself that this should all be just a bit of fun, and doing my bit to return to the reason this site exists in the first place: tasting a few ciders that I reckon might be interesting, and letting you know what I think.

Because — actually — that’s something else that can come from burrowing down the rabbit hole of a hobby if you’re not careful — a reduced power to be surprised by something wholly new and unexpected. We’ve covered a fraction under 800 individual ciders and perries to date, from well over 300 separate producers and probably about 20 or so countries. And so although we have particular preferences, which are probably reasonably apparent by now, and producers whose creations we seek out and write up fairly regularly, it’s fairly rare that I get to sit down with a whole flight of ciders from makers whose wares I’ve never tasted before. Which is a shame, because it is that very excitement at a new bottle of which you have no expectations, but in which you might just discover brilliance, that really drives you to the word processor and compels you to share your findings. 

So if there’s any angle at all to today’s piece — and I notice I’m at 800 words by now, so there probably ought to be — it’s a reminder to myself (and anyone else who might need it) to remember why I got into cider and perry and started doing all this in the first place, and to simply sit down with something from a producer new to me and find out what new things it and they have to say.

On which note, to the tasting. A veritable smorgasbord of excitement — a small international raft of producers whose ciders I’ve not reviewed before, or indeed tasted whatsoever (with one exception thrown in at the end — but we’ll get to that).

Kicking off in Cornwall, which as we’ve commented a couple of times seems to be currently seeing a mini-renaissance in cider terms, we have a pair from Vagrant. Though we’ve not featured their wares in these pages previously we did meet James Fergusson as part of our Perry Month back in September. James specialises in cider and perry made from wild fruit, which he harvests from across the Cornish peninsular and beyond, and is a fairly fledgling producer (at least in commercial terms) having only launched his first bottlings in the last year or so.

I’ve two of his creations to taste today; La Duchesse, the perry mentioned in our interview of September, made from Duchesse d’Angoulême dessert pears harvested in Kent and a little crab apples, as well as Peak & Trough, a cider made from entirely Cornish apples harvested from orchards at 700 and 8 feet above sea level respectively. I think they’re both pét nat, but I don’t have any other information at the time of writing. I believe James is looking to sell directly — currently your best bet may be to reach out via Vagrant’s instagram account — in the name of full disclosure I was sent both bottles as samples.

Vagrant La Duchesse 2021 – review

How I served: Chilled

Appearance: Mid-gold. Still.

On the nose: Oh now. That instantly — instantly — has me in ‘drinking Italian white wine by the sea’ territory. Characterful Italian white at that; Fiano, Etna Bianco. Herbs and beeswax and salty, mineral seashell rounded off by soft, ripe peach and pear. Dessert-pear perry noses can be wispy, ephemeral things but this is as pure and clear as a bell on a winter morning. Lovely, lovely nose.

In the mouth: Immediately the best British dessert pear perry I’ve ever tasted. That is so good. No tannin, but a full, vinous texture. All but completely dry, yet plush with fruit and that herbal, mineral, seashore effect. Some waxiness again. Still a ringer for so many of the great Italian whites, and even something like Albariño. One of those perries that, whilst wholly its own thing, cannot but be compared in both flavour and style to white wine.

In a nutshell: A truly great, elegant, characterful perry. I demand small plates of salty food and a sparkling azure sea this minute.

Vagrant Peak & Trough 2021 – review

How I served: Chilled – was warned it could be frisky on opening, but wasn’t too much so!

Appearance: Fizzy opaque peach. NB there was a notably low fill level — about a fifth to a quarter missing. So bear that in mind during note.

On the nose: Aromatic stuff, with one of the most intensely apricoty noses ever on a cider. Both fresh and lightly apricot-yoghurty. There are dabs of orange, peach, even slightly underripe mango, but really this is a pure, fruity apricot-bomb.

In the mouth: Very textural delivery. Significant fizz — maybe a tad too much; a tad intrusive — over some very pithy tannin. Dry and medium-bodied so that pretty intense bitterness has nowhere to hide, but a big, ripe, juicy, apricoty flavour restores some balance. A little vegetative greenness – nettle and dandelion stem, and some aperol too. 

In a nutshell: Lovely fruit and a very nice sunshiney cider, though bitterness may be too much for some (I’m ok with it). Perry takes it for me, but what a debut duo.

Next up is a cider that’s been in my rack for entirely too long, waiting for the right article to come along — far too often the way, I’m afraid. Long Mynd is based in Shropshire, which for our international readers is the county directly above Herefordshire, but which doesn’t make a particularly large amount of cider itself. (Indeed to date we’ve only reviewed two Shropshire creations, a cider and a perry both from Napton). They work with a French Sambron press, which they believe to be the only one in the UK, and make both draught and bottled cider, conditioned in West Highland whisky casks following fermentation. I’ve seen very positive murmurings about this bottle in certain corners of twitter, so I’ve been very much looking forward to this long-delayed tasting. I bought my bottle from the much-missed Scrattings, but Long Mynd do sell directly from their own website. (Though they may no longer have this particular vintage, for which apologies).

Long Mynd Cider Batch No: 00119 – review

How I served: Slightly colder than cellar temperature. An hour out of the fridge.

Appearance: Bronze, clear, very lightly-sparkling.

On the nose: Definitely got the whisky — specifically the burly, chunky, peated whiskies of the west coast, replete with saline seashore. Fans of young Raison d’Être and some of the old Vintage Dry stuff from Oliver’s take note. But, like those, the deep apple character intertwangles with the smoke in a gorgeous, autumnal, dried apple, earthy, forest floor way. Totally fault-free. Cask influence may polarise, as always, but long-term readers know I love this sort of thing.

In the mouth: Yes, I’m all in for this. Big, sonorous, bittersweet, oak, smoke, woodland floor, dried and juicy apple fruit and earthiness. Gosh I love this intensely autumn-in-a-glass style when body and fruit match up to oak and peat and they certainly do here. A touch less dry than Raison d’Être — medium-dry is right — but an easy recommendation to fellow fans of the Ross flagship. Hits me right in the heart and soul it does.

In a nutshell: Cider isn’t just for summer and this is pure autumn walk in a glass.

How about something from further east? Meon Valley Cider are based in West Meon in Hampshire, in the west of the south downs. (Lots of compass directions in that pair of sentences). Their website describes their typical cider style as east-meets-west, but today the emphasis is on ‘east’ since I’ll be tasting a single variety Egremont Russet. (Though I’ve had some excellent western counties Egremont in the past). Always excited to try Egremont Russet, one of my very favourite varieties, also praised in these pages by James. Meon Valley’s is especially tempting though, since it has been aged in Sauternes barrels (which I’ve certainly found to work well with various apples before) and comes from the mighty, yet increasingly thin-on-the-ground 2018 vintage. High hopes then — not least since this bottle was passed on to me by the generous and faultlessly discerning Mr Finch himself. Cheers James! [Ed – James has reminded me that he gave me this bottle not from recommendation but simply as something he hadn’t tried but that seemed interesting.] (A case of 3 750ml bottles costs £28.50 directly from Meon Valley, incidentally).

Meon Valley Egremont Russet 2018 – review

How I served: Chilled.

Appearance: Straw, medium fizz.

On the nose: A bit of a reductive nose — a waft of farmyard and sulphur overrides a star and lime marmalade character. Sauternes certainly comes through — some dabs of honey and crystallised orange and oak spice — but the Egremont Russet character has been rendered a little peripheral, which is a bit of a shame. Some very nice points but perhaps a little disjointed overall.

In the mouth: Livewire palate. Perception of acidity is highish for Egremont and ever-so-slightly volatile (though only a smidge and the marmaladey Sauternes character covers most of it). Dry, gentle mousse with crunchy green fruit, leaves and light earthiness. Juicy lime chewits and hay.

In a nutshell: Plenty to light but a little on the wild side (which some will adore) and some of the Egremont character struggles. Could partially be those 5 years of age.

Shall we head to the continent? Yes, I think so. An increasingly wise idea these days for all sorts of reasons. To Latvia, no less — a complete first for me, though not for James, who covered a cider from today’s producer a couple of years ago. Mr Plūme is run by the eponymous Plūme family, Dace and Māris. Based in the centre of Latvia, surrounded by wild forests, they’ve been making ciders (and perries, fruit wines and spirits) since 2010, and have experience in both Normandy and Austria’s Mostviertel, which is some resumé. Their orchard boasts apples and pears from all around the world, but a big part of their harvest still comes from going on ‘apple safari’ and harvesting wildlings. It’s not only James who has mentioned the cidery positively on this site — Cider Explorer’s Natalia singled them out for praise in our interview back in December

I’ve had today’s bottle on hand perhaps even longer than I had the Long Mynd, so my apologies to Dace and Māris for the horrendous delay. I bought it as part of a CiderWorld sale back at the end of 2020, in the halcyon days when you could still just about get things shipped from Europe and it cost something like €6. This is the ‘Sausais’ (dry), compared to the ‘Saldais’ (sweet) that James tried, is made from a blend of Latvian eating apples and wild tannic apples and is another from the 2018 vintage. Though whether it was as comparatively hot, sunny and ripe a year in Latvia as it was in the UK I’ve no idea whatsoever. Answers below if you have them. The 2018 is probably long gone, but our European readers can pick up the 2022 for €6 from their website.

Mr Plūme Ābolu Sidrs Sausais 2018 – review

How I served: Lightly chilled

Appearance: Still, rich gold

On the nose: Very attractive, showing lovely development of apple fruit – slightly honeyed, slightly dried. Red apple skins, a little cranberry, a little strawberry lace. Polished, clear, harmonious, whistle-clean. Lots of character. Very impressed.

In the mouth: See nose. Bright, fresh orange juice, strawberry laces, a little redcurrant and cranberry and that lovely, developed ruby red apple starting to concentrate and dry. Nice acidity, not to excess at all. Again utterly without fault; medium body perfectly balanced by a crispness and definition and just a light brush of pithy tannin.

In a nutshell: A beautiful, clean, characterful cider that’s developed splendidly. Well worth the wait.

Time for one more? Go on, rude not to. Sticking on the continent, but moving a little closer to home, we’re heading to Normandy for our last bottle. It’s a bit of a cheat, since I have had something from La Ferme de Billy before, but that was a perry and this is a cider, so I’m claiming fair play. In any case, I didn’t previously have a chance to talk about the producer much (indeed at all), so let’s rectify that now.

La Ferme de Billy is based in Rots, in the heart of Calvados. A family farm since 1651 which has been tending its own orchards since the 1980s, now with 15 hectares of 22,000 trees. Their range includes both ciders and Calvados and the ciders are made in very much the standard traditional French way — wild yeasts, pét nat, residual sugars — form 14 different apple varieties. At the same time, there’s a clear spirit of innovation at the farm — very unusually for a French producer their ciders are available on keg. They also make an ice cider, and label their bottlings not in the usual sweetness terms ‘brut’, ‘demi-sec’, ‘sec’ and so on, but more as descriptions of their character; ‘sauvage,’ ‘corsé’ ‘fraîcheur’ for instance. All in all, very much the modern face of good French cider, which is always wonderful to see.

My bottle is the ‘Tonique’ — described as a ‘fresh and tangy’ cider. It’s made from 75% Avrolles, 10% Douce Cöetligné and a mixture of unspecified others. Avrolles, unusually for Normandy, is a sharp, so we’re not expecting this to fall into the region’s standard orangey bittersweet territory. If you’re lucky enough to live on the continent it costs €6 per 750ml bottle from their webshop. Mine was generously passed on by Yann Gilles, who I believe does some consultancy work for the cidery.

La Ferme de Billy Cidre Tonique – review

How I served: Chilled

Appearance: Very cloudy peach juice. Frothy mousse.

On the nose: An enticing, joyful noseful of pure, untrammelled juicy-fruitiness. The best of cloudy apple juices, with satsuma, nectarine and a little white grape. Not complicated, but coarsing with ripe, summery joy.

In the mouth: It’s sweet, sure — very sweet — but with that fresh, zesty Avrolles acidity skipping through it alongside a frothy raft of bubbles it’s never cloying and is dangerously easy. I shouldn’t be inside, writing this up in a notebook, I should be outside in the sun in some kind of paddling pool with a bigger glass. Just a huge, happy mouthful of apple juice, ripe citrus, raspberry and sherbet.

In a nutshell: Pure, delicious fun. Oh look, I’ve finished it already. More please.


With no pun intended in La Ferme de Billy’s direction, that was just the tonic I needed. Picking cider without information on bottle or producer could historically be a bit of a shot in the dark — and in some cases still is — but here we had five producers with whom I had only the scantest familiarity, and what a fascinating, tasty, varied and vibrant sextet it was. Only one that I think I’d pass on another bottle of, but it was still indisputably choc-full of character, and I dare say other drinkers would find much to enjoy. 

Of the other five, well I’m theirs any time. The Peak & Trough was very decent, the Ferme de Billy a pure sun-filled delight, Mr Plūme was a polished, developed, note-perfect charmer and Long Mynd sounded that sonorous, smoky autumnal bugle that sits so squarely within my wheelhouse of preference. 

But my favourite, and a bottle I still keep thinking about, just has to be that Vagrant Perry. I’ve had a lot of dessert pear perries and I can’t think of more than one, maybe two that sit in its league — neither from Britain. It’s almost astonishing to think that this wet and chilly land can produce flavours and textures that conjured the Sicilian sea in my head, but there it is, and there it was. Do not hesitate to buy it the moment it becomes commercially available. In fact if I were you I’d be giving James a nudge ahead of time.

Most of all, this marvellous mixed bag (in the best sense) was just the reminder I needed of why I still love this ridiculous hobby. There’s so much more to taste and discover; so much blank space of the cider and perry map that still needs filling in. And so much fun still to be had along the way. 


  1. Thomas S. Beckett says

    A wonderful article Adam, and indeed despite even my good self sometimes being one who demands a preamble, you are absolutely not contractually obliged to always provide one. Instead it certainly is enough to share your thoughts on some inspiring and high quality ciders and perries. I find myself once again being pushed to ensure that I am doing all I can at the Cidery to be looking to make drinks of the highest possible standards.

    As an aside, I had heard that Meon Valley is in the process of winding down. I may be wrong but anyone curious to taste should maybe not leave it too long incase that is correct.


  2. Wonderful. I’m now thirsty for a breakfast perry or cider! It reminds me that I need to order some more random ciders myself, but it’s quite hard to get that breadth of products in Germany.

    One point of correction though: I certainly do not feel professional and I will always remain a mere student of cider and perry! 😄


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