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One of the key qualities of mass-produced cider is its consistency; the ability to make a product on such a scale that you are able to control all aspects of its flavour and taste. This means that whether you buy a pint in the pub, a can in the shop or a bottle on holiday you’ll still get the same taste experience. Which let’s face it, is a huge selling point to us change-averse Brits. Personally, consistency is a conflicting concept to me, in many parts of my life I like having it. The taste of my favourite bread, the time the alarm clock goes off, etc. I like having the reliability that I know what to expect, know what I’m getting. In other cases I like variability, new flavours, new experiences and I need both to have some balance. 

When it comes to my own cider making, I’m aiming for the complete opposite of consistency as are many other craft cider makers. The ability to create one-off, unique expressions of an orchard or vintage are huge selling points to those wanting to try something different and something finite. I don’t think I could afford to be consistent even if I wanted to though, I don’t have the equipment for a start and also lack the reliability of supply. Each year being a mixture of what I can source from local gardens and my own orchard, never enough to do a single variety with one specific fruit, but even that wouldn’t guarantee consistency. 

Consistency is multi layered though right? It’s not just about making a product that always tastes the same, it can be about the standard of your products, and this is where I think smaller producers like myself, face the most challenge. When you’re a mass producer using additives and industrial processes like pasteurisation you mitigate a lot of risks around faults and off flavours. On a smaller scale without those, especially if you are more reliant on natural processes without sulphite additions, then the ability to create consistently clean creations becomes more difficult. As an example, even with strict cleanliness, sterilisation and clean fruit I have still struggled to make a perry that doesn’t have mouse. My issue, it turns out, was a lack of acidity in my juice, only properly solved by adding some (e.g. malic acid) or another juice that was lower in pH. 

As I muse on this topic I just so happen to have two ciders to hand, made by the same maker, both the same product but different batches and they’re in different packaging. So let’s see if there’s any consistency between the two…

Dunkertons – Black Fox (bottle) 6.8% – batch 4239

Colour: slightly lighter than the can, although cloudier from the start of pouring

On the nose: brandy, dried apple skins, wooden barrels, orange juice

In the mouth: a good balance of red apples and some tropical-like acidity, pineapples and mango come to mind. It’s refreshing and light but with enough tannin to get your tongue round and a “tangy” finish as it says on the label, not acetic in any way, more like a fresh bite into a green apple. There’s a bit of savoury smokiness in the middle plus some vanilla and lots of those juicy apples. A slight savoury brine-like note at the very end but it’s very different to the can.

In a nutshell: an easy drinking, accessible, crowd pleaser with plenty to enjoy.

Dunkertons – Black Fox (can) 6.8% – batch 4168

Colour: hazy yellow gold

On the nose: earthy, charred wood, smoked bacon and a herby, menthol like note.

In the mouth: the dominating flavour is an earthy, slightly smokey one. It has none of the tropical fruit, vanilla or rich apples of the bottle. It’s juicy but the fruit is like the core or the pith, the bitter parts rather than the flesh and feels a little watery in comparison. There is a still a slight “twang” on the finish but it feels subdued. The acidity is more citrus than tropical, like orange squash. Bizarre how different it is to the bottle, more savoury, bitter and thinner.

In a nutshell: a different beast that in some ways feels dialled down and yet in others more intense than the bottle.

Side note for both – delighted to see that Dunkertons have dialled down the carbonation, but I feel the sweetness has increased somewhat.


I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure what I was going to write about when I bought these two but then I tasted them and realised they were so different it seemed the obvious topic. So yes, before you ask, on occasion we taste the ciders first… I know, feels like I’ve shattered the illusion right?!? Joking aside, if I was used to a bottle of Black Fox and then had the can I would be very surprised. I would assume that Dunkertons are trying to make a consistent product, but from these two there is definitely something happening between batches. It would be interesting to try their party keg and see if there is any difference there as well. For me the bottle is the more balanced and enjoyable of the two. The bitterness and savoury nature is just too much from the can.

So I think in summary, there are many elements to creating consistency, whether that be the practices the cider maker follows, or the product they’re trying to create. Both of which are entirely subjective, and the degree to which is maker will go is dependant on their vision and their means. As this is more of a thinking piece, I’m actually really interested in what our readers think as I know we have many makers and drinkers that read our pages. What are your thoughts on consistency? Do you seek out the same ciders looking for the same taste or do you thrive on something new and different? Do you stick to a small number of makers because you recognise the consistent quality of their drinks or do you seek out new creators and creations to keep your taste buds on their toes?

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