I STOPPED trying to review cider for good reason. Trying to review them was like comparing potatoes. There’s not much to choose between them, and at the end of it all, you wish you hadn’t bothered. Nowadays I only bother if I find one that is genuinely different and closer to the mythical ‘Real Cider,’ or if it’s been recommended in the comments section. With both of those conditions being true, feast your eyes upon this: Westons Old Rosie Cloudy Scrumpy.
Look carefully, and you’ll spot the reasons why I couldn’t miss the chance to try Old Rosie. First is that it’s cloudy. You can see sediment at the bottom of the bottle. That’s not something you see in many, if any bottled ciders. Second, this Old Rosie is Westons Old Rosie.
Readers who have bookmarked or subscribed here might remember way back how much I liked Westons Premium Organic Cider and Henry Westons Vintage Special Reserve Cider. What you can’t see on the bottle is the price tag. I procured this bottle from Nisa Local on London’s Old Street for the exorbitant price of £2.25 pence.
For that wallet-emptying price, you get front and back labels that are clear and straightforward. On the front label, there are simply the facts you need to know, to help you decide whether to buy it or not. And, for some reason, a picture of a steam roller. I can only guess that they are working through clip-art of traditional imagery, and that the next product will feature an anvil or a turnip. Nevertheless, this press release answers some questions.
Seam rollers aside, it says everything you need to know. Specifically, that it is “Cloudy Scrumpy” called “Old Rosie” that has been “Inspired by Tradition”. Toward the bottom are the vital statistics and a brief description. Westons describe it as “ lightly carbonated traditional scrumpy cider fully matured in old oak vats”. Even as just a part-time cider drinker, I like the sound of that. Those vital statistics are that this is your regular 500ml bottle and that the alcoholic volume is a heady 7.3%.
The back label is off-putting until you realise that nearly all of it is taken up with foreign language translations. Nevertheless, there are a few details worth reading. There is at the top a more detailed description of Old Rosie. They describe it thusly:
“A light, crisp and dry lightly carbonated scrumpy cider. Allowed to settle out naturally after fermentation to retain its cloudy appearance. Gently invert to ensure an even distribution of natural apple sediment.”
I don’t normally copy entire descriptions verbatim, but then I’ve never tried a cider that has so much to explain. Who am I to argue with the label? I will try holding it upside down for a minute or so before opening.
After that, we quickly reach small-print details, which I shall reel off in quick succession. The web address is www.westons-cider.co.uk. The Ledbury, Herefordshire postal address is on there. The cider does contain “sulphites to preserve freshness”. It is best served chilled and is suitable for vegetarians, vegans and coeliacs. Westons are a member of The National Association of Cider Makers. And, at 7.3% alcoholic volume in a 500ml bottle, it weighs in at 3.7 UK units of alcohol. So women, even a single bottle of this stuff it too much for you. Not that the women of Cardiff or Scotland will pay much attention to that.
With all of that out of the way, it’s time for the fun part and the reason you’re reading. What does Westons Old Rosie taste like? Will it be noticeably better than the big-name brands? Will it be worth the huge premium? The only way to find out will be to hold my fridge cooled bottle upside down for a minute and crack it open. When it’s the right way up, obviously.
The whole process or turning it upside down for a couple of minutes was an interesting one. You could see the sediment slowly tumbling downwards to the top. Careful balancing, and you can get the bottle to sit upside-down on its top.
Pouring it was no problem. Westons Old Rosie is so lightly carbonated that there is no foam whatsoever. In fact, I can hardly see any bubbles in it at all. In the glass, it is the cloudiest and most naturally looking hue of straw-yellow I’ve ever seen.
How does Westons Old Rosie smell? Mildly of apples. Just as you’d hope for. But there’s a difference. Many ciders smell of apples in the same way that air-fresheners can smell of alpine berries; artificially. Old Rosie on the other hand smells like there are squished up scrumpy apples in the glass.
How does Westons Old Rosie taste? The first sip was an easy and pleasant one that made me burp moments later. As did the second one. But the taste is worth it. The label described it as “light, crisp and dry lightly carbonated”. I can’t disagree with those words. It is quite simply all of those words, together with a natural taste of apples and the tangy, citrusy quality that goes with it. The flavour is a light one of apples. And the aftertaste is a strong one of apples, bitterness, tanginess and citrus. Imagine eating a scrumpy apple. Drinking Old Rosie is a little like that, but in pleasant liquid form.
What am I enjoying about Westons Old Rosie? In two words, a lot. This is the most natural, proper and closest to ‘Real Cider’ that I’ve had the pleasure of trying. I like how natural it smells. I like that you can taste the sediment in each sip. I like very much how natural and apple-y it tastes. Yes, it does have a slightly bitter aftertaste, but not an off-putting one. If it was a beer, I’d describe it as well-balanced or bittersweet, because it’s neither very sweet, not very bitter. It’s not too gassy, with the burps soon subsiding. I also like how strong it is at 7.3% and the exclusivity of it.
What am I not enjoying about Westons Old Rosie? Unless you hate all cider, it’s difficult to find any reason to dislike Old Rosie. If I had to nitpick, I could say that the strong-ish finish to the taste could put off some girls and alcopop drinkers. I don’t think lager drinkers will be fazed by the aftertaste one jot, though. It is a palaver to find somewhere that sells it, and to serve it at the right temperature with the turning the bottle upside down first. But the biggest complaint is the price. Old Rosie may well become my favourite bottled cider, but at this price, I won’t be buying many bottles to take over to friends and family to spread the word.
How can I sum up Westons Old Rosie? It has completely won me over. By some distance, it is better than any other cider I’ve reviewed so far. I may not be able to tolerate mainstream cider ever again. Yes, it’s scarce and expensive, but that natural scrumpy taste and cloudiness make it worthwhile. Yes, it is that good.
Have you tried Westons Old Rosie? What did you think? Leave your opinions, corrections, recommendations and places to buy, here in the comments.