Cider Review: Henry Westons Vintage Special Reserve Cider

I STOPPED doing “reviews” of cider for the same reason I stopped “reviewing” lager. There seemed to be almost no difference between each one. Every cider boiled down to how much it tasted of apples, with only the hair’s breadth between a good one and a not so good one. At least for the big-name ones I tried. Why then, have I written this? Mainly because I still want to try a Real Cider. But also because someone recommended this one in a blog comment, and because Westons more mainstream Premium Organic Cider is the best I’ve tried so far. So, from Tesco, here is a bottle of Henry Westons Vintage Special Reserve Cider.

Henry Westons Vintage Special Reserve Cider bottle

First impressions are good. It looks like a bottle of high-end ale. Which is probably the end of the market where it belongs. It’s also a good thing because you can buy it without feeling like a teenager or an alcoholic, buying the huge bottles or brightly coloured cans of the cheap stuff.

Henry Westons Vintage Special Reserve Cider neck label

The neck label keeps it simple, by playing on the heritage. Much like the rest of the bottle. “English Ciders” and “Estd 1880” help conjure the right cider images.

Henry Westons Vintage Special Reserve Cider front label

The front label does all the right things. It makes you think about apples and rural heritage. Two things that the brightly coloured cans of fizz fail to do. There photo above speaks for itself. This is a 500ml bottle of a whopping 8.2% alcoholic volume cider. Or should that be a typical 8.2% alcoholic volume? If you know how explosive real cider is supposed to be, leave a comment. Either way, it’s only 0.2% short of alcoholics favourite, K.

Interesting to see that this is 2008 vintage. Besides this bottle, I’ve only seen one or two fancy ales do that, and of course, wine. An instant way to add class, but not if that vintage dates to just a few months ago. That said, does real cider improve with age? Your expert advice in the comments at the end of the post, please.

The writing around the brown and white photograph of a Victorian gentleman gives his name as “Henry Weston JP, CC”. And on the other side of the border, “1850-1917, Founder”. Not the sort of ruddy faced farmer type you might expect.

Henry Westons Vintage Special Reserve Cider back label

Over on the back, everything is clear, concise and easy to read. The little ‘story’ describes it as “full bodied” and made from “the very best of a single year’s crop”. Crucially, it is “traditionally matured in old oak vats for up to 6 months”. I’m going to presume that six months is plenty of time, but if you know a cider that’s better and matured for longer, leave a comment in the usual place.

Moving in to the smaller-print, and they have a website at www.westons-cider.co.uk. While not as bad as some brewers websites, it still left me struggling to come up with any good direct links to give you. Some poking around in the online shop did reveal this page about Henry Westons Vintage Special Reserve Cider at http://www.westons-cider.co.uk/acatalog/Henry_Westons_Vintage_Special_Reserve__12x500ml_.html. Okay, there’s nothing particularly interesting on the page itself, but rather where they put it. They filed it under “Medium Dry Ciders” and, critically, “Sparkling”. Which, according to CAMRA, means it’s not a Real Cider. I’m as gutted as you are. Will I ever get the chance to try the real thing?

Next they give a serving suggestion. They describe it as “delicious on its own or with cheese and meats”. They also say its “best served chilled” and that vegetarians, vegans and coeliacs. So can anyone can drink it with almost any food group? Only if they ignore the nanny-state. Because under all that is the big take of recommended UK units of alcohol.

Lest you forget, the UK Chief Medical Officers recommend that women not exceed 3 units daily, and men, 4. Hilariously then, this bottle of Henry Westons Vintage Special Reserve Cider weighs in at 4.1 UK units of alcohol. Drink it, and the nanny-state will start wagging her finger. I love that.

Down in the even-smaller-print is the Herefordshire address of H, Weston & Sons Ltd. There’s also a little symbol, informing us that they are a member of “The National Association Of Cider Makers”. An industry body who have a website at www.cideruk.com and the cider industry news at www.cideruk.com/cider_news/latest.

What does Henry Westons Vintage Special Reserve Cider actually taste like? Will it be the best cider I’ve tried so far? And should you buy it? I’m looking forward to finding out.

Henry Westons Vintage Special Reserve Cider poured into a glass

In the glass, this fridge chilled Henry Westons Vintage Special Reserve Cider looks… well, after all those dark ales with thick, creamy head, this looks unimpressive. But this is a cider, so it’s probably intentional. There’s no head, It’s a very pale yellow colour, and fizzy.

What does Henry Westons Vintage Special Reserve Cider smell of? If you guessed bananas, you are way off. The real question is, how much does it smell of apples and does it smell of chemicals pretending to be apples? The answer to the first question is yes, it has a delicious aroma of apples. The second answer to the second question is more of a grey area. It still smells processed like the other pasteurised ciders, but not as badly done as some of the big-names. In short, it smells apple-y and scrumptious.

How does Henry Westons Vintage Special Reserve Cider taste? Remembering that this is a medium-sweet cider packing an 8.2% punch, the first couple of sips are not bad. A couple more reveal this to be one of the strongest and most distinctive ciders I’ve ever tried. The flavour is delicate and sweet. And of apples, obviously. Then comes the strong rush of the finish. This is where you’re reminded of the 8.2% powering this bottle. Balancing that sweet flavour with dry bitterness comes the long aftertaste; of apples. That said, it’s not dominated by apples. Sure, they’re there, but you’re not swamped by them.

What am I enjoying about Henry Westons Vintage Special Reserve Cider? I like the taste. I like how easy it is to drink, without being too dry and bitter. I like that this won’t put off people who stumble upon this cider in the supermarket. I like how it packs in so much alcohol, yet manages to be easy to drink. I like that it tastes natural, instead of having that synthetic taste. And I like how it looks like a bottle of ale, instead of coming in a crudely coloured can.

What am I not enjoying about Henry Westons Vintage Special Reserve Cider? The taste won’t be to everyone’s liking. It is powerful stuff, and suffers from the super-strength lager problem of having rocket fuel properties. Besides that, it’s a little gassy and not easy to find in shops. Partly because it sells out so quickly.

To sum up, Henry Westons Vintage Special Reserve Cider is one of the most interesting ciders I’ve tried. Okay, so it isn’t a Real Cider, but it’s as close to it as I’ve ever been. It has a scrumptious taste of apples without being overbearing or synthetic. And to top it off, it’s as strong as Geoff Capes. If you like cider but want better, in a bottle, from your supermarket, without going to the trouble of buying a keg or bag or finding a pub that sells real cider, then buy this. A very pleasant way to get sozzled.

Rating: 4

Have you tried Henry Westons Vintage Special Reserve Cider?
Do please leave your opinions, answers to my questions, recommendations and places to buy, here in the comments.

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37 Responses to “Cider Review: Henry Westons Vintage Special Reserve Cider”

  1. Curmudgeon Says:

    If you want something more “real”, why not try Weston’s Old Rosie Cloudy Scrumpy (7.3% ABV) which is on sale in 500ml bottles in some of the supermarkets around here?

    • Kerosene Says:

      I’m relatively new to cider (I’m a recovering stout drinker).. but Old Rosie is fast becoming my cider of choice. It’s flat (oops ‘still’), cloudy, and as Curmudgeon said – it’s “real”.
      I’ve tried a few of the other Westons ciders, but keep coming back to Old Rosie. It tastes like proper farm cider – not too flashy, but tasty enough, and with plenty of oomph.

      The Old Rosie bottle label is a shocker though. I pour it, then get rid of the bottle asap.

  2. Sam Says:

    I had the 2007 version. It was veerryy strong and too sweet for me.

  3. James Says:

    I’ve had a fair few bottles of this beauty over the last couple of years. I really enjoy it!

    Obviously this isn’t the sort of cider you’d find at a cider festival, but for a product you can find in your local Morrisons, it’s fantastic!

    The really surprising thing about this cider is the rather nice, apple taste that comes with it, considering it is 8.2%!! You’d expect a taste not to dissimilar to that of the 2l bottled super strength rubbish; thankfully, it is very different!

    However, in my opinion, the cider to drink is Old Rosie, but that has a definate aquired taste.

    Proper job.

  4. Paul Morgan Says:

    Hands down the best cider I’ve ever had (drink at least 2 bottles every night), and due to most of the sugar being turned to alcohol is great on keeping the belly at bay too! 🙂

    lovely stuff!

  5. kilmorack Says:

    Quiet simply,the best cider i have tasted in my life,(50 years).

  6. Paul S Says:

    You missed out. The 2007 vintage was much better than the 2008.

    • Anonymous Says:

      Wasn’t it just, I thought I was the only one who noticed that too…. Hail to the king of ciders though.

  7. Derek Says:

    I drink the Bulmers cans as they come cheap with offers at the supermarket quite often but, when I want to savour rather then just drink
    I think the weston’s reach’s the parts most ciders can’t reach?
    (Heard something simular somewhere?)
    Anyway it gets my vote.

  8. Jez Says:

    Hey, I was just looking around for reviews of the Vintage cider and the Old Rosie Scrumpy after having tried both just 2 nights ago.

    I have to say I didn’t particularly enjoy either of them. Although I did enjoy their ABV 😉

    Both of these ciders were, IMO, completely dominated by their oakiness. I love fresh, ripe tasting apple and pear ciders and their more acidic ‘champagne-ish’ counterparts. I suggest you try Monteith’s Crushed Apple Cider if you can find it in the UK. I’m still going to try Weston’s Organic Apple and Pear and Perry ciders but I was disappointed by these two. Have to say though, at AU$6 and AU$7 they’re fairly pricey.

    What I’m really loving at the moment is St. Heliers Pear Cider from Jersey.

    Cheers, J

  9. Barry Says:

    I am just trying a Westons “Old Rosie” . It is the very first “still” cider I have found in Australia. It seems that Aussie and NZ ciders are all “sparkling” . I yearn for the still ciders that I have had in the UK – but in the meantime, this Old Rosie is GOOD. Bit expensive at $7AUD – but everything here is expensive these days. I never thought I would see the day when things were cheaper in the UK than here

  10. Fontora Says:

    I LOVE this cider. Sadly in Australia our selection is very limited, this was one of the more obscure brands (.. yes brand) I could find.

    The distinctive delayed taste gets me every time. In fact I’m going to get a bottle now, expensive sadly.

    @Barry – Booze is always cheaper in the UK 🙂

    • WestonsAustralia Says:

      Westons Cider is now fast becoming a big seller in Australia, however it seemes resricted to Perth and Sydney at the moment. The Vintage is stocked in many bottle shops around the Sydney metro area, as well as the organics range, Old Rosie, and the newer (slighly less traditional but great) Apple and Raspberry one. There are about 15 different Westons products available in Australia, as well as 2 draught products, Stowford Press and Westons Premium.

  11. Paul Edgington Says:

    Westons Vintage? Westons Old Rosie? Amongst the mass of cheap and nasty “pretend” ciders (What the hll is pear cider, for God’s sake?) these two stand out for me. Old Rosie for its amazing thirst quenching ability, Vintage if you’re looking for an afternoon nap – it sure is knockout drops!

    My summer cider tipple used to be Dy Blackthorn before it vanished round here, then Gaymers in their infinite wisdom remodelled it into sweet mush instead of the back of the throat thirst quenching original. Rumour has it, the West Country are getting the original back by popular demand (and walking feet) but today I had to suffer the “new” brew.

    So it’s back to the Crown at Charlton on Otmoor for Vintage and Rosie for me.

  12. John Says:

    Am drinking a bottle of vintage Westons as I type. This to me is the best branded cider I have tasted. I am drinking the 2009 version and love it.
    I find it light on the pallet with a distinct taste of apples. Its strong but will not knock your socks off if you treat it with respect. On another note to me cider is made from apples and peary is made from pears and the to never meet so the is no such thing as a pear cider in my book. Nearest cider to this I have tasted is Hornsby cider from California it was only 4.2% but for a cider made by yanks it has a great taste,

  13. Rob Says:

    2009 Vintage. Cheap, respectable packaging, strong and excellent flavour compared to junk like Strongbow.

  14. Vinny Coates Says:

    I have been a Guiness drinker for over 40 years, i discovered
    Westons Vintage yesterday in Belfast. When I drink Bulmers my
    maximum is 2 bottles or draught pints, Westons is smoother easier &
    refreshing, 1st impressions i’m happy with Westons.
    Vinny Coates. Dublin.

  15. mark Says:

    I have tried westons vintage cider,it as to be the best drink of cider i have
    ever had and at 8.2% vol you dont need many to have a good night.
    it’s the champagne of ciders,it’s the only one i will drink.

  16. Marty Lamb Says:

    All i really drink is cider about 4 bottles per night. Weston’s vintage is one of my fav’s along with Thatchers vintage. These two are out there on there own. Scrumpy jack in the 500ml cans is about the best canned variety. I have drank French, Belgian, Spanish, American and loads of others. Weston’s and Thatchers are by far the best. Couldn’t bear to live in a world with no cider and only the likes of Fosters and Carling think i would be tea total. Well actual i would……

  17. dave Says:

    i love the stuff!! stumbled across it at tescos whilst buying some brothers cider and havnt looked back since! be careful as its very easy to drink and sneaks up on you with a big rabbit punch!

  18. Anonymous Says:

    HI THERE JUST READING THE REVIEW ABOVE AND IM ALSO DRINKING A BOTTLE OF WESTONS WYLD WOOD AND ITS A CRACKING CIDER , I BOUGHT A HOLE CASE THE OTHER WEEK AND AT THE MOMENT IF YOU ORDER OFF OF THE WESTON WEB SITE THE IS FREE DELIVERY ON ANY ORDER OVER £50 HAPPY DRINKING CIDER LOVERS

  19. Anonymous Says:

    Just had my Third bottle of the 2011 vintage and loving the appley cider taste… not to mention the glow of 12.3 units, which is not bad too 🙂 Packaging looks very sensible – for the single bottle being more than the RDA of 4 units per day, gotta love that 0.1 units over being just a bit cheeky 🙂 Like Yorkie bars, not for girls – fella on the label with beard. apples and vintage wording make it all very reasonable lookin for a bottle of rocket fuel….. Scottish Govt about to spoil the fun with min £ per unit Alchohol… So it will cost a bit more and I will buy the exact same amount. Theivin sods.

  20. Anonymous Says:

    Hmmm, looks like the English government about to spoil the fun as well, with there announcement today of a minimum price per unit. I’ll still be buying it, it’s definitely the best supermarket cider out there.

  21. Dean Says:

    This is my favorite cider of all time and i have tried a few! Nice balance of flavor and a good heady punch which leaves you with an inane grin. Best left in freezer for an hour or so if purchased off a shelf. Enjoy but watch out it can creep up and put you on your arse!

  22. ciderman Says:

    nice to drink a cider that is not all gas my best drink of cider so far been drinking henry westons for about 2 years now 1st class

  23. John Bowtell Says:

    2013 vintage. A wonderful treat. £5 for three at Morrisons and Tescos. Had two for lunch, will have the other one this evening. It tastes like a wonderful dessert wine. Slightly sweet but very full bodied. A classy alcoholics drink if you had six of them. Don’t know about the hangover. Doesn’t make you loose like lager does (too much information) Highly recommended, don’t give the wife one – or she’ll be hooked (cider I mean)!

  24. Bobby Gibson Says:

    Review was excellent, articulate and not written after a few bottles of Henry Westons – I have been a Merrydown Medium cider drinker for many years but they have messed with the recipe and reduced the alcohol content – discovered Henry Westons a few months ago and find it delicious (and only six bottles required to do the job)

  25. Quora Says:

    What is necessary to create the world’s greatest fresh apple cider?

    A great variety of cider apples. Eating apples all tend to be too sweet to make good cider. Single-variety ciders tend to be all one-note. The best ciders use a variety of apples, including some really sour ones, and take care at every stage of product…

  26. Loz Says:

    Really nice stuff Henry westerns cider but the vintage does pack an 8.2% punch so beware and try to follow the intake allowance on units per week as it’s to easy to get carried away !

  27. Anonymous Says:

    U talk absolute shiiiiiiiite 😂😂😂😂
    I drink 2 much of this shite ha

    • Anonymous Says:

      Yep love it

      • Anonymous Says:

        It fuks ya n it leaves an after taste like no other sup 4 black storm n a bottle a this n shove ur shitty mmmmm cider is for peasants up ur toffnose fukin dicks

      • Anonymous Says:

        It fuks ya n it leaves an after taste like no other sup 4 black storm n a bottle a this n shove ur shitty mmmmm cider is for peasants up ur toffnose fukin dicks fuck off

      • Anonymous Says:

        Mmmmm toff coonts shoave this poosy vergin boòllox oop yaar fooookin arse u set of absolute bell end virgin cooonts

  28. Ktg Says:

    My favourite cider. Definately delicious chilled – not too sweet either. Sadly been replaced in many outlets by European alternatives.
    Ktg

  29. tidly pops diddlewash Says:

    For the leisure professionals this one. I drank 34 last week now I’ve got no job, fewer teeth and the loudest recycling bin on the street

  30. Willie Says:

    I am from South Africa and a bottle was brought for me from the UK from a friend on request as I have watched a series on TV ” How do they do it and was mostly impressed by the process at Weston’s of making the Cider

    On opening the bottle it was just lovely.

    – It taste like a real drink and not an apple juice. We have our own brands in RSA but I found it way to sweet even the Darker bottle taste is in mature as it is still not dry enough. I enjoy dry white wines e g,. Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay and therefore prefer the dryer types.

    – The taste of Weston’s is mature and dry

    – I have picked up, being barrelled in Oak

    – It has a beautiful taste and so refreshing.

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