Posts Tagged ‘herefordshire’

Cider Review: Westons Old Rosie Cloudy Scrumpy

8 November, 2010

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.

Westons Old Rosie Cloudy Scrumpy bottle

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.

Westons Old Rosie Cloudy Scrumpy neck label

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.

Westons Old Rosie Cloudy Scrumpy front label

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%.

Westons Old Rosie Cloudy Scrumpy back label

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.

Westons Old Rosie Cloudy Scrumpy poured into a glass

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.

Rating: 4.45

Have you tried Westons Old Rosie? What did you think? Leave your opinions, corrections, recommendations and places to buy, here in the comments.

Cider Review: Henry Westons Vintage Special Reserve Cider

25 August, 2009

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.

Cider Review: Westons Premium Organic Cider

15 August, 2008

SINCE reading the CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) web page about Real Cider, I’ve been looking out for real cider. Sadly, the shops are full of big-name, mass-produced ice-ciders. And that’s irritating. In Tesco, the closest thing I could find was this bottle of Westons Premium Organic Cider. If anyone knows just ‘Real’ this cider is, do please leave a comment at the end of the post. For now, I’m just looking forward to trying a cider that wasn’t produced on a vast scale by a company with an advertising budget of millions.

Westons Premium Organic Cider bottle

First impressions are tremendous. The plain looking labels give it a farmyard look. And the organic credentials will delight even Prince Charles. Just take a look at the neck label as a starting point.

Westons Premium Organic Cider neck label

Westons Premium Organic Cider won the “Organic Food Awards” in 2003 and 2004. That theme of being organic and natural continues on the big front label too.

Westons Premium Organic Cider front label

The front label is also about the only place on there where you’ll see any graphics. In the background is a cider apple that looks like it was plucked from a clip-art tree. If this were a big-name brand, I would knock it for that. But with such a thoroughly local cider, I just can’t bring myself.

Instead, I’ll point out that Westons were established in 1880. Giving it considerably more heritage than I first thought. Under the small word “naturally” is perhaps the most prominent use of the word “Organic” you’ve seen on a cider. So much so, it doesn’t really have a name. Just “Organic”. Something I’m sure Westons would be delighted for you to associate with their cider ever after.

All the vital statistics are at the bottom of the front label. This is a 500 millilitre bottle. And the cider within has a volume of 6.5%. A percentage point or two above the big-name ciders. And very welcome.

There’s some surprises down there too. This cider also won the “Organic Food Awards” is 1998. That brings it up to three “Organic” awards. Not bad. Unsurprisingly then, there’s a big “Soil Association” “Organic Standard” symbol on there. Just to reinforce the organic message.

The back label is what you’ll be hoping for by this point. Informative and straightforward.

Westons Premium Organic Cider back label

Apparently, the organically grown cider apples in this, stick to the strict “Organic Certification UK5” from the “Soil Association”. That’s all well and good, but what will it taste like? The label has an answer there too. This one goes with key words and phrases including “easy to drink” with a “ripe apple aroma” with a “refreshing” and “well balanced taste”. No hyperbole here. That all sounds honest enough to be true. I hope it is.

Also on the label, they recommend that it is “best served chilled”. Which I’m doing having stored it away in the fridge. Then there’s the part where they take the natural and organic theme a step beyond. That’s because Weston Premium Organic Cider is “suitable for vegetarians, vegans and coeliacs.” Vegetarians and vegans you might expect to see covered, but coeliacs? According to the charity Coeliac UK, it’s a nasty disease that means some people can’t eat gluten. Isn’t it customary to simply write “Gluten free” on packaging and labels?

For the chronically worried, the number of UK units of alcohol is 3.2. Still worried? I recommend a bottle of cider or ale to calm your nerves. That’s not the only symbol on there however. There’s also one informing us that they are a member of “The National Association of Cider Makers”. Never heard of it. But then I am an exceptionally uninformed reviewer. If there is such an association, then I’m glad that they’re part of it.

Lastly, right down at the bottom of the back label is the all important address. Important because where a beer or cider comes from is always interesting to know. Take the Asian, European and American beers that talk about authenticity, but were made just down the road for example. Fortunately, there’s no such trickery here. That’s because Westons Premium Organic Cider comes from H. Weston & Sons Ltd. in Much Marcle, Herefordshire, England. They even have a good website that avoids the Flash-frippery of the big names. The address is www.westons-cider.co.uk.

Time to crack open this bottle of organic cider. I’m looking forward to this. And not entirely sure what to expect. Which is the level of mystery I want from an ale or cider.

Westons Premium Organic Cider poured into a glass

In the glass, it has a very deep apple-ish amber colour. Deeper amber than most of the big-name ciders. It’s not as fizzy as them either. I’d call it ‘lightly-sparkling’. Neither still nor fizzy.

They describe it as smelling of ripe apples. It does smell apple-y. I’d say it smells most like Gaymer ‘K’ but more natural. I like it.

A few gulps in, and it’s drier than expected. And it tastes of apples. Obviously. But much more so than the big name ice-ciders. What you notice most of all is how dry it is.

There’s plenty for the cider fan to like here. It has much more taste than the trendy ice-ciders or white-ciders. It’s at least as dry as Savanna Dry, and still manages to be easy to drink. And it’s strong and not at all gassy. This is quality stuff.

What about the downsides? Well, if I had to nitpick, I’d pick the dryness which is drier than to my taste. All the cider aficionados out there will now pipe up and tell me that’s exactly how it should be. And that my opinions are stupid piles of grime. Undeterred, I’ve got to say, it is dry.

So, what is Westons Premium Organic Cider all about? In a sentence, it’s a well made, tasty, drinkable, strong, dry cider that happens to be organic. I liked it. It does what you want a small, regional cider to do. Well worth a try if you like cider but are tired of the tasteless dross that is the mainstream.

Rating: 3.8

Have you tried Westons Premium Organic Cider? What did you think of it?
Leave your corrections, opinions and recommendations below and I look forward to reading them.


%d bloggers like this: