I have to admit to having a bit of a smile on my face when I saw this week’s cider in my Crafty Nectar box. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Apple County Cider Co in Monmouthshire and meeting Ben the owner back in April on my mini cider adventure (see last week’s blog), and I know this cider is a belter!
Apple County Cider Co is relatively new to the cider scene being officially born in 2014. A family business run by Ben and Steph Culpin, the trees were planted by Ben’s step-father Jimmy back in the 1960s under contract from one of the big cider makers. Bumper crops allowed Jimmy to experiment and make some of his own and following encouragement, Ben was persuaded to move back to the family farm back in 2008 and become a full time cider maker. You really can see the passion in Ben when you speak to him and in the 10 years he’s been doing it, he has developed some serious skills.
If you ever have the chance to visit you should, the very rustic shop in the farm yard glittering with vibrant coloured bottles is a sight to behold. Ben makes cider and perry (latest batch just released) with a traditional approach, using 100% juice in single varieties. His only addition is a winemakers yeast, then it takes time and patience to let nature do its thing. Ben currently produces three single varieties: Vilberie, Dabinett and Yarlington Mill. Plus a perry and three fruit ciders: blackcurrant, raspberry and rhubarb, which he creates by adding 100% fresh juice in small quantities to his cider.
Now the Yarlington Mll is described by Ben and Steph as “the most wine-like” of their ciders. They say it has a “rich brandy aroma…followed by a deep mellow flavour with a creamy finish”, and from that alone you can see why it has a bit of a cult following. Ben is fairly shy about awards, but the Yarlington Mill picked up two Great Taste stars, as well as Silver at the International Cider Challenge in 2017. That’s some serious recognition right there.
So, finally opening the bottle, I am greeted by an overwhelming scent of crushed and pressed apples; it’s a rich juice smell. If you’ve ever made your own cider you’ll know what I mean when I say it smelt just like a pressing cloth after you’ve finished pressing the juice. Into the glass it pours a satisfyingly deep amber colour with a light fizz to it. Now to the best part…initial taste. I get instant crisp apple with slightly acidic and cheesy notes. Next comes the fizz which hits hard but quickly dissipates. The finish is hard to describe, at first it tastes like it wants be dry, it teases you with the start of dryness, but then patters into a wonderful sweetness that lingers on the tongue.
To summarise then; this really is an exceptionally good cider. I honestly can’t decide which of their single variety range is my favourite, they are all quality ciders but one of them is definitely in my top 10 of all time, and I’ve tried a lot of ciders…I think it’s +340 at my last count. I’ll just have to keep drinking them and trying to make up my mind, oh the hardship. You can join me in trying to make up your mind by ordering this month’s Crafty Nectar subscription box and starting with their Yarlington Mill.
James Finch @thecidercritic