The sun is out, so are the daffodils, and sunshine + cider = happy days. This week I’ve been reviewing Dowding’s Tower Brue cider which is made from a blend of apples.
Back in 1996 Oliver Dowding decided to make use of an old orchard in south west Somerset and planted 50 apple (mostly cider) trees. 20 years later he increased the count by planting 500 dessert and cooking apple trees of many different varieties. Some are organic and he also harvests from other local tress from which the fruit would otherwise be wasted.
He makes juice as well as cider and the process for the latter is kept simple: apples are pulped, the juice then stored in barrels, yeast added and nature left to take its course. What makes Oliver stand out as a craftsman is that he has turned this wild and fantastic mixture into a wonderful cider.
You can tell a fair bit about a cider from its colour and you can see from the clear bottle that this is going to be a rich and complex drink. Opening the bottle I get aromas of fruity ripe apples and almost a woody scent. Once poured into a glass I get a sense of real depth and start to detect a slight acetic/sour note but this doesn’t follow through into the taste, which initially is a tad watery, but quickly replaced by those bitter tannins from the cider apples. The astringency that follows is definitely medium dry as Oliver says, but the finish to me tastes pleasingly sweet. There is also a nice level of carbonation which dissipates quite quickly.
"Opening the bottle I get aromas of fruity ripe apples and almost a woody scent."
It’s hard to compare ‘Tower Brue’ to any other cider I’ve had before. The eclectic mix of apples has made quite a unique drop. You can pick out some of the cider apples in the taste, there’s plenty of Yarlington Mill in there, which is quiet distinctive, but the other notes are hard to place. I feel like I could drink it every day and not get bored of exploring and trying to pull out the various taste notes. The balance is perfect, with each mouthful seeming to vary between bittersweet cider flavours and dessert apple sweetness.
"The eclectic mix of apples has made quite a unique drop."
To summarise, this is small artisan cider making at its best. Tower Brue is not a bottle you’re going to be able to pick up at your local supermarket, or your local farmers market, unless you live near Shepton Montague. Crafty Nectar, through their subscription and ‘build your own’ boxes, are bringing you some of the best, rarest and most unique ciders the UK (and the world) has to offer. Get your order in and start sampling…Cheers!
James Finch @thecidercritic
Grab this cider if you order your box in the next 7 days. Boxes still available.