New county hotel Gloucester (7.5/10) – “Central and homely lacking luxury slightly”

New county hotel review ( Room 17) ” Well located, homely hotel lacking a few mod cons and luxury” (7.5/10)

The good
” great value, friendly staff”
” good provisions including hairdryer and mirror”
” central location and clean room service”
” warm and homely atmosphere and decor”

The bad
” TV was a little small and lack of luxury tea provisions left things slightly basic”
” There did not seem to be many facilities e.g gym or pool”
” limited number of hangers between guests”
” fans instead of air con for very hot days”
” no lock on bathroom door”

Atmosphere
The atmosphere was highly pleasant and peaceful with modern touches yet a traditional cosy feel. Staff on checkin were so bubbly and enthusiastic it made my stay good from the word go.

Chilling in your room
The room was of good size with 2 singles. Multiple fans were provided which were highly welcome due to the warm weather conditions. The TV was quite small for the size of the room with limited screen size which should ideally be larger. The TV service however was consistent which was certainly a strong positive. This was better than the roundhouse in Bournemouth which was intermittent for example. The tea facilities were clearly set out with a choice of sugars including both brown and white types. No sweeteners were provided or choice of teas which was a shame. No tea biscuits or little extras were supplied. A reasonable number of 4 sachets of pg tips and plenty of milk was provided which was sufficient for me to make plenty of tea.

For 2 guests 5 clothing hangers appeared a limited number yet was sufficient for my personal clothing but a little less than some other places I have stayed in between 2 guests. The roundhouse of Bournemouth provided double this for example.

Tea provisions
A Large high capacity kettle was provided unlike in Ipswich with 1.5 litre capacity which was good. The mugs however were disappointingly small which was a real shame and countered this strength.

Community areas

The Bar beside reception looked bustling with people suggesting a sociable and enjoyable setting. On entry it appeared very clean and pleasant so a strong positive.
The hotel did not have a swimming pool, gym or sauna and did not have leaflets or posters as was the case in some places for replacement items on offer or breakfast deals. This did give a clean impression in the rooms however.

Washing and cleaning

A Dual nozzle was present in the en suite bathroom shower with an effectively working extractor fan to prevent dampness . On leaving the shower however it did become apparent that water did flow out between the tiles despite shielding with the curtain. This is an area for development since perhaps a new curtain or floor service may have improved this.
A Hairdryer was provided which was a nice addition beside a reasonably sized mirror which was highly useful. Some all in one shower gel and shampoo was provided which was useful. Clean towels were provided on the bed as required.

Price
With prices ranging from around 30 pounds and up this seems reasonable for what was provided and a mid to low range price for the star rating. This does suggest that for a stay the hotel is great value. Especially when the inner city location is considered.

Customer service
Highly pleasant lady on reception. Bubbly and characterful providing clear instructions and a quick and slick checkin. She seemed very approachable to voice concerns on checkin. Room service was carried out effectively albeit and slightly irregular times. Perhaps this was due to the unconventional layout however so could be excused.

Overall
A highly pleasant hotel which although lacking a few little extras and facilities was friendly warm and welcoming. It had the facilities, cleanliness and room service necessary for a relaxing stay which did not feel dated. The hotel was a reasonable price.

Scrumpy jack cider review (8/10) ” Tangy and fruity but limited fizz and practicality”

Packaging

Scrumpy jack appears in a picturesquely decorated can with splashes of colour such as yellow, white and green depicting a countryside scene with a large apple tree. The apple tree has a small bucket full of harvested apples. The cider label specifies Symonds as the producer. This cider originated in Herefordshire in the early 1970’s.

Since then whilst it had been taken over it never left the county.
Dabinett apples are used which is a familiar medium dry as seen with stowford and Kingstone press ciders yet also a slightly more bitter Apple known as chisel jersey is used. Both apples used are in the bittersweet category rather than purely sweet increasing tannin content. This supposedly increases the complexity of flavour and the feel of the cider in the mouth.

The cider was bought from Tesco for 3.75 for 4 cans, with a capacity of 440ml at 6 % alcohol by volume. Every can contains 2.6 units. This has limited practicality since 2 cans puts you considerably over the daily recommended consumption level for alcohol.

 

Smell

On opening the cider provides a distinct yeasty aroma which is more quirky than that of Stowford press. A key difference is the slightly unpleasant sulphury hint, resembling old eggs. This is only subtle however, so not too unpleasant.

Taste

The taste has a pleasant feel in the mouth with a syrupy consistency. The acidity level provides a really enjoyable tang which leaves an impression of fruit. The sweetness is not that apparent but the sharpness of the tang provides a very unique and highly pleasant tasting experience which does not seem to require this. The carbonation seems highly limited and virtually non existent yet the cider feels moist and does not claim a medium dryness like most other Herefordshire ciders. Therefore it remains true to it’s brand identity and provides a highly enjoyable taste experience.

 

Summary

A highly pleasant tangy and fruity cider which provides a characteristic and sharp taste experience. Whilst it carves out a distinct identity, it does not counter it’s brand identity and provides a moist feel with a limited carbonation. Perhaps therefore a little fizz and practicality away from a very good cider. The lack of sweetness can be forgiven due to it’s sharp identity.

Blackthorn gold cider (7/10) ” some nice acidity”

Blackthorn gold cider review (7/10) ” not a medium dry but some pleasantly powered acidity”

The good
“Very pleasant and not overpowering acidity”
” Good value and practical”

The bad
” Lack of attributes including dryness, carbonation and sweetness”
” Other than acid no real indication of fruit”

Packaging

The packaging is a split colour bottle with a combination of gold on it’s upper extremity with black on it’s base. Perched upon the T of the blackthorn label is the top of a tree. This is clearly intended to be the hardy blackthorn tree used to produce the apples for this cider. These supposedly increase in sweetness through enduring harsher winters or so the website suggests. Perhaps therefore for better cans of blackthorn, you may have a reason to respect the rain and snow throughout the dicier weather of the winter months.

The cans are often sold as four packs from retailers, with the cheapest I could find from Asda at £3.15. This is still 15p dearer than prices began at the start of the year in the coop which is a shame. At this price however it still appears to be great value.
Every 440ml can contains 2.1 units at 4.7% by volume of alcohol. This makes the cider certainly fairly dilute, with many competitors such as Thatchers oak-aged vintage sitting at a punchy 7.4%.

It is however marginally more concentrated than Stowford press at 4.5 % but since this has larger cans it still works out at 2.3 units. This suggests lower practicality for a couple of cans in the evening since 4.6 units is a little over the recommended limit.
Clearly then in this case thought has gone into production size since blackthorn barely puts you over recommended limits for regular consumption of 2 cans. Price wise this equates to £1.58 which is cheaper than Orchard for 2 at £1.70 and others such as Cornish rattler at £2.00 per bottle.

For this price and practicality therefore blackthorn gold seems like a great drink. Whilst it’s origin is boasted on the forefront of the can as Somerset, the story behind the location and apples used is not labelled on each can. Whilst this is a little disappointing the eye-catching packaging encourages you to look it up and read more.

It turns out this Somerset cider is produced in a cider mill in Shepton mallet and has been since 1972. The website with the can suggest a sweet taste experience can be expected which is distinctive and crisp.

Interestingly like the Cornish rattler ” the panda”, this cider does not specify the expected dryness although does indicate the use of English cider apples. Typical varieties used widely in the West Country such as Dabinett and Michelin are bittersweet medium dry types so this perhaps is a good place to start the dryness expectations. On further inspection, the website does specify this confirming my suspicions. This should be more clearly indicated however. Also confirmed is the place of origin but only on the 500ml cans which seems a little inconsistent.

Smell

On opening a quick fizz occurs before a snap of the cap. Following this, confident bubbles rise upwards for a number of seconds only gradually fading to silence to indicate spritely carbonation. Upon smelling, a very smooth smell emerges without a yeasty presence. A moderate acidity level can be detected only on the first couple of sniffs however. After this the smell was no longer apparent.

Taste

The taste emerges with a couple of sips as a nicely acidic cider possessing a subtle, yet pleasant tang. This tangy note persists pleasantly on the aftertaste and steadily builds with time. The acidity does not overpower however, since it is balanced with a reasonable level of watery feel. The sharpness does not seem balanced with any real sweetness and even on swirling only limited carbonation is apparent.
For a medium-dry no dryness is present after a sip, with the cider possessing a slightly moist feel. This is rather pleasant to my taste but is not what the brand leaves you expecting. One of the key strengths of this cider is that it’s surprisingly consistent and smooth throughout each and every sip making it rather drinkable.

Summary

A cider which provides enough tangy acidity to give a very pleasant taste sensation. Balance with sweetness was lacking due to it’s absence. No dryness was apparent like the brand suggested and the carbonation did not shine through. No real impression of fruit could be gathered through tasting. Overall then, an eye-catching brand which did not live up to it’s image. A cider taste sensation relying on acidity but lacking the panache to provide sweetness, carbonation, fruitiness or any real dryness to balance.

Cornish Rattler cider (6.5/10) ” More of a panda really”.

Cornish rattler cider review (6.5/10)

The good

“Good and interesting packaging with a pleasant smell”
” Fruity taste, carbonation and dryness apparent with huge subtlety”

The bad

“Too subtle to establish any real identity and too watery to truly enjoy”
” no potent flavour, sweetness, carbonation or acidity”
” does not live up to its name perhaps should be called Cornish panda”

 

Packaging

On the packaging the quirky bottle immediately caught my attention. Not only featuring a rattlesnake wearing sunglasses but also a reasonable head seated on a cloudy translucent fluid; All encased with a green bottle. Quirky and variable fonts are employed throughout with a capital letter yellow “Rattler original” set as the focal point. The Cornish label really surprised me in combination with the presence of the rattlesnake itself.

With my biology background I am quite familiar with certain species and with a bit of reading, my suspicions that rattlesnakes are found in North America but not the UK were confirmed ( Putman and Clark 2015). It seems interesting then to hear about the story of why such a magnificent beast would find it’s way onto a cider from the English south west.

On bottle rotation you get the link …

The Cornish rattler is apparently the type of Apple used and the snake is used to show that the cider has some bite to it. The properties of this bottles’ flavour are classified as crisp and fresh and the recommendation is to serve chilled. Bite refers to acidity in drinks suggesting acidity and apple flavours should both be apparent on sampling.

Joe and Sam Healey have been used for the signature encouraging further investigation due to a fancy writing style.

So there we have it, 3 units of 6% cider from Cornwall placing it on par with the likes of merrydown for strength and keeping things practical through sitting at the lower end of the recommended (do not regularly exceed) limit. This can be achieved with just one 500 ml bottle which I managed to find for £2 from Asda. This keeps things affordable and slightly cheaper than Savannah while being a little more dear than Orchard or certain canned varieties.

Smell

On opening a prolonged fizz is apparent. The smell is sweet and fruity and the head ducks a little to modest carbonation. After a short while limited smell is apparent, fading to just very slight acidity.

Taste

On the first sip the taste experience is certainly subtle. There is no real hit of apple or sweetness as perhaps would be expected. The aftertaste is hardly noticeable yet provides a slightly warming sensation like thatchers vintage. After a few more sips subtle carbonation can be detected with a very subtle tang. There is a lack of identity early on from the bottle perhaps due to the level of watered down flavour. It does lack a certain punch which is not made up for with a strong aftertaste.

The taste of apples is eventually apparent yet not clearly noticeable and still does not really produce anything to indicate anything impressive or good quality. It is reassuring though. The acidity does very slowly build up to something remotely pleasant yet does take a significant amount of sips and time to accumulate which is clearly disappointing. For a drink boasting bite, the acidity is very subtle. The rattlesnake with a bite like that would be killed by merrydown’s’ violin playing fox with far greater acidity and flavour present in the former.

Without specification on the bottle of dryness it was interesting to see the level of dryness from this drink. It left my palette with nothing. Almost like Thatchers haze which is another cloudy cider variety which also left my palette in that way. Perhaps it does not need classification as to dryness since it is not moist or dry really. This is not particularly exciting. It resembles nothing and detracts from a drinking experience with flare …

Summary

A cider with a slowly accumulating subtle acidity and carbonation which lacks flavour and any real dryness or identity. The packaging is definitely the highlight of the drinking experience, with only the occasional burst of warmth on the aftertaste for enjoyment. The Cornish rattler Apple therefore from this variety does not seem to provide the drinking experience the quirky bottle and rattlesnake suggest. Clearly then, a bit of a letdown.

Sources

http://www.bio.sdsu.edu/pub/clark/Site/Publications_files/rattlesnake_habitat_manipulation.pdf

Stowford press cans ” Subtle tang and acidity with a yeasty scent” (7.5/10)

Stowford press cider review (7.5/10)

The good

“Pleasant , yet subtle tang and acidity level with a smooth yeasty scent”
” Subtle, yet lingering fruit aftertaste”
” Sweetness was adequate, yet not overwhelming”
” Pleasant, fruity and sweet flavour ”
” Slightly watery to balance the sweetness and acidity”

The bad

” Not as dry as described, yet pleasant for my palette”
” Puts you over recommended limits after 2 cans”
” No real carbonation to enhance tang”

Packaging

Like many other West Country ciders Stowford press is produced in Herefordshire. It is produced using ripe apples from shady orchards in the Westons farm of Much Marcle. As it has been since 1878, using apples such as Michelin and Dabinett. This suggests some similarity to Kingstone press which is also made using these varieties. In addition to this, a number of other apples are used from the orchards perhaps contributing to key differences between Stowford press amongst other ciders.

The cider itself is often sold in cans of 500ml with a strength of 4.5% alcohol by volume. This equates to 2.3 units per can. This is fairly practical since half a four pack would be sufficient per drinking evening to achieve close to the limit. This is still slightly over however, meaning a slight reduction in capacity would potentially be useful for health reasons.

Smell

Upon a sharp uneventful lid snap hardly any fizz was evident. At first scent a smooth and heavily yeasty aroma was apparent. This was not stale and was very smooth; Almost like a freshly baked loaf of bread giving the cider body. After a few subsequent sniffs you get a slight acidity rather than the initial yeast. A couple of minutes later this scent was no longer apparent whatsoever.

Taste

On first sip, a pleasant if slightly weak tang was apparent, hinting of mild acidity. A good level of sweetness was present as a fruity flavour which did not leave an artificial impression. The finish was not dry and it didn’t leave a warmth as with some of the stronger alcohol varieties such as Henney’s; This is also from Herefordshire. The sweetness level is sufficient for my palette and it is nice how the dryness is highly limited. Certainly though, this appears as a moist cider rather than a medium dry due to the absence of dryness. This therefore due to my taste is positive yet goes against what the label suggests which is not ideal.

The level of carbonation is not great. Ideally it could do with carbonation to enhance the tang although this appears almost absent which is a point against Stowford.
The aftertaste leaves still a subtle, yet lingering fruity afternote which is actually highly pleasant encouraging you to sip again. This is the general effect of drier varieties but for a more satisfying and pleasant reason which is a definite attribute.

Whilst in general more watery ciders appear a little under-flavoured, the water impression is clever here since it balances the sweetness and acidity perfectly to prevent an overwhelming or overpowering flavour sensation.

 

Summary

Overall a pleasantly smooth, yeasty smelling beverage which appeases my sweet tooth and provides pleasant yet subtle acidity which lasts on the tongue as a nice fruity tang. It does not however provide the dryness the label suggests as a medium dry should or does it provide any real carbonation. This is a little disappointing. The practicality and value of the drink is good yet could be tweaked to keep you within recommended limits . 2 cans worth would be a nice level of fluid to consume of an evening in my opinion, without being over the limit. This is not presently the case.

Holiday express review ( Room 144) – 7.5/10

Holiday express hotel review (Room 144) (7.5/10)

The Good
” Great atmosphere and facilities”
” Room was modern and spacious”

The Bad
” Staff were a little slow and disorganised on checkin”
” The value was good yet the price a little high”
” The room lacked a few finer details”

 

Atmosphere

The hotels’ reception was light and spacious with a pleasantly lit bar nearby. The reception desk was pristine. The corridor carpets were uniform and modern and the lady at reception was very nice and polite.
Whilst her English wasn’t perfect she did create a good first impression. There were plenty of people in the bar area suggesting that the hotel was indeed regularly used and at least reasonably well respected.
First impressions were therefore good.

Chilling in your room

The room was light and spacious which impressed on entry.
The TV was close to the beds since the room was orientated with a narrow midsection and a large desk space. This made the TV close to the end of the beds which improved viewing. The screen size was good with the TV perched on the desk space. This would also be highly useful for work with ample space for a laptop and books to sit alongside the TV. The TV was a little tricky to operate and not very sensitive to channel change unless the remote was aimed precisely in the correct direction which was a shame. TV graphics appeared mediocre, yet for the close seating position picture clarity was clearly under greater scrutiny. This can therefore be forgiven. The TV service was not intermittent as was the case at the roundhouse Bournemouth which was clearly a positive.
The presence of an iron on the top shelf of a set of desk drawers was useful, meaning adequate ironing facilities with the included board. The area beside this desk was sufficient to fit the ironing board also thus accommodating it tidily.
Space in general was a real strength. Wether it is the overall room size or storage.

Tea provisions

In terms of tea provisions, 5 tea bags were provided with Tetley as the sole variety. Whilst more variety would be nice, the presence of both Demerara sugar, white sugar and sweeteners more than compensated for this lack of choice. The mugs were a good size although the 1 litre kettle was a bit diminutive. It was on a sticky tray however set back secretly in an alcove so drew in my attention unfortunately. Pleasant mats to seat tea-stained spoons were supplied which was a nice touch. The provision of tea biscuits would have been nice but you can’t have everything …

The presence of multiple good size mirrors by the desk and door and the presence of 4 plugs was very practical . Ample charging facilities therefore were available for at least 2 guests.
Wall soundproofing seemed good with limited noise heard from other rooms throughout my stay and 4 towels were provided for cleaning which was plenty. A keycard was provided for the room rather than a key which gave the whole place a modern touch.

 

Community areas

The community areas included a swimming pool, gym space and relaxing bar area. These all appeared spacious, light and clean. Plenty of people were using the bar probably due to these positives.

Washing and cleaning

Whilst 4 towels were present the lack of an extractor fan seemed disappointing. That said the smell of damp was not apparent suggesting good general ventilation. Whilst a hairdryer was supplied it was within a black bag in a cupboard so easily missed at first glance. A list detailing additional products available from reception on a bathroom poster was a pleasant touch. The bathroom was of adequate size of a little compact and was nice and clean.

The shower possessed 2 nozzles; One of them for pressure and the other for temperature. This was a positive since a single dual control option makes things more difficult in my opinion. Thankfully I have long arms however since these controls were located at the opposite end of the shower to the shower head meaning a considerable stretch was permitted. The temperature did not seem to change very much if at all on adjustment which made things tricky.

Price
At 60 pounds a night this seems pretty dear for a 3 star hotel although the positive impression created a great value appearance which was good. Overall due to the light spacious nature of the room. Generous amenities and facilities this hotel is certainly good value for money and has good standards of room service and cleanliness. The modern feel is refreshing and lacks a current need for updating.

Customer service

Polite and considerate staff who could not manage to identify the room I had booked even after sharing my details. They spent probably about half an hour trying to figure out which room I had booked and even then were not sure if the room had been paid for by the company or if they needed a contact for payment. In the end I was provided with a keycard and able to access my room. This was disappointing. That said, staff were happy to provide extra teas and were polite on checkout. On checkin the staff were friendly and apologetic which made things seem a little better and the quality of the room made up for this considerably.

Overall

Overall the service was good if a little hesitant with thorough attention paid to cleanliness, facilities and space to relax. Great value due to a positive product yet a little pricey. The room provisions were detailed and mostly sufficient.

Zootopia film review (9/10) ” Quirky, entertaining and quite original”

Zootopia film review “Enticing, exciting, adventure and action in a spectacular virtual world” (9/10)

Setting the scene

From the word go the visually stimulating Kingdom and characters allowed me to quickly settle into the storyline. The costume and likeness to real relationships especially father-daughter were light-hearted and heart warming. Following the character introduction, action adventure was quickly eased into with help from the music. Defying convention was a quickly woven-in feature of the film with the main characters choices quickly going against the norm. This really acted as a great hook for future endeavours.

Main body

The storyline was simple and clear. The plot was complex enough however to not unveil too much too early keeping me guessing throughout the film. In parts, the mood was a little predictable yet small flourishes of light-hearted humour, with great effects in the well created virtual world, kept me well entertained.

The music continued well and the tempo of the film was fast enough for an enjoyable action, yet not confused by rushing for effect. The balance between happiness and turmoil was just right, avoiding an excessive bout of isolated trouble that some childish films typically suffer from. This made the film enjoyable for family yet not just accessible for all.

The variety in the characters, their mode of speech and personality was great and helped transport me into their lives. They each had roles in fictional society and well created costumes to match these. A few well known actors were also involved in assisting their portrayal.
Scene changes were dynamic and frequent to assist the films good tempo providing stimulation for the viewer.

Relationships were dealt with nicely with only a hint of possible future romance. This was good since it helped the movie tone Remain in keeping with the action genre distracting the viewer or plot goal.
Music

The music was up-beat with a strong tempo and was great for the start of any happy adventure. Shakira Try everything seemed like a great choice … As the story unfolded, the music was adjusted accordingly and appeared to fit in well with most of the scenes. The subtlety of the music in darker times made it less memorable yet left the effects no less effective.

Ending

The ending was quite appropriate for an unpredictable action film. The resolution to the plot issues was not expected and therefore highly entertaining.

Summary

Overall a clear story with entertaining plot quirks. It has great potential to produce a sequel. It was seriously difficult to find fault with since the created world and characters shouted as much diversity as the dynamic scene and setting locations with their stories.
The film captured my imagination, transported me to another world, intellectually stimulated me with light humour and kept me thoroughly entertained with an interesting plot and storyline.
Close resemblance in theme likeness to other action films appeared to show perhaps, a slight oversight in creativity. The lack of memorable music for sadder or darker scenes were my only other criticisms.

Pure hopped cider (2/10) ” Cheap for a can but no identity man”.

Pure hopped cider review 2/10 ” Cheap in small doses but lacking any cider identity”

Packaging

Small, annotated and slightly messy 300ml can which sits at 4 percent or equates to 1.3 units. At £0.59 from b and m for 1.3 units this appeared very cheap to get a taste of some cider. The small size and alcohol volume meant that you would perhaps need 3 cans to fully experience the alcohol effect within safe limits. This suggested a purchase of 3 cans for £1.77 keeping things relatively affordable.

This was still good value although slightly more expensive than kingstone press and Jonathan Blair vintage it did beat Orchard and Savannah to name some examples.

Perhaps though, considering all these are bottled they may provide a greater sensory appeal of quality upon opening. That said, a simple pour into a glass eliminated this factor.

Hazy, citrusy and carbonated from the label appear to be the ciders acclaimed attributes with the benefits from Westons of Herefordshire and purity of Warwickshire. To this end it used apples locally sourced from Herefordshire. Also it had apparently been matured in oak vats and used hops as it’s main USP.

With balance, subtle dryness, sweetness, cloudiness, carbonation, citrus and smooth as the full list of claimed attributes this certainly was far from modest since I have never previously seen all of these interesting characteristics claimed just from an introductory paragraph on any alcohol vessel previously.

Good luck with that then …

Smell

The smell was unfortunately of beer hinting at that typical flavour which I detest. It did however possess a slightly citrus, almost lemony twang though.

Taste

The taste was also heavily of beer which ended up making me discard the contents of the can. For this reason it was a highly unpleasant drinking experience and not one I am expecting to repeat anytime soon. As a bone fide cider drinker this was very easy to notice. Perhaps to find another positive, you would have to consider reading about antioxidants such as poly phenols released into the alcohol from oak vats. That said health isn’t typically the main reason for consuming alcohol.

Summary

It Promised of a lot, and a cider and delivered a beer and very little. Not even what it claims to be. I debated even putting this review on my blog since I don’t even consider this a cider. The flavour detracted instantly from everything claimed on the label following a citrusy smell which was at least one attribute it possessed.

If you are a cider rather than beer fan I would steer clear though … !

Henney’s Herefordshire vintage still cider 2015 (7/10) ” Warming, sweet smelling but boring”

Henney’s Herefordshire Vintage still cider 2015 ( 7/10)

” Great medium-dry warming aftertaste with a fruity and acidy smell”
” No sweetness, carbonation, fruity or acidy taste”
” The taste was dominated by water which was a shame”
” A smooth drinking cider with no drama … A little dull”

Packaging

At 6.5% volume the cider is strong compared to many varieties I have tasted, yet must only be considered a strong medium when compared with Jonathan Blair and Thatchers 2016 vintage which overshadow this with strengths within the 7-8 % range.

At first glance the black and white bottle provides a clear theme without any distracting colours. This suggests a cider which does what it says and provides a good drinking experience. There was only 1 bottle left in the Sainsburys I visited for purchase so I took that as a positive sign for consumer demand and therefore the drinking and sampling experience to be expected.

Immediately from the label then I was expecting a considerable alcohol effect from the bottle and a distinct lack of carbonation due to the word ” still” on the label. I was therefore reverse judging this criteria. This meant, for a better score, the less carbonation the better rather than my usual criteria of moderately bubbly being ideal for my own taste preferences.

The Herefordshire location suggested to me a bittersweet cider due to the nature of the apples locally grown and used there. The rear of the label hinted of good quality ingredients and simplicity in the production process. This apparently included selecting, milling, pressing and fermenting the locally grown cider apples. The label detailed the apple sourcing which confirmed my suspicions of a bittersweet medium dry cider.

The cider was then purported to be stored over winter which apparently should give it a rich flavour. As with other vintage varieties, depth of flavour will certainly be considered. We shall see if simple truly means better after we delve into the drink.

The expectations for taste and drinking experience were limited which suggested a less boastful and more intriguing beverage than many others from the outset.

Smell

Upon opening, zero fizz was present as expected from the label which suggested zero carbonation. This immediately created a positive impression. The smell on first inhalation was one of smooth, sweet and fruity acidity. It left me expecting a strong fruity flavour with a good level of malic acid.

Taste

The taste was not spiced up with any fizziness on the tongue and the acidity and strength from the smell appeared quite absent from the taste. After another sip, there was a definite impression of subtle dryness which should be expected from a medium dry. Since this could be detected early it was clearly a strength. After a few more sips the tannins continued to come through with dryness accompanied with a subtle bitter aftertaste. This aftertaste towards the end of the bottle gave a spirit-like acetone warmth which was thoroughly enjoyable.

The overall impression however was quite underwhelming. The exciting tang from the acidity on the scent was not present actually in the taste of the drink and without carbonation the drink appeared a little bare. The taste was nowhere near as interesting as the scent and suffered from a watery feel. That said it did stillness well but had no sweetness at all for enjoyment or balance !

Summary

Overall certainly a medium dry non carbonated cider which left me with a great and quickly emerging/developing aftertaste and medium dry feel like it should. The watery nature of the drink without much taste to match the appeal of the smell, just gave a lack of enjoyment overall. The sweetness hasn’t been mentioned much so far because no sweetness could be detected by my palette.

Thatchers Oak aged vintage 2016 (7.5/10) “Smooth and tangy quality”

Thatchers oak aged vintage 2016 review (7.5/10)

” Good value and well branded”.
” Smooth, and not too subtle medium dry”.
” Tangy with subtle carbonation”.
” In need of a little more Apple sweetness and carbonation”.
” Not to my taste but good at what it should be”.

Packaging

Quite a formal, elaborate and fancy bottle with swirling fonts on a black background with a black and white portrait of William Thatchers. This I guess is to create provenance and history in line with this antique-aged cider business established in 1904. The orange font against the black and off-white creates an unusual feel. Perhaps this is to try to stand out or celebrate the vintage years’ harvest.

It shouldn’t need to though. True quality speaks for itself so this seems a little confused in design to me to be perfectly honest and perhaps a little tacky or boastful.

The price was £1.80 with a discount for the single bottle which may sound expensive, although since only one bottle was required to reach the recommended ” Do not regularly exceed” range in a similar way to the Jonathan Blair vintage and Kingstone press due to a rather high 7.4% alcohol percentage, only 1 500ml bottle was necessary to achieve a sensible 3.7 units of consumption for responsible drinking. This made the drink practical for purchase and marginally cheaper than Savannah. It was also significantly cheaper than Angry orchard which currently holds my review podium number 1 slot.

The story began with the announcement of pick of the year 2016 stating how the finest apples have been selected for a bittersweet and medium dry feel. It described itself also as having a deep flavour and a crisp sparkle which suggests generous carbonation. I was therefore looking for a dry feel succeeding the aftertaste and limited subtlety when sampling. The oak vats used for maturity were mentioned so I was intrigued as to whether I could notice any effect of this on the flavour. Thus far I am too naive to have thoroughly researched the effect this was expected to provide.

The Somerset location so far has acted as a keystone for many of the ciders I have reviewed. This is because it is home to the widely used Dabinett bittersweet cider apple and has varieties such as Thatchers haze and Bulmer’s. The latter claims to be from Herefordshire but isn’t really and stourports’ Kingstone press also features Dabinett apples. I would expect from these types of apples and tradition a tendency to lean towards a dryer characteristic with a positive acidic impression in this drink.

Carbonation and sweetness I am less hopeful for, but both would be welcome additions for a good review.

Smell

After flicking the bottle-top off followed by it’s clatter and scamper across the worktop surface an abrupt fizz announced the commencement of the scent. A smooth highly appley aroma with a very natural impression. It hinted at sweetness and the fizz wasn’t too feeble suggesting considerable carbonation.

Taste

A considerable smoothness was present on the first sip with an apparent sweet tang. No glugs were noticeable on tilting the bottle reducing theatre and increasing subtlety. The dryness was evident after each sip with a little time lapse halting moisture and leaving your mouth longing for more. At this point I was tempted to gulp which caused a pleasant warming sensation to travel down my throat. I have previously encountered this with the higher alcohol varieties such as Jonathan Blair which was quite pleasant for a non-spirit drink.
The dryness therefore was certainly sufficient yet was subtle enough to be classed as the medium dry it claims to be. The tang from the acidity was highly pleasant and noticeable yet not balanced with a sweetness as was the case for Angry orchard. This is my typical criticism of the medium dry ciders. I feel even the addition of extra sweetness artificially would help the flavour balance more. Perhaps my palette is naive but I cannot taste any oak or trait attributable to the oak vats claimed to have been used for storage. Therefore there are a few apparent weaknesses.

Summary

This cider is a practical, good value drink which rivals many other bottled varieties. It has the smoothness and purity possessed by Merrydown and cuts across the palette with an enjoyable tang and deep flavour as promised. The aftertaste is warming and pleasant yet parching as should be expected from a medium dry. Overall a little extra carbonation and sweetness would be great if accompanied by a little more appley flavour to allow the fruit to speak.