Hemel Hempstead holiday inn (Room 209) (6.5/10) ” A practical stay lacking refinement”.

Hemel Hempstead holiday inn review ( Room 209) ” A practical stay lacking some refinement”. (6.5/10)

Good
“Easy wifi login and TV viewing”.
” Plenty of hangers and tea provisions”.
” Mini fridge in room”.
” Accommodating staff”.

Bad
” Not centrally located”.
” Keycard swish required good luck or effective technique”.
” Lack of tea selection just Tetley”.
” Few plug sockets”.
” Creaky shower ??”.

Atmosphere

On entry, hotel location was noticeably noisy and on a busy main road. The building however was setback from the road alleviating some of this inconvenience.
There were limited footpath crossings and it was difficult to get across to the hotel.

Once I entered, the receptionist was busy for a short while on the phone yet happy to help and very polite, informative and professional in his guidance. He informed me of my room number and the location of the free fitness suite on the lower ground floor which sounded like a real bonus.

Tea provisions

Tea provisions were adequate for at least 3 fully sweetened teas were provided. This was a good if slightly low number yet these were very neatly laid out.
For sweetening there were 3 sweeteners, 2 white sugar sachets and 2 brown. There were 4 Tetley teabags provided yet no selection. Some places offer earl grey or camomile tea or other brands which provides a little more variety.

Mugs were of good size which was more generous than at the Copthorne.
4 semi skimmed UHT milk sachets were provided which was sufficient but again some full fat option for variety would be welcome. A fridge which was complete with cup holders was provided. This would be great for your own fresh milk which was a pleasant touch. I hadn’t experienced this for a while since the Lymedale suites in Stoke on Trent.

The Kettle had 1.2 litre capacity which was better than holiday streets’ Holiday inn express in Birmingham. This was plugged in and easy to spot from the room entrance which was convenient. All the tea provisions were neatly laid out in a tray.
No tea biscuits were provided like the days inn in Bristol which would have been a good touch.

Community areas

The community areas upstairs were plain and less characterful than some places yet more relaxed and a little more dated than Holiday inn in Birmingham. Reception was light and airy and modern and had a spacious new bar area which felt the correct balance between comfortable yet extensive. It was nice to be allowed to consume our own food and drink products which is often not the case.

Price

At around £62 pounds per night for the weekend per person for a twin room the hotel is not the cheapest I have come across for a 3 star. That said it seemed good value for what was provided including levels of space and facilities such as a gym and pool.

Washing and cleaning

At least 4 towels were provided which was a good number. They worked well for drying and were comfortable to use. The switch activated heated towel rail kept towels ready for next time and was good for saving on unnecessary washing or damp smells that can begin to develop.

As for bath and shower facilities one reasonable sized tube of conditioning shampoo and another of shower gel were provided which seemed positive although they were hard to dispense since they were not squeezable tubes.
The 2 toilet rolls were not locked in place and were quilted to provide extra comfort and practicality.

A hairdryer was provided but hidden in a drawer … why ??

The Shower with a single control knob with one ring outside for pressure was apparent and another inside for temperature. The activation of the outer was very stiff and creaky which was also difficult to adjust. It looked dated and a bit unclean.
The bathroom door did lock however unlike in the Copthorne Sheffield which didn’t.

Chilling in your room

The mini fridge for a glimpse of the Radisson and Lymedale suites aparthotel was supplied which I made good use of for cider cans.
The bed was made with single pillow which was my preference and one of the only places to do that. 2 spare pillows were provided aswell to cater for all guests well including those with other preferences. Definite thumbs up therefore. The pillow was supportive for sleep yet a little flimsy for a backrest however.

Moreover no padded bed backrests were supplied for comfort or grip which was a bit of a shame.
There were varied storage spaces for belongings including standard and open drawers which was good.
9 wooden hangers were supplied in an open wardrobe which was a very good number. This was pretty much perfect for 2 guests in my opinion.
2 comfy seats with ample desk space situated well for TV viewing was great. Both beds were also well placed for this.

The room was box shaped with adequate TV size. The TV worked on first press of the button. It was not huge but had mediocre picture quality. It was large enough for the room size but one of the desk seats did obscure the view slightly from my bed. Wall mounted TV’s can often overcome this issue.

Limited plug sockets were present near the beds. There were only 3 in total which were easily noticeable yet quite spread out. This seemed a bit impractical. Plenty of mirrors were provided with at least 2 near the bathroom. 2 small litter bins were proved one in the bathroom and the other under the desk. This would have been better placed under the tea tray station however to prevent a walk with a hot tea bag.

The power did not need keycard access which was nice and my preferred system. This felt better than the Raddison blu of Leeds or the Copthorne in Sheffield. The lift didn’t either which made a nice change. Keycard access to the room did require multiple attempts though and a quick swipe to gain access. The keycard did not wear out though for the entirety of my stay which was great.

The Wifi connected automatically which was great with no login or password needed
This was a little slow to sign in on subsequent logins however.

Customer service

The staff were polite on checkin and informative about the location of health suite when I asked. They were quick and professional on sign in and checkout and quite tolerant of our late night socialising. The rooms were well cleaned and serviced which I can only offer many thanks for. For this I would stay again.

Summary

A well serviced, if slightly bland room equipped with easy to operate technology and many hangers and tea provisions. Luxury touches were a little lacking but a practical stay nonetheless. Shower needs modernising.

 

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Henney’s 2016 vintage exhibition cider (7/10) “Value and nature with a whisper of sensory appeal”.

Henney’s 2016 vintage exhibition cider review (7/10) ” Value, nature with a whisper of sensory appeal”.

The Good

” Subtle acidity and natural fruitiness”.
” Good price and practical alcohol quantity”.
” Nice bottle design and not watery.”
” Moist and smooth aftertaste”.

The Bad

” No dryness as described”.
” Lack of carbonation”.
” Lack of sweetness and limited acidity”.
” Not totally full bodied”.
” Not complex in flavour”.
” Lack of warming aftertaste”.

Packaging

The short portly bottle is not reticulated like the champagne style vessel of Aspall’s. It did possess a prominence though which perhaps made up for lack of colour on the bottle label. What the bottle did well was to showcase the colour of the amber fluid with clear glass and a black label to contrast strikingly with it’s paleness.

Mike Henney’s name is mentioned on the bottle and upon website inspection, it seemed like he started the business from home in 1996. Since then it had purportedly grown considerably… The apples are now provided from Wyre croft farm at Bishops Frome; A village of around 800 inhabitants near Suckley. This surprised me since despite it’s rural origin and traditional branding, the business is a year younger than me . Quite unlike the super longevity possessed by Bulmer’s or Weston’s of the late 1800’s, and almost put to shame by the establishment of Aspalls in the late 1720’s.

Over a hundred years earlier !!

The gold writing was formal yet traditional in font and specified the words Herefordshire, exhibition and fine. Also being made from 100% freshly pressed juice. This created a little intrigue as I hadn’t previously encountered the word exhibition in relation to cider at all. Maybe in the context of tennis to specify shots aimed at showing off, so perhaps it had the similar meaning of fancy or premium.

On turning the bottle this was clarified. It specified that the drink was the dry cider class entry of Henney’s for 2016. This was supported by stating how the highest standard juice from Herefordshire cider apples had been used and that a complex aroma and taste experience should be expected.

It defined exhibition, as cider resulting from the previous years autumn harvest apples being showcased with competition entries during the following spring. Seeing as the year of vintage is 2016 this cider supposedly was entered for spring of this year.

It went on to mention how people from Herefordshire respect subtlety but do occasionally like to show off suggesting that Mike Henney’s himself endorses this drink as a confident performer. The blurb moral appeared a little contradictory in this respect however, seeing as though it could describe itself as a dry cider with attributes in tentative language rather than boasting about them. This could maintain this notion of subtlety, even in a high quality product.

The price was £1.29 from Aldi per bottle which was cheaper than most others I could find, nevertheless slightly dearer than the great value Capel road No. 5 from b and m. The bottle did provide 3.25 units for 500ml at 6.5%. This was practical and considerably strong, albeit not quite at the dizzy heights, or should I say heads, of Aspalls’ organic or Westons’ old Rosie at 7.3%. It did however overpower Bulmers’ and Merry down at 6% ABV.

The strength, price and quantity in combination appeared judicial which complemented it’s uniform labelling and bottle design.

In terms of my expectations then, the rich and complex taste announced with dryness as a descriptor left carbonation, sweetness and acidity levels to the imagination. On bottle inspection, the noticeable white froth did indicate some fizz; Perhaps unusual for a full dry but we shall see.

Based on my knowledge of Herefordshire ciders and my only other review of a Henney’s cider… More specifically the vintage still cider of 2015, I was not expecting much sweetness, acidity, flavour or full bodiedness for that matter since this was a bit of a let down. This did however do medium dryness well with a smooth and warming aftertaste. It didn’t seem to have much to boast about however so I was hoping this 2016 drink would have a better outlook.

Smell
On opening, a reasonable fizz was apparent which was accompanied by a generous head for a cider which provided a sea of white. The scent was fresh and smooth with a hint of acidity. It was not overpowering or strong and actually rather subtle and pleasant.

The smell was described on the bottle as rich and complex. Perhaps the lack of strength and simplicity of it’s freshness noted, went against this description.

Taste

On the first sip the flavour was not noticeably fizzy as expected. It did possess a rather pleasant appley flavour though, which was not artificial. As for body, the cider was certainly not full bodied but a good medium without wateriness. It was a little bitter on the aftertaste yet not quite sweet enough to balance. The fruitiness did make up for this a little though. Where was the expected warmth ?? No real dryness was apparent either which a bit of a let down. The main positives were a natural fruity flavour with a subtle yet noticeable acidity which provided a glorious tang.

The taste was described as rich and complex like the aroma. It certainly wasn’t complex and not hugely rich, so this was a slight letdown like the aroma.

Summary
Not a medium dry as described, going against Herefordshire cider tradition. Not especially fizzy, tasty, full bodied or warming. Subtle yet pleasant acidity but lacking in sweetness.

Copthorne hotel sheffield (Room 501) 6.5/10

Copthorne hotel review (6.5/10) ” Good facilities but some hidden or hard to operate”.

Room 501

Good
” Quick and easy checkin with central location”.
” Comfortable beds placed well for TV viewing”.
” Quirky homely decor with plenty of glass and mirrors”.
” Good view from window”.

Bad
” Tea in the wardrobe ? ?”.
” Keycard was deactivated once, despite no mobile phone contact”.
” Lock on bathroom was not working”.
” WIFI only lasted for 24 hours”.

Before arriving at the room the corridors felt warm, homely and characterful. Potted plants were present giving things a more organic feel which I approved of. The lift had a floor which was clearly designated to a gym and other facilities. This had clarity and felt practical.

The WIFI password was provided along with my room keycard which was better than the Mountford hotel of Liverpool which made things less clear.

The room had quirky decoration which made the stay pleasant along with it’s spaciousness. It had the up to date key card activation system which was highly modern if admittedly not my favourite. This is featured in many hotels such as Raddison blu in central Leeds. The chairs in the room were comfortable and placed sensibly and practically; One for TV viewing and the other for desk seating. The lamp had a spiral stem and multiple cupboards were hidden behind mirrors much like the magic beans in Harry Potter.

 

Atmosphere

The atmosphere was relaxed, clean and professional which gave out a very pleasant vibe. The gym facilities, decoration and practicality of the stay without really missing anything, kept the positive and rather charming atmosphere sustained. Staff were friendly, polite and helpful and quick for which I had nothing but praise.

Tea provisions

Harder to locate than a stick insect in autumn… There were no tea provisions I could notice for the first night of my stay. Fortunately I managed to locate them in my room by the second evening in the wardrobe ???

This was a shame since what was provided appeared rather good…

There was a larger kettle than many of the places I had stayed at previously. It certainly put the Holiday Inn Express of Holiday street Birmingham to shame in that respect. There were reasonably sized mugs, 4 semi skimmed UHT containers, 4 teabags including Breakfast and Earl grey, 3 sachets of brown and white sugar and 2 sweetener tablets.
This was sufficient for 4 cups of tea with 2 sugars and milk which is great

These were replaced well on room servicing…

There was also a trio of chocolate cream biscuits which kept things on par with Double tree by Hilton of Lincoln and the Days inn of Bristol.

Overall then, not bad tea making facilities. With plugs next to a desk and seats provided it did beg the question though, why hide everything in a wardrobe ? …

Community areas

Corridors were clean and cozy. Lifts worked well with a key card activation system for added security. The separate floor for the gym was good with respect to layout. No loud noise could be heard throughout the stay which made the soundproofing appear delightful.

The reception area had adequate seating with large windows at the hotel frontage for a spacious and modern feel.

There was a wait for the lifts on occasion but nothing excessive. Parking facilities were highly impressive with a rather extensive car park on site.

 

Price

At £53 pounds per night at weekends for a twin room per guest, the value certainly seemed good. This was not much over a Travelodge basic hotel which would not have the character or facilities present here. This was highly promising especially when central location and room size is considered.

Washing and cleaning

The shower was responsive and had good pressure. Despite the bathroom having both shower and bath facilities with clear instructions beside for shower use, the bathroom door had a lock which didn’t work and the door was rather heavy.

A hairdryer was apparent but hidden in a cupboard. The shampoo sachet was singular and only a very small travel tube. This was not as practical as the almost giant vessel present at the Birmingham Holiday inn express of Holiday street.

Mirrors were full height except the bathroom 3/4 height mirror and there were at least 3 distributed near the bathroom.

This was great for checking my hair and tie …

Towels were thick and effective for drying and at least 3 were provided which seemed sufficient for 2. These were replaced reliably on room service although 2 shampoos were provided with no body wash replacement which could have proved a minor inconvenience.

2 quilted toilet rolls were provided which was good.

A hairdryer was present which worked fine. Over 4 plug sockets were provided which between 2, seemed sufficient. The hidden wardrobe had only 5 hangers. At least these were made of wood rather than plastic.

Chilling in your room

The beds were comfy, despite no backrest support being provided for comfortable TV viewing, unlike in Birmingham. The TV had no clear instructions and I couldn’t get it to work … I may be slightly inept with technology but hadn’t struggled with any of the TV’s I had viewed at other establishments. This just showed a small window which appeared to just display constant adverts. I quickly got bored and switched it off …

At least I had some programs to watch on my iPad … For the second night … Oh no wait !
WIFI had to be renewed everyday which was tedious although access was simple with the password provided on checkin… This meant that the second night of my stay was without entertainment. A bit disappointing … Some places do connect automatically with just an email address moreover which I personally prefer as you don’t need anyone else to give you information to connect.

It was a shame about the WIFI but especially the TV problems, since the beds were strategically placed for effective viewing along with one of the room seats. The TV signal also seemed good as well as it’s picture quality. This further tormented me when it wouldn’t find channels properly.

The wardrobe cupboard and cupboard opposite contained ironing facilities and a hairdryer.

This ticked all the boxes if you could find them on the form in the first place …

The beds were comfortable and serviced well without excessive duvet thickness for the time of year. The 2 single beds were well placed for TV viewing and not too close together which was great. I did sleep well but admittedly I did remove one of the pillows and cushions which were replaced the same on the second night without consideration for my guest preference.
That said the pillow was highly comfy.

Customer service

Staff were quick and helpful on checkin which didn’t take long at all. This was refreshingly pleasant after Ipswich and Birmingham checkin delays.

The room was clean, comfy and well decorated for a relaxed stay. The setup was a little impractical however with some items hidden or facilities not working well.

Summary

A spacious, quirky and well facilitated stay with technological practicality appearing lacking. Comfortable sleeping, gym facilities, polite staff and quick checkin did considerably make up for hidden tea, temporary wifi and a frustrating TV though.

Room 814 – Holiday inn express review – ” Great mini blueberry muffin”.

Birmingham holiday inn express hotel review ( Room 814) (7/10)

Good

” Central location and polite staff”.
” Grab and go options and breakfast quantity”.
” Good picture quality and signal on in-room TV”.
” Very pleasant mini blueberry muffins”.
” Alcohol not overpriced”.

Bad

” Small kettle capacity and lack of milk or tea choices”.
” Too many thick pillows and cushions on my bed”.
” Duvet a bit too thick for the time of year”.
” Bacon and sausage was a little bland”.
” No drawers”.

Atmosphere

The hotel on entry had a clean and formal atmosphere. You had to take the lifts to reception which was not too much of an issue. The staff on checkin gave out a professional, yet well humoured feel. They were good to talk to and highly welcoming which was nice. They explained how to access wifi and all necessary information for the stay including number of nights and how to activate the lifts.

The breakfast times were announced straight away and the room on arrival was dimly lit with wall lights. Key card activation was present as is the case in many luxury hotels such as the Raddisson Blu of Leeds.

The beds were embellished with red and white creating a modern and striking style which gave the room a more relaxed vibe that that of the reception and entry areas.

Tea provisions

A good variety of sugars were supplied neatly in a tray directly beside the kettle. This was an effective tea making setup since the power access was close by. These sugars included 2 white, 2 brown and 2 sweetener sachets which seemed plenty.

While sweetening selection was pleasant the quantity of tea was certainly a little low. Only 2 sachets of Tetley tea were provided and only full fat milk was supplied. 4 little tubs of milk for just 2 cups of tea seemed a little excessive.

The mugs were of reasonable size however and 2 teaspoons were supplied.
The kettle was probably the smallest I had ever seen with just 0.6 litre maximum capacity. This was a bit of a letdown.

Since we had the inclusive breakfast deal however, limitless tea was available at the breakfast allotted time frame. This was generous and occurred later on at weekends so made up greatly for the room tea facilities. There was cereal selections, yoghurt, fruit with other options such as croissants, scrambled eggs, bacon and sausages. The mini blueberry muffin was my favourite. Whilst it was great to have breakfast included the sausages were quite bland with slightly greasy bacon. Brown and tomato ketchup were provided as sauces. I did not try the bread or cereal but the cereal looked the best option out of the 2.

Take out cups and grab and go bags were a nice touch keeping things set up for business stays. Inkeeping with the decoration, this appeared to be the primary target market. With the name holiday inn express however, I would suggest a little more colour and funky items to ensure holiday visitors also feel at home.

There were multiple coffee options and the all-inclusive was equipped with both sweetener and sugar sachets which was nice. I had no problems with the multiple cups of tea I drank there. Hot water was never empty, the sweeteners made it palatable and the milk was ready to use every time. Tetley tea sachets with no other decaf or varietal option was a little disappointing but perhaps my only criticism. Mugs were of standard size but not small which scored brownie points against some other places.

Overall, top marks for presentation but quantity was a little low for room tea provisions yet no such issue was encountered on the all inclusive.

Community areas

The downstairs bar area was of reasonable size with relaxed seating. It did lack a bit of character however and the seating was far from extensive. Prices and menus were clearly displayed on the walls nearby though which was a good feature. Limited cider selection on the bar appeared noticeable.

Price

Price of stay was clearly labelled at £51 and very reasonable for what was provided. A no-frills stay but with the practicality of a higher rated establishment.

Washing and cleaning

3 towels were supplied which seemed plenty and the bathroom whilst compact, was very clean. 2 additional towels were supplied above the open wardrobe.
Plenty of shampoo was provided for 2 guests as well as liquid hand soap. The shower was certainly large enough with dual control. One knob was for temperature and the other for pressure which is my preferred system. This worked well with quick responses to alterations in both temperature and pressure. It did however make a noisy alarm style sound which improved with pressure adjustment or reactivation. This was only a minor inconvenience therefore.

Everything was immaculately clean with a towel rail in the shower space.
There was a hairdryer as well as an iron and ironing board in the room. This was great although their location, behind a full body height mirror, was a little hidden.
That said, this mirror and the 3/4 height mirror in the bathroom were certainly sufficient for literal self reflection.

 

Chilling in your room

An open wardrobe with 6 metal hangers was provided which appeared an average number and just about sufficient between 2 guests; Not quite as many as Double tree by Hilton of Lincoln though. The open wardrobe appeared as a pleasant modern touch.
The bed backrests were padded to avoid the lumbar pain typical of an unembellished slab of wood and the TV was of adequate size. No intermittency was suffered in signal either as was the case in the roundhouse of Bournemouth. Picture quality was good. The location however was not ideal for the bed nearest the end of the room for watching. Viewing could be achieved from the sofa chair however which did make up for this.
6 plug sockets between 2 guests with one each directly beside the beds, seemed like a good arrangement. The number also seemed generous.

Wifi was reliable and easy to connect to with no passwords. Just a simple checkbox.

The beds were serviced reliably and well but the mattress was a little firm for me and the duvet was too thick for the time of year. Servicing by replacing both pillows when I removed one due to personal sleeping preference, seemed slightly inconvenient. Pillows were supportive and comfy though.

Customer service

Staff were friendly and polite and quick to respond to my queries. Whilst they encountered some software issues on checkin they were apologetic and polite when resolving the issue. Room servicing was effective and timely.
On checkout, staff were quick and polite.

Summary

A comfortable stay with professional cleanliness and service. Practical systems for breakfast and information provided. Good TV/Wifi and polite staff. Location was great and central. I would stay again for price, practicality and location.

Maeloc Sidra Seca “dry”-“Costly, fruity non-dry with tang but no balance” – (8/10)

Maeloc Sidra seca dry review ( 8/10) ” Costly, fruity with tangy sharpness lacking balance or dryness”.

The Good

” Lovely, natural and fruity flavour”.
” Subtle, yet effective branding”.
” Great natural tang with sharpness”.
” Full-bodied and complex”.
” Exciting and different”.

The Bad
” Tang overpowering for fruity flavour”.
” Lacking carbonation”.
” Not a dry cider as claimed”.
” Expensive, expensive, expensive”.

Packaging

The small bottle was coloured with white, blue and brown with the exception of one green and red apple within a sunshine depiction. The bottle appeared subtle, yet of good quality.

Whilst I do not speak Spanish, the “do it your way” slogan in slender brown font was written in English. I was not that familiar with Spanish alcohol, but from my recent trip to Fuerteventura I would suggest the Spanish culture is not primarily aimed at cider drinking; Perhaps moreso spirit and cocktail based.

The slogan therefore appeared to be saying it is okay to be different which I like since the logo is of an old man with glasses and a basket of apples; Perhaps not the stereotypical alcohol consumer suggesting the idea of distinctiveness is carried through to bottle decoration.

The Spanish words which sprung out were “Galicia and Maeloc”. Galicia on reading refers to a small region in northwest Spain which is green and lush. It therefore follows that this will feature apple varieties which enjoy a little more moisture than would be expected from such a dry country.

Galicia is seen as an autonomous community; One that is unique from Spain in terms of heritage and climate. It is not as commercialised as tourist destinations in Spain such as the costas. It’s greater rainfall and mountains keep it from appearing similar to the rest of Spain.

For all intents and purposes then, this cider review was not of a typical Spanish cider which I am yet to find, but it was my first cider from Spain and the only bottled cider I have managed to find. This is after having searched many popular retail stores in the UK.

It set me back £1.80 from Waitrose for this little 330ml bottle. At 4.5% ABV this gives you 1.5 units. This means at least 2 would be needed, making this a costly option. That said for practicality 2 is a good number to achieve spot on the recommended limit. Due to novelty value from it’s foreign origin however, I was willing to overlook the cost for good quality flavour.

The website announced the drink as part of a trio including “Organic”, “Flavours” and this bottle which was termed “Dry”.
It announced in English ” Refreshing, light and flavoursome” which was reassuring considering the entire bottle label was in Spanish. I did not have the patience to translate this, although the website seemed to shed enough light on the beverage.

This suggested it had been brewed using a traditional Celtic process. It suggests manufacture using 100% Galician apples providing it with a smooth and bitter description. The word beer is included in this which made me shudder slightly due to my dislike of any beer I had previously sampled.
Some examples of apples stated included Raxo, Pero, and Verden. These were difficult to locate online on other sites but I was expecting them to come together to provide a fresh appley flavour for the drink; Instead of an artificial product from juice rather than genuine apples.

Maeloc as specified on the bottle and perhaps depicted, was purportedly a bishop who did things in his own way and respected tradition which also appeared to complement the brand ethos for individuality well.

With my sweet tooth and taste for anything but beer, I was certainly hoping this likeness was limited. I was expecting a dry drink therefore; perhaps lacking in carbonation and sweetness. I wasn’t sure what to expect but hoped for tang and acidity also. Full-bodiedness was not mentioned but with local, flavoursome apples I hoped this was apparent.

Smell

On opening, a smoothly acidic, yet natural aroma emerged. The smell felt almost vinegary perhaps like merry-down cider. Throughout smelling though, no variation was apparent and the aroma was surprisingly consistent and fairly strong. This suggested the potential for a smooth, strong and tangy flavour which hinted of great apple appeal.

 

Taste

The flavour, on first sip, certainly had a pleasant fruity tang. On initial taste, the flavour was surprisingly similar to Sxollie which tasted of fresh golden delicious apples. It’s aftertaste possessed a highly pleasant tangy fizz as if it had been made using Granny Smith apples. Transition between taste and aftertaste was as smooth as the flavour.

The natural acidity was perhaps one of the nicest I had tasted. On swirling in your mouth the cider does not provide any sound or feel of carbonation, but due to this tang it really didn’t appear to need it. The sweetness was catered for through the flavour of natural fruit and didn’t really need anymore; It’s key selling point was that of tang and acidity.

What perhaps was disappointing was the dryness level. Whilst for my palette, a cider which had a ” moist” level of dryness was very appealing, this drink claimed to be a dry cider which it really wasn’t. It was however full-bodied which kept the flavour fulfilling deep into the aftertaste.

In addition to limited carbonation with natural fruity sharpness and a moist level of dryness, the sweetness seemed absent but this appeared a ramification natural flavours enhancing it, rather than the attribute being lacking.

Summary

A smooth, fruity and refreshing drink with the uniqueness and tradition that it claimed. Tradition could be seen through a great taste experience showing good process selection and ingredient modification. The carbonation was a little lacking, acidity a little too overpowering for optimal balance and dryness could have been enhanced. Overall a lovely, full-bodied and natural drink which was certainly worth a try.

Sources
http://www.galiciaguide.com/Galicia-index.html
http://www.ibericarestaurants.com/our-producers/maeloc-cider/
http://www.maelocway.com/en/galicia

Hestons’ Waitrose spiced mulled cider (7.5/10) ” Unique, punchy and spicy alcohol”.

Heston from Waitrose spiced mulled cider review (8.5/10) as alcohol (7.5/10) as cider “Unique, punchy, spicy alcohol. maybe a cider”.

The Good

“Pleasant warming tang and punchy spicy smell”.
” Great value and branding”.
” Full-bodied as necessary with strong flavour”.
” Pleasantly warming and spicy taste”.

The Bad

” Lack of carbonation or sweetness”.
” Would be nice to have tang from acidity”.
” Apple is not the star of the show”.
” Is this actually a cider ?”.

 

Packaging

Described by Waitrose as being based on a Herefordshire Oak-aged cider, a touch from Heston Blumenthal is evident with spices such as cloves, cinnamon and ginger. My usual style is not to review ciders which have been messed about with. Those Old mout and Koppabergesque ciders which have supposedly been enhanced by other fruit. These appear to me to not be real ciders since they are not based on apples as I feel cider always used to be.

I was therefore debating not including this cider in my review compilation, however, since it is not based on any fruit other than apple and is called mulled cider this feels acceptable.
It was also reduced from £4.99 for the 750ml bottle to just £1 so I simply could not resist the purchase. At 5.5% volume this equated to 4.1 units, making things highly practical for consumption level and only a touch over recommended limits at this price.

Putting this in perspective it was just as cheap as Capel road number 5 and the cheapest bottled cider I have ever tried.

Additionally the drink did not have any taste expectations for dryness, carbonation, acidity or sweetness which suggested a certain element of mystery or creativity. I would expect similar traits to Westons’ cider due to it’s Herefordshire origin and their usual abundance of oak-aged drinks. This meant I was expecting medium dryness, subtle or no carbonation and reasonable acidity levels.

There was not a dedicated website or announcement of it’s history which suggested a pretty new trial product. Due to mixed positive and negative reviews online this created an interesting proposition. The image on the front of the wine- shaped bottle depicting a goat in a blue suit whilst intriguing, was quite odd. With a practical screw cap and silver/white label this was not in-keeping with any kind of theme and didn’t open easily.

Smell

An intriguing warming smell typical of cinnamon or clove was present with a certain acidic presence. The smell was punchy, yet rather pleasant and set things off on good footing. This was comforting and remained noticeable for multiple whiffs.

Taste

On opening, a lack of head was apparent as well as fizz which hinted of a still cider. After a few glugs and tasting, the cider was remarkably like it smelt and was branded … highly different and distinctive. The aftertaste and impression wasn’t overpowering or remotely dry. It possessed my preferred level of dryness as a ” moist” cider and was good that no false dryness claims were made; Many ciders have such as the recently reviewed organic Aspalls which claimed dryness but didn’t possess it.

The cider was perfectly still like a Henney’s of Herefordshire which actually never seems to be a great thing.
As for body, the cider didn’t suffer from a watery feel despite not seeming thick or syrupy. This was the right consistency for a strongly spiced drink however. The acidity level seemed a little low for my taste, yet the warmth (from the spices including cloves), appeared to compensate for this, removing any disappointment of it’s absence. The drink whilst spicy, did lack sweetness and the balance of warmth from spice should perhaps be enhanced by this and carbonation.

 

Summary

A rather pleasant drink with a unique warming flavour providing a tang. Carbonation and acidity are lacking yet dryness is as expected and enjoyable. The sweetness is a little lacking which is a shame. The product is great value, practical and as unique as the branding suggests. Whilst not to everyone’s taste I found it quite enjoyable. It is debatable whether it should be classed a cider. I have given it 2 scores to keep things fair.

Aspall Suffolk organic cyder review (8/10)

Aspall Suffolk organic cyder review (8/10) ” Practical with tang, yet unbalanced and simple”.

The Good

” Great backstory from the website”.
” Clear expectations for taste and sampling”.
” Practical with good value”.
” Smooth and natural smell”.
” Quite full-bodied with subtle carbonation”.
” Pleasant and punchy tang”.

The Bad

” Not enough fruit or sweetness in the taste”.
” Not a dry cider as claimed”.
” A little one dimensional with a lack of uniqueness which was expected”.

Packaging

The bottle was instantly distinctive with a very different shape from the standard. According to the website this was not an accident. It was apparently produced in this way at great expense but was intended to emulate the quality of champagne bottles from the days of when cider was seen in the same league as this upmarket beverage. It was held in this stretched and reticulated vessel which perhaps was holding some mystical fluid. The history was lengthy and so my expectations for a backstory were high. This bottle therefore appeared to symbolise true quality and tradition.

On website inspection, the cider proclaimed 300 years of history with the establishment year noted as 1728. This made it far older than Weston’s of Herefordshire established 1880 and of Bulmers established in 1887. In fact I do not recall sampling an older cider makers potion.

To stop the consumer worrying that Aspalls’ cider is not innovative or changing with the times it claims global recognition and combining it’s tradition with development. Not words to be taken lightly when concerning quality and uniqueness of a product.

Their cyders use pressed apples from Aspall hall which is located in the Aspall hamlet just north of a market town named Debenham in central Suffolk.

The hall was passed to a man named Clement in 1722 by his uncle Temple. Temple was travelling from Jersey with his Suffolk born mother and then decided to invest in the hall for their nephew Clement.

Clement apparently made some brick modifications to his newly acquired building and during the 19th century a subsequent generation of his family further modified one of the floors for medical purposes.

6 years after acquiring possession, Clement began cider producing. Hence the 1728 date labelled.

The website is quite extensive… moreso than most others about the site and history of production. This made the brand seem a passionate one which was definitely a plus. For sanity purposes I left my background study and reading there.

Whilst the rural impression seems innocent, so does it’s rather standard cost at £1.80 from Waitrose. This was discounted from just over 2 pounds however but still wasn’t especially pricey considering it’s unique bottle or heritage. When you factor in the 500ml bottle capacity and prominent ABV of 7% , the 3.5 units contained is pretty ideal for just one bottle. This meets precisely the “do not regularly exceed” suggestion from the government.

This kept the cider practical with a cheapness unrivalled by some others such as Savannah. With an alcohol percentage which dwarfs many such as merry-down, Aspalls’ organic cider is not hiding away. It doesn’t burst out with insanity though thankfully, such as the 2016 Henry Weston’s vintage soon to be reviewed at 8.2%.

So far so good, but how about taste expectations. Perhaps the traditional spelling of cider as Cyder on the bottle front with a classic portrait, you’d expect some maturity and complexity in the flavour. This means traits such as tang and variable taste throughout sampling. The year of establishment suggests with brand innovation that it should have created a flavoursome drink by this time.

The blurb announced a cyder maker named Perronelle Chevallier. He was described as a pioneer who established a soil association in 1946 and also assisted in the organic movement. It goes on to detail descriptors as earthy, rustic and astringent. Astringency generally means bitter although this is mentioned as a result of the tannins which are dryness chemicals suggesting this was the meaning intended in this case.

The words rustic and chewy suggested to me a natural and full-bodied flavour which potentially has pieces of apple submerged. The word earthy is not one I had encountered but again appeared to hint of a natural taste.

A dry, full-bodied cider which tastes fruity and naturally sweet then would be expected. Announcements for carbonation and acidity levels are not suggested leaving some things to the imagination.

We shall see …

Smell

On opening a prompt, confident and abrupt fizz revealed a crisp, natural and appley scent which was highly smooth and suggested a fruity tang. On subsequent sniffs this slowly got weaker and soon faded into slight fruity sweetness.

Taste

After a few glugs from the cool vessel chassis, the taste emerged. It was not heavily carbonated yet sufficiently so and had a certain tangy character. It was not the most syrupy I had tasted but was far from watery. The flavour was highly smooth and transition to the aftertaste wasn’t highly noticeable.

The acidic tang stayed apparent on sampling. Following tasting, limited dryness was left on my palette since this was left rather moist. As a dry (astringent in this case) cider, I would not have expected this which indicated that the proclaimed tannins were perhaps in need of enhancement.

The main element of the flavour was natural and not artificial as you’d expect, but the tang overwhelmed most of the taste element. This tang was a good trait however and definitely added quality to the drinking experience. The drink was certainly rather refreshing, although wasn’t quite as balanced as I’d have hoped.

 

Summary

Subtle carbonation, great tangy acidity which steals the show away from the natural, organic fruit. Not enough apple taste or sweetness is present to balance the drink. Not unpleasant and some character, yet not enough to make this stand out from the crowd.

 

Sources

http://www.aspall.co.uk/products

Playa park Corralejo hotel review (7.5/10)

Playa park hotel review – (Room 315) (7.5/10)

Good
” Great onsite facilities including pools, self service restaurant, pleasant landscaping and a gym”.
” Friendly and helpful staff which made my stay thoroughly enjoyable”.
” Plenty to do and a great local area for shopping and the beach all just a walk away”.
” Weather was hot, yet bearable and consistently good”.
” Clean room and slick service”.

Bad
” Dodgy WIFI which had to be logged into every time”.
” Bed not made and sheets just left folded”.
” No cider included and a lack of lager choices”.

Atmosphere

The atmosphere was consistently relaxed with a fairly consistent music playlist throughout the day and evening. The pool and weather were ideal for sun bathing and relaxation. The outside courtyard area complete with sun beds, music, bar area shaded and sunny seating provided a picturesque and ideal setting for relaxing. Parents could relax while children enjoyed the table tennis table or enjoyed a dip in the pool.

Staff all seemed fairly attentive and friendly and the restaurant service was seamless. The free bar drinks and buffet style dining catered for most palettes including health options for the more health conscious. Food quality was variable although the bread, variety of meats and diverse selection were key strengths.

 

Tea provisions

Tea was supplied at the allotted breakfast times with options for green or breakfast. Hot milk was supplied. For the room, a kettle was provided with just 1 litre capacity. This was a little small and impractical although having hot water on tap at mealtimes made up for this.

In general, the drinks available were diverse and catered for almost all tastes. It was great having free cocktails in the evening which were made skilfully and professionally. The choice on offer had a range of options including the popular “sex on the beach” as well as blue lagoon and tequila sunrise. The Pina colada and local Playa park cocktails were also nice.

The range of diet or sugar free drinks however was limited to water or Diet Coke which seemed a little restrictive for a relaxing holiday.

These were included in the all inclusive for every afternoon which was very pleasant which we got a lot of use from, at and between mealtimes.

Community areas

The pool was kept clean first thing every morning to minimise disruption and all walkways seemed clear. The restaurant was mostly clean if the cutlery tray seemed a little sticky on one occasion.

For the more adventurous table tennis, a squash court and small gym were available for use which was good. The stairwells to the rooms were tiled and suitable for barefoot walking.

The bar area had pool tables and social seating as well as a few arcade machines. The venue was very open yet compact and easy to negotiate which was very appealing.
The restaurant was of pleasant size with a good presentation of mains and desserts inside to allow space for many guests to simultaneously select and serve catering options.

The sun bed number outside was mostly sufficient although they were all taken on occasion suggesting a few more would be pleasant.

The gym was quite primitive with creaky equipment and an air con system which did not seem to work. This made me very hot within a short time on the cycle machine. The treadmill worked better and didn’t suffer from data inaccuracies and the creaking sound.
There was however a multitude of settings on the machines which if they were explained could make the experience better quality. TV’s were in the gym which played music to accompany your workout which was good.

As it stands, swimming in the outside pool or table tennis appeared to be the best forms of exercise on site for keeping cool. Air conditioning would have made the gym far more useful.

Price

At around 800 euros for a 7 day stay per guest, the price was great considering transport, food and a great location was provided. Nothing was a problem. The coach transfer was quick and efficient with only a slight departure delay. The Thomas cook airline was pleasant with a few good travel magazines to read. The pilot landed very softly which was great. The place did seem good value although I had not previously stayed in an all inclusive.

Washing and cleaning

The shower worked well with a lever style on switch for pressure which could be easily rotated to adjust temperature. Whilst it wasn’t the most sensitive, accurate or powerful as seen perhaps at Double tree by Hilton in Lincoln, it was sufficient and serviced to cleanliness. Plenty of towels were provided between the 3 of us.

There was no hairdryer provided which was a little disappointing although in the heat this was not strictly necessary.

Chilling in your room

My sofa bed was of moderate comfort despite on arrival a lack of obvious indication that it was geared up as a bed at all. The staff could have moved the back cushions to clear more space for sheets and placed some there ready for myself to sleep.
Once set up and the cushions were removed it was reasonably comfortable and of adequate size for one guest. So much so that the only difficulty sleeping I had was due to the music outside which continued to play till late at the bar.

The evening entertainment was great with disco lights and announcer for those outside having fun but the room could be soundproofed a little better perhaps so that this didn’t cause disruption to my sleep. That said this was only a very minor issue with the atmosphere making up for this considerably.

When relaxing I enjoy watching online programs and listening to music. My music had a significant level of wifi interruption and the logging on with password reentry every single time was repetitive and a little tedious. That said free wifi which was unlimited was a good thing and appreciated by myself and other members of the family.

One wardrobe between the 3 of us was okay considering generous drawer space. that the 8 hangers provided was definitely a good number compared to other places I had previously stayed at.

Adapters for plug sockets could have been offered especially since these are necessary for U.K. gadgets to be charged. I understand this is not an issue for locals but for a holiday resort this could be considered. The number of plugs was just about sufficient although a couple extra in the lounge area would have been welcomed.

Customer service

The receptionists gave accurate directions to the gym and our room which was great. They were polite and enthusiastic with a real passion shown by their voice. Our stay was very welcomed despite being unaccustomed to the Spanish language except the odd “Gracias”.

This was very pleasant and I could not fault the speed at which plates were cleared in the restaurant at mealtimes or the consistency of food and drinks provided in the all inclusive. I never felt without anything … Perhaps if I was being critical a few more diet drink choices as well as diet cola and wine on tap at the bar in addition to the restaurant would have improved things.

For my taste in alcohol, San Miguel with no options for cider or other lagers meant I was left without my usual choice. Bar staff were generous with cocktails and I felt at ease when ordering which was great.

Summary

A great service and range of facilities provided. Plenty of food choice and opportunity for family fun. Fitness activities could be enhanced and broadened and TV could have been better with signal and range of channels. As a clean, family friendly, relaxing holiday resort though it seemed idyllic.

Double tree by Hilton Lincoln (8.5/10) ” Spacious and clean with good facilities”.

Double tree by Hilton hotel review – ( Room 408) (8.5/10) ” Spacious and clean with good facilities”.

Good
” Complementary cookie”.
” Comfortable and spacious room”.
” Great-sized TV and reliable Wifi”.
” Easy quick walking access to high street and train station”.
” Iron and board provided” .

Bad
” No hairdryer in room”.
” Who wants an optional deposit ?”.
” Drawer with mind of it’s own”.
” Staff a little eager for sales”.

Atmosphere

The room was of great size with a comfortable carpet. On checkin the staff were very friendly and welcoming and highly professional in conduct and dress.
A free cookie on arrival was a great treat after a long day at work.
The reception area was generously sized and on reception, breakfast was offered with a price which was good even if this price was 12 pounds !!!

I didn’t like the idea of an optional deposit however to claim back the remnant of at the end of my stay since this felt like it was being forced upon me. The keycards were explained to me a.k.a which one was for power to my room and which one was for entry access. This system worked well.

Tea provisions

The tea provisions were great along with reasonable size mugs. It was a shame the kettle capacity was only 1 litre and with the dial inside the vessel. This felt a little impractical. That said the presentation of tea spoons, tea biscuits, sugar and tea and coffee selection were second to none. The familiar Border tea biscuits as seen in Bristol were back which was great to see. Equally a choice of brown or white sugar was nice, 8 semi-skimmed milks could have been altered to include a combination of full fat milk also, although the count was sufficient.

Twinings everyday and Twinings earl grey were the 2 tea offerings which was refreshing compared to the usual PG tips. 8 were provided for me and my room mate which was a good number at 4 each. With 9 sugar sachets and a choice of decaf or normal coffee, the tea provisions put on a great display.

Community areas

Downstairs on entry there was a seated area and on site was apparently a fitness suite.
The corridors required keycards for access which was helpful for security purposes. Unlike most other hotels my key cards did not wear out during my stay which was a great relief.

There was a seated area with buffet style catering which was nice and key historical features of the building were conserved despite the modern ambience which was respectful and appreciative of the city.

Price

With price hovering around £80 per night the hotel is not cheap. It does come with those luxury touches that would be expected for a pricey stay such as great comfort and cleanliness which makes value reasonable.

Washing and cleaning

A shower with 2 nozzles 1 for bath/shower and the other temperature was great since good pressure was easy to achieve and for bath or shower preference, the washing facilities worked well.
Conditioner, body lotion, shampoo and body wash bottles were provided which appeared a great range and well presented on a metal tray. They were a little small however. Presenting the soap on a separate tray made it look the part. The brand verbena and lavender was used consistently suggesting quality.

2 quilted toilet rolls were provided which was good and a small litterbin in the en-suite.
The shower had a textured floor to prevent slipping which was nice.

Over 5 towels were provided in the bathroom space which seemed plenty.
Lots of mirror space was available with a 3/4 mirror in the bathroom and a full height one directly outside. And there was a great size mirror beside the wide TV. The room therefore appeared very spacious yet benefitted from a boxy shape for pleasant TV viewing.

Whilst you were provided with an iron there was no hairdryer which was a bit of a letdown, compared to many other places I have stayed previously.

Chilling in your room

The carpet was comfy to walk on bare footed which lead up to a great sized LG TV. This almost dwarfed the roomsize yet was great for entertainment. The remote was provided alongside next to some useful information. No intermittency was suffered in signal for TV or Wifi.

Free Wifi was provided throughout which only required an email for registration. No fiddly password searches or code entry were required which was very refreshing.

Plenty of drawspace and hangers were provided (7-8) for 2 guests. Only criticism with storage was that the drawer wanted to open on it’s rollers so had to be properly closed. A safe was provided in the wardrobe which perhaps should be the case for wealthier guests possessions. Not that I was privileged enough to benefit from this personally.

Customer service

Room service was very good and everything was kept clean. Staff seemed friendly and helpful and respected placement of tea provisions. These were left out of a confined draw on room service suggesting staff respected how we liked things.

Staff seemed approachable and mostly relaxed if a little pushy to promote sales at times.

Summary

Great centrally located hotel with facilities including fitness suite and historical features. Comfort and cleanliness with pleasant extra touches were apparent at every turn. Whilst a little pricey for stay, breakfast and offered deposit the stay reflected a refined experience close to perfection.

compare hotels at https://www.hotelscombined.com/?a_aid=181799

 

Henry Westons’ ” Medium dry” oak aged vintage 2016 – (8.25/10)

Henry Westons “Medium-dry” oak aged vintage cider 2016 (8.25/10)

The Good

” Great value and distinctive branding”.
” Pleasant warming aftertaste and carbonation”.
” Full-bodied with an enjoyable tang”.
” Balanced drink without astringency”.

The Bad

” Lack of fruity flavour and sweetness”.
” Not medium dry as described”.
” Lack of blurb or backstory”.

Packaging

Straight away from the golden-fonted label, surrounding an image of Henry Weston himself you can see that Westons is proud of it’s history and founder. The design seemed appropriate for this as it did with the steamroller of old Rosie and the classic scene depicted on the scrumpy cloudy bottle.

The oak aged statement and year of vintage gave a suggestion of a lengthy maturation process and perhaps a stronger alcohol content.
This was affirmed on the front at 6.5% alongside the bottle capacity of 500ml.

On turning the bottle, the units at 3.3 was revealed which kept things sensible assuming only one bottle was consumed for the evening. This is regarding cost and alcohol consumption level.

The place of origin is labelled as the Much marcle farm near Ledbury as is the case for other Westons’ ciders. The establishment year was clearly labelled as usual on the bottleneck with 1880. This supported this traditional cider producers heritage.

What was somewhat surprising was the lack of blurb from a cider producer so seeped in tradition. Old Rosie by contrast, had a fairly lengthy backstory and many other ciders do have a description of the sensory characteristics expected from the drink.

Whilst that appeared as a slight let down, the classy bottle appearance with reasonable cost and practicality; Priced at just £1.39 from Aldi (whilst on special-buy), meant that this still exuded a positive impression. It appeared as the only Henry westons available from Aldi at this price however with others such as ” Extra dry” “Medium sweet” and “Vintage with variable years”, appearing currently more elusive.

There is also a family reserve addition but this seems to be exclusively available on draught.

On inspection of the website it announced expectations for full bodied and traditional character aswell as ” special character and flavour”. The latter was mostly attributed to the maturation in oak vats. The bottle announced medium dryness suggesting this was also expected.

A non-watery, flavoursome and slightly dry cider was expected therefore. Wether it lives up to this expectation, I was soon to find out.

Smell

On opening, a small collection of bubbly froth was present on the cusp of the liquid. The scent was natural and fruity yet not oversweet giving an impression of acidity. The head slowly dissipated but still left this familiar yet weak scent lingering for many subsequent breaths.

Taste

The feel in your mouth was highly pleasant with full bodied character and a satisfactory level of carbonation. The aftertaste quickly began to give some warmth suggesting the strength of the alcohol was reasonable. The cider didn’t appear to give much artificial sweetness although there was certainly an appealing essence of sweet apple in the flavour.

The level of acidity was very nice and certainly noticeable, yet not overpowering.
There appeared to be a slight lack of character to the flavour except a tang and aftertaste to partially disguise a little disappointment. The scent of fruit did not appear strongly reflected in the flavour and there wasn’t anything with finesse in the main taste. The warming aftertaste however also had an impression of maturity which was positive but only emphasised lack of other positives except tang and carbonation.

With stronger ciders, there is sometimes an element of astringency ( bitterness) although thankfully this appeared absent here. This suggested good balance since sweetness may well have cancelled this bitterness out.

Summary

A pleasantly carbonated, tangy drink with an enjoyable, characterful and warming aftertaste. A full-bodied, non medium dry without the tasting rigours of a unique cider.

Sources

Www.westons-cider.co.uk