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.

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