Black Dragon cider review ” Smooth and subtle dryness in a well balanced beverage”. (8/10)

Good
” Eye-catching branding and packaging”.
“Smooth smell and taste”.
” Subtle carbonation and bitterness”.
” Smooth bitter aftertaste”.
” Developing dryness”.
” Very well balanced”.
” Gentle on the mouth for alcohol percentage”.

Bad
” Lack of fruitiness and sweetness”.
“Expensive and stocked infrequently”.
” Acidity too subtle”.
” Smooth aftertaste with building dryness”.
” No hint of oak casks in the taste”.
” Watery mouthfeel”.
” Limited taste complexity”.

 

Packaging

At first glance, the branding clearly shows the USP of the ciders home in Wales. The bottles’ colour scheme of pure black and gold makes the drink more eye-catching than the rest of the Gwynt y Ddraig range, as shown on the website. The Wales emphasis, and symbolism of the dragon fits the websites’ slogan “Refreshingly Welsh”. The bottle also emphasises fermentation in Oak casks. The traditional methods of production are highly promoted. I would suggest that a company established in 2001 is unlikely to possess a fully fledged production process though.

The branding at first glance though, appears positive. It affirms medium dryness and refreshing taste. Since it has won many West Country cider awards, I’d expect the dryness to leave my mouth fuzzy.

3.25 units for a 6.5% ABV beverage with 500ml capacity, would seem an especially effective way of mellowing your soul against the governments’ “Do not regularly exceed” range of 3-4 units.
The hefty price-tag of £2.95 from Wally’s per bottle makes this a real commodity. Not to mention, the magical mystery tour around the Welsh capital, I made to find anywhere that stocked it. This means it isn’t overly practical as a regular drink, so it shall be judged as a special treat.

In the strength states, I have sampled stronger. With Twisted tree, Organic Aspalls and Jonathon Blair vintages which often amount to the 7/8% ABV range. I would suggest though, due to Aspalls’ Draught, Stow-ford press and many others falling short of this, that the cider is nestled amongst some highly competitive drinks.

 

The clear bottle glass revealed small clusters of bubbles rising from the cusp of the fluid at the bottleneck, which suggested some level of carbonation. As for sweetness, medium-dry ciders tend to do this well and are ordinarily rather sweet. I hoped the traditional methods used would add some level of complexity when consuming and impart some naturally Appley flavour that was unique to the valley orchards where they’re grown. As for tang I had no expectations.

The bottle blurb mentioned a pleasant fresh, fruity aroma and rich colour, body and flavour. The bottle design clearly showed off a rich amber colour, yet I was also hopeful of a syrupy and not too watery mouthfeel. Especially considering the brand boasting about body. As for the flavour, we shall see shortly.

Smell

A tentative fizz clearly emerged with a reasonable frothing from the dragons’ mouth. The smell remained for some time as a rather consistent acidic scent. Similar to that of a Merrydown and affirming a taste expectation for some level of tang and acidity. The aroma descriptors of fresh and fruity weren’t entirely correct however, since acidity dominated any fruity notes.

Taste

From the first sip a smooth, slightly watery impression was present. The mouthfeel was a little thinner than I was hoping for after reassurance of a rich body. This was a slight letdown.

The cider did possess a tang as suggested by the smell, and this was pleasantly subtle. Sweetness was highly lacking and difficult to notice. Fruitiness was absent. Carbonation level however, was pleasant, and certainly not a contributor to a gassy drink. The flavour was pleasantly bitter which is not a description I often apply. This was due to careful balance of the drink.
Whilst bitterness was not overpowering, it helped provide a gentle experience on the palette. This is seldom seen amongst stronger ciders. The dryness level was good for a medium-dry. This Emerged from subtlety to a confident level after a few sips.

With good balance and some unique taste elements, it was a shame that the cider lacked some natural fruitiness or sweetness. From the website, I was also hoping for some element of complexity in the taste from the oak casks used, but any warming woody element was certainly absent unlike most West Country varieties such as Twisted tree.

Aftertaste

Smooth Appley bitterness developed into the aftertaste. It lasted for a while, and provided my mouth with a slight, yet detectable dryness. This dryness lasted for a considerable amount of time. Even longer after delving deeper into the bottle.

Summary

A well balanced, Improving cider throughout consumption, and into the aftertaste. Strong balance of acidity, carbonation and dryness were only letdown by a lack of fruit and sweetness. Price could be cheaper and more complexity or flavour elements would have been nice. Mouthfeel was a little watery.

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