Orchard pig – The Hogfather review – (9.25/10) ” Well rounded greatness with no bragging but fruitiness and sweetness slightly lacking”.

The Good

” Great branding message and packaging”.
” Great value and practicality”.
” Good acidity and medium mouthfeel”.
” Great light carbonation as suggested”.
” No dryness and a good moist drink”.
” Well rounded drink with lasting non-sickly aftertaste”.
” Tasty woody element”.
” Great flavour maturity and depth”.

The Bad

” Limited fruitiness and sweetness”.
” Branding not specifying dryness or a blurb”.
” No weaker version of the same drink”.
” No real USP”.
” No mention of woodiness on branding”.

Packaging

Orchard pigs are a breed of pig ( Gloucestershire old spot), which were traditionally used in orchards to clean up fallen apples. They apparently control pests below the apple trees. This doesn’t really lend them to producing the finest cider, although may suggest they know a thing or two about picking the right varieties of apple.

We begin our journey south of Gloucestershire, in Somerset orchards where the apples are bittersweet. Hopefully they’re as flavoursome as some of the Weston’s apples, in cider also produced in the West Country. With certain West Country ciders falling short of the mark, such as the watery Cornish rattler. In addition to the recent let down from Capel road No.3 not living up to it’s older cousin, I am now ready to find another gem. Let’s hope it fits the bill.

The Orchard pig cider company nestled near the orchards of West Bradley near Glastonbury, in Somerset, was established in 2004. This makes it more recent than Swedish cider makers like Rekorderlig, and the local to Herefordshire, Henney’s, which were both established in 1996.
These are still very young relative to others such as the West Country Weston’s, est. 1880. This may mean the cider hasn’t had time to fully evolve into a great drink, but we’ll see.

The bottles in the orchard pig range are colourful, yet uniform. Each possesses it’s own identity and quirky name tag. Examples include names such as “The Charmer” or “The Reveller” . Whilst these labels look professional, it is clear to see the cheeky side to the brand portrayed on both bottle and website. The font is casual, and the phrase “Follow the pig” with a dark pig logo, leads to a humorous vibe.

The hog-father tested here, is portrayed to be the leader of the orchard pig products. With the website slogan “The pig’s daddy”, and a flexed bicep paraded on the bottle, this is clearly supposed to make an impact. It boasts of gentle carbonation, and being moorish. This lead me to the expectation of great taste.

The 7.4% ABV leads the single bottle to 3.7 units. This places it comfortably within the governments “Do not regularly exceed” range, for a modest £1.80 from Sainsbury’s. This ABV is up with other vintage varieties such as Westons’ Jonathon Blair of 7.3%, and Twisted tree of 7.4 %, which are both very similar. All of these are Vintage, meaning all apples used are harvested from one single year.

In the price stakes, £3 for a fairly mediocre 2 cans of Capel road number 3, with the equivalent alcohol of one bottle of the hog-father, makes the £1.20 saving seem quite appealing. £2.95 for the Black dragon cider of South Wales to attain this unit number is also significantly more expensive. The hog-father sounds a bit cheaper then, compared to recently reviewed rivals.

The bottle, whilst emphasising the casual, cheeky vibes, which features an oink then exclamation mark, doesn’t give anything away regarding taste description, beyond that of the website. Whilst that appears a slight letdown, on the whole, the branding seems strong.

The only expectation I shall taste with, is full flavour and light carbonation. As for dryness, perhaps moorish means my mouth will be longing for another sip due to good flavour or immense dryness. Alas this is all speculative.

Smell

The smell was a smooth natural fruitiness emerging from a thin film of white froth. On opening the bottle made just an ephemeral puff suggestive of light carbonation as promised. After about 30 seconds as the bubbles began to fade, some acidity could also be detected on the nose, leading me poised for some level of tang.

Taste

On first sip, the carbonation level was perfect, and light as suggested. There was some level of tang, which quickly emerged after the first sip as a reminder of West Country ciders such as Jonathon Blair. After a couple of sips, this tang stayed strong and was certainly accompanied by full-bodied flavour. The cider had good body and was certainly not watery, so thumbs up for mouthfeel too. As for taste, there wasn’t a clearly discernible sweetness, yet the slicing tang made up for this no end, with no hint of anything artificial.

The cider wasn’t noticeably dry, and had no fuzzy after-feeling, but with no promise of dryness, this wasn’t missed. The drink was pleasantly warming, yet left me hopeful for some element of fresh fruit to come through. This, along with sweetness was slightly lacking for my taste, yet with perfect carbonation, great acidity, neutral mouthfeel, no artificial taste, and no dryness as suggested, the drink was ideal as a moist cider with a great depth of flavour.

Although unspecified, there was certainly a woody element to the drink, which only culminated in a notably mature, protracted aftertaste, which promoted pleasure. I based this sensation, on similarity to Twisted tree cider, which I now use as the gold standard for woodiness in taste.

It had a lasting aftertaste too, with a lovely smooth and non-sickly tang. This was only enriched by this woodiness. Whilst present, a point made in the branding of Woodiness, would have helped greatly in detection. The cider could have had more fruit and sweetness in the taste and aftertaste alike.

Summary

A practical cider which had a great branding message and packaging. An unboastful and charming story, with a great product to follow. Good value, strong branding, great light carbonation, slicing acidity, with no dryness. Only lacking in fruitiness or sweetness slightly. Very hard to fault as a drink and certainly a strong contender on my leaderboard.

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