Hello followers to my blog. This week is a special review. It is a compilation, or rather, duo of vintage cider reviews which choose the best year of vintage for 2 ciders. The Thatchers Oak-aged vintage of 2016vs17, then the Jonathan Blair vintage of 2015vs17… Enjoy …

Thatchers Oak aged vintage- One year on (2017)

Intro

It is now one year since my 2016 Oak-aged vintage, Thatchers bottle review. A new seasons harvest is in, for the 2017 version. I shall summarise the drinking experience, before comparing and contrasting with my previous review, to bring you the lowdown on this years benefits and drawbacks. Most importantly, I’ll decide if it is better than 2016, or worse. The name of this drink has always excited me. That ” Oak aged”, term.

It just hints of phenols, those antioxidants such as 4-methylguaiacol. Substances which are not only healthy, but also apparently provide the unique flavour of “woodiness”…
One that I refused to acknowledge, as a slightly boastful nuance of people’s imagination, at the time of my 2016 review.

That was until I tried Twisted tree …

A drink which definitely had that in abundance…
So much so. Even a ghost sceptic would have seen a demon there … Now that my palette is awakened, I certainly will be looking for this here…

Before we begin, here is my summary from the (2016 VERSION REVIEW)…

“This cider is a practical, good value drink, which rivals many other bottled varieties. It has the smoothness and purity possessed by Merry-down, and cuts across the palette, with 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.”

The main positives from this review were acidity, and dryness, taking the cider to a score of 7.5. It lacked carbonation and sweetness however, which was a shame. The 2017 bottle, appears identical to last years, still adopting orange fonts. Whilst I’m still not a fan of this choice, at least it is consistent.

Changes (2017 VERSION)

The 2017 version began, with a smooth and naturally tangy scent. The mouthfeel was fairly watery, while flavour certainly ended with dryness. Limited tang was apparent, suggesting the 2017 vintage may be a little weaker than the 2016. Carbonation was very light, and was a little lacking, as before. The drink wasn’t overly well-balanced, with flavour leading into a strong dry feeling. The woodiness I was now aware of, still wasn’t present. The cider certainly wasn’t sickly sweet, as any sweetness was drowned out by a bitter taste. A flavour which dominated… Some noticeable and natural fruit, would have helped here.

The aftertaste didn’t add much, yet developed the dryness, and slightly bitter, apple flavour. This aftertaste persisted for a significant length of time on each occasion. It was distinctive, yet not the most pleasant. For 2017, the cider was £1.90 from Sainsbury’s, suggesting just a slight increase in price from the £1.80 of the 2016 version. Practicality was present, with 7.4% ABV still.

2017 SUMMARY

” A practical and good value drink, which felt quite watery in mouthfeel. It was rather harsh, and not as smooth as it’s predecessor. This harshness was achieved with a rather bitter taste element dominating, rather than cohabiting with it’s sweetness. This gave the impression of lacking sweetness. Again carbonation was weak, unlike the flavour which again was rather strong. The aftertaste persisted well, and confirmed some good dryness, again establishing the drink as medium-dry. Potentially even a full dry this time though. The Appley flavour didn’t come through as before. ”

Comparison – 2016 or 2017 ?

Overall more carbonation, sweetness and tang was required, with thicker mouthfeel and slightly less dryness. No woodiness was present still. Plenty of issues, yet some character. I preferred the 2016 version, mainly due to more tang, and less dryness. This version, would still score 7.5 though, due to a combination of uniqueness and good value. Unfortunately littered, with numerous weaknesses.
Jonathan Blair vintage – 2 years on (2017)

Intro

This time 2 years on. Yes okay life is busy…
2016 remains unreviewed and an enigma, but hey-ho, I am sure I can order one in future from somewhere.

Jokes aside, I previously assessed the 2015 version of this drink, and am now looking for things which may differ from this new year of vintage. Apples harvested in 2017 in general, may be better than 2015. Proof will be in the drinking.

What is for sure, is that the previous product was pleasant, and a very mature experience. Not one for people loving basic sweet and appley ciders, but more for the depth of flavour and impact it has on your senses.

Jonathan Blair, as mentioned previously, is a product of Weston’s of Herefordshire, Much Marcle, and was established in 1880. Weston’s is one of my favourite cider producers. It has a gleaming “Old Rosie” product, based on a steamroller, which remains one of my favourite ciders a year on. On, far superior to the 2015 Jonathan Blair. Whilst Jonathan Blair vintage was never in that league, it was a drink I enjoyed. I’m therefore looking forward to the evolution it has made in the last 2 years.
Here is the last vintage summary I wrote. ( Full review still available on my blog)…

2015 summary

“Overall then, a moderately acidic, pleasantly effervescent, golden, dry cider, which leaves your mouth thirsty for more. A pleasant bottle creates a quality feel, which the cider possesses, and achieves for a certain taste preference. The cider is a good medium-dry, but would benefit from a little sweetness to balance the dryness in my opinion.”

So clearly a little lacking in sweetness, and perhaps a little carbonation. It was tangy with good mouthfeel though, and appears to have done dryness well for a medium.

Changes for 2017

To begin with, it is worth mentioning, how the bottle appears no different, except the year label. This bottle was previously described as effectively branded. So if it ain’t broke, why fix it ?Equally, it doesn’t stand out greatly. A little contrast with label and font colours may have helped.

Prices check … For the bottle of 2015 Jonathan Blair, this costed £1.69. This contained 2 servings. For 2017, price wasn’t significantly different.

2017 summary
Carbonation: Light
Acidity: Weak-moderate tang
Dryness: Full-dry
Sweetness: Slightly sickly, a little weak
Mouthfeel: Medium/borderline watery
Balance/ character: Too bitter and dry, not sweet or fizzy enough
Branding/price: Similar to 2015

Smell was fresh, smooth, and natural, with some limited acidity. Carbonation was light as promised. Perhaps too much so. Mouthfeel again was middling, if borderline watery, yet held enough flavour. Aftertaste quickly faded into a feeling of dryness, which hinted of bitterness. The sweetness didn’t come through enough, and was certainly lacking. When it did, this was a little sickly and not as natural as I’d hoped. The dryness worked very well, despite a little too much bitterness, which wasn’t correctly balanced with sweetness. This dryness made it practically a full, rather than medium-dry drink. Less character and complexity was present here, than in 2015. My score remains the same again.

Endnote

1) For Jonathan Blair vintage cider, it seems likely, that the 2015 vintage was significantly nicer and more complex in experience. Due to more dryness making the drink more full, than medium dry, and lesser tang than in 2015, this remains my favourite of the 2 years.

2) For the Thatchers Oak-aged vintage, I preferred the 2016 version, mainly due to more tang, and less dryness.

Sources
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4425000/

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