Harry Sparrow Aspall’s cider review (9.0/10) – “A strong contender thanks to consistent brand message, and taste profile. Pricey and impractical though”.

The Good

” Full, natural smell”.
” Ideal, medium mouthfeel”.
” Great tart and sweet balance”.
” Developing natural acidity”.
” Light carbonation as promised”.
” Medium dryness from word go as promised”.
” Plenty of fruity sweetness”.
” Great branding for product”.
” Fascinating backstory”.
” Natural and balanced aftertaste”.

The Bad

” Could be more practical”.
” Slightly weak aftertaste”.
” No floral element in scent”.
“No wood in taste as promised”.
“Costly”.
” Not stocked frequently”.

Packaging

Last week gave rise to a review of a super strong 8.2% Aspall’s Imperial vintage. This week we continue with another from the range. A cider named after some Harry Sparrow. Allegedly, Harry still holds the record for being the longest serving employee at Aspall’s, beginning working there at just 15, before serving in the First World War. After surviving and winning that, he immediately became a cider maker at the Aspall’s factory.

Having started as a “super”, someone who helps the other employees with shaving, to become an ambitious cider maker in the on-site Cyder house within just 4 years, seems especially impressive. He quickly became head cider maker after gaining experience and stayed in this role for many years. With a long serving head cyder maker and surviving war veteran depicted on the bottles’ front, you’d expect something special to reflect his achievements then.

At £2.15 per bottle, things are unfortunately costly for a good session here, despite the websites assertion of a session-able drink. This may be true on quality, yet must have the added caveat of session-able “if you have a spare £4.30 lying around”.
Last weeks single “Imperial vintage” bottle was sufficient for recommended safe limits with high strength, so £2.50 was spent in total. This week, because of the necessary 2 bottles, things are even more costly. Frustratingly this product is also found far less, across well known stores than ( On-Draught, Organic or Premier Cru).

Things are quite practical though. The 2, gives 4.6 units which isn’t far over recommended limits. At 4.6% ABV, the alcohol level should slowly build throughout consumption of the 500ml vessel.

The bottle creates a natural feel with a subtle green label blending into it’s dark glass background. The backstory is simple, yet emphasises the man himself. It stresses how the drink was named after Harry who combined “Suffolk charm” with “French Cyder making heritage” to create hand crafted ciders for over 50 years.
French Cyder making isn’t something I’m especially familiar with, or wasn’t until reading an article or 2 to enlighten me. Following this, I’d hope for a cider which contains plenty of juice.

French ciders all contain 100% apple juice, whereas counterparts in England, can score in the 30’s. French ciders tend to resemble champagne more closely, and be bottled prior to the end of fermentation. In England, this bottling is mostly carried out after fermentation completion. I’d expect this early bottling, to provide some carbonation from spare yeast, if this cider adopts French ideas. With many French ciders also containing plenty of apple varieties, I’d expect a non-watery mouthfeel with full flavour.
Single variety Ciders can suffer from wateriness such as Thatchers Katy and Cornish Rattler Original.

It also specifies made in Suffolk on the forefront, consistent with this brand message of local combined with foreign techniques. It asserts 1728, which is something to be proud of in all Aspall’s products in my opinion. To have almost 300 years of history, is special for any cider-maker, and is a USP in itself. “Floral aroma”, as specified on the bottle , suggests a pleasantly natural and light smell, so I’d hope for nothing overpowering or sickly sweet.

As for expectations, the bottle details “medium-dryness”, and “cedar wood”. That all-warming woody element will be anticipated here therefore. Twisted tree and Orchard pigs’ the hog-father, remain strong providers of woodiness from my previous reviews.

Using French tradition to formulate more expectations: Medium carbonation, a considerable level of natural fruity sweetness, full mouthfeel, and deep flavour, will be hoped for.

Smell

The scent was immediately natural and fruity. It was also stronger than anticipated, yet quickly faded with each sample. It remained for a limited time only, perhaps to tempt you into the flavour. I was possibly imagining it, but it seemed to hint of some mature element, possibly the woodiness as promised. No floral element could be detected though, which was a slight letdown since it was mentioned on the branding.

Taste

Instant sweetness could be sensed with a lack of thick-body experience. This faded into a rather dry aftertaste, suggesting the medium-dryness descriptor, was accurate on first impression. As for the apples, they came across as natural, which was again positive. No hint of artificial acidity was present either. Carbonation was light as expected, which could be seen as a strength.

After a time, a slightly tart apple aftertaste began to develop. This cut through the sweetness well, creating a rather balanced experience. At first, I felt the body was a little watery, yet after a time, thanks to tartness and sweetness in harmony, this worked better than a full body in my opinion.
Plenty of apple characteristics were present, creating a rather full flavour to make it clear that French cider making methods could have been used. This suggested it was likely that the drink had utilised multiple varieties rather than a single, keeping the brand message resonating clearly.

The tartness here was sufficient to give plenty of tang, it just kept becoming more noticeable, which was a stroke of genius following the initial over-sweet impression. At first, the cider didn’t appear special, yet throughout drinking, it established itself as a memorable beverage. As for a top flight drink, the wood promised was impossible to detect, so I’d infer it’s absence, with the absence of perfection for this drink overall.

The aftertaste was a little weak too, yet not unpleasant. Any sweetness was silenced by acidity, preventing any build up of sickliness on the palette. Any impression at this stage of consumption, had some dryness, and was strictly natural. Nothing spectacular, but consistent with the overall product quality.

Summary

A strong contender thanks to consistent brand message and taste profile. Sweetness and tartness in great balance, with some dryness and carbonation as promised. Could be considered a little watery and no wood present. Natural and balanced aftertaste. Other than cost and limited availability, hard to fault though.

Sources

https://www.aspall.co.uk/our-story/family/harry-sparrow
http://imbibe.com/news-articles/ciders/comparing-apples-french-vs-english-cider/

Product :

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