2018 English vintage cider – The Jonathan Blair replacement .. (8.25/10) – “A Beautifully balanced, fruity but watery, drink”.

The Good

“Reasonable price”.
“Quite practical”.
“Light carbonation as promised”.
“Detailed bottle labelling”.
“Great aftertaste”.
“Smooth and natural”.
“Some sweetness and acidity”.
“Beautifully balanced”.
“Some character”.
“Smooth and natural smell”.

The Bad

“Dated bottle designs”.
“Still no website”.
“Carbonation too weak”.
“No dryness, despite the promise of medium dryness”.
“Thin and watery mouthfeel”.
“Lack of wood, or exciting character”.

Packaging

Jonathan Blair vintages have been the cornerstone of strong cider in Aldi for at least 3 years. My original review of the 2015 vintage scored 6.5/10. It was a respectable drink, well suited for “Good value” regular consumption. With a rather high 5.5 units this was quite strong but now reduced to 5.1, let’s hope this ABV reduction, hasn’t compromised the flavour of the 2018 version.
The 2017 version was a let down though, so hopefully things improve here and that I don’t miss “Jonathan Blair’s influence” too much. Still, at least this blend was

“Selected by experts” …

The bottle states: “Made by a Herefordshire cider maker”, and the product is indicative of the West Country. It has a lot to live up to … Dunkertons ( Black fox) also from Herefordshire scored an epic 9.5/10 on my 2018 Christmas Eve review, with Weston’s old Rosie a full-bodied medium-dry, also scoring an impressive (9/10).

Fortunately for today’s vintage, more recent company wasn’t quite so impressive with the West Country cidersmiths range “middling at best”, spanning (5.5 -7.75/10). Whilst there are some exceptions, many West Country ciders have good acidity levels, know about dryness, and aren’t typically very sweet. Let’s hope for at least good acidity here.

As for practicality, 6.8% ABV, 750ml, 5.1 units is the summary here. Still priced at £1.69, this has stayed the same for the last 3 years. This is good value, particularly now that inflation has since swelled the price of most other products. The 6.8% ABV reduction from the Jonathan Blair vintage at 7.3%, should only make things more practical here for health, so is nothing to cause concern.

For sensory expectations, today’s bottle states: medium dry, lightly sparkling, a vintage (only one autumn’s harvest used), balanced (no taste element dominating), full flavoured (not suffering from thin mouthfeel), fruity ( natural taste and smell) and refreshing.

There is still no website unfortunately, to consolidate anything or enhance brand story or message.

Smell

From a very slight head, obscured by the bottles’ black neck tag, emerged a haze of smooth and natural scent. One that was initially confident and a little more sweet than acidic. It persisted for some time at a weaker level but at all times it remained soothing and smooth.

Taste

Immediately, it was clear that carbonation was very light as promised. On first sip, there was subtle tang present in the drink, one which was pleasantly natural.
Unfortunately, neither the main body of flavour, nor the aftertaste, possessed any dryness at all.
It’s sweetness was well-balanced with acidity level, presenting as natural fruit. Nothing artificial was apparent, which was also good.
As for character, the balance of flavour was distinctive. This was because the acidity and sweetness enhanced each other well. Whilst the overall experience didn’t provide anything unique in itself, (such as wood or anything else), the drink hugely benefited from its smoothness and balance, which gave it some element of individuality.
It did have an aftertaste which was a lasting natural tang, if a little weak. Some sweetness persisted into the aftertaste as-well. Throughout consumption, the drink was silky smooth. It’s mouthfeel was too thin and watery unfortunately though. Perhaps the impact of the flavours suffered due to this.

Summary

“A Beautifully balanced, fruity and watery drink”.

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More on cider …

My last Jonathan Blair vintage review: https://reasea.org/2018/08/31/thatchers-and-blair-cider-vintage-attack/

The original one (2015): https://reasea.org/2017/04/26/premium-vintage-cider-2015-from-herefordshire-by-jonathan-blair-h-weston-and-sons-review-6-510/

My cider (rating and Poems) ebook: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sidastroll-Johnny-Depp-Ben-Hattrell-ebook/dp/B07LBZBJZ8

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