I think we are in broad agreement that the 21st century has had a pretty rough first couple of decades. Our institutions, finances, social fabric and bodies have all aged terribly these last few years. But few things have changed quite like the public perception of cider has.
When I was a child “cider” meant either the litre bottle of White Lightning you smuggled into a sixth form party, or the tart, flat, golden drink that I will forever associate with a beer garden in blazing sunshine. Since then, the big branded macro ciders, have fallen in and out of favour a few times and high strength, white cider has nearly been killed off by minimum pricing legislation. Meanwhile, although mass-market “fruit ciders” (in reality, alcopops) are no way near as popular as they once were, they have proven mightily resilient and I suppose we’ll have to accept they’ll always be with us. At the other end of the scale, the past year has seen an explosion in the availability of single varietal and mixed fermentation “craft” (*sigh*) ciders.
This is all a long-winded way of saying that (other than an alcoholic drink derived from fermented orchard fruit) there’s little agreement about what cider actually is.
Except for what’s in my glass right now. that’s definitely cider with a capital C. It couldn’t be more cidery if it came in a hollowed out apple whilst singing the Wurzels.
This is the Jaggy Thistle by Thistly Cross, the first attempt (to the best of my knowledge) at a Scottish scrumpy in the traditional West Country style. It’s been available for a couple of years, but shamefully I’m only just getting around to sampling it.
It pours flat, but with a surprisingly clear, brilliant gold colour for a scrumpy that has been unfiltered, unpasteurised and cask conditioned. The nose is rich, sweet and boozy, with aromas of baked apple, raisin, balsa wood and PVA glue. The palate is sharp, dry and acidic with some earthy, funky flavours and a squirt of lemon. The finish is long with lots of warming alcohol and a proper dollop of apple juice
It’s a stronger, drier and far more grown drink than the standard Thistly Cross cider and isn’t widely available. This is partly due to the fact that it’s made only with local, East Lothian apples, with no bulk juice and partly due to it not being a particularly popular style.
Sadly, they have never made enough of the stuff to bottle it themselves. It’s occasionally available at the better pubs in town, but maybe the better option would be to come to us, where we will fill your bottle or “growler” for the more than reasonable price of £1.85/50cls . (Given that it comes in at 7.4% abv, this is as cheap as we’re allowed to sell it)