Fair Oak cider is made entirely of apples, with no artificial ingredients added. The flavours vary from year to year, depending on the weather and the fruiting cycle of the trees. Some trees will have a heavy crop one year and very little fruit the next.
In 2019 for the first time we were able to produce a single variety, medium-dry, Kingston Black cider. The Kingston Black is known as ‘the queen of cider apples’; and this batch has been greeted by one customer as ‘mellow, fresh, speaking as much of the apple store as of the cellar. From the glass it is nicely balanced: pleasantly soft in the mouth but with just the right amount of tannin grist to excite the palate’. Another customer said: ‘Spot on!’
Our two other new ciders this year are blended from several apples. The Medium still cider is made with early and late apples: Herefordshire Redstreak, Tom Putt, Foxwhelp, Yarlington Mill, Somerset Redstreak, and a few Bramleys, have combined to produce a fresh, clear, fruity flavour.
And our new Sweet still cider is made from Herefordshire Redstreak, Stoke Red, Dabinett and Ellis Bitter. It has a subtle flavour, much less sweet than commercial ciders, which tend to have large amounts of sweetening added.
There are hundreds of different cider apples, described as bittersweets, bittersharps, sweets or sharps*. Bittersweets and bittersharps are high in tannin; bittersweets have high sugar levels and bittersharps are more acidic. Sweets are quite similar to dessert apples; and sharps are more like cooking apples.
Among the apples that we use are:
Dabinett, a full bittersweet, probably grown since the early 19th century. It is small, greenish yellow, flushed and striped with red, and has a strong aroma when ripe. It produces sweet, astringent juice, and a bittersweet cider with soft, full-bodied astringency.
Foxwhelp, a bittersharp which has been known since the 17th century. It is bright red, and on its own produces cider with a musky flavour and strong aroma. It is generally blended with other apples to give strength and flavour.
Kingston Black , a bittersharp, thought to have been discovered at Kingston in Somerset in the mid-19th century. It is small, with a dark maroon flush, and produces a full-bodied cider with a distinctive flavour.
Yarlington Mill, a medium bittersweet, said to have been found in Somerset in the early 20th century. It is a small, pale yellow apple with a red flush, and produces sweet, slightly astringent cider with a good aroma and flavour.
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