Since last Fall I have been anxiously awaiting the perfect occasion to crack open this very special bottle of cider sent to me by my buddy Al. Thanks Al! Waiting patiently all the while eying the calendar. Cider reaches an early peak when compared to wines and should generally be enjoyed young. I thought Heather and my recent 5 year anniversary and trip to the beach about met the needs of the special occasion requirement so we brought packed it up and brought it on with us to the beach to taste.
You just don't run across single variety in these parts. I personally hope that changes. West County Ciders in Colrain Massachusetts has an astonishing line up of 10 single varietal ciders from both heirloom and cider apple varieties listed on their website. Including their own Kingston Black.
Although debated, the Kingston Black variety of "cider" apple is touted to be THE CIDER APPLE. The one with the most balanced flavors and substantial complexity, it has what most consider to be a perfectly balanced trifecta of sweetness, acidity, and tannin characteristics. It has acceptable sugar levels for adequately strong cider. The Kingston Black is a popular choice in nearly any cider orchard and a favored selection for making a single varietal cider. Is it the most popular single varietal cider? I couldn't say but I would suspect it is or among the top 2 or 3.
If you read this blog at all you'll soon find out that I think Farnum Hill Cider is at the top of the North American Cider list. At one time it was available to me in Oregon, sadly Farnum Hill is no longer available to us here on the Left Coast. Some of us are holding out hope that one day they will return.
I was a little surprised by the color of this cider, and believe me I've been wondering what it was going to look like and what color it would be. I thought we would see a bit of gold or amber in the glass. What we got was a pure, bright, light gold/pale straw color. The clarity was very clear, bordering brilliant. The Farnum Hill Kingston Black is still cider but we did observe tiny micro-bubble effervescence. I can't say it was detectable in the mouthfeel so maybe just a byproduct of pouring or the drive to the beach. Overall impression of appearance was "Very Good".
Aroma was fairly intense and of an exceptional quality. Direct, fresh, very clean, bright and refreshing. Started with a nose of apricot and dried apricot transitioning to honey and floral notes of jasmine and honeysuckle. I find well made ciders to be entrancing sometimes. You close your eyes, breathe in deep, and don't ever want the sensation of that bouquet to disappear.
Farnum Hill Ciders are generally speaking from my experience very punchy and in your face. Strong acidity. The single varietal Kingston Black was much more subdued, lighter, and more delicate than I presumed. Impressive and delicious none the less. We got flavors of lemon, lemon verbena, fresh herb, basil, lime, green apple. We detected a very Perry-like fresh cucumber quality. Sweetness was certainly light to slight but detectable and yup it did have some of that characteristic Farnum Hill acidity too. Like the color and the aroma, the flavor was also very clean, refreshing, and crisp. While tannins were present, they weren't overwhelming. Middle of the road I'd say but fitting for this cider and about par with most of the fresh Kingston Blacks I've ever tasted.
The mouthfeel and body was still, medium to light bodied, very balanced with moderate astringency and medium length. As stellar as the rest of course. Completely in sync with the whole of this cider. 'nough said.
Overall we deemed it was a "Very Good Plus". Unoffensive, approachable, friendly cider with tons of character if you take the time to hear it out. The kind of delicate cider to be savored, sipped slowly from a fine wine glass. It may not be for everyone but everyone should buy it and try it. Stands up to and is a great counterpart to dry salami, prosciutto or charcuterie of nearly any kind I imagine. Sharp cheeses as with most ciders are a plus too.
Check back soon. I have a ton more ciders out in my "cider fridge" waiting to be looked at, sniffed, tasted, over analyzed and written about. During this same trip we also tasted the aptly named Rumrunner (oddly enough from 2007 too) from Sea Cider on Vancouver Island of Canada's West Coast which need written about. We have some Uncle John's Fruit House Winery Ciders that were sent to me some time ago that I'm anxious to write about. I also received a generous sample pack from Diane at Foggy Ridge Cider that needs serious attention.