Monday, February 20, 2023

Sage Bird Ciderworks Pommeau and Ashmead's Kernel for #openthatciderbottle

When I heard that the American Cider Association's Open That Cider Bottle was returning on February 25, 2023, I leveraged a trip to Harrisonburg to visit Sage Bird Ciderworks and see what would be a  worthy cider to open that night. I love this cidery's Age Old Apples series showcasing heirloom apple varieties and have written previously about their Harrison and Virginia Hewe's Crab ciders.  Black Twig and Dabinett were two other ciders in the heirloom series but I decided on a new apple variety to me: Ashmead's Kernel. 

Ashmead's Kernel is an old English russet apple that originated from a seed planted around 1700 by Dr. Thomas Ashmead in Gloucester, England. The apple is lumpy, misshapen, and rather small with green and golden-brown skin, and a distinct crisp, nutty snap.  Interestingly, Ashmead's Kernel is one of a few apple varieties from the Old World that succeeded in the New World.  "When the first settlers arrived in North America they brought with them tried and tested varieties from Europe, yet few adapted to the very different climates of North America and most of the early successful American apple varieties were chance seedlings that evolved in America.  However Ashmead's Kernel did thrive, and today holds a position of respect on both sides of the Atlantic..". -- Orange Pippen

The tasting notes from Sage Bird Ciderworks remark that the Ashmead's Kernel is dry and tart with a moderate body and crisp finish. Notes of champagne, citrus, ripe apple, and green grape. Check back after the 25th for our descriptors. 

I also noticed that Sage Bird produces a pommeau and had to include that in Open That Cider Bottle. Pommeau is a French-inspired cordial that’s made by blending unfermented cider with apple brandy (traditional Calvados).  The percentages are usually two-thirds apple must (unfermented apple juice) to one-third apple brandy in order to ensure that the resulting mixture has 16–18% alcohol by volume (abv). The potion is then usually finished in oak for at least one year. 

Long Night is their winter pommeau made from a light fermentation of a blend of Harrison and Dabinett apples and eau de vie (un-aged brandy) distilled from their Dry River Reserve distillery. According to the cidery,  the blending "arrests fermentation, leaving a naturally sweet yet high alcohol and stable mixture. We then age this mixture in freshly-dumped bourbon barrels from A Smith Bowman in Fredericksburg for a minimum of 12 months. The result is a wonderfully complex fortified dessert apple wine. Strong notes of stewed apple, butterscotch, caramel, vanilla, berry, and brandy on the nose and palate with a natural assertive sweetness, balanced tannin, and warming alcohol".  Can't wait to open it. 

Check back next week for updates on Open That Cider Bottle and hope to see these and other ciders participating in the BevFluence New Perspectives on Cider, Perry, and Brandy campaign.

Update: The Ashmead's Kernel is very dry and tart and sour. Not a lot of tannins, just fresh acidity, and limes & mint. A bit funky.  The Long Night is beautiful with fresh juicy apple juice complimented by a fuller brandy-driven profile with a lengthy satisfying finish. 

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