Back when it was still very cold and we had not started lambing, so that must mean Thursday January 28th 2017, we gathered together in the room for tasting at Oliver’s Cider and Perry in Ocle Pychard, a motley team of blenders. Bought together to share the joy of putting a new Vintage cider together and also to see if our individual approach to blending chimed with others and to see just how it impacted the cider.

A couple of years ago Jen and Glen at Hop, Burns and Black introduced me to Stu McKinlay of the Yeastie Boys . We discovered over the next few years that we had a few things in common. We had both been at a Proclaimers show in Auckland when Stu was much younger and he also declared an earnest desire for a good tongue lashing by the tannins in our Vintage Dry Cider.

Already in house we had the combined talents of gamer and assistant cidermaker Yarys Kuzela and assistant cider maker and metal man Dave Yates.

More recent arrivals in Herefordshire have been James and Susanna Forbes, who unknown to them, fell in love with one of the best young vintage cider apple orchards i know and proceeded to buy it and make cider there, Feat of Clay, is Little Pomona’s Cidery first cider and wonderfully dry and crisp and tannic, a delight. Susanna joined us with a much travelled and fine palate.

Another returnee to Herefordshire is the much travelled and multi faceted Herefordian,  Jonny Bright, touching on tour management, brewing, BrewDog and bars galore. Back in the shire and turning the dial up on beer and cider options to 11 , Jonny and Amelie have opened the Hereford Beer House . Never one to hold back, Jonny invited himself onto Team Blend and it was a pleasure to have him on board.

Finally we had the wonderful palate and presence of Polly from Find & Foster in Devon. Her pet nat and bottle fermented ciders are wonderful, we need more and really hope she gets to make more as time unfolds.

We had never had a such a varied, mixed team of palates and experiences to blend together. We started with a bottle of the previous vintage to give everyone an idea of where we were headed. Then it was time to wade through the best of bittersharp and bittersweet barrels of cider from 2015. I had previously narrowed the 120 barrels down to 18 that were all in with a shout. We then tasted all 18 and had to pick 12 with 2 in reserve. Strangely but pleasingly we all agreed on 8 of the 12 with ease. It was the final 4 that caused much debate and discussion about how each barrel might impact the overall mix. In the end 12 were selected and racked off into a tank, left to sit and settle for a couple of weeks, then bottled.

The Vintage 2015 Dry Still Cider emerged some 2 months later and we launched it a few weeks ago at Jonny and Amelie’s Hereford Beer House at an all day event. The place was rammed from noon till 9pm closing, a great celebration of cider.

The cider itself is true to the Oliver’s Vintage series. I feel it has more acidity than usual and i am sure that is down to the team. It really has an identity of it’s own.

I think we all really enjoyed the experience and the resulting cider is everything we wanted it to be. Wassail Team Blend and thank you.