Our approach to cider tasting and note taking at HardCiderReviews.com is relatively simple. All of our reviews are written for each individual variety (or varietal – single or blended) produced by hard cider brands in the US, Canada, United Kingdom, Europe and New Zealand.
We focus on the six main characteristics associated with cider: its appearance, the level of carbonation, what aromas are present when you smell the cider, what flavors are present when you taste the cider, how does the cider feel in your mouth, and how long the flavors and mouthfeel last.
We also include two additional fields for tasting notes and reviewer notes. Let’s break down these eight points a little bit more:
The hard cider industry primarily uses what is known as the “Brix Scale” – a method of measuring residual sugar in the cider. Occasionally, some cideries and cider makers will include this number on the label. We do not scientifically measure any ciders we taste for the Brix figure. More commonly on cider brand labels, you will see these designations:
Our reviews use one of these four designations. These may not always match the cider makers own description of sweetness of the cider.
ABV – Alcohol By Volume
Like other alcohol – beer, wine and hard spirits – ABV is used as the standard measure of alcohol content in hard cider.
Ciders typically range from 4.0% up to 12.0% ABV.
Cider Maker’s Description
When available, we include information direct from the cidery on how they describe the variety of cider we’re sampling. This information may come from their website or, when not available on their website, from the bottle or can.
Here, we are looking at primarily the clarity and color of the cider. We may also comment on whether the clarity has a sparkle to it (bright) or a sort of dullness. Another thing we look at is sediment and/or “floaties” that may be present in the pour.
You can get a good sense of how carbonated a cider is when you pour it and when you swirl it in your glass. The carbonation level may impact how you pour the cider or how the cider feels in your mouth. Carbonation can highlight certain flavors while masking others.
This is arguably the most difficult part of reviewing and tasting ciders. There are so many factors at work here: the environment you are in and other aromas that are present (e.g. are you drinking the cider next to a campfire?), your personal experiences (you may associate a specific aroma with a particular time of your life, how sensitive you are to certain aromas, etc.). Further, any sinus issues or impending cold symptoms can drastically affect the smell of ciders.
We try to sample and review ciders in the same environment each and every time, but we also do a lot of reviewing while traveling where those things can’t be controlled. When possible, we bring a bottle or can home for a “proper review” at a later date.
What flavors do you taste in the cider? This is the second most difficult part of reviewing ciders, just behind smelling ciders. The two are very closely linked and much of what is written above regarding aromas applies here too.
One tool we use when evaluating ciders is an Aroma & Flavor Wheel. The flavor wheel below is the one that we use most often and is available from Agroscope:
What you drink the cider out of can make a big difference in how you experience that cider. Obviously, when you are visiting a cider tasting room or are drinking cider a bar, the glassware is going to vary drastically, and this is a point of debate among cider makers and enthusiasts alike.
When not traveling, we prefer to use the Rastal Teku Glass, a tasting glass popular with craft beer drinkers, seen here in the 11.2 ounce (330ml) size:
The Rastal Teku Glass is available at Amazon in 11.2 oz (330ml – $12.49) and 14.2 oz (420ml – $14.99), or in gift sets of 2 ($38) or 6 glasses. ($64).
This one is somewhat straightforward, but there are nuances to it. Mouthfeel frequently changes over the course of drinking a cider, sometimes changing and sometimes amplifying. Common terms here might be creamy, syrupy, or acidic. Is the cider astringent? Or, more simply, does it feel like the cider is sucking the moisture from your mouth?
This one is really just how long the aromas, flavors, and mouthfeel stick with you after you take a sip of the cider, or drink a full pour of a cider. Some ciders have such overpowering flavor profiles that they simply wreck your palate going forward…this is where I would note that.
Tasting Notes / General Impression
Tasting notes are specific to our overall impression of the cider and whether we would drink it again, whether it’s something we consider session-able or if it’s a cider that most people might limit to one or two servings in any given sitting.
Reviewer notes are specifics that we want you know about the tasting or the specific cider. These notes might include the year of the cider, the specific batch if it was a small-batch cider, notes about the tasting environment, was the cider poured and served by someone else, among other observations or limitations.