August 12 2010
The scene: London’s Royal Festival Hall, an hour or so before showtime. I wanted a drink, but nothing took my fancy; the beers were all mass-market gassy brews, the wines came in horrible little thimble-sized plastic beakers, and I am not a gin and tonic man. Then suddenly something caught my eye in the chill cabinet behind the bar, a cider whose label I didn’t recognise. Now, the recent explosion in cider-drinking has left me largely unimpressed; too many of them are too sickly-sweet and far too fizzy and don’t really taste of very much at all. But hey: I thought I’d give this one a try.
I’m glad I did, because Mr Whitehead’s Cider (£3.60 at the Festival Hall) is an impressive drink. This Hampshire company produces a range of ciders (and perry) in a spectrum of styles and strengths; the one I drank at the Festival Hall was one of Mr Whitehead’s single-variety ciders, a Russet. As a drinking experience, it was almost like imbibing wine: it’s a light straw colour, a little bit fizzy (the French would call it petillant), really really dry, and packed with the essence of fruit, with a long, lingering aftertaste. It’s also strong, coming in at a formidable 7.5 per cent. Phew. It’s now my default order when, as is often the case, I’m out and about at London’s Southbank Centre.
I will now endeavour to explore more of the ciders made by a company that was formed in 2003 by Angus Whitehead, whose teenage years were apparently spent experimenting with apples and pears, airing cupboards and brewing paraphernalia, and who now supplies his ciders and perrys in barrels, bottles and gift packs. Scrumpy (a head-spinning 8.4 per cent) is among them, but available only by special request.
Mr Whitehead’s website has full details of pubs and bars that sell his ciders, as well as retail stockists and suppliers, which include branches of Majestic Wine.