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Tassie cider with a twist

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Philip White’s discovered a Tasmanian cider maker with dangerous whisky tendencies.

Willie Smith’s Organic Huon Valley Apple Cider
$100 (6×4 packs per case; 330ml bottles); 5.4% alcohol; crown seal; 93 points

Ian and Andrew Smith are third and fourth-generation apple growers in the Huon Valley. Theirs is the biggest organic apple orchard in Australia. They make this cider after the north of France and Lutece styles, with up to six months maturation in French oak. So while it’s husky and braw with a spicy ginger attack, it packs so much red apple freshness it surprises the drinker. The sales guy left me eight stubbies and they just sort of fell straight into me. Total surrender.

Forget those sweet mega-bulk kiddylikker ciders made from surplus eating apples or the frozen concentrate of their juice. Even worse are the ciders made from the even more bland “filler juice” normally used to cheapen by dilution all sorts of other juices and drinks. To do justice to the very notion of cider, you need something like this that’s planned and constructed from the ground up to be a bloody lovely drink. Made with that extra care, organically. From the Royal Gala, Fuji and Pink Lady varieties.

“Overall the cider has bags of complexity and structure, allowing it to be engaging and yet worthy of great contemplation,” Andrew Smith’s tasting notes suggest. As you can see, all my contemplation came after I’d fully engaged eight of them. Just as well it’s organic. Well done, you Smithys!

William Smith Whisky Aged Hand Crafted Apple Cider
$60;  9.9% alcohol; 888 hand-numbered 750ml champagne bottles; cork; 94 points

Taking the thing to another level, this beauty spent seven months in 100-litre ex-malt whisky casks from Bill Lark’s distillery. The Smiths think this gives the cider a speyside character. It certainly adds a distinctive whisky edge, which fits the complex, tense apple flavours surprisingly well. The oak, too, is obvious, but even that seems quite logical in the whole shape of the thing, particularly with all those alcohols: they seem to fit deliciously well.

I was a little concerned before opening this bottle, imagining that the first whiff of whisky would see me tipping some more in there to go the whole hog, but there’s no need. The drink already sits pretty. It’s not particularly effervescent, but the bubbles are there in sufficient persistence to gently tickle the mouth. It’s petillant. Staunch. Determined. It’s the perfect drink to imbibe when you need a pat but you’re a bit too twisty for your actual champagne.

Broken heart? Sink a consolation bottle of this with a box of Haigh’s dark ginger chocolates. Still hurtin’? Do it again.

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