Willie Smith’s have a new limited release cider on the market. It’s named after what’s in it, “18 Varieties Apple Cider”. Willie’s have collected 18 of their favorite old English and French apple varieties to make a top shelf cider.

I snuck a little sample of the 18 Varieties last year at the Australian Cider Awards. It was the talk of the event after winning the top gong at the awards. This is Willie Smith’s first new release since recruiting Dr Tim Jones the former head cider maker from CUB among other thing from an impressive CV. Some of you cider nerds will be turning your noses up at the thought of a mass market cider maker, being let loose with so many quality apple varieties. But the thing you have to remember is that to make a cider that tastes exactly the same year in year out at that huge volume, no matter the season, takes more skills than you would give credit for.

So what has Jones done to create Willie Smith’s 18 Varieties Apple Cider? With all good ciders it starts with good apples. Bare with me here, I’m going to list them all. Cremiere, Antoinette, Clossette, Yates, Dabinett, French Crab, Yarlington Mill, Kingston Black, Sweet Alford, Browns Apple, Improved Foxwhelp, Frequin Rouge Amer, Sommerset Red Streak, Martin Fossard, Grosielle, Michilin, De Bouteville and finally Cimitiere de Blangy. Each apple has strengths and weakness, blended together helps layer and balance the final product. The collective juices are fermented and finished in the bottle compressing fizz into the thick-walled champagne style bottle.

willie-smiths-18-Varieties-Apple-Cider

The Nose

Sharp apricot and apple brandy. That mix of Old English and traditional French apple give off a scent that harks back to something half way between an English farmhouse earthiness and French Chateau de Funk

The Taste

My first impression is this is more of a red wine than a white. By that I mean it’s very complex. In the glass, the 18 Varieties look like a glass of dark golden honey with no effervesces but on the tongue there are hundreds of sharp bubbles preparing the taste buds for what’s next. First comes the bittersweet, the bittersweet fades into bittersharps with prominent acids and before you’ve had a chance to finish that sip, the tannins have kicked in begging you to go again.

With so many apples, 18 varieties in all, it’s nearly impossible to pick out a hero. I keep thinking I can pick up a hint of the Dabienett or Kingston Black but on the next sip there is something else, something more. As the temperature changes so do the flavours.

Final Thoughts on Willie Smith’s 18 Varieties Apple Cider

When I had a glass of the 18 Varieties Apple Cider at the Australian Cider Awards last year, my first impression was it doesn’t taste like a Willie Smith’s. It doesn’t have that trademark dusty flavour. I told Sam Reid (Managing Director of Willie Smith’s) this. His reply was along the lines of “Thank goodness for that, it’s the only one that’s won any awards.”

So while it does breakaway from what you may expect from this Huon Valley cider house, I do agree with the Cider Australia judges it was the most interesting and clearly the best cider in the show. Being a limited release, it is on the more expensive end of the market. If you must share a bottle, there are 2 types of people you want to share it with.

  1. Someone who can really appreciate it so you can enjoy the nuances together
  2. Someone who doesn’t like it at all. You can offer them some to be polite, they’ll say no thanks and you’ll get the bottle to yourself. This is will be hard to find but is the better option.
Product 18 Varieties Apple Cider
Company Willie Smiths (William Smith & Son’s)
Sweetness Medium Dry
Alc/Vol 5.8%
Website WillieSmiths.com.au
Country of Origin Australia
Region Huon Valley, Tasmania