I’m at my sister’s house, scraping wallpaper. Things have come a long way since I last did this. Now, we have steamers to help get the wallpaper off. It’s woodchip – the worst kind of wallpaper to scrape. She’s enlisted a number of family members, and after we get the plethora of steam related jokes out of the way (‘I’m steaming ahead’, You’re running out of steam’, We’re all steaming this weekend’, etc.), we’re making good progress. I just have to work out how to steam and scape without either blocking up the steamer, or having boiling glue falling onto my knuckles.
Now I really am out of steam, as my steamer’s water chamber is empty. Time for a break, and I toddle into the kitchen, where the fridge is stocked with a wide variety of bottled ciders. A Ciderman salary! A cider has already been poured for me, into a big, round glass, albeit a Duvel glass. Oh well, you don’t look at the mantelpiece when you’re stoking the fire, as they say. I pick up the part-poured bottle. Henney’s have gone for a bold vintage-style for their labelling, a simple black and white label, all capital letters, no pictures, wrapped up in a traditional beer bottle shape. No frills here, this is proper war-time cider. This is a 6% cider from the Frome Valley, Herefordshire. The accompanying canapées today, are mini chocolate doughnuts.
The golden-yellow cider is lightly sparkling, and smells quite strong and fruity. It’s a nice oaky smell, and something of a sherry-bite about it. The taste is refreshing, but rather than a dry cider, it’s more of a bittersweet and then I feel the tannins kick in and dry out my tongue. Not bad, easy drinking. However, it seems the smell of a real cider has some similarity to something else, when my brother-in-law begins to worry that the cat has piddled in the dining room, and the hunt ends with the glass of Henney’s. Can’t see it myself, unfamiliar as I am, with drinking cat’s piss.
The steamer has warmed up again, but now I have the wall in the curve of the bay window, which has to be scraped side-on in order for maximum contact. Once the paper is all off, the room doesn’t look too bad. Rather like a trendy, East London hipster hangout decor. Or a Roman excavation. I transverse into the kitchen once more, wondering how many words there are for ‘go’. In the cider chiller, I see another Henney’s. This time in a dark bottle with a black label. Looks intriguing, and it will bulk out this Henney’s post a bit.
This is the Vintage 2012 still cider. Also made from 100% apple juice, which is reassuring. The word ‘vintage’ on a bottle suggests that the drink is very old and expensive, however, all it really means is ‘this is the year the apples were picked (and no other year’s picks were mixed in)’. Well, 2012 must have been a good year. I remember being grateful I was in Ibiza that summer, to avoid the extreme temperatures over here, then arriving back London, in shorts, standing in the pouring rain, waiting for a taxi at 1am. Apparently it was also the wettest summer since time began, or whatever, so maybe this is what works well for a cider apple. Henny’s tell us that the varieties they use are Dabinett, Ashton Bitter, Tremlett’s Bitter, Yarlington Mill and Michelin. I wonder if they would grow on the strip of dusty asphalt I call a garden.
Oh well, this vintage will soon be history, as I sit down to drink it, in the freshly-scraped living room. This vintage is 6.5% and appears lightly sparkling like the last, and maybe a slightly darker colour, or it could just be the failing light, and my eyes filling up with water, as the cat has decided to sit on my lap, and dig his claws into my knee. It’s supposed to be affectionate, maybe like the affection we give our friends by giving them a dutch rub in the head, then laughing and pointing at them.
The Henney’s vintage is a similar taste to the ‘dry’ cider, a sweet, smoky taste, but this one is a bit more dry, and more to my liking. I’m surprised there’s no chunks of apple floating in this one. My sister joins me for a brief ciderising, bringing the food pairing for the Vintage – ready salted Hula Hoops.
So, Henney’s have a nice selection of sweet, fruity, oaky ciders, recognisably apple, but without any rubbish in them, which would appeal to real cider drinkers, and also to the uninitiated. I’m keen to give the rest of the range a try.