I’ve had a majority of the fine hard ciders available from Crispin and Fox Barrel (which is owned by Crispin), my favorites being Fox Barrel’s Pear Cider, closely followed by Crispin’s Honeycrisp. If memory serves, all of them were quite delicious and uniform throughout, staying within their flavor profiles perfectly while each carried an air of individuality that allows them to be distinguished from other brands. Crispin knows ciders, and they are a refreshingly welcome branch in the craft brew community, even if not necessarily considered a beer.
Crispin’s Blended Hard Cider Limited Release, The Jacket, might be one of the exceptions to their consistent palate of flavors, however.
From the website and label:
The Jacket is a rare andamazing pleasure. An American cider masterpiece combining a blend of 4 unique apple-wines: fermented with Belgian Trappist ale yeast; Irish Stout yeast; wild fermentation heirloom cider-apple wine & Colfax Classic apple-wine: all aged in Tennessee Whiskey barrels. Finished with unfiltered Gravenstein apple-juice aged in the same casks. Crispin’s Limited Release Number 5 Blend.
The Jacket is a sippin’ cider best enjoyed in a rocks glass. A reflective cider with sublime balance even at 8.3% ABV. Substantive & complex without being overbearing. An early hint of whiskey, with delicate apple-brandy notes. Vanilla, light phenols, aged leather and a snappy tart conclusion.
It poured a murky, earthy sediment-clouded golden amber with a dull bronze glow in the light. There was no foam buildup, though within 3 seconds of pouring, a small half-finger thick head built and fell with the excitement from the released carbonation, which continued to form bubbles along the inside of the glass for another 30 seconds before it wore itself out. Once the carbonation was exhausted, there was really nothing left to look at but what resembled unfiltered apple juice.
The smell was a tangy, almost sour cinnamon apple and carried a nice spiciness due in part to cinnamon as well as a light whiskey alcohol that wafted out as it warmed. Hiding in the depths were faint oak wood notes, hints of honey, and a light yeasty undertone.
Although I’ve been holding onto this cider for a few months now (it was released back in October), it was still really crisp and juicy, filled with honeycrisp apple-wine that was slightly tart and prickly at the beginning. It smoothed out near the middle with a little bit of whiskey, soft understated notes of oak wood, and a hint of spicy cinnamon-tinted earthy flavors. It held a light to medium body with a light, crisp, and quite dry mouthfeel, despite the juiciness of the flavor. The 8.3% ABV did not come out in the nose or the flavor, despite the small hints of it here and there, and never truly gave a full reading of the amount of alcohol actually present; though I did feel a slight warming sensation halfway through, I found myself wanting to sip it slowly in order to fully appreciate the dynamic layers, so I was never overwhelmed by the alcohol.
All in all, it was very reminiscent of a freshly cut honeycrisp apple soaked in whiskey and slathered in homemade caramel on a perfect fall day and almost makes me wish for fallen leaves and pumpkin carving. Almost. I will safely be listing this as my third favorite cider from Crispin/Fox Barrel from this point forward.