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Apples Explored: Understanding Bitter-Sweet and Bitter-Sharp Apples

When we think of apples, we often divide them into two main categories: baking apples and eating apples. Baking apples like Granny Smiths and Honeycrisps are known for their tartness, mild sweetness, and crisp texture that holds up well in pastry. On the other hand, eating apples such as Royal Gala, Fuji, Red and Golden Delicious are juicy, sweet, and incredibly enjoyable to munch on.

But in between these well-known categories lies cider apples. While baking and eating apples boast straightforward flavour profiles, cider apples introduce us to a world of complexity. They come in two primary flavours: bitter-sweet and bitter-sharp, distinguished by their tannin content, which adds depth and character to ciders.

Bitter-sweet apples offer a unique blend of sweetness and astringency, contributing to the robust character of cider. On the flip side, bitter-sharp varieties provide a mix of sharpness and aromatic intensity, enhancing the cider's acidity and depth.

Here at Willie Smith's, we use a wide range of eating and cider apples in our ciders. You may recognise some of the varieties we use. Take, for example, our 2023 Kingston Black, a single varietal bitter-sharp cider. The Kingston Black apple, renowned for its role in British-style cider making, boasts a perfect balance of acidity, tannin bitterness, and fermentable sugar. Our Kingston Black cider shows off flavours of racy acidity, balanced sweetness, hints of sherbet, crisp-fresh apple, and butterscotch. It's a rich, complex, yet approachable cider experience.

On the other hand, our 2023 Yarlington Mill represents the bitter-sweet spectrum. The Yarlington Mill apple tree was discovered growing out of a water mill in Yarlington, North Cadbury, in Somerset, England… hence the name. The apple offers a softer tannin character with higher sugar content and lower acidity. This cider showcases flavours of baked and dried fruits, soft caramel notes, and fine tannins, with a subtle hint of barnyard funk.

But the real magic happens when we blend these flavours together. Our Heritage Blend, a mix of bitter-sweet and bitter-sharp heritage apples, has earned acclaim, winning Best in Show at the Australian Cider Awards three times. With our 2022 vintage containing a blend of 14 heritage apple varieties, it's a testament to the richness and balance that blending can achieve.

For those just dipping their toes into the world of cider apples, our Traditional Apple Cider offers a gentle introduction. Made from two-thirds eating apples and one-third heirloom French and English cider apple varieties, it's a perfect starting point for exploration.

Curious to taste the difference between bitter-sweet and bitter-sharp apples? Dive into our new cider pack featuring the 2023 Kingston Black and 2023 Yarlington Mill. Or opt for our award-winning Heritage Cider or Traditional Cans to experience the best of both worlds.

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