By Tas Fraser
The cider world is extremely unique and I absolutely love that about it. It is always changing and evolving.
When I first started out trying cider I was used to the classic traditional apple ciders: dry (sometimes to the bone) and apple flavoured. Here and there you’d see some flavoured ones too, especially by Somersby, which is quite a popular commercial cider brand.
However, now the cider scene is so much more. This spring, the most popular emerging flavour trends I have seen are definitely rosé ciders and botanical ciders. I’ll be walking you through some botanical ciders here that are must tries for the season.
Disclaimer: I am not a fan of strong botanical flavours in ciders (but I do try them all!). I have included some ciders that have stronger floral flavours for those who love them, however, I have also included some more subtle sippers.
Battle of the Botanicals
I have arranged my list from 9 to 1, nine being ‘barely botanical’ and one being ‘bursting with botanicals.’ Of course, there are so many others on the market … but these are just the ones I have on hand or ones I have tried so far. All are gluten free unless otherwise noted.
No. 9: Brickworks The Purple Road (Toronto, 5.5% abv, 473 mL can)
Description: This cider is the newest Brickworks cider in the collection, which can be purchased at the LCBO. It’s out of stock at many stores, but I did find a store that just got a shipment in. I was intrigued by this cider, as I love almost everything in the Brickworks family. It pours a gorgeous berry red. It is a semi-dry cider with quite a bit of tartness. It is blueberry forward the entire way through. I actually didn’t find anything floral about this one, maybe a quick spark of lavender mid can.
No. 8: Reinhart’s Strawberry Hibiscus (Stayner, 5% abv, 473 mL can)
Description: I’d classify this cider from the Reinhart’s collection as semi-dry. You can taste a tartness from the racy acidity, but still some sweet strawberry to start. The aftertaste is full apple, blending the two flavours together. The only thing missing here was the hibiscus. It was extremely minimal in the profile of this cider. For those of you who want to steer clear of florals, this is for you.
No. 7: East Street Cider Company Harvest Botanical (Goderich, 6% abv, 355 mL can)
Description: This botanical cider pours a peachy colour and has medium carbonation. On the nose, you smell aromas of apples and subtle florals. I would classify this as a semi-dry (but more on the dry side). It’s a unique blend of apples, rosehips, hibiscus and lemon. To me there was nothing inherently overpowering in terms of the floral notes and it was a refreshing, balanced cider. With the first sip, I tasted apple notes, a lovely sparkle on the tongue and it finished with herbal /citrus hints.
No. 6: Eden Grove Hibiscus Blossom (Toronto, 5.4% abv, 473 mL can)
Description: Hibiscus Blossom is another drier botanical, however, quite different from East Street’s. The aromas of this one is extremely floral, in my opinion, and I was a bit nervous to take the first sip. However, the taste is mostly apple with a subtle kiss of florals on the finish. I did get a little bit of tanginess as well. This one is practically a still cider with low carbonation.
No. 5: Thornbury Craft Cider Blueberry Elderflower (Thornbury, 5.1% abv, 473 mL can)
Description: This sweeter, candied botanical is quite the spring experience. The ingredients include fresh pressed apples and Nova Scotia blueberries. It showed a lovely light pink colour (definitely pour into a glass, it is worth it) in the glass. It is blueberry forward with medium carbonation. This does have a floral taste to it midway through and on the finish. However, it comes in balance and makes the cider easy to drink. If you love a sweeter cider and want to experience the hype over botanicals, I’d use this as a starting point.
No. 4: Clafeld Rose Hip (Picton, 8% abv, 473 mL can)
Description: I tried this cider a couple summers ago when I was visiting Prince Edward County. I was able to have a nice sitting outside on their patio and enjoyed the sunshine (and ciders, of course). I had this one in a flight with a couple of their other ciders. The Rose Hip Cider is a dry one made with apples, rose hips, grape and cranberry juice. In colour, it was a rosé pink. In terms of aromas, it smelled kind of like a perfumy apple wine. The floral notes were front and centre, however, you still taste some dry apple. Overall, the cider reminded me a lot of a lighter sparkling rosé wine.
No. 3: Niagara Cider Company Beekeeper’s Botanical (Niagara Falls, 6% abv, 473 ml can)
Description: This cider is one of the Niagara Cider Company’s newest releases. It also arrives just in time for the launch of its new online store that offers shipping across Ontario. The Peach Chardonnay was a fan favourite — so you can now buy that, too. The Beekeeper’s Botanical cider comes in a gorgeous metallic teal green and white can with a leafy design. This cider has seven different steeped botanicals and wildflower honey (local to Niagara). It is described as having citrus and honey aromas, and tastes of berries and herbs. I have yet to try this one but am looking forward to what looks to be an awakening of the senses.
No. 2: Revel Cider Spirit of the Woods Gin Botanical (Guelph, 6.5% abv, 355 mL can)
Description: This is a popular seller from Revel. It is made with all Ontario ingredients: juniper, lemon, thyme, basil and lavender. On the nose you get hints of gin (herbal aromas) mixed with lemon. The taste shows a bit of citrus but also a rush of botanical and berry flavours. It was also quite dry and on the punchy side. It was not my cup of tea, however, but many dry cider lovers adore it.
No. 1: Newfoundland Cider Company Lavender and Lilac (Lethbridge, Nfld., 4.4% abv, 341 mL bottle)
Description: This one is by far the most floral of all on this list. It had a light lavender and full-bodied apple smell and pours a bright yellow colour. The taste is a full-on flower garden. It is on the drier side and quite the combination of flavours. It reminded me of a chamomile tea with apple hints. If you are a fan of florals, and not a newbie to the botanical scene, give this one a try.
Note: I have seen numbers 9, 7, 6 and 5 in the LCBO at some point, however, it may depend on where you live. Others you will have to order directly from the cidery.