Bristols’ Blackbeard appears substantially more golden and substantial than its other bottlings. It’s clear and sports the tiniest of bubbles. The nose offers us muted but a distinct roasted apple aroma. A slight hint of yeastiness hovers above everything else. One you take a sip, you’ll realize why the Blackbeard is not for the faint of heart. This cider comes in at a whopping 13% alcohol, more than nearly all other ciders and by a substantial margin. So, it won’t be a surprise to learn that structurally, this cider trades on heat, However, it needs more acid, more freshness to balance the heat. Hints of tannins lingers on the finish. There is a true earthy character to this dry cider’s flavor, along with a shallow finish of cooked apples. Again, however, the 13.5% alcohol demands attention. This is pretty unique cider and one that works as a specimen, rather than as something to refresh with. It desperately needs a food accompaniment. It’s produced with 100% Arkansas Black apples and spends eight months or more in used bourbon barrels. I can’t help but wonder what Bristols might produce using only the Arkansas Black but leaving aside the barrel aging and bringing it home under 10% alcohol.
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