Virgin Trains Tilting Cider Review

Vital Stats:

Producer: Virgin Trains (Made for them by Thistly Cross)
Cider Name: Tilting Cider
Region: East Lothian
ABV: 4.4%
Taste: Sweet
Served: Lightly chilled 500ml bottle
Smell: Fresh apples
Colour: Straw/Yellow
Clarity: Clear
Carbonation: Very lightly sparkling

Review/Tasting Notes:

From: Virgin Trains
Date: 23/10/14

I was looking at my cider shelf today pondering what to complete my cider review hattrick for the week. I was scanning through the shelf, when suddenly I noticed from the corner of my eye a cider I forgot I even had. It’s of course the Tilting Cider from Virgin Trains.

I know what you’re probably all thinking straight away – If Virgin make cider like they do on keeping to their schedules on the trains, then this will be a complete disaster of a cider. Though to be fair to them, they are a hell of a lot better than Worst Great Western! I don’t think they could even organise a pissup in a brewery! Thankfully, Virgin have left the cider making to an actual cider company in the shape of Thistly Cross, who are based up in East Lothian, Scotland. I know of them, but can’t really remember the last time I had a cider of theirs. I would have a guess at a year or 2 ago. It’s not something I really see a lot in Bristol.

I’m not sure how the collaboration between Virgin and Thistly Cross came about, but it’s a growing trend I’ve seen in the cider industry over the last few years, where a company wants their own cider brand. Having your own cider brand seems to be the latest fashion accessary, it seems. So, instead of learning how to do all of that themselves, they get a company to make it for them and sell it as their own. Virgin are thankfully completely honest on their bottles about it though, which is better than the guessing games some of them do!

Anyway, the packaging of the cider looks like something their marketing department put together pretty swiftly and told to keep it simple and straight to the point. There’s a highspeed train on the front, a small apple tree at the top, white and green colours, and in shiny gold letters the words “Tilting Cider”, which underneath proudly announces it’s Scottish cider. I’m not really sure why there’s a “C” sticker on the neck of the bottle though. Maybe to signify it’s a cider to their staff selling it? The description on the back is pretty cheesy, and typical marketing blurb I’ve come to expect, which goes as follows:

“Brewed especially for Virgin Trains, this gently sparkling Scottish cider evokes the spirit and speed of our tilting trains. A high-speed whoosh of flavour tilts smoothly into aromas of ripe apples and arrives, right on time, at a refreshing and fruity finish. Perfect for sipping at 125mph”

Come on marketing department, do some research and find out you that you don’t brew cider! That’s one of my big gripes in marketing descriptions on the back for me. Cider makers produce/make cider and beer makers brew their beer! What is good to read is their only ingredients are apple juice and sulphites. Anyway, putting all that aside, what you’re all interested in is how does it taste. That is the whole point of my reviews after all. Well, that’s just what I’m about to find out.

This poured surprisingly with very little fizz at all. I heard a faint hiss but it poured virtually still. Well, there’s a few bubbles rising, but barely anything. I was expecting a fizzier cider as it will be sold to the masses on the trains. It’s very clear, straw/yellow in colour and smells of fresh apples.

I take in my first sip and the initial feeling is very rich, with just so much sweetness going on. Once you get past the sweetness, there’s a little acidity tingle on the tongue moment, sourness and lots more sweetness masking any flavours trying to come through. It’s very apple juice like in taste and doesn’t feel alcoholic at all. As it’s a Scottish cider, I’m guessing it’s all dessert/cooking apples and no traditional cider apples are used, as I can’t feel any tannins in the mix. I keep drinking more of the bottle hoping to find something else to it, but there really isn’t. It’s basically a sweet apple juice with a bit of zing to it to keep you on your toes.

It’s a pleasant cider to appeal to the masses (or a stepping stone into cider), but doesn’t do a huge amount for me. I usually go for something on the drier end of the spectrum. It’s just too sweet for my palate. It’s certainly a marked improvement on the likes of Wrongbow flooding the market, but it will never compete with a proper dry Somerset cider for me.

Would I buy this again?: Unlikely
Overall Rating: 6/10

Disclaimer: This was a free sample from Virgin Trains, however this had no bearing on my review of this cider.

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