See, Barrel Aged Can Be Balanced
A Review of Stagger Lee by Crispin Cider Co.
Posted on 2/12/2012 by Chops
I must admit, when my co-founder and I launched BrewChief last year, I was not a cider drinker. My wife had a few specific ciders that she gravitated to, of which I would sample and appreciate. That was pretty much it. My entire cider experience came from occasional sips of another's glass. It was only when the Crispin line of ciders crossed my path that I started to pay attention. Crispin is putting out ciders so unique and tasty that they have actually merged with the craft beer movement. I look at a new Crispin cider in the same way I look at a new Dogfish Head brew. Regardless of my own opinion, I know it's going to be a high quality adventure. Such was the case when I came across Crispin's Stagger Lee, a rye whiskey cask aged cider.

In the glass, this cider has a cloudy orange color similar to fresh squeezed orange juice. The core aroma is very rich and sweet, consisting of mostly ripe apples. The aroma's under layers are where it gets interesting. I found a blend of several aromatic notes, namely tangy spices, warm whiskey and an earthy wood character. None of them jump out as a secondary trait, just muted wisps. At this point my curiosity got the best of me and I consulted the Crispin website:

Big, bold, swaggering cider blended to the edge of dangerous. Blended 3 times, using apple-wines aged in rye whiskey barrels. Using Colfax Classic apple-wine plus a “Forbidden Fruit” wit-style yeast fermentation. Final blend with unfilteredfresh-pressed Gravenstein apple juice.

Wow, very cool. I couldn't wait to dive in for that first sip. The first aspect that caught my attention was the mouthfeel. It's incredibly smooth with a pleasant tanginess, similar in fashion to a hop-forward witbier. The mouthfeel gains a level of creaminess as the cider warms, so definitely take your time to enjoy it. The flavor is unbelievable and initially hard to process. The whiskey flavor is bold and present, but assumes a more complementary role alongside the ripe apples. The core flavors are in perfect balance with one another, allowing for lengthy enjoyment of each. They both serve as consensual reigns where the whiskey tones down the fruity sweetness while the ripe apple flavors tone down the boozy qualities of the whiskey. It's pretty remarkable, not boozy at all, just pure taste. Rounding out the mix are plenty of earthy woody flavors along with some rye spiciness. The finish is warm and pleasant, leaving behind an earthy sweet aftertaste.

Overall, Crispin's Stagger Lee is a remarkably delicious cider. I thoroughly enjoyed this offering and will definitely be obtaining more in the future. To be honest, this amazing cider has set a new precedent for what I desire from barrel aged brews: balance. In my opinion, most barrel aged brews can have a distracting level of booziness. I have long thought that this was just an unavoidable trait, but Stagger Lee has shown me otherwise. I can happily recommend this cider to all levels of beer/cider drinkers. It's a perfect intro into barrel aged brews as well as a uniquely delightful stand-alone cider. Once again, I must tip my hat to Crispin and their delicious arsenal of craft ciders. You continue to impress and I look forward to the next experience.

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Stagger Lee by Crispin Cider Co.
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