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Art of Darkness 2021 Has Landed!

After a break in 2020, Art of Darkness, one of our classic ciders, has returned with grace and elegance in the shape of the 2021 vintage. 

Produced with a selection of the best fruit from our home orchard, Art of Darkness is where we play with the influence of oak, each vintage offering up a different impression related to the quality and flavours of the original apples.

In 2020, there just wasn't the right fruit and barrel interplay, says chief cidermaker James. But the 2021 is elegant, harmonious and, with its balance of freshness, fruit and softened tannins, a highly gastronomic cider.

"Art of Darkness centres around Ellis Bitter, one of the four varieties that we grow, plus long ageing, almost exclusively in ex-spirit barrels," says James. 

"Why? Well, Ellis Bitter, as the name suggests is an apple rich in tannins. Not the soft, mouth-filling kind like in, say, Yarlington Mill, but harder and actually quite bitter – just not what we are looking for in our ciders. That makes it an obvious candidate for the barrel where, through the very slow process of micro-oxidation, typically a year or more, the tannin levels diminish, soften, eventually losing their bitterness.

"Surely though if you leave cider in ex-spirit barrels for a year it’s just going to taste of whatever was in the barrels before? Well, that’s the fascinating thing! The evolution of the cider in barrel begins as you would expect, with lots of spiritous aromas and flavours but gradually the fruit begins to stage a comeback.

"If you’re brave and wait long enough, the result becomes something wonderfully harmonious," says James. "In which there is no dividing line between barrel and fruit. It's utterly seamless. Nor has the cider become dense and heavy with booziness, remaining bright and fresh and wholly reflective of the fruit that went into it. Honestly, it’s a little miracle!"

That Little Bit Different

With its complexity, friend of the Shire, Gabe Cook, aka The Ciderologist, feels it "will confound many people".

"It shouldn't be drunk cold. It shouldn't be drunk by the pint. It shouldn't be drunk quickly," he explains. "Like an intense Meursault, it needs time to breathe and live before being sipped and savoured with food on cool winter's evenings. With its silky, spicy marzipan notes and Seville orange punchlines, you won't regret it."

Food Matching & Ageing

Art of Darkness has been produced since the cidery began in 2015. We reckon it's hugely food friendly. This year's release pairs well with a variety of dishes, ranging from baked fish in a paprika-laced sauce to roasted courgette gratin, or simply, a block of aged cheddar. Cidermaker Laurence, reckons it's going to work well with protein rich food with some spices like lamb tagine, or just with a fine, salty creamy blue cheese like stichelton.

Back in 2022 you might recall we held Barrel & Flame to celebrate the first five vintages, a vertical tasting with dishes matched by Chefs in Cider to each vintage. Who would favour a repeat of this? Let us know!

Want to Taste?

We will have Art of Darkness 2021 on taste at the Bottle Shop the next two Saturdays, 20 and 27 January, 12-3pm. Also at Bromyard's Monthly Market on Sunday 3 February.

Art of Darkness 2021 is available in our WebShop – Cider Club members, do check your Club Collction page for a special offer for February!

Trade Tasting - Manchester, 29 January

For those in the drinks trade or hospitality, come and join us at Flawd Wine in Manchester on 29 January, 10am-5pm, for the Fine Cider Company Trade Tasting. We will be joining good friends Oliver's, Find & Foster, Wilding, Linn and Two Orchards.

More details via Fine Cider on Instagram. 

What's Next?

Watch this space - Art of Darkness 2021 is the first of Little Pomona's monthly releases for 2024. Next up will be Disco Nouveau 2023, the first release from last year's harvest, and we're planning on taking this on tour again. If you'd like us to come to you or near you - let us know!

📸 Will Leszczynski; Bill Bradshaw