10/11/2019: Woodchuck Hard Cider's Pumpkin

1:53 PM

The subject of today's post is special to me. You see, it's been that personal white whale I've been chasing for years. I can now say I've finally caught it.


Woodchuck's Private Reserve Pumpkin was a beverage that was strange to me. I stumbled upon those stark orange and black bottles soon after I started drinking. I had only recently had the cidery's Fall Harvest (which has since been renamed to Spiced Apple) and fallen in love with it. While I was still hesitant to try beers with pumpkin in them, I figured a pumpkin cider might be up my alley. So, I took the plunge and bought the expensive sixer of the stuff at my local Kroger.

That sixer was a catalyst for me. I hated the cider. But, I figured there had to be something to it. Surely, they wouldn't take such care to make it and sell it at such an high price if it was bad! That cider is what got me to work on improving my taste when it came to cider and beer, an effort which led directly into the creation of this blog. A year later, when I was ready to try Private Reserve Pumpkin again, it was gone. After that initial year, I never saw the stuff again. I was heartbroken.

Fast-forward eight years. I was walking around one of my local bottleshops and had to suppress a squeal when I saw a stack of Woodchuck Pumpkin sixers. Sure the packaging was different (and it was a few bucks cheaper), but that didn't matter. I knew it had to be the triumphant return of that cider I'd despised so long ago. I added it to my cart and squirreled it away until today, when I'm finally able to make a post about it. So, here we are: Pumpkin.

Woodchuck's changed quite a bit since I last posted about them. Now, the brand is part of a wider Vermont Cider Company label, which features some of Woodchuck's previous offerings (Gumption, for instance) as their own, non-Woodchuck entities. They can a lot more than they bottle these days, as well. The cidery, which started independently in 1991 was purchased by C&C Group, an Irish company, in 2012. Around then is when a major shift in their cider (and it's availability) began. Seriously, now I can only find their Amber cider with any kind of regularity.

Luckily, Pumpkin (that link goes to the cider's home on the cidery's website) saw a wide distribution for its 2019 return. It's still as simple as it was eight years back: Just pumpkin and cider. This time, the ABV's been lowered from 6.9% to 5%, and it's touted as being aged in oak (the Private Reserve release doesn't state anything about oak). Either way, it seems Woodchuck is sticking to their no-frills pumpkin route with the cider.

The bouquet is exactly how I remember it: The gourdy, earthy, vegetabley pumpkin mingling solidly with the heady sweetness of the apple. I'm not finding any oak here, though. It's an intriguing blend and not what I would've envisioned even with cider's description, but I do enjoy it. So does Purrl, apparently; she gave my open can seventeen whiffs.


Pumpkin's flavor profile is a perfectly mirrored image of Private Reserve Pumpkin's. There's a quick jab of apple sweetness that's overwhelmed pretty immediately by the pumpkin. But, that pumpkin isn't bad--it's similar to pumpkin pie filling without too many or too much of the spices that traditionally go into such a pie. The finish is long and dry, with both the apple and the pumpkin flavors blending together perfectly and subtly. Again, however, I'm not getting oak (or any sort of vanilla that it might impart).

The mouthfeel here is velvety smooth. It's robust as all get-out and, like the flavor front before it, brings pumpkin pie to mind.

I'd sleep with nightlight pretty regularly as a kid. But, during both Halloween and Christmas, my mom would swap out the usual nightlight for one with a little more holiday flair. Once october rolled around, my darkened room would be lit by a styrofoam Jack-o'-lantern. It'd cast an orange, toothy grin across my ceiling and the far wall. It was a lot brighter than a typical nightlight, sure, but it kept those ghost story-fueled nightmares at bay. As I'm sipping this cider my mind's back in my childhood bed, staring up at those orange triangular eyes cast upon the ceiling.

I'm happy to report that I am able to now fully appreciate Woodchuck's Pumpkin--gross to me no longer! The lack of any sort of gimmicks here really does wonders for the cider and let's it stand to be judged on its own accord. And, thankfully, on its own accord it's a damn fine cider. My can's getting a 9.0/10 from me. If you're lucky enough to find it in the wild and feel like taking the plunge, I suggest you do so. Odds are you'll be as happy with the result as I am.

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