#3

What is Perry?

Have you heard of the drink 'Perry', but not exactly sure what it is. Put simply, perry is the proper name for "pear cider" & whilst Perry certainly has a lot in common with cider, perry is a wonderful drink of its own. Pear cider often refers to mass market pear flavoured drinks on supermarket shelves, but Perry is a fair bit more special than that. To make it, you press pears for their juice, and just as with cider, yeasts ferment the fruit sugars into alcohol. Again, just as with cider apples, there are certain varieties of pear, called perry pears, that have historically been selected and used for perry-making, owing to the characteristics historically preferred by perry makers. Genuine, Perry is therefore very much a part of the same world as fine cider & often it is made each season together with cider!

The most obvious problem with calling perry "pear cider" is that cider is made with apples and perry with pears. When 'cider' is made with apples & pears it is usually called 'Pyder', a mix of the words cider & perry (although personally, I think 'Perrider' would have a better ring to it...). Secondly, 'pear cider' is almost always an industrial product, made from concentrate, yet perry is almost exclusively a small batch, hands-on thing, made from perry pears. And while it's easy to think of a few big cider companies, how come there aren't really any big perry companies out there today? Well, making a true perry is not an easy thing to do, and pears are said to be far more fickle than apples when it comes to working with them...

The same complexities involved in making fine cider are also true of fine perry: from the array of styles to the seasonal variation and the variety of flavours pears can create in the bottle. The complexities are often subtle to taste, and if anything, when you find a good perry it'll be an even rarer discovery than a fine cider. Let me explain: perry pear trees can grow to 200 or even 300 or more years old, the trees with their beautiful coverage of pure cotton white flowers in Spring can be four storeys high (so they are not easy to pick). Then we get onto what makes the fruit so fickle: they ripen from the inside out and are perfectly ripe for as little as a few days before they rot, & unlike apples, they don't float in water (which is typically how big cider makers clean and move apples around in their factories). All these reasons make it hard to make perry on a big scale, but for those who put in the effort at a small scale, when all goes well perry can be a marvellous thing! Napoleon Bonaparte is said to have once referred to it as the 'English Champagne'. 

Perry pears themselves contain a type of sugar not found in cider apples, called sorbitol, which doesn't ferment. So this typically means that the average perry retains a higher level of natural sweetness in comparison to most ciders. It's also why Perries are often described as having an abundance of sweet floral notes, akin to the succulence of flower nectar, with intoxicating aromas such as elderflower & grapefruit being two of the most common!  

First things first, are you of legal drinking age?

No, but I'm working on it