bluestar

Honey based spirits

25 posts in this topic

Who else out there is making a honey-based spirit? Not honey flavored, but distilled from fermented honey? I am aware of Rumble from Balcones as an aged rum-like product, and Bee Vodka from Marsh and Comb Vodka from Still-the-One in the neutral spirits category. Others? We hope to launch our own products in this category at the end of the year.

I am also using the post to test the new forum, but I am seriously interested in comparing notes on working with honey-based ferment for distilled spirits.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I know this is a cold post, but if you're still interested in pure honey as a base you should check out Barr Hill out of Vermont. I had some of their cold fermented honey vodka while I was in New England this winter. Yum.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hello there,

I am an ingredient supplier and would love to help you source any Honey product you are looking for? I have numberous suppliers for organic and conventional with all varities available. Please contact me at dena@foodguys.com or 503-404-0250.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We use honey to make vodka and we've been experimenting with using it as a base for some other products. We also add honey to flavor our gin and elderberry cordial. Honey is essentially the foundation of our distillery. I'd love to hear what sort of honey spirits you're working with.

-Ryan

Caledonia Spirits

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We use honey to make vodka and we've been experimenting with using it as a base for some other products. We also add honey to flavor our gin and elderberry cordial. Honey is essentially the foundation of our distillery. I'd love to hear what sort of honey spirits you're working with.

-Ryan

Caledonia Spirits

Hi, Ryan. Well, we are reasonably underway with some of our honey-based or augmented spirits. In addition to a base "eau de vie" or "rum" or pure honey spirit (truly we are trying to determine what to call it for a final label), we are working on using this base for an absinthe and a gin. We also are making eau de vie or brandy from melomels, wines of fruit and honey. We just finished distilling a very rare and expensive example made from wild-gathered American persimmons. It is lovely, unique flavor profile for an eau de vie, perhaps closest to quince, but with definite tannic overtones you would normally get from a grape. The only bad part about it is the expense, and we will probably have to sell 375ml exclusively out of the distillery for over $45 to ensure we recover costs.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

With stories like this in abundance .... I think it would be good marketing to advertise the source of the honey.

I'm no health nut, but it seems a good working assumption that 3rd world honey is at least tainted and possibly fake.

If you don't know the provenance you don't know what you are fermenting.

Much of the honey made in China isn’t honey at all, Schneider reports:

Another favorite con among Chinese brokers was to mix sugar water, malt sweeteners, corn or rice syrup, jaggery, barley malt sweetener or other additives with a bit of actual honey. In recent years, many shippers have eliminated the honey completely and just use thickened, colored, natural or chemical sweeteners labeled as honey.

http://healthland.time.com/2011/08/22/tainted-chinese-honey-may-be-on-u-s-store-shelves/

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

With stories like this in abundance .... I think it would be good marketing to advertise the source of the honey.

I'm no health nut, but it seems a good working assumption that 3rd world honey is at least tainted and possibly fake.

If you don't know the provenance you don't know what you are fermenting.

And we do. The final label for Prairie Sunshine TM had "Wildflower Honey Spirit" as the fanciful name, and our back label text specifically points out that we use wildflower honey gathered from Marengo, IL, in our local region. We are all about provenance for our products. We are working now on bringing out Prairie Moonshine, which is a "Corn and Honey Spirit" inspired by corn and sugar 'shines. Again, local wildflower honey with locally produced and stone milled organic corn.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One of the distilleries here in Montana (woo!) makes a honey based spirit. Swanson's Mountain View Distillery makes what they call Legendary Gold Honey Spirits.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Our Prairie Sunshing ™ wildflower honey spirit just went into distribution in Chicagoland with Fresh Coast Distributors. This is going to be a bit of a challenge, because each batch varies somewhat in flavor and nose depending on the honey harvested. We note that on the label, and we number each batch. The plan is to provide tasting notes on our web site for each batch in the future. I've been aware of Luke's honey spirits from Swanson's, but haven't tried it. We haven't tried aging it yet, haven't been able to make enough. But with used bourbon barrels becoming available, I think we will give it a go later this year.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Bluestar: What do you mean by "very small distillery"?

There is such a wide margin in distillation operations that very small can refer to 200 bottles (750ML) per month or 2000 bottles per month.

Also, have you brought your honey based gin to market yet?

-Dave

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Bluestar: What do you mean by "very small distillery"?

There is such a wide margin in distillation operations that very small can refer to 200 bottles (750ML) per month or 2000 bottles per month.

Also, have you brought your honey based gin to market yet?

-Dave

In this case, very small means making less than 5000 gallons/year (on the order of 1000 bottles per month currently), but of that, only a fraction is honey spirits, most of it is whiskey. We have not done the gin yet, precisely because we can not get enough local wildflower honey. The honey spirit (Prairie Sunshine™) is so popular, we can easily sell all we can make now. But we have made an absinthe blanc from the honey spirit base, and it is delicious. That will be out once formula and label are approved; it is called Prairie Fairie™.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Bluestar,

If you've got a few moments (and the inclination), I'd like to have a quick conversation with you about your honey process.

-PM sent

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I lied, PM not sent as your inbox is full

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I lied, PM not sent as your inbox is full

Sorry about that, finally cleaned it up. But you can email me: manager@quincystreetdistillery.com

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was pulled aside at an event this weekend and very solemnly presented with a tasting of what turned out to be a homemade honey-based spirit from Poland (the presenter is a Polish church deacon and his wife brought home a couple bottles on her last visit to relatives).

It was outstanding. Damn near the best thing I've ever had.

I've always had my eye on a the possibility of a honey-based spirit but, as mentioned, sourcing the honey is VERY challenging, even here in the Garden State.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Interesting. Honey is pretty easy to come by here in the Beehive state :-)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was pulled aside at an event this weekend and very solemnly presented with a tasting of what turned out to be a homemade honey-based spirit from Poland (the presenter is a Polish church deacon and his wife brought home a couple bottles on her last visit to relatives).

It was outstanding. Damn near the best thing I've ever had.

I've always had my eye on a the possibility of a honey-based spirit but, as mentioned, sourcing the honey is VERY challenging, even here in the Garden State.

Some states are rich in wild honey, Washington for example. Seems to depend how heavy the agriculture is.

Was the Polish spirit sweet or dry? Was it all honey base? Proof? Name?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think there is a common misunderstanding of the relationship between state and federal law. I remember at one time Idaho defined wine in a way that spirits products of less than 24% ABV were wines within the state. That cnflict caused no problems. The state went its way; the federal government did too. Or at least I think I recall this. It has been some time. However, if I'm correct, it would be illustrative of the fact that although it is true that you must obey both federal and state law, nothing compels the two governments to impose the same requirements or define terms in the same way. The question, "What is brandy for the purposes of the FAA Act?" will determine how you must label any product you introduce into interstate or foreign commerce, but that does not mean that, despite the federal labeling, some state, somewhere, might hold it to be brandy for the purposes of some state law relating to some requirement, such as allowing sales of spirits distilled from honey wine, which are a specialty item under federal law, but could come under the rubric of brandy for the purposes of some state law related to retail sales by craft distillers.

I have no idea what California requires or prohibits, but when looking for a fit between state and federal law, remember that definitions can differ. The most common one divergence, I think, may be in the definition of "import," which on the federal level means to add to the mass of goods belonging to the United States, which may not be exact, but which is close, whereas the states generally use the term to mean bringing the goods into the state from either outside of the country or from another state.

I'll add one more statement, because something I said above is not absolutely correct. You must obey both federal and state law if you can obey both. But where there is a direct and positive conflict between what the state requires and what the federal government requires, the states prevail. That rule has run afoul of the commerce clause in the past few years, but I think it holds well until the courts decide otherwise. That said, I'm not an attorney, this is not meant to be legal advice, if you find a situation like that (unlikely) consult your attorney and let the attorney advise you about which law you should violate in order to obey the other. Again, this is not going to happen but rarely, if ever, and I l know of no example of where it might even exist.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Some states are rich in wild honey, Washington for example. Seems to depend how heavy the agriculture is.

Was the Polish spirit sweet or dry? Was it all honey base? Proof? Name?

My apologies, I lost track of this thread for a while.

It was pure honey-based. No label (homemade). And it was pretty dry, overall. The essence of the honey was subtle but easily detectable - it nosed like honey but didn't overwhelm the palate.

I'm super-interested in ultimately bringing this to market in NJ. I can get the honey in sufficient quantities to turn out maybe 50 cases a month. The ingredients cost would be about $4-5 per bottle (750 ml), so it wouldn't be cheap. I think at those volumes it would definitely be a specialty commodity and as such could command a pretty stiff price.

But damn, it's good.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hey guys great thread. I'm a commercial beekeeper by trade and will definitely be utilizing honey when I open up shop. The sheer number of varietals and flavors make for endless flavor profiles in spirits. Just an FYI to anyone interested in using honey as an ingredient in their products. If you aren't already aware, good honey (honey that isn't from China and thus tainted) isn't cheap. Looking at things long term it's only going to get increasingly more expensive. More so than it has in the last five years or so. Not trying to spook or deter anyone in anyway but just wanted to share my insight with you all!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hey guys great thread. I'm a commercial beekeeper by trade and will definitely be utilizing honey when I open up shop. The sheer number of varietals and flavors make for endless flavor profiles in spirits. Just an FYI to anyone interested in using honey as an ingredient in their products. If you aren't already aware, good honey (honey that isn't from China and thus tainted) isn't cheap. Looking at things long term it's only going to get increasingly more expensive. More so than it has in the last five years or so. Not trying to spook or deter anyone in anyway but just wanted to share my insight with you all!

Agreed, and in bad years, the price can increase but more importantly, the quantity simply might not be there.

Yes, we see a wide variation in the flavor or aroma as a function of the honey source. So this becomes a consistency issue as well. Sadly, we find that clover honey does not make the best pure spirit, but it can be used as a base for other things.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It was pure honey-based. No label (homemade). And it was pretty dry, overall. The essence of the honey was subtle but easily detectable - it nosed like honey but didn't overwhelm the palate.

I'm super-interested in ultimately bringing this to market in NJ. I can get the honey in sufficient quantities to turn out maybe 50 cases a month. The ingredients cost would be about $4-5 per bottle (750 ml), so it wouldn't be cheap. I think at those volumes it would definitely be a specialty commodity and as such could command a pretty stiff price.

Yes, that sounds like our spirit as well, although the flavor is very dependent on the specific honey used. Yes, our costs for the honey are running at the upper end of the range you mention, plus labor, utilities, bottling, etc. A 750ml bottle could easily cost more than $10 to produce, plus tax.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, that sounds like our spirit as well, although the flavor is very dependent on the specific honey used. Yes, our costs for the honey are running at the upper end of the range you mention, plus labor, utilities, bottling, etc. A 750ml bottle could easily cost more than $10 to produce, plus tax.

Coming back to this (I know it's been a while, but we've been busy with that miserable friggin' "Lost Our Space And Had To Find Another One" plague), we're definitely going to give it a go. Playing around with the recipe suggests that it's possible to distill with a combination of honey and molasses and still come up with a really good flavor profile, at a more manageable cost.

Our plan is to use the honey spirit as a base and go to market with added flavors, mostly local fruit. Haven't named it yet. That seems to be the hardest part.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now