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Honey Varietals

The following honey descriptions and information come from the GotMead forum's NewBee Guide to Making Mead...

Top of the list of ingredients in Mead is the Honey. After all, without this, it is not Mead. Honey comes in a huge variety of flavors depending on the flower source the nectar was gathered from. Each variety listed below adds its own flavor, aroma, complexity, and body to the Mead. They can be used by themselves, or mixed to layer the flavors and create a whole new taste. Some honeys are very light and do well in straight Meads or with very subtle and delicate fruit flavors. Others bring with them great complexity that complements additional ingredients while not being overwhelmed by them. Taste as many honeys as are available to get an idea of what they have to offer your Mead.

Note: No Beekeeper has yet found a way to train his bees to go only to a specific type of flower, so the honey is still a mixture of different nectars from different sources. The variety receives its name from the predominant flower near where the hive was located.

Honey Varieties:

  • Acacia - Light and delicate, with a flavor that reminds us of dried pineapple.
  • Alfalfa - Still more delicate. It does not taste like clove or allspice, and yet there is a subtle similarity of -- character?
  • Avocado - Dark and rich and full-bodied, and there is definitely a "family resemblance" to the avocado fruit! A very sensuous honey.
  • Basswood - This is one where the language of flavors is simply inadequate. Basswood is sharper than some; complex and interesting; possibly woody? We like it for tea --Earl Grey, say.
  • Bits & All - A very sweet, lighter wildflower (mostly clover) with none of the wax fragments, scraps of propolis or bee bits filtered out. This'n's got texture!
  • Blackberry - Medium light and exceptionally sweet! Popular with kids. It has a fruity character.
  • Blueberry - Midrange in color, blueberry is surprisingly rich-tasting. The "blueberry" note is, to me, faint to nonexistent, but visitors to Castlemark's booths have remarked on it with some enthusiasm.
  • Buckwheat - "Single-malt honey." The very strongest and darkest of honeys, it approaches blackstrap molasses (in my opinion). This is one that is much more than just a pretty sweetener, but will hold its own in whatever you want to cook!.
  • Christmas Berry - The taste is strong and exotic. It is of medium body and if I could come up with THE word, it would be exactly that word. As it is, it's not light or heavy, nutty or fruity, etc.
  • Clary Sage - Medium in strength and color, it is quite distinctive in its complex (read: "how do I describe *this* one???") flavor. One of Castlemark's gourmet customers proclaimed that it was "just what [he] expected of clary." I'll take his word for it. Like basswood, it makes a nice partner for tea when you want more than the tea flavor alone.
  • Clover - Just because it's familiar doesn't mean it can't be wonderful. One of the delicate, sweet ones; if a child's ever picked you a bouquet of clover, you know the fragrance of this one. It's our Meadmaking friend and Fergus's personal favorite.
  • Cotton - A bit on the dark side of medium, it is sooo smooth and rich and mellow. It's shaping up to be one of Castlemark's bestsellers
  • Cranberry - An exciting honey. It is medium sweet and the taste is tangy
  • Desert Sage - Light, with just a bit of edge to its character, and a pleasant dustiness
  • Echinacea - Unexpected! Medium-dark, it makes me think of a chewy granola bar (with coconut?) Should be good in cookies. I'll let you know
  • Eucalyptus - Yes, it does have a hint of that cool eucalyptus quality, sometimes a little more, sometimes barely there, in a pleasant mellow honey
  • Fireweed - *The* most popular! It has an extraordinary buttery taste -- if you like your toast or biscuit with butter and honey, you can leave off the butter (and save all those fat grams!)
  • Foxglove - Another complex, hard-to-describe one, it's our elder daughter's current favorite. Medium-dark, edgy, flavorful -- try it and write us what you think of it.
  • Goldenrod - "Golden" is a good name for this one. Well-rounded, not too sweet, it's the perfect "Winnie-the-Pooh" honey. Well -- that's what I said till I tasted Vetch. *That* tastes like perfect Winnie-the-Pooh honey, and it's nothing like goldenrod!
  • Heather - Though a lighter-than-medium gold color, it is one of the very strongest flavors -- and not to everyone's liking. It is fragrant and floral with a very lingering aftertaste that is almost bitter, the way hops is bitter. Castlemark recently made an amber ale and added heather honey: Celtic heaven!
  • Holly - A very pleasant honey. Medium sweet with some nutty overtones. Fun. The kids describe it as having the taste of candycorn.
  • Lehua - From Hawai'i, it's middlin' gold and middlin' sweet and just plain weird in flavor. Anyone want to offer a better description? "Almost salty "-- Virginia Renaissance Faire patron
  • Linden - Looking for linden? Basswood is called "the American linden," and European visitors who sample it at Castlemark's Renaissance faire booth seem to agree. See above.
  • Macadamia - Another one from Hawai'i, yes it will remind you of the nut -- a "family resemblance" again. And it's almost as weird as lehua. Very rich-tasting, and amber in color.
  • Meadowfoam - Tastes like the inside of a warm marshmallow. Really!
  • Mesquite - Light, delicate, and it does taste like "mesquite" -- not smoky, but if you can taste the difference between mesquite-smoke and hickory-smoke, you'll have an idea what to expect of the honey.
  • Orange Blossom - A singularly beautiful honey, the taste of an orange grove in full bloom, light, heady and fragrant!
  • Palmetto - In a class with avocado and blueberry: somewhat strong, rich and mellow, and dark amber in color.
  • Raspberry - This is a delightful honey. It is light with a slightly fruity taste. Silky to the feel.
  • Snowberry - Light, sweet, with a bit of tang; not as "thick" as some
  • Sourwood - The prize of the Carolinas and Tennessee, this light-colored, delicate, subtle honey is becoming hard to come by, as stands of sourwoods are falling to developers. Not sour, but less sweet than some.
  • Thistle - Light in color and "lively" in flavor. Fun and popular!
  • Tulip Poplar - Second only to buckwheat in strength and darkness of color, and sweeter. Interesting, woody -- and makes an intense, dark mead!
  • Tupelo - Famed in song, one of the very sweetest honeys. Clear yellow in color, with a characteristic greenish glow.
  • Vetch - Above, I said goldenrod was Winnie-the-Pooh honey. Maybe vetch is, instead
  • Wildflower - -- is what they call it when they weren't paying attention to where the bees were going. Expect wildflower to vary from season to season, and region to region.
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