Spicy. Fruity. Grassy. Buttery. Ashy, woody, and mineral-y.
Would you believe these words are all describing honey? Red Bee Apiary in Weston recently hosted a “Rare and Exotic Honey and Mead” sensory tasting evening and by golly, all those adjectives described the varied honeys that graced our collective lips.
In a country barn located on a cozy, twinkly property, owner and Queen Bee, Marina Marchese, began our evening with a little talk about the bees (no birds. just bees). What goes on inside a hive and what roles do the bees have in their colony? How, exactly, do those little fabulous fliers make honey and fill those perfect hexagons? How did Marina became so enthralled with beekeeping? I won’t divulge those answers, lest you attend one of these sensory evenings on your own some time, which you should. It is both an educational and intriguing, not to mention, delicious event. And sensory is the word for it all…from the moment you step foot on the Red Bee property, you hear the chickens cluck-cluck-clucking (except at night, when they sleep, all tucked into their little chicken beds), you take in the beautiful sight of flowers swaying in the breeze and vegetables growing in the garden, you smell a sweetness on the air and of course, during the day you hear a constant buzz of bees on wing. And this is before you even sit down to your plate of honey-accompaniments and glasses of amber goodness. Also, in the case of this evening, samplings of meads from Nordic Moon Meadery in Ellington, Connecticut.
Why mead? Mead is an alcoholic, fermented beverage that is made with fruits, berries, spices, hops or grains and…lots and lots of honey. Sometimes, it’s referred to as “honey-wine” and dates back thousands of years. Hence, you can clearly see why mead works well at a honey tasting. On this night, four meads were offered for tasting: orange blossom, orange-blossom and hops, orange blossom and Earl Gray spiced mead, and an orange blossom and raspberry mead. All varied in colors, strength, and flavors. There’s lots to explore here, for sure, and meads are picking up in popularity. Nordic Moon’s will be released in mid-October for wholesale purchase, so anyone interested can contact their favorite wine retail shops for pre-release special orders.
Along the with mead, we tasted five “rare and exotic” honeys: Honeydew (which is actually not technically a honey, but a product of aphids and honeybees. Sounds bizarre, but was delicious), Sourwood (from the Appalachia/Virginia area), Cardo (Italy), Coriander (Oregon) and Corbezzolo (Sardinia/Sicily). The flavors ranged from sweet to bitter and powerful, had textures that were buttery to grainy, and colors light to dark to even pearlescent. And yes, notes of stewed fruits, grasses, minerals and even ash were all present. To accentuate their tastes, our plates held various food items to accompany each honey…plums, white chocolate and almonds, Asian pears with pistachios, goat cheese and apricots, Beemster cheese, Brillat Savarin cheese and blueberries. Do I really have to tell you that there was much moaning and mmmm-ing?
Break out of your box and check out a hexagon. Explore the wide world of honeys and honey products. There’s much to learn, much to love, and much that is happily surprising. You’ll be buzzing.