In the distilled spirits world, the name and classification of a spirit is often determined by the type of base sugar used. Brandy is distilled from fruit, rum from molasses, tequila from agave, and whiskey from a mixture of corn, rye, wheat and barley.
However, what do you call a spirit distilled from honey? And, did you know there was even such a thing?
There is, and craft distillers throughout the United States are distilling honey to create unique spirits with exceptional aromatic and flavor notes. In fact, the National Honey Board (NHB) conducted its first Honey Spirits Competition in 2018 and received nearly 30 entries into the "distilled with honey" category.
One of the most popular distillers using honey in this manner is Caledonia Spirits. Based in Hardwick, Vermont, Caledonia's Barr Hill Vodka is distilled 100% from honey, giving the spirit a floral depth that smells and tastes like the wildflower fields the honey bees forage for nectar.
Spirits distilled from honey tend to take on the characteristics of the honey used. However, honey spirits are not sweet. The fermentation process scrubs out most of the sweetness in honey, resulting in an intensely aromatic and nuanced-flavored product. For example, if a spirit maker distills from orange blossom honey, the spirit most likely will take on a citrusy, crisp flavor. If a spirit is distilled from Tupelo honey, it will carry very aromatic notes with a subtle floral flavor.
Through varietals of honey, different strains of yeast and various distilling processes, distillers can craft a totally unique spirit that, to date, has defied classification in the spirits industry.
The growing popularity of spirits distilled 100% from honey has spurred a few craft distillers to collaborate on a definition and classification of distilled from honey spirits. Although efforts are preliminary, the NHB is excited about the potential for distilled-from-honey spirits to get the recognition they deserve. If you have any questions on these efforts, please email email@example.com for more information.
If you're looking to sample some amazing spirits distilled from honey, we've put together this list of some of our favorites.
Domeloz Honey Spirit
This Madison, Wisconsin distillery specializes in creating spirits distilled from honey. Its Original Honey Spirit is clear in color and is a pure representation of a spirit distilled 100% from honey. If your palate prefers oakier products, try the company's Oak Rested Honey Spirit for a more robust and earthy flavor profile.
Hardware Distillery in Hoodsport, Washington crafts exceptional spirits by distilling honey and adding various ingredients such as fruits, coffee and botanicals. The company's Peachy Keen is distilled 80% from honey and 20% from peaches.
Cardinal Spirits, Bloomington, Indiana, uses honey and honey bees in three ways to create this truly unique spirit. To create the product, the company first distills a spirit from honey. Next, yeast cultivated from honey bees ferments the product. Finally, the distillery back-sweetens the spirit with honey to offer a sweet flavor profile.
Have you had a chance to try and honey spirits? We'd love to hear about them in the comments below!