How Mead is Made
Mead’s primary ingredient is honey, collected from diverse botanical sources by nature’s amazing workers, honeybees. It takes about four million visits to flowers to make one kilo of honey and those bees will cover 200,000 kilometres. Kinsale and Spain have had close maritime links for centuries and our honey for our Atlantic Dry Mead comes from Spain along those same trade routes.
Traditional Honey Mead
For a traditional style honey mead, we mix the honey and warm water to no higher than hive temperature, which is around blood temperature so that when mixing in the honey, we don’t lose the delicate aromas and goodness from the precious raw honey.
The proportion of honey to water, the length of fermentation and the chosen yeast will determine the final alcoholic strength of the mead. We use around one third honey to two thirds our local water to reach 12% Alcohol and off dry meads.
Our Wild Red Mead and our Hazy Summer Mead are Melomel style meads where fruit is added to the honey. Our beautiful blackcurrants are tart and packed full of flavour; they come from Ballykelly Farm in Wexford, home of the famous Jeffares blackcurrants.
Des’s farm is bumblebee friendly with piles of leaves and twigs left for these precious bees to pollinate the flowers. Did you know that blackcurrants picked on a sunny day have more sugar than those picked on a cloudy day? Lucky for us they’re from the Sunny South-East!
For melomel-style, fruit meads, we add in the fruit to the fermentation tank and ferment together with the honey. We don’t press or macerate our berries which leaves the med with low tannins and a lovely fruity smooth finish as it matures.
We bag our solid fruit in fine mesh bags with about 400Kg of fruit in one of our 1000L fermentation tanks – that’s a lot of blackcurrants and red fingers.
Our water comes from Innishannon (Inis Eonáin) upriver from Kinsale along the beautiful meandering river Bandon which rises in the Shehy Mountains. We like to think our water gets infused with the salty air of the Wild Atlantic, especially after a winter storm has blown over.
The fermentation process is a blend of historical mead making recipes and modern techniques, particularly from grape wine. The first few days are crucial to keep the yeast happy and fermenting merrily away without getting stressed.
When the mead reaches the level of alcohol and sugar levels required, we filter it until it clear and leave it to mature.
We finish our meads to an alcohol level of 12% ABV on the light end of the wine spectrum and leave a low residual sugar level that retains the aromas and flavours of the honey and enhances the fruits.
We let our meads mature in the tanks for at six months or so for the Hazy Summer Mead, the youngest, fruitiest mead, to 2 years for our Wild Red Mead for a smooth, more mature mead. We sample and measure the mead regularly as the aromas and flavours develop until it is ready to bottle.
Meads can be aged in barrels which adds a range of flavour profiles depending on the level of charring of the wood and the previous use of the barrel. Chocolate and smoky espresso or vanilla and caramel or coconut, fruit flavours and aromas. The barrels come to us still wet so the wine has just been poured out. We fill them with mead and let them mature, checking the flavour development regularly. The mead seeps through the char and into the wood, bringing back the flavours of the oak and of the wine that was in there before.
We have released limited editions our meads aged for the last year in French Oak wine barrels which has added a delicious complexity that we hope you enjoy as much as we do.
We bottle all our meads in the meadery in Kinsale. Our bottles come from France and our corks and caps come from Portugal, UK and Italy. Our labels are made in Dublin. Then they are boxed up ready to ship out.