How To Make Mead
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 orange blossom honey for our Atlantic Dry Mead comes from Spain along those same trade routes. Either commercially or homemade mead, the better the honey, the better the mead.
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% ABV and off dry meads.
Fruit and Berrys
Our Wild Red Mead and our Hazy Summer Mead are Melomel style meads where berries ferment together with the honey. Our beautiful Irish blackcurrants are tart and packed full of flavour; they come from Ballykelly Farm in Co. 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 bushes. 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 mead 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 filter out the chlorine which would kill the yeast. We like to think our water gets infused with the salty air of the Wild Atlantic, especially after a winter storm has blown over. It’s a hard water which has more minerals and is better for fermentation.
The fermentation process is a blend of historical mead making recipes and modern techniques, particularly from fermenting wine from grapes. The first few days are crucial to keep the yeast happy and fermenting merrily away without getting stressed. We add oxygen and yeast nutrients at the start and keep the temperature down at the low end of the temperature range to stop the yeast getting stressed.
When the mead reaches the level of alcohol and sugar levels required, we filter and stabilise it and leave it to mature.
We finish our meads to an alcohol level of 11-12% ABV on the light end of the wine spectrum and leave a little residual sugar to showcase the aromas and flavours of the honey and fruit.
We let our meads mature in the tanks for at six months or so for the Hazy Summer Mead, the youngest, fruitiest mead, to 18 months to more for our Wild Red Mead for a smooth, more mature mead. Longer again for the barrel aged meads. We sample and measure the mead regularly as the aromas and flavours develop until it is ready to bottle. It’s a tough job but every meadmaker has to sample regularly!
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 few years in French Oak wine barrels. These added a delicious complexity and flavours to enhance these unique meads. 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 Italy. Our corks are a natural cork from Portugal. They are made specifically from the bark of a type of oak tree (Quercus Suber L.) harvested sustainably and have been used to store wine for hundreds of years. The caps come the UK and Italy. Our labels are printed in Dublin. We finish with our famous capsule printed with a bee. Then the bottles are boxed up ready to ship out.