Our most important ingredient
Nectar of the gods
Mead making is not possible without honey, and honey is not possible without the bees.
There is a legend that the pagan goddess Brigid brought the honeybees from the orchards of the other world into Ireland. The honey they produced was known as the ‘nectar of the gods’, as it was a highly prized substance and would have been the only sweetener for food or drink in ancient times. St Brigid’s festival day is Imbolg on the 1st February, for welcoming in the spring.
Colony Collapse is the biggest issue facing honeybees today
Our local beekeeper lost two-thirds of his hives in 2018 winter. The main issues causing Colony Collapse are: widespread overuse of herbicides and pesticides, loss of habitat and food sources and climate change. These combine to leave bees with a weakened immune system which makes them more susceptible to illness and disease and the varroa mite.
We have been working hard to promote saving the bees in Ireland and across the world, including helping as part of the ‘All Ireland Pollinator Plan’ and planting our own bee-friendly flowers at the meadery here in Kinsale.
Bees & the Environment
There is an incredible terroir associated with honey. Local sources of nectar will be change from field to forest and of course, change also with the seasons. So each batch of honey will be different with different pollens and aromatics so each batch of mead we produce will have its own flavour. And that’s one thing that makes mead making so fascinating and exciting. It’s all down to where the bees are foraging.
We value the bees and recognise the impact that the local environment has on the health of the hives and the flavour of the honey they produce. In fact, honey bees are less protected now than they were in Celtic Ireland with the Bech Bhretha, the Bee Judgements, a subset of the Brehon laws.
Our honey source
Our honey comes mainly from Spain, as Ireland is a very low producer of honey, the third lowest honey producing country in the EU after only Malta and Luxembourg.
Most good quality sources of honey sell their honey by the jar, whilst what we need for producing our mead are large 300kg barrels. It takes 8-10 hives to fill a barrel. We deal with a honey co operative in Spain who has been around for over 100 years. They sources the honey from around 400 beekeepers across Spain.
EU regulations on Honey make it more reliable than honey sourced from outside the EU. We recommend generally looking for honey sourced within the EU, not ones labeled “a blend of EU and non-EU honeys.” Studies have identified shady practices such as adulterating the honey with sugar, corn or rice syrup. The closer you get to the beekeeper, the better.
All real honey will crystallise eventually around grains of pollen. But some honeys you may find on supermarket shelves ultra-filter out these grains, which can disguise the origins of the honey, and that may differ from that shown on the label. We use raw honey, not pasteurised honey.