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“spirit” distillations in a pot still containing, or attached to, 12 or more rectification trays. More than one spirit distillation run may be required to achieve the high proof (>190 proof) requirement or the desired degree of neutral character in the spirits. Keep in mind that high proof distillation will remove the majority of the honey aroma characters, but while the honey notes will be muted, a clean fermentation and careful distillation can still allow the honey to express itself in a unique and subtle way. When producing a honey eau-de-vie, a honey brandy, or any other type of spirit where a high flavor congener level and honey flavor attributes are desired, a low proof distillation process should be conducted. In this case, a column or pot still stripping run would be followed by a second pot distillation using four to six rectification trays. In other cases, a single pot distillation might be preferred, especially if a strongly flavored spirit is desired. In either case, suitable heads and tails cuts will be taken in the final distillation run as dictated by the desired taste profile of the finished spirits. It may be advantageous to mature a honey spirit to add richness, complexity and depth, and to smooth and round the spirit’s flavor. This would be especially compelling for a highly flavored (low proof) spirit, which could benefit from aging in once-used bourbon barrels or reused rum, brandy or whisky barrels. Aging for a few months to a few years could create a palate of new and intriguing flavors to accent and complement the aromas of the original honey substrate. Honey is an expensive raw material when used as the singular source of sugar for converting into alcohol. It requires a little more than 1.5 lbs. of honey to produce one 750 mL bottle of honey vodka. However, honey also makes a spirit premium, and industry trends have proven that consumers are willing to pay for a premium product.1 Regardless, it is important for honey distillers to optimize their use of honey. Distillers will need to maximize the yield of alcohol recovered from their honey by applying proper yeast nutrition techniques and proper fermentation controls. They also can use honey in innovative ways to explore new spirits styles and tastes, perhaps by blending honey with other sugar sources or with fruit juices in a manner similar to those used by mead producers.

HONEY AS A LIQUOR FLAVORING

Whereas using honey as a fermentation substrate is complex, using honey as a flavoring is a much simpler process that can still yield significant outcomes in both flavor and sales. Although honey is one of the most commonly used flavorings in products such as whiskey, its full potential remains untapped, especially when it comes to using varietals. In the United States alone, there are more than 300 varietals of honey, each with a unique flavor solely dependent on where the bees forage for nectar. In general, darker honeys have stronger, more robust flavor profiles, and lighter honeys have more delicate, floral flavor profiles.

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Artisan Spirit: Winter 2017  
Artisan Spirit: Winter 2017  

The magazine for craft distillers and their fans.