Most of the ideas for our seasonals start with us finding some local ingredients that we think we could use. Then we send an e-mail to our friends in Germany that help us with formulation and ask what we can do with it. Knowing that honey flavored spirits are the rage lately, we asked them what we could do with honey. There were a few options, but the best looked like flavoring spirits with honey after distillation.
The first plan for honey was to do a honey vodka. We put a blurb in our newsletter that we were considering honey vodka for a seasonal. Immediately, we had an e-mail from a honey producer about 30 miles up the road from us who told us they would have honey available if we wanted a local producer. We were on the phone that day laying out plans for a collaboration.
The honey is source locally from beekeepers outside of Preston, Iowa in rural Jackson County. They keep over 6,000 colonies that are spread across eastern Iowa, western Illinois and southern Wisconsin.
As we explored making honey vodka, we had the idea of going with a honey whiskey instead. Honey whiskey had been growing in the market. But we noticed that most honey whiskies were actually liqueurs because so much sugar is added. We set out to make a whiskey with a little honey added to it. Not sugar with a little whiskey added to it. The results were divine!
This short aged corn whiskey had a natural sweetness to it to start with, so we thought it would work well for the project. We took nearly 60 gallons of farm fresh honey and added water to it. 5 gallons at a time, we boiled the honey. This process brings some of the organic waxy material to the top in a marshmallow like foam. We sat and patiently skimmed all of the foam off until we had a clear honey solution. Then we added the honey to the barrel proof whiskey along with some water.
We let the honey and whiskey sit for a couple days to allow the natural sediment from the honey to settle in the tank. Then we filtered it top down to get a clear whiskey. This was a painstaking process. The honey would clog the filters almost immediately. When the filter clogged, the pup would force the whiskey out the seals of the filter and we had honey everywhere! Next time you’re at the distillery, ask us to see the honey whiskey stains on the walls!
Once we finally got it filtered though, we knew we were on to something special. The honey adds a nice sweetness, but it’s not overpowering. The extra filtration really smoothed out the young whiskey. While everything in the distillery was sticky, it was worth it!
We made 6,000 bottles of this seasonal. Our largest seasonal batch yet! This spirit was bottled on May 1, May 10, and June 12, 2012 by: Andy, Jim, Cindy, Scot, Randy, Holly, Tim, Ray, Andy, Elmer, Jane, Bonnie, Chris, Carol, Janet, Bill, Ted, Sharon, Vicki, Bruce, Chad, Andy, Tom, Scott, Nancy, Pat, Phil, Pat, Mark, Bob, Courtney, Deb, John, Tom, Scott, Chad, Kim, Harlan, Linda, Steve, Celeste, Steve, Martha, Robert, Tom, John, Mike, Amy, Bob, Mark, Melissa, Jim, Cindy, Dave, Bill, Ben, Marge, Ray, Chris, Mary, Kathy, Tom, John, Fred, Paula, Sean, Garrett and Ryan.