honey

Review: Single Hive Rye Cask (Burwood Distillery) by Jason Hambrey

Image Courtesy of Burwood Distillery.

Image Courtesy of Burwood Distillery.

ABV
43.2%
Aging
Ex-rye whisky cask
Recipe
100% Alberta honey
Distiller Burwood Distillery (Calgary, Alberta)

Jordan Ramey left his postdoctoral studies in California, where he was studying the use of anthrax to combat cancer, in order to move to Calgary. Now, he needed something new to do. Given his background in microbiology, fermentation was a natural obsession . He began consulting for home brewers. Soon enough, he was busy founding Olds college’s brewmaster & brewery operations management program in 2013.

Given his success in the program, it’s only natural that Ramey was consistently sought out as a partner for entrepeneurs trying to get into the distillation business. None of the offers had the right pieces in place. Getting into the distillation business would come through a different route.

Ramey struck up a relationship with a fellow spirits enthusiast - his real estate agent, Ivan Cilic. Soon enough, Ramey’s brewing and distilling knowledge was paired with Ivan’s experience in sales and they set out to purchase property for a new distillery, Burwood.

One of Alberta’s main crops is barley, a natural choice as a local ingredient to use in spirits production. However, the distillery also decided to focus on another major Alberta export, the by-product of Alberta’s canola and clover farming: honey. Burwood sourced this as locally as one can – the family business. Ivan’s brother, Marko, operates a honey farm that now supplies the sizeable needs of the distillery.

Burwood uses raw honey to create multiple honey spirits. The award-winning Medica liqueur is inspired by the honey liqueurs from Ivan and Marko Cilic’s Croation roots. It is made with barley and honey. The distillery also makes a clean, clear honey eau-de-vie, a “single hive” which is a barrel-aged honey spirit, and a honey “rum” made from “honey tar” that is found in spent beehives. This “tar” is honey that is naturally caramelized into old beehive frames as the bees heat the honey as they use the hive year over year. It cannot be sold by honey producers. However, it can be extracted from the spent hives and distilled. Ramey describes the character as noticeably different – the top of the fermenting tar is green rather than the usual honey yellow. It comes out from the fermentation vessel with a deep gold colour.

It is challenging to make money as a small distiller with even the cheapest of ingredients. So why even bother with honey, which costs about 4 times more than grain? The answer is actually quite simple - go seek out a bottle of single hive or Burwood’s honey rum, and you’ll see.


Review (2021)

  • Batch: Cask 005

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2021

The nose here is gorgeous – bright berry notes, wintergreen, vanilla, light baking spices, a slight waxy character, prunes, raisins, red currants, almond, and honey graham crackers. This doesn’t smell like a rum, but it has some characteristics which are similar – some of the dried fruit, spices, and the way that the oak is integrated. The palate follows from the nose, but with a bigger dose of vanilla, oaky spices, and a bit more candied citrus. It is delicious! There is a light acidity on the palate which is terrific. The finish is slightly drying, with lots of dried fruit, citrus, wet and old oak, and rich, wet earth.

I had another honey “rum” from Wayward earlier in the year that is one of my favourite spirits of this year. This one from Burwood also makes that list, but it is very different – spicier, oakier, not as sweet or fruity or rich – but much more subtle and deep with layers upon layers that you can peel back.

One of my favourite spirits so far this year.

Very Highly Recommended.


Review: Krupnik Spiced Honey Liquer by Jason Hambrey

Image Courtesy of Wayward Distillery.

Image Courtesy of Wayward Distillery.

ABV
40%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
100% BC honey and spices
Distiller Wayward Distillery (Courtenay, BC)

This is another product from Wayward, this time a liquer made from honey spirit, toasted BC honey, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla, and citrus peel among other spices. When I asked what other spices were in it, I was told the better question was what spices were not in it.

Originally, this was just a Christmas release but it has become such a fan favourite that it is now available all year round.


Review (2021)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2021

  • Bottling Code: N/A

Very gingerbread-house on the nose. Nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla - but also quite floral. The spice is just awesome, and it’s sweet - but it’s anything from cloying. A very nice liqueur.

However, I rarely am in the mood for liquers straight - instead, I want a dash of them in my cocktails or elsewhere. Consumed on its own, it is quite Christmas-y with all the baking spice notes. However, this suits all seasons - added to sparkling apple cider in the spring, ginger beer in the summer, hot apple cider or hot chocolate in the fall, or in place of the sugar in an Old Fashioned in the winter (my favourite use of them all).


Review: Drunken Hive Rum by Jason Hambrey

Image Courtesy of Wayward Distillery.

Image Courtesy of Wayward Distillery.

ABV
42.5%
Aging
15+ months; Ex-bourbon casks
Recipe
100% BC honey
Distiller Wayward Distillery (Courtenay, BC)

This is a “rum” made from “honey” which is sourced from a family-run apiary in Northern BC called Golden Clover Apiary. The honey is clover “vacation honey” as it’s sourced from bees that are moved around to pollinate around BC all year but “vacation” in the summer amidst fields of clover.

This is made with water, honey, and a rum yeast and is essentially made in the same way as you would make a rum. It is then aged in ex-bourbon barrels for a number of months.


Review (2021)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2021

  • Bottling Code: N/A

This stuff is absolutely fascinating. Honeycomb, dried apricot, peach jam, pecan pie, candied fruits, gummy bears, dried orange peel, pear, coconut, lemon drops, light smoke…it goes on and on. The palate is just as impressive – with honey caramel remaining at the core and light tannins, smoke, and custard adding layer upon layer of flavour. The finish is lightly oaky, sweet, floral, and full of dried stone fruit.

One of my favourite spirits of the year.

Assessment: Very Highly Recommended.


Review: Unruly Gin (Wayward Distillery) by Jason Hambrey

Image Courtesy of Wayward Distillery.

Image Courtesy of Wayward Distillery.

ABV
43%
Aging
None
Recipe
100% BC honey and botanicals
Distiller Wayward Distillery (Courtenay, BC)

For most gins, a grain base is used to create the base for the spirit as it is cheap and accessible. Initially, Wayward distillery, thought about taking the traditional approach, or maybe do something a little different with another cheap ingredient - beat sugar or whey - but eventually decided to use honey because of the character it lends to spirits. Honey is very expensive, comparatively, but they use it, in the words of the distillery manager, “because it is delightful”.

Honey, water, and yeast are transformed into a floral spirit which is vapour infused with green cedar tips, citrus peel, lavender, sarsaparilla, juniper berries, and a few other botanicals.


Review (2021)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2020

  • Bottling Code: N/A

Some fascinating notes here, and certainly unlike most gins out there. It’s very floral – particularly with chamomile (an odd note that puzzled me for a bit), but also daisies, sunflower seeds, and lavender. It also has a sharp, almost smoky note. With that, too, we have cedar, light fir notes, and a touch of pepper. The palate is clean and easy with a light sweetness, more heavy floral notes, and the lightest touch of botanicals.

Exceedingly intriguing. Terrific stuff.

Assessment: Highly Recommended.