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Thread: The taste of fermented honey

  1. Default The taste of fermented honey

    How would you describe the taste of fermented honey in a dry traditional mead? I've made two that turned out well and both had an earthy taste, reminiscent of leather. I have a primitive, uneducated pallet so I'm at a loss for how to describe it.

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    Others may disagree - and I certainly cannot say that I have an educated nose or palate but leather is not a flavor I would associate with the dry meads I make. Mine are more like white wines. What can result in leathery flavors is the presence of a yeast known as Brett, (Brettanomyces) but I wouldn't expect that to be in the honey. It is found in the skins of fruit (and was isolated and identified as the source of spoilage in English beers at the turn of the 20th Century). And while brewers sometimes experiment with this yeast (it produces earthy, horsey, leathery flavors) many wine makers in the past have viewed the presence of Brett as a problem, though I think that this is not always the case today. I occasionally inoculate my honey musts with Brett.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken2029 View Post
    How would you describe the taste of fermented honey in a dry traditional mead? I've made two that turned out well and both had an earthy taste, reminiscent of leather. I have a primitive, uneducated pallet so I'm at a loss for how to describe it.
    What honey was used, what yeast was used, what nutrients were used and how much has the mead aged?

    I have made several traditionals and none turned out earthy, except I used a chestnut honey and that turned out earthy. But the honey was rather earthy as well and when you think about it chestnuts are a rather earthy nut. So it's totally possible to be due to honey. While I don't know of any yeasts which make earthy/leathery meads, there are yeasts out there which create slightly less refined meads. Worst case scenario might be a bread yeast. The yeast nutrient as well as temperature might lead to off flavors which while are not leathery/earthy, alongside other faults could make you mead taste bad. Aging extensively on the lees without proper care can make meads taste somewhat earthy. A young mead can also taste rather bad although I would not describe it as earthy or leathery
    "Shouldn’t we say wine is a mead-like beverage made with grapes substituted for the honey?" - Steve Piatz

  4. Default

    Let's start over. Forget that I used the terms earthy or leather. That's just me grasping at a term when I don't have the right one to use.

    The honey I used was local wildflower honey. Most likely, it is primarily pollen from hardwood trees. The yeast I used was Wyeast 1388. The final gravity on both batches was 0.99.

    How would you describe the taste of honey that is fermented until all of the sugar is gone?
    Last edited by Ken2029; 12-28-2017 at 12:37 AM.

  5. #5

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    That still depends on what honey and what yeast was used. As each of these imparts their own nuances to the finished profile. Most people will not find a bone-dry mead very enjoyable. And wildflower is not really a honey that many would choose to use to make a traditional. Most traditionals are made with a very specific honey varietal to showcase that particular honey. I would suggest that you consider stabilizing it and back sweetening with a little honey to make it more paletable. You can also add some oak to add a little complexity.
    7 out of 4 people have a hard time using their hydrometer!

  6. #6

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    So to me a traditional which is done well tastes quite similar to the honey that was used without the sweetness most times because I enjoy dry meads. When fermented you will lose some of the nose and taste from the honey. First of all because you're drinking something which is diluted with water so you lose taste and nose right off the bat when it's no longer a concentrated viscous liquid. Then the ferment blows off some more of that taste and nose. Personally I see it as my job to blow off as little bouquet and taste as possible and that takes a lot of care and the right ingredients. Basically for me that's done by using TOSNA. When I have a sip of a traditional I want a lightbulb to go off in my head and I want to remember the time I tasted the honey right before the ferment. But you don't have to be a purist either. You can have a traditional which uses yeast which gives your mead some slightly different character and you can add some oak too. So in order to determine whether the taste came from your honey you might want to taste the honey that was used for the batch. If you don't leave any like I do (although I really should reserve a very small jar each time) you might want to do some extensive tasting and take note of the taste and nose of your honey before using it.

    I have come to realize that many honeys have a base taste which is similar and this is probably because they come from the same area with a lot of flowers in common. I would describe the majority of varietals I get as having Mediterranean thyme in common. This would be different for every mead maker and others might not even have this happen to them. The over encompassing common taste of fermented honey would be "flowery" is my guess but since honey comes from flowers that is obvious.

    I would be one who would disagree with the majority of people on these forums and say that to me dry meads are generally more palatable. But that's up to taste. I would not enjoy drinking half a bottle of sweet or even semi-sweet meads most of the time (but not always, of course). If I enjoy dry wines I find no reason for not having dry meads as well. But I add sugar to absolutely nothing I eat (sheesh now that I think about it I've converted to eating only the darkest of chocolates.) I would also be one of the few who would not encourage someone to backsweeten a mead in such a case. I would encourage you to determine exactly what you're tasting before covering it up with sweetness. If it's a defect you will want to pinpoint that and in my opinion it is easier to pinpoint before you backsweeten.

    P.s oxidation could be described as earthy but I think wet cardboard would be the most common descriptor. But then again slight oxidation together with other faults might just taste earthy. As you can see there are many things which might be a culprit especially when you consider that many small things might be combining to make the taste
    Last edited by Stasis; 12-28-2017 at 09:45 AM.
    "Shouldn’t we say wine is a mead-like beverage made with grapes substituted for the honey?" - Steve Piatz

  7. Default

    Thanks folks. Both traditionals were made with local honey. It's dark and strong flavored. As I understand it, the Wyeast 1388 leaves little flavor. Both batches turned out tasting really clean with no off flavores. On the other hand, the primary flavor, which I assume was the honey, did not taste like honey. But, there was zero sugar. It tasted great and everyone that tasted it thought it was the best I had made. These were the only two trads I had made. All others were melomels.

    I'm about to make another trad with some great tasting orange blossom that I got on a visit to Georgia. I will use 71B on this one. I will shoot for off dry or semi sweet in order to preserve the honey taste.

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    There are definitely varieties of honey that tastes ... um... earthy dry or sweet and unfermented - and one is buckwheat honey from the right coast of the USA. It's a very dark honey. I used buckwheat in the very first mead I ever made (about 25 years ago or more ... and I never made another mead for another 20 years... I understand that buckwheat honey from the left side tastes very different...

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