At the time, Christiansen was using raw honey at his small production meadery. Upon meeting, they decided to collaborate on ways in which a distiller could impact the beverage industry while also supporting local agriculture, business, and bee populations.
A symbiotic relationship
Most people are familiar with the term ‘terroir’ as it relates to wine-making, but what about honey? Much like wine, mezcal, and even whiskey, honey is a unique reflection of its surrounding landscape. The difference is how those flavors come to be. For example, a sip of wine allows you to taste the soil where the grapes were planted, and a taste of Islay scotch whisky can reflect the salty air from the Irish coast.
Honey, on the other hand, is a melting pot of pollen collected by botanicals in that area. That amber elixir can take on a wide spectrum of flavor, which is why honey created by bees buzzing around orange groves is going to taste drastically different from clover or wildflower honey.
Barr Hill may have committed its business to the bees, but it’s a two-way relationship. Christiansen is very vocal about the ways the raw honey he infuses into their spirits makes all the difference in the way it tastes. While most gins rely on botanicals from far and wide to create a layered and balanced flavor, Barr Hill’s raw Vermont honey essentially does that job for them, along with the required juniper.
Cracking off the tops of Barr Hill’s honey barrels, what’s inside looks much different from your typical plastic honey bears found at the grocery store. Thick and viscous, it’s akin to cream-top milk, with a nutrient dense, bubbling layer of marbled honey foam made from leftover wax, propolis, and more. Most commercially sold honey is pasteurized to make it smooth-looking and squeezable, but the process removes the lion’s share of nutrients and distinct flavors, which is why the distillery uses only raw product.