Making mead is a fun and rewarding endeavor, but it can be difficult to choose the right honey for the job. There are many different types of honey available on the market, each with its own unique flavor and properties, so, unless it is made by the same manufacturer, no two honeys will be 100% exactly the same. So, what is the best honey for mead?
Mead is, perhaps, the oldest fermented beverage known to humankind which has roots almost everywhere; Europe, Asia, Africa, all the way to the Americas. One certain allure to mead is the fact that, if properly stored, honey can never actually go bad. Sure it may lose some its original quality over time, it may crystallize, but it will not actually spoil. With such as hardy quality, one can buy some honey today, and use it three years from now because, lightbulb, they were in the mood to partake in the golden libation that is mead.
Honey itself can vary in terms of flavor based on the flower from where the busy little bee buddies gather the nectar. Honey made from orange blossoms will yield an orange-y honey, for example. For as long as a flower can produce nectar, bees will be able to make honey out of it. There are around 300 different types of honey available in the US including clover, wildflower, and buckwheat. There is also the baker's special honey which is a blend of honey made from different flowers. Honey has terroir which is French for 'taste of place,' which, just like grapes used for wine, makes honey take on particular flavors based on the soil on which the flowers grew as well as climate.
So, out of the 300 types, what is the best honey for mead? Meaderies, whether commercial or homebased, agree that honey harvested locally is the best kind. As for a specific kind of honey, orange blossom came out as a highly popular one because of its consistent flavor as well as citrusy taste. It is also a great honey for beginner meadmakers. It is even better when the honey chosen for mead is raw and unfiltered. Some honeys sold in supermarkets may have an expiration label on it which probably means it is not pure honey and have other ingredients mixed in such as high-fructose corn syrup. That is a no-no as it defeats the purpose of honey being a healthier kind of sugar.
When would be the best time of the year to buy honey? Bees start production of honey in spring when flowers are in full bloom, and this production period lasts until about the end of summer or start of autumn. Roughly at the beginning of September is when beekeepers start harvesting honey from their apiaries which also makes it the best time to buy some whether it is used immediately or stored away for future use.
Ultimately, the choice of which honey is best for mead is subjective due to a number of factors including preferred flavors and sweetness levels, but locally harvested raw and unfiltered honey would be your best bet.