Tasting Notes for Mishka Honey
Just like fine wine, every single-source honey is a snapshot of its terroir; the land and its climate, the soil and its flora, the beekeepers and their bees.
Native bees are finely tuned to the vicissitudes of the land from which they draw their nourishment and in Siberia’s honeybees we see a feisty, supremely hardy sub species. Highly active in the short spring and summer, they collect a natural abundance of pollen and nectar, at the same time pollinating plants which feed people, grazing animals and wildlife. In the long months of harsh, snowbound Siberian winters, each colony huddles around its queen to ensure survival into the next spring.
Altai’s traditional beekeepers are equally hardy and resilient, passionate in nurturing their bees and skilled in protecting them from the worst of winter weather. The honey is as precious as the bees…not only as a cash crop but also at home, as a vital food and all-purpose medicine. No wonder then that the Siberia’s relationship with its bees is so revered and celebrated, both within the Tengrist shamanistic rituals of the nomadic people and within the Orthodox Church.
Bees play an essential role within the environment and cultures of this pristine, unspoiled world. Every spoonful of their honey has the power to connect us directly to the life of this remote land, its people and its honeybees…
Often known as ‘Lime’ trees, the Linden family has over 30 different species. Nectar flows can be prodigious, adding much to honey yields, but cannot be depended on from year to year. Lindens are generally averse to summer weather which is too cool or too wet, but also to extreme heat and drying winds. The ideal for a fine flow is several days of humid weather and temperatures around 20℃. Once the flow starts, the trees will be alive with both honeybees and bumblebees, drawn to the feast by the potently scented flowers.
Globally, many countries produce Linden honeys. Generally, it is not a honey of which I am especially fond, but I have been converted by this sample from The Altai – easily the most refined and interesting example of Linden that I‘ve ever come across. I love it.
The reasons for this particular honey’s outstanding flavours will be many; including the specific sub species of Linden trees native to The Altai, the soil in which they grow, the minerality of the mountain waters which make the meadowland so verdant and the prevailing climate. Even the composition of the wax within which the bees have stored the honey will add its own flavour traces.
Nose intensity: Low
Grapefruit, candy, vegetal
Notably delicate and floral, this honey also delivers some exotic and enduring flavours. Bright and refreshing sherbet notes are supported by a greener, earthier counterpoint of new mown grass and a dash of bitters.
A gentle suggestion of Turkish Delight follows, with glimpses of rosewater and mastic. These fragrant, almost incense-like, flavours provide an extremely long finish on the palate
Belonging to the same family as Fennel, Dill and Coriander, Angelica offers similarly penetrating scents and herbal flavours. Wild Angelica species grow profusely in Siberia, giving the bees highly attractive and luscious sources of pollen and nectar.
The Altai’s monofloral Angelica honey offers honey gourmets something unique and rare. The nose is profound, suggesting mossy woodland in its earthy /animal scents. The honey’s taste is a greatly refined expression of this, emphasising potently herbal notes to the point where some people may experience some pleasurable tingling in their mouth.
This honey has real depth to offer, with an elegant marriage of sugars, bitters and herbals making it a joy to explore.
Savoury green herbaceous notes emerge immediately, staying vivid and aromatic whilst an underlying warmth/tingle spreads in the mouth. Woody notes join the penetratingly green and earthy flavours to create a savoury whole.
Sweetness and some delightful bitterness are both present throughout, but at no stage dominate the potently herby character of this strong, characterful honey.
At around 250 – 500 metres above sea level, the lower alpine meadows of The Altai are carpeted with flowers in spring and summer, with hundreds of varieties of native wildflowers including chicory, rosebay willow herb, thyme, clover, vipers’ bugloss and holy thistle.
Honeybees seeking a wide range of different pollens and nectars to feed their brood and lay down honey stocks revel in the meadows’ variety and abundance for a few glorious weeks.
The bees add the bounty from the pasture wildflowers to pollens and nectars they collect from surrounding wild flowering bushes and trees, making their own elegant honey blends, heady with flavour and natural aromatics.
A highly approachable honey which may appear simple at first because no individual flowers dominate. On the palate though, its delightfully warm and sweet caramels are well balanced by gently tart (almost fruit-vinegar) notes. Herbaceous perennial flowers have also added a green herbal backbone and lingering aromatics. The complexity of this honey’s floral sources shines through in the range and durability of its flavours.
Honey is almost universally understood to be “sweet”, when in fact there are many varietals which are prevailingly bitter, tart or savoury. This Mountain Flowers honey is predominantly in the savoury camp, with its big, malted, almost beery notes and herb-led sugars.
This is a gourmet honey offering a seductive umami element which can be enjoyed ‘in the round’ just as any delicious honey might be…… Or consciously amplified through pairings with other umami or smoky foods, e.g., rye breads, cheeses, pickles or charcuterie.
The high-altitude alpine flowers from which the bees have made this honey grow at 800 – 2200 metres above sea level, an extraordinary terroir where the rich native flora is available to pollinators for a few short weeks of spring and summer.
Native Siberian honeybees live a life cycle completely in tune with the Altai’s seasons and climate and will feast on a sequence of mountain flowers including dandelions, coltsfoot, rosebay willow herb, lungwort, marjoram, and sage. Each nectar-bearing plant brings its own floral ‘fingerprint’ to the honey.
Nose intensity: Medium
On first approach, this honey explodes with savoury malt and complex sugars. Melting quickly, it becomes Incredibly refreshing in the mouth, with strong underlying umami flavours supporting herb-perfumed sweetness.
There’s a languorous finish on the palate, through which pop some tart florals. This rich and complicated honey has a delightful balance of earthiness, aromatic herbals and bright flower notes.
THIS PURE ALTAI HONEY IS…
SUPPORTING LOCAL COMMUNITIES
By choosing Mishka honey you are directly supporting the bee farmers of Altai, their families and their remote communities. Nurturing the Siberian bee populations using traditional methods to keep them healthy without chemicals or antibiotics is a way of life that goes back centuries.