There's a delicious smell erupting from the barrels of ageing honey mead at Paul Berry's warehouse as we sit for a tasting of Sting. Imagine a room full of beeswax candles and the floating scent of manuka in the air. We're surrounded by beehives being stored for the off-season and barrels of ageing mead. The smell is heavenly.
Mead is one of the oldest alcoholic beverages known to man; simple to make but challenging to perfect - all meads have water, honey, and yeast in common. It comes in varieties of liqueur, softly bubbled and an almost wine-like consistency. The key ingredient, honey, New Zealand has in abundance and in varieties like no other, according to Paul. English mead is typically made from traditional clover and heather varieties.
Paul and his wife, Angela Moresby, originally moved to the Coromandel, just north of Tairua to set up their organic beekeeping business. Both from a background of holistic therapy and with manuka honey being well regarded as a natural health product, Paul's drive and desire to create something new spurred him on to making a traditional mead from the honey they were producing, the only certified organic active manuka honey.
While we're tasting, Paul talks about his passion to take the product even further afield - we were lucky enough to find a bottle in a Kingsland liquor store, but there are orders piling up from the international market. As with so many great New Zealand products, Sting has found plenty of fame overseas first, while remaining relatively undiscovered so far. Still, it's early days and it's obvious that both the maker and the mead have the tenacity to go far.
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Unlike other honey flavoured vodkas or liqueurs, Sting is somewhere between a wine and a spirit when it comes to viscosity and nose. We tasted the original version and one aged in barrels used for chardonnay. Both retain the herbaceous and spicy aromatics of honey with added notes of stonefruit, nutty, buttery tones and a warm, caramel sugar. Paul says he'll continue to experiment, which we think is a brilliant idea.
Incorporating the active healing properties of honey into this mead qualifies it as an elixir of health in our opinion.
Where to buy:
Available from sting.co.nz or Ph 021 467 756.