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This is just out of curiosity...

I mean if you distill beer, you get whiskey... if you distill wine, you get cognac/brandy... if you distill fermented molasses, you get rum... if you distill fermented agave, you get tequila... if you distill apple-cider, you get calvados (if you happen to live in Calvados, France)... if you distill fermented horse-milk (kumiss), you'll probably regret it...

But what do you get if you distill (honey-) mead? Does it even have a specific name?

I'm obviously not thinking about distilling and filtering it into oblivion, at which point you'd end-up with (something like) vodka... I'm thinking about what you would get if you distilled it in a pot-still, wanting the base (here mead) to impart flavor to the finished spirit.

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and not in answer to the original question, but as an aside...I just did exactly this with half blackberry mead and half orange blossom and it tastes very good...the flavor of the both the honeys came thru, but very lightly as you might imagine. After it ages and mellows a bit, I hope that it's not so "hot" – madman Jul 13 '13 at 16:31
I think "Honeymoonshine" would be a cool name... – user3730 Aug 16 '13 at 17:02
I've heard of it by the name honeyshine. Never had any any but I am working on a batch now. coppermoonshinestills.com/id28.html – user8176 Sep 6 '14 at 20:48
FYI, if you ferment Kumyss, you will get araka or arkhi. It is actually more like vodka, and very soft. – Red Trigger Apr 30 '15 at 22:07
So why not just call it Honeyshine? – user13085 Dec 26 '15 at 17:18

18 Answers 18

up vote 13 down vote accepted

A while ago I visited a local meadery and chatted with the brewer (meader?). He was planning on making use of a local micro-distiller's equipment to produce a spirit from his mead. I asked him the name of the resulting product, and his answer was "distilled mead".

Not the answer I was hoping for.

I've never tasted such a thing and suspect that the subtle floral qualities that make mead interesting would be lost in the distillation process. I see that there's a fortified mead in the product list but from the description it sounds like it's fortified with neutral spirits.

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I think "distilled mead" is the correct answer, but if the mead is freeze distilled, then it is called honey jack (and freeze-distilled cider is called apple jack). – Chino Brews Aug 12 '14 at 22:05
Cider jack is called Icecider in Canada (as in Icewine). Distilled mead seems about right, – Philippe Nov 2 '15 at 15:49
"honey jack" is the term for freeze-distilled mead – montewhizdoh Jun 8 at 14:11

According to Wikipedia there doesn't appear to be much in the way of a family name for it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mead

I think the closest would be "Midus"

Midus: Lithuanian for mead, made of natural bee honey and berry juice. Infused with carnation blossoms, acorns, poplar buds, juniper berries and other herbs, it is often made as a mead distillate or mead nectar, some of the varieties having as much as 75% of alcohol.
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Interesting... it sounds like a mead that is made with berries, distilled, and then has the other stuff infused in it. Or does the infusion happen before distillation? – FrustratedWithFormsDesigner May 15 '13 at 18:00
That same article also mentions "honey jack" which looks like mead that's gone through freeze-distillation. – FrustratedWithFormsDesigner May 15 '13 at 18:02
Honey Jack is the same principle of Cider Jack, you freeze off the water. I'm not sure on the specifics of Midus, you'll need to research. – Doug Edey May 15 '13 at 18:41
I found this: madeinlithuania.lt/… It suggests that for at least one of the beverages, the mead is distilled 4 times and then flavoured (see 2nd-last paragraph). – FrustratedWithFormsDesigner May 15 '13 at 18:54

Assuming that all of the proceeding is accurate, would it not just be a "honey brandy"? I can imagine a very sweet flavor with an interesting aroma and probably fairly drinkable if not pleasant flavor.

I know that mead was popular in Egypt, Turkey, etc. since the dawn of civilization and you can't be the first person in human history to think of this so I am going to do some research and check back tomorrow.

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I have my own family recipe that I have recently cooked off made from clover honey. We have always called it honeydew whiskey even though it does not meet description standards of whiskey. Its what I have heard several old timers call it

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I once heard a name for this called "drakas"(spelling). As told it was a Norse drink made by placing a bowl of honey mead outside overnight. In the morning, chip off the ice and repeat a few times untill a thick drink was the result.

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After I made my still, I was anxious to get started distilling. I had a five gallon carboy of strawberry mead that was made to about 15% ABV and was less than a year old,so I used that. It was wonderful right off the still, with flavors from both the strawberries and the honey. I double distilled, using a stripping run and a spirit run. It was good clear, but then I aged the distillate at cask strength on french oak chips in a gallon glass jug, and it soon became a delightful mead brandy. I have made a number of other mead brandies since. I can't find a traditional name for it, but it is really good!

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This is a great debate!

While i personally lean on the side of calling distilled mead a honey brandy, i would agree with most people that commented so far. There isn't a clear category in which to fit a honey-sourced distilled alcohol.

The average person is likely to view mead as a honey-based wine. But, this is not technically correct since a wine is made from fruit, specifically grapes. Nor is mead a rum, since rum is sourced from sugars extracted from a plant such as sugar cane or beets.

While bees make honey from drinking nectar, they also transform it through partial digestion, mix some pollen and enzymes in the process, evaporate it and then regurgitate the mixture into honey comb cells. This qualifies honey as an animal-based sugar source. So, technically, honey would be closer to other animal-based sugar sources like maltose in milk, and might be better recognized scientifically as a kumiss. But, personally i hate that name, and i doubt that it would have good marketting value either.

For what it is worth, i did come across a commercial name for a British alcohol distilled from mead, called the "Ninemaidens". The company web site (www.foodfromcornwall.co.uk) has the following description: "It is a crystal clear, vibrant spirit with a floral, honeyed bouquet and a warm rounded finish. 40% alcohol by volume. The name 'Gwires' (pronounced gwi'rez) is taken from the Cornish word meaning alcoholic spirit, and it is produced by distilling the highest quality mead."

So, perhaps Gwires is another contender for the title of distilled mead!?

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When I have distilled mead, I have called it "Mead Moonshine" when un-oaked and either "Mead Whiskey" or "Mead Brandy" when oaked.

Although the name "Mead whiskey" is not very accurate, the product tastes more like whiskey than brandy to me.

If you were to make mead with some fruit (pears, strawberry's, oranges etc) I would go with "Mead(& <fruit>) Brandy" or "<fruit> & Honey Brandy"

If you have added lots of spices/botanicals etc then I would just go with (mead) gin (No idea how mead gin would taste though; will keep you posted as it is on my to do list)

Alternatively we could coin a new term based on Latin/Gaelic (Similar to how brandy can be called aqua vitae)

  • Mellific brandy
  • Vigor melle
  • Mellis Animae <- Personal pick
  • Mel almas <- Other Personal pick (Gaelic)
  • Alma de mel <- Gaelic
  • Aguardente de mel <- Gaelic

(I used google translate, dont shoot me if I got it wrong)

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Aguardente de mel is what we call it in portuguese... Literal translation to english is Honey's burning water

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I grew up making beer, hard cider(a type of wine), applejack(concentrated hard cider through freezing) and wine at home. My father's friends made corn whiskey and gin. I have done hours of internet searches about various alcohols and have come to these conclusions. Whiskey is distilled from beer(Beer is from fermented grains). Brandy is distilled from wine(Wine is from fermented fruit). Rum is from fermented sugar cane or molasses. Arrack is distilled from fermented sap. Vodka is distilled from apparently anything that ferments except milk or honey and is not aged(basically a moonshine). Gin and Absinthe are merely flavored or infused neutral alcohols. Having described all that let us discuss the question. Just let me say mead is not a brandy, because mead is not wine("Aguardente de mel" means "honey brandy" in Portuguese) Mead is from fermented honey. They have many different classifications of mead depending on what you add during the fermentation process but it is still mead. "FrustratedWithForms" made an excellent observation about honeyjack. To me that is the correct term when mead is "freeze distilled " or even "drakas"(from the Norse as taken from the post above). But "freeze distilling" is not really distillation , it is concentration. That is why distilled hard cider is called apple brandy not applejack. The closest type of alcohol to mead is indeed kumiss(Kumiss is from fermented mare's milk). Both mead and kumiss are derived from animal products. Having searched for the answer to:"What is distilled mead called?" I have determined that it has yet to be named. Darcy Thomas from the above post had the right idea. We must coin a new term. But not based off any of the old terms. The name must stand on its own as mead does.

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There is nothing new. Distilled mead is called "mead balsam", at least in Lithuania, where "midus" (mead) was an ancient drink, later one factory tried to distill it. Please google for such drinks as "Suktinis" or "Zalgiris" (which is 75% strong)...Also see midus.lt

In my personal opinion, mead (real matured mead, and the best mead shall be matured at least for 10 years, Lithuanian nobility used to drink mead matured over 50 years) is a too good drink to distill. But I myself tried two times - after some failures making mead itself - the result was really good.

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I would like to argue that distilled mead is not a brandy product as brandy is distilled wine and i believe the distinction for wine is a fermentation from fruit or berries. Honey is a sugar product and its my opinion that it should therefore be considered a Rum.

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So I have a little different take on this. Just informational because I think it is so interesting how names emerge.

My grandfather gave me most of the terminology that I use in the fermenting and distillation of things. He called once distilled hard cider and frozen concentrated hard cider by the same name-- applejack. Once it was put through the second distillation cycle he and his buddies called it moonshine. They sometimes distilled three times and it got really clear, when you shook it... basically no bubbles.

He called fermented mead brandy because he used wine making yeast and considered mead a form of wine, of course he also put all manner of fruit in his mead too.

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Just to contribute, we´re making distilled spirits from mead here in Brasil and we´re calling it something like "Pot Still Mead" or Hidromel de Alambique in Portuguese.

Another consideration is directed to @J Shane Jacobs: the spirit from distilling molasses is rum. But the spirit from fresh sugar cane wine is called Cachaça (if produced in Brasil) and Rum Agricole if produced anywhere else.

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Well if we were going to vote on it mine would be Midus. It has been said a few times here and I think it's the most appropriate. It stands on it's own and doesn't need brandy, whisky, jack, or anything else acting as a crutch. Also it usually has that nice golden color so it makes a nice parallel with King Midus from Greek mythology that turned everything he touched into gold.

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Jail time. In the US home distillation is illegal. Unless you are making it for fuel in a vehicle in which case you just need to apply for a permit. However if you are looking to drink it then you are required to file paperwork and pay taxes. There are also rules on where you can distill.

See the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Trade Bureau for penalties. And here is some FAQs on home distilling from the bureau.

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OP is not in the United States. – Dean Brundage Oct 4 '15 at 22:07

This is for consideration to Mauricio Maia. First thank you for the name given to the "spirit from fresh sugar cane wine". Always interesting to learn names of new (to me) types of alcohol. As I think about what you said I tried to classify it. I can see that I was incorrect in saying rum is from sugar cane. Molasses is a by product of refining sugar cane. You are correct. Rum is from molasses only. I believe that Cachaça would be considered a type of arrack. I say this because the juice from sugar cane is not from a fruit, but is in fact, the sap of the plant. As far as the "fresh sugar cane wine " goes; I don't think it would be classified as a wine. It is not from fruit. But apparently, we need a name for fermented sap as well as distilled mead! LOL!

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Just one more answer to the already long litany of responses to this question.

Found a reference online the another day of someone referring to distilled mead as Mead Brandy. For what its worth, the Home Distillation of Alcohol even gives a recipe of how to make Mead Brandy!

Mead Brandy

Jacks recipe for Mead Brandy ...

I think this would be close to the ancestral roots of Krupnik (the honey sweetened vodka). First step: make mead

Per gallon (4L):

Three (3) pounds of honey

One teaspoon of yeast nutrient.

One tablespoon of acid blend.

Dissolve everything in the water - then pitch a dry champagne yeast (I prefer Lavlin's K1V-1116 over the EC-1118 because the '18 tends to develop a stale, brackish taste over time that can follow into the spirit). Once fermented till dry - distill twice in a potstill or just go by taste in a reflux still.

It's good as a clear spirit, but I prefer to water it to 40 to 45% and age it on a quarter teaspoon of charred American oak until it gets a Glenmorangie (10 year) gold color. This takes maybe a month in the bottle. Age it at this lower strength as vanillins tend to interfere with the honey aroma of the spirit, and the bitter - sweet taste of this wood tends to balance well with the honey - the sugars in the wood that are extracted at this low strength also tend to smoothen out the spirit.

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