Honey Flavors: Molasses

The honey aroma wheel I talked about in an earlier post has a “burned” category that ends in “Molasses / Burned Sugar”. This seems like an odd type of flavor to expect in honey, but in fact I have a few honeys that make me think of this.

  • Glory Bee Pure Honey from Belize: my friend Tizzy brought this back with her from her week in Belize. When we first tasted it we were taken aback by its distinct molasses flavor, and were suspicious that this was some sort of adulterated product. But as it has sat on my shelf it has begun to crystallize, so I’m thinking that it’s real raw honey after all. The flavor comes on warm and forwardly molasses-like. I’m hoping to contact the beekeepers and ask what flowers are involved in this unusual honey. Edit: see below!
  • Avocado Blossom Honey from Spain: the molasses flavor in this one is pretty obvious but is mixed with a syrupy fruitiness, perhaps the “cooked fruit” flavor mentioned on the flavor wheel.
  • Honeydew Honey from Italy: This is the Italian version of Honeydew honey, not to be confused with Beech Forest Honeydew honey from New Zealand, which is quite different. They share only their deep color and viscous thickness. Where the New Zealand variety is like musty malted milk balls (in a good way), the Italian version reminds me of the Avocado honey in that it combines a molasses background with a similar syrupy fruitiness, but it also has a distinct additional taste that I can recognize but not really describe, except to stab at “green” or “planty”.

The honeys in my collection that look the most like molasses don’t actually have a trace of molasses flavor: Knotweed and Buckwheat. These honeys can run almost to black. My jar of Knotweed from Pixie Honey (Olympia, WA) looks and acts exactly like molasses, in fact, but tastes nothing like it. I wish I could describe what it tastes like, other than to say it tastes sort of like Buckwheat honey. I’ll leave those honeys for another day!

Honey Details

  • Glory Bee Pure Honey, bottled by P. Ayuso & Family, Orange Walk Town, Belize.
  • Etruria brand Honeydew Honey, Italy, purchased at Chef Shop, Elliott Ave., Seattle.
  • Al-Andalus Delicatessen brand Avocado Blossom Honey, Spain, purchased at The Spanish Table, Western Ave., Seattle.

Update

I called the phone number on the bottle of Belizian honey and talked to the beekeepers, Fernando and Emeliana Ayuso. As it turns out, this is honey from flowers in a sub-tropical rainforest! Fernando says that his motto is “From the bees to me to you”, and that the honey undergoes no processing. He extracts it, lets it settle overnight and bottles it. They say that there are are eight to ten colors of honey in Belize, depending on the season. If you end up in Belize, you can call their number (605-4358) and get some of your own. Now I want even more to visit Belize than I did already.

Honey Flavor Wheel

I’ve been poking around the internet looking for a honey flavor wheel. There seems to be just one, but it’s from a good source: the International Honey Commission. Their “aroma wheel” is published as part of a 2004 article in the journal Apidologie, available as a free PDF (download it by clicking on the PDF on the right under the abstract):

Sensory analysis applied to honey: state of the art

This is an interesting if technical read, and goes into great detail about the application of modern tasting techniques to honey. A lot of work and experimentation went into the creation of their aroma wheel. The article stresses that sensory analysis by actual humans must accompany laboratory testing of honeys, since “small quantities of a highly aromatic honey (that are usually hardly detected in blends by common laboratory analysis) can considerably alter the organoleptic characteristics of a unifloral honey”.

Looking at the wheel, certain words stick out for me:

  • “Cat Urine” – I have smelled this in Buckwheat honey. But I like it anyway.
  • “Molasses” – a honey found for me by my friend Tizzy when she was in Belize tastes like this.
  • “Leafy Wood” – this brings to mind the wonderful Silver Sage honey I recently obtained from Cougar Canyon Apiaries.

I plan to use this wheel to become a better taster. Does anybody know a professional taster in Seattle who would like to taste honeys with me?

The International Honey Commission’s website consists of one informational page:

International Honey Commission

The journal Apidologie:

Apidologie