Tasting Tuesday, er, Sunday: Mead #2 Tasting Notes


We’ve been drinking some of the mead that I bottled a few weeks ago. Somehow we have very little left of Mead #2. It’s not because it’s necessarily so yummy, but because I said it was OK to drink some of #2. We didn’t make that much in the first place. And we’ve stored the bottles in a place that’s probably too convenient.

I want to keep one bottle unopened for later, but until then we’re accidentally on the second-to-last bottle. So I better do some serious tasting notes on this one for future reference.

I still haven’t yet found my notes on the recipes for each batch, but if I had to go by taste alone I’d say that this is the one that was partly based on Joe’s Ancient Orange Mead. I didn’t follow that recipe exactly because, in general, I hardly ever follow recipes exactly.

I suspect batch #2 is based on Joe’s Ancient Orange Mead (JAOM, JAO, or AO) because I detect a few notes of mild orange and cloves. I remember going really easy on the cloves because I read of others who warned that the cloves can easily overpower the mead if you’re not careful. It’s much easier to add more cloves later if you want. I know that to be true from cloves in lengthy tea steepings.

The aroma is faintly of honey and wine and slightly fruity. There may be just the very faintest hint of a rubbery smell.

The taste is of unsweet mild honey with just a hint of orange and spice. It is slightly tangy and a little bit bitter. Dave describes it as watered down honey with orange peels that have been soaked in water for a week and then some pure alcohol added. I think he partly finds it to be “watered down” because of the overall lack of sweetness.

The color is light golden topaz and beautifully clear. I added a bit of buckwheat honey to all of the batches — some more than others — so the color of each is darker than if I’d used a pure orange blossom honey.

I’d say it’s somewhat lacking in body.

Like all our batches to date this one is quite dry. Nearly all sugar has fermented out, so this doesn’t have the traditional sweetness of mead. I’d guess it to be between 14% and 18% alcohol. It’s not so much that you taste it, but it has the mouthfeel of a stronger wine and we can feel it in our toes after drinking a fairly small amount of it. I definitely feel it more than a 12% wine. I notice a bit of a burn after it goes down.

As I wrote above, if I try really hard I can detect a bit of that burnt rubber smell and taste, so I think this is the one that smelled strongly of rubber at one point. I’m not even 100% sure if it’s still there. If I hadn’t been specifically trying to smell it then I probably wouldn’t notice that at all. It is really faint now, and nothing like what it was at about six months old. So this is definitely something to remember about how much mead can change as it ages.

The pH is about 3.2 based on a traditional science kit pH strip. With that strip I have to do a little guessing based on the color since the chart doesn’t have tenths. The pH strips made specifically for the fermentation process read about 3.1 to 3.2. These strips are much easier to read down to a specific pH for home fermentation. It’s good to see the consistency between the two.

I’m attempting to back-sweeten this second-to-last bottle since I don’t have much of anything else to play with for batch #2. Back-sweetening is when you add a sweetener after the fermentation. This adds, well, sweetness. I’ll be adding some wildflower honey.

Different strains of yeasts have differing levels of alcohol tolerance, so it’s one of several things that can make a difference in the dryness or sweetness of your creation. In making wine or mead, the yeast will die off once the alcohol reaches a certain level, so there can be sugar left over. With some yeasts, if you don’t have too much overall sugar (from honey or other) some yeasts just keep eating the sugar until there’s nothing left. Red Star Premier Cuvee may keep going until it reaches 18% alcohol, but that’s fairly high. I used Cuvee in at least one batch and Cote des Blanc (lower tolerance) in another. My notes would tell me which was which. Fermentation stops once it has reached the yeast’s alcohol tolerance level or all the sugar has been converted to alcohol.

If I add honey or other sugars to bottled mead there a risk of restarting the fermentation. Too much of that and the bottles can explode. A little bit and the mead (or wine or cider) can become bubbly or carbonated. It’s a very tricky balance. Bubbles are a good thing with cider, but I have no desire for sparkling mead for now. There are additives you can put in each bottle to prevent fermentation from happening, but I’d like to keep our additives to a minimum.

I blended about two tablespoons of a flavorful wildflower honey to about 440 ml of dry mead. This was more than enough to sweeten it. In fact, I could have done with less. The pH with the added honey reads more of a 3.2 to 3.3. The pH strip is only the slightest hint darker.

This honey gave the mead much more of a traditional sweetness with lots of honey aroma and flavor. I still notice a bit of very mild orange and a hint of spice with a little bitterness. The finish is tangy.

Back sweetening with honey has made the mead a wee cloudy, but that might settle out if we left it for a while or get worse if fermentation starts up again.

There’s a huge difference in the body of the mead. I’d definitely try this again when we want a sweeter mead. This is actually pretty yummy stuff.

I like dry mead more than I thought I would, but I’d also like to try making a sweeter mead that I don’t have to back sweeten.

Overall I think we’re fairly happy with this mead. I’d like to try a similar version again in the future.

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