Hive Drinks Co creates honey spirit

James Rowlands has worked with Hensol Castle Distillery and Afon Mêl Mead to create a honey-based spirit.

Rowlands, a teacher in Cardiff, launched Hive Drinks Co in February 2021 after experimenting with honey distillation during lockdown.

The first batch of honey spirit was created with aid from Dai Wakeley, Hensol Castle Distillery’s master distiller, and Sam Cooper, director of Afon Mêl Mead and Honey Farm.

Hensol Castle has operated a contract bottling arm since 2019. Last year the company created a gin with Welsh Rugby Union player Sam Davies.

Rowlands said: “Hive Drinks Co takes inspiration from the ancient practice of making mead, a honey wine.

“I wanted to create something that was authentic and paid homage to this simple and sustainable means of provenance, but I wanted to do it in a new and innovative way by creating a spirit.”

The brand’s flagship spirit has an ABV of 40% and retails for £40 (US$51) per 700ml bottle. The expression is distilled in a copper alembic still, with blossom honey added before bottling.

Rowlands, who still works full-time as a teacher, hopes to eventually turn the business into a social enterprise, leaning on his experience working with young boys with social, emotional and behavioural challenges.

“The aim eventually is to start my own apiary, meadery and distillery, which would mean as well as sourcing the honey, I could produce the spirit on my own premises.

“This is where it would be great to employ people who have experienced challenges, or who are from disadvantaged backgrounds, so they can build up work experience that they might not otherwise be able to achieve.

“My goal is to transition into business full-time while continuing my mantra of relationships, responsibility and respect. My dream is to create a community that offers training and skills in bee-keeping, honey production, brewing, distilling, growing produce and service, while giving people opportunities or a second – or third – chance.

“The people I teach come from extraordinary experiences and challenges and I would like to continue what I do – just in a different way.”

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