September 24, 2013

Martha's Vineyard Honey Co.

On the scented and flavored honeys from The Martha's Vineyard Honey Company:

So many have turned their attention to the important role of bees and all their doings,  that we now find ourselves in a new era of home beekeeping and the expanded use of honey and other bee products in beauty and health rituals, and as an inspiration in perfume. As it is now legal to keep beehives on the rooftops in NYC and across many other urban centers, and as others in the country grow seriously concerned about the fate of the bees enough to educate themselves in the ancient art of beekeeping, it has grown to become an important factor in gardening itself.

The thick cozy warmth of honey as an accord in a perfume, especially in combination with florals and resinous base notes, has an softening yet intoxicating effect, imparting an air of intimacy. Honey is a concentration of soothing energy that connects to ancient wholesome traditions that unite humans and nature in a mutually beneficial way.

The Martha's Vineyard Honey Company, formed by Monica Miller the Perfume Pharmer of whom I have written before, with her husband James Kozak has ambitiously taken on a serious project to collaborate with the bees in the production of unique honeys with fragrance and tastes formed by incorporating precious aromatic essences into the nectar the bees feed on.  The results are gorgeously complex and dimensionally flavored, and some have a heightened fragrance that combines the essence and the nectar's rich sweetness. They are like ingesting perfume, as an aromatic liqueur that holds the distinctive essence of the plant life of the place.  They are like inhaling the liquid essence of a peaceful day, which is exactly the effect Monica is aiming for.  She has a longstanding commitment to the use of natural products as calming and healing elements to harmonize humans as they live within their own landscapes.

The couple are imaginatively tailoring their fragranced and flavored honey for special occasion uses such as weddings and holidays.   I believe these honeys may be unique, as the fragrance and flavor elements within them are worked in directly by the bees, from herbs and essential oils and essences added to the nectar they are fed by these beekeepers, from their own composed mixtures. The herbal and floral and fragranced honeys are produced in the hive by the bees themselves.  The results are subtle and gentle but distinctively unique and expand the parameter of experiencing the essence of perfume.

 Healthy bees are highly discriminating as to scent sense and only like the best for themselves; they won't fall for cheap perfume.

Some of these honeys have had the natural perfume and flavor added.  There is a distinctively wild rose scent on opening the black glass jar of thick Rose Petal Raw Honey, and taking a part of a teaspoon's worth and tasting it on its own gives you the experience of a subtle yet complex rose effect filling your mouth and rising up to the nose from behind the palate.  You are then breathing honeyed rose in and out.

The Lavender Honey has a similar effect in the mouth, coating it with concentrated aromatic lavender among other mixed wildflowers as the nectar basis for the honey, which is thick like a raw honey and a  transparent gold in color.  I can imagine it in a hot lemonade or other mixed drink.

Monica also makes a Lavender Honey Perfume which I have come to rely on as a beautiful comforting scent to sleep in and to recuperate with as needed, and I can imagine both the perfume and the honey being used together as a strong yet gentle guide back to well being.

Their most unique products are the several varieties of honey produced by enhancing the nectar with essential oils and natural perfumes fed to the bees.  These are both honeys and perfumes to be experienced by taste in a clean mouth, or used as a garnish to a very special occasion dessert. Taking a small amount on the tongue coats the interior of the mouth with a thin film that causes the fragrance to be released by  warmth and moisture into the sensitive taste and scent receptors in an intimate way.

My favorite is Let This Liquid Love Make Peace, a transparent blue-toned honey that seems to contain the mysterious  fragrance of an infinite number of darkly toned floral elements.  It has a smooth liquid texture.  I know that it also contains a homeopathic amount of all the elements contributed by the perfumers in the Primordial Perfumes Project to represent their varied locations. Monica carefully infuses it with her prayers for Peace, a ritual that adds to the care with which the honey is handled.  Some of the elements offered to the bees to ingest as they produce this one are white sage, roses, cedar, and a black musk attar.  The color comes from edible flowers.  This would be a honey used more as a perfume in that you would experience it on its own, not so much as a food but as part of a personal scent and taste ritual.

There is more than one version, as each are hand made and over time the elements change, in  a limited edition of about 50 pieces each.  A second under the title of Let This Liquid Love Make Peace - Orange was a dark honey, with a taste almost like a complex liqueur, yet still very much a honey in itself.  It reminded me of the taste of bourbon with a subtle astringent orange and mandarin tone, and a texture and odor that references orange marmalade. 

The Chocolate Honey is the result of a cocoa absolute and a secret second substance that takes off the natural bitterness of dark cocoa, transformed into a taste of the essential nature of chocolate and a rich honey, which predominates.  I can imagine dipping thinly sliced apples or sections of tangerine or other fruit into it.

 Strawberry Passion Perfume essence, fully natural, has been incorporated in certain batches.  This was a natural perfume designed by Kedra Hart of Opus Oils for Monica containing boronia and other precious natural floral essences to create a green strawberry accord.   A little of the comb is mixed into the honey which gives a varied texture to a pale amber color.

As part of these works all fitting together, I believe this Strawberry Passion Perfume Honey and the Chocolate Honey are  enhanced by using the fragrance as perfume or body cream with it.  The body cream is thick with shea butter which holds the delicate scent of the outer perfume to the right level, to works well with this and the other complex honeys.

Chillmark, one of the towns on Martha's vineyard is a place where certain bees foraged the flowers and trees and results in a classical honey colored softly sweet liquid.

This one can be used on cheese, fruit, toast, ice cream or in herbal teas, in sauces and dressings but mostly as a decorative garnish to be experienced on its own.  The prices are in the $2 per ounce range, with the Liquid Love and the Strawberry Passion varieties a bit more expensive and in limited edition and more for use as a tasting honey on their own.  The containers range in size and go from about $5 to $14.

Considering that it takes 360 bees a lifetime's hard work to fill the small jar, and with the addition of the precious absolutes, herbal and floral essences from a small island with a limited area of natural trees and plants to be foraged for nectar, it is miraculously well priced and indeed, almost a sacramental substance similar to a fine wine.

What will help the bees and the rest of us survive is to protect and increase the areas where they may forage safely, without pesticides or pollution, by  planting trees and flowering plants of all kinds in every space available.

The honeys are available through the Etsy shop or if you are on or near Martha's Vineyard, at the farmer's stand near the perfumer's house.

There are also varied gourmet and artisan purveyors who will be bringing these honeys in small quantities to Brooklyn and Boston and possibly other areas of the country.  I think these would make incredibly brilliant and romantic gifts for perfumistas, foodies and environmentalists alike.

Please follow the links above to the Etsy Shop or the Facebook Page for more information and to order samples or full sizes of the honeys and the perfumes.

Here's a link to a local writer's article on the lovely roadside stand (the source of the above photo).
Photos otherwise borrowed from the Martha's Vineyard Co.  Samples were provided to me by the perfumer/beekeeper.

Copyright 2013 Lucy Raubertas, All Rights Reserved.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Lucy Raubertas, the top image used here is called 'Beekeepers Dance', and it is by Henryk M. Fantazos.