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March 27, 2013

How Mead and "Honeyshine" Are Made

Before we get started, a reminder: Distilling alcohol is illegal without a federal fuel alcohol or distilled spirit plant permit as well as relevant state permits. Our distillation equipment is designed for legal uses only and the information in this article is for educational purposes only. Please read our complete legal summary for more information on the legalities of distillation.

Here is a scaled down version of one of the best recipes of all time: Honeyshine. There aren't many examples out there of folks doing this, but they do exist. This recipe is perfect for testing on a small-scale pilot distillery system. It's basically a no frills distilled mead but the wildflower honey should provide quite an interesting final product.

This procedure is different from others in that it uses actual honey as the sugar source. For example, this Montana Honey Moonshine uses grain and cane sugar for the base and only is only back sweetened with honey. That's probably because honey is quite expensive. For example, small-batch local honey fetches about $75 per gallon! This makes honey whiskey quite an expensive small distillation project, but it would probably be worth the cost and the effort.

The following is how a commercial distiller would likely make honey whiskey on a small pilot system.

Honey Whiskey Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 gallon of wildflower honey or honey of choice
  • 5 gallons of water
  • Super Start distillers yeast or yeast of choice
  • Yeast nutrient

Procedure:

  • Heat 2.5 gallons of water to 160° F and stir in 1 gallon of honey until completely dissolved.
  • Add an additional 2.5 gallons of room temperature water to the honey solution.
  • Cool to 70F using an immersion chiller.
  • Aerate by pouring mash back and forth between two buckets.
  • Add yeast of choice.
  • Add 2.5 teaspoons of yeast nutrient (Follow the directions on the label)
  • Transfer to a glass carboy, install air lock, and allow to ferment around 70 F for at least 2 weeks or until it is finished fermenting. Check out 'How to Know when Fermentation is Finished' for information on fermentation.
  • After fermentation is finished allow to settle for 10-14 days.
  • Siphon (do not pour) into a 5 or 10 gallon copper still.
  • Distill the fermented product.
    • The distiller would make extremely tight heads and tails cuts if they did not plan on aging.
    • The distiller would be tight with heads cut but more liberal with tails cuts if they were planning on following aging instructions below.

Finishing:

  • It could be aged for 2-3 weeks using lightly toasted american oak chips.
  • It would probably be good without aging if a bit of honey was added to the finished product.

Again, distilling alcohol is illegal without a federal fuel alcohol or distilled spirits plant permit as well as relevant state and local permits.


  • Tried the Honey and got good results. I substituted Maple syrup for the honey and adjusted the mix to 1 part syrup and 4 parts water, added 1 teaspoon of bakers yeast for each gallon in the mix and 1 teaspoon for the pot. Maintained 80 degrees for fermentation. took about 4 weeks to finish fermentation ready for distilling. great results, great flavor.

    Posted by Greg on November 13, 2021
  • Used your recipe for honey shine how long does it take to start working. Is been on about 12 hours and nothing is happening?

    Posted by Danny on November 13, 2021
  • 4 year brewer
    question about about the whole honey acid dissolving metal, leaving a metal taste in the honey. I have run into this making a mash in a metal pot, leaving a metal like taste. when you did the distillation how was the after taste?

    Posted by connor on December 04, 2018
  • What is the proper amount to discard with heads and tails?

    Posted by Ronert on February 22, 2018
  • Honey

    Posted by Steven on November 22, 2017
  • just started my first batch of mead using bakers yeast. It is the opposite of slow. Did a start in warm water and molasses. I think this may be the key to getting honey to ferment quickly because it was bubbling from the moment I put the airlock on the carboy. It smells like it’s probably already 2% ABV after just 24 hours. I expect to start bottle conditioning in 2 weeks and drinking in 3.
    You have to overcome the antimicrobial properties of the honey and if the yeast isn’t going strong when you put it in, it never will.
    I believe that active dry bakers yeast is the best yeast to use to ferment honey based on what I have seen with people using beer or wine yeast on youtube. I suspect it has greater resistance to the antimicrobial nature of honey. It has an alcohol tolerance of 14% which is plenty whether you are distilling it or not. Nevertheless, you can screw up with any yeast if you don’t handle it right.

    Posted by Finkelroy on May 28, 2017
  • Hello
    Excuse my ignorance for I am new to disrilling. I have an 8 gallon stainless pot connected to a 40 inch tall 3 inch copper column stuffed with copper pads. I have made a few simple recipes that I think turned out well. Of course I don’t have anything to compare it to. Finally my question. If I were to also suspend copper plates into my mash when cooking off the alcohol would that simulate a copper pot and would it matter since I have a copper column with pads.
    Thanks in advance.
    Dave B.

    Posted by Dave B on May 24, 2017
  • Thank you

    Posted by JIm LUndie on February 19, 2017
  • I will be ordering a 5 gAl still in the next. Couple days. I’m building it for a friend and master of distillery old school maker who is teaching me. He wants a worm on his still this is possible with your still is it not ???

    Posted by TEx on February 12, 2017
  • I’m using “fleischmans active dry yeast”, how much should I add?all recipes say “a packet”, I bought a 4 oz. bottle. Also will be adding yeast nutrients, how much of the nutrient? Thank you in advance.

    Posted by SMall BAtch on January 13, 2017
  • do you have any special pricing for veterans.

    Posted by david oesch on December 15, 2016
  • I know what the Heads and Tails are, but what is the foreshots?

    Posted by David oesch on December 15, 2016
  • Started 2 batches of honey shine and 1 does not appear to be fermenting. Have air lock on it and there is no bubbles coming through. The other is bubbling good. Any idea what is going on. The one not bubbling I used distillers yeast on, the one that is working good I used Baker’s yeast on.

    Posted by Erik on September 25, 2016
  • Can you reuse the wash off of honey shine and run it again if so what do you do. I don’t see how inless you are putting more honey in it.

    Posted by ROnnie on September 16, 2016
  • Honey is a very slow fermenter, I know because I make a lot of mead. 2 weeks may not be nearly long enough for it to complete fermentation. Two months would be better.

    Posted by Rila on March 11, 2016
  • Great recipe! What would be the proof of the finished product? Thx.

    Posted by IrisRose on March 09, 2016
  • When using honey, do you use raw honey or pasturiezed honey. I have access to both.

    Thank you for your help in advance

    Posted by Joe on March 07, 2016
  • While my product is fermenting in carboy, am I supposed to stir or just let set?

    Posted by Drc on February 04, 2016
  • what and how much are head and tail cuts

    Posted by ross on February 01, 2016
  • The slow people should go back to school and learn how to spell.

    Posted by Ray on January 11, 2016


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