Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What's Jayme drinking?

Plum melomel mead honey wine home brew
Got a little something different tonight: Plum melomel. For the uninitiated, that is mead (honey wine) made with plums. I made it myself. It's been in the works for quite a long time, the initial honey fermentation starting back in November 2012, keeping the fermentation cool by sitting the carboy in a water bath filled with ice and wet towels draped over it. This had the effect of slowing fermentation to prevent the formation of yucky fusel alcohols. I added the crushed plum juice to start secondary fermentation in June 2013, and finally bottled it in April of this year. That's a long time to invest in something to drink.

I have to say, though, the aging and cool fermentation has proven worth it. The mead pours a clear, light amber in the glass. No carbonation. The mead is not terribly viscous in the glass, not clinging to the sides when I swirl it around. The bouquet... well, that leaves something to be desired. The scent of rubber, dry wood and licorice hits my nose, along with some faintly sour esters and tired honey that give a slight chemical tinge. The traditional "Listerine" profile that marks the presence of those nasty fusels flashes through my mind. After a cautious sip, those worries are dispelled. There's a bright, cheerfulness on the surface here, light cherries, apricot, raspberries and, yes, plum. There's a light, demi-sweetness at work here, not quite comparable to a white zinfandel, but close. It's not cloying. It is, in fact, almost exactly the balance I was hoping for. The mild acidity balances the light sweetness very well, and the tannins give it just the right amount of body to ensure a robust mouthfeel. There's a heavier after taste of dark cherries, stronger plum and maybe currants. There's also an earthy undertone I'm struggling to place. It's almost woody, but not oak. Finally, the alcohol is not obvious in the mouth, but once swallowed there's a definite heat in the throat. The original alcohol potential of the honey was right at 11 percent, but with the addition of the plum and a little additional honey for back sweetening (fermentation hadn't quite been knocked out at that point) I'm guessing the final alcohol content is closer to 13 percent. That's a little higher than I'd intended, but certainly within the realm of acceptability.

I have to say that while imperfect, this batch of plum melomel is among of the best I've made since I started experimenting with mead. The scent is truly unfortunate, as it is quite off-putting, but getting past that it's quite a nice drink. I've got about two cases laid up, so I'll be able to enjoy this vintage for quite some time to come.

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  1. Anonymous8:40 AM

    If you leave them uncorked ... maybe the odor will dissipate.

  2. Yeah, I do allow it to breathe, but it hasn't helped much. Fortunately, the odor isn't over-powering. It's pretty much contained within the glass, so it's easy to simply not inhale when taking a sip. Either way, I'm very close to producing consistently drinkable stuff that is pretty close to what I intend when starting.