Three Generations of Beekeepers and a Taste of Honey
The Walkers based at Inverell in northern New South Wales close to the Queensland border have been in the beekeeping business since 1928. Whilst on my travels through eastern Australia with the team from Gatherby I had the pleasure to spend an afternoon with three generations of the Walker family. Father Lennie, son David and grandson Nathan. It was Lennie’s father in-law Frank who got into bees all those years ago and he setup a shed producing honey, he even went to ‘bee school’. They were harsh times and he left for a while but was lured back in 1955 when he bought some hives. Lennie started working with Frank in 1963 when he was just 16 years old.
Lennie recently retired but still has a few hives to tend to whilst David and Nathan continue on with the legacy and 3000 hives. They produce award winning honey collecting three gold medals at The Royal Sydney Easter Show in 2014, the only beekeepers in Australia to do so. Because of these awards and many more and the longevity of their business they have become known as ‘beekeeper royalty’. It hasn’t gone to their heads though. I found the Walker family to be incredibly knowledgeabe and modest with it. They clearly have a passion and love for the land and bees. Another title they have earned is ‘fence-post’ beekeepers which means they can outwit nature and produce amazing honey. With all this experience being handed down through the family they have developed an instinct for best practice. Their bees have survived harsh weather conditions, threat of disease and the family the financial pressure of large conglomerates driving prices down. They have persevered when many Australian beekeepers havent.
I view honey’s as having personalities and tasting them is a journey into exploring who they are. When I taste honey I try and understand the flavour profiles which can vary from intensely floral, citrusy, fruity, caramel, butterscotch. Some have exotic fruit flavours or have bitter herbal tastes with an astringent almost antiseptic taste. Some honeys can even remind me of animal smells or birds. It’s weird but that exploration gives you a journey into the varying nectars that are collected from so many flowers that when combined can create incredible flavours, smells and colours.
With the Walkers I tasted red stringybark, yellow box and caleys ironbark. Interesting names with red stringy bark coming from the red gum eucalyptus tree providing a rich dark highly medicinal honey. Yellow box a light golden coloured honey from the eucalyptus melliodora which means ‘odour of honey’ because of the sweet aroma given off by the blossoms. It has a sweet taste with hints of butterscotch. And, caley’s ironbark another eucalyptus endemic to eastern Australia. We are talking true bush honeys here and the taste profiles were amazing. Some of the single strains are rare and they hit you at the back of the throat and slowly enfuse their flavour into the mouth.
Thanks to the Walkers for sharing their story and for the great taste experience. I will defintely be going back for more. Why not try a tasting session at home and see how you get on picking out the personalities of a variety of honeys. Let me know how you get on.