I had not had Heather honey before coming to the UK. In fact, I had never had this honey until I joined the Association for a Taster Beekeeping Day where we were offered to try several specialty honeys. It was also explained to me just how special the Heather honey is, with local beekeepers transporting their bees to the Derbyshire Moors and staying with their bees for weeks before returning home. The honey itself is also significantly more viscous and the extracting process involves a manual press! Overall, obtaining heather honey is intensely laboring and requires significant travelling if you are not lucky enough to live in Derbyshire! This is not a honey variety I have seen on shelves yet, perhaps because of its low returns due to the labour involved, or perhaps because the public have not built the palette just yet. I am sure that the amateur beekeepers are readily able to sell the honey, within or without shop shelves, especially as some will say this is the closest the UK can offer to Manuka Honey.
I will have to disagree.
Perhaps visually, yes, this is a deep, caramel-coloured honey, with little clarity for all the pollen and bits left inside (the honey I have had was not finely filtered). The consistency is also very similar; it is a viscous honey, feels heavy on the spoon and clings on your taste buds. But that is where it stops for me.
Once the jar is opened, it’s game over for the Manuka honey wannabe. The flowery aroma of wild heathers hits you, hard. It is exactly what you imagine a wildflower meadow with wild heather majority will smell like if you got on your knees and inhaled deeply. It is what flowery perfumes inspire to smell like, but sweeter and somehow softer, less sharp.
Once you get a whiff of the smell of the honey, you already begin to have very good picture of what it will taste like and it does not disappoint. The taste is a reflection of the smell, in a perfect example of taste and olfactory cooperation for a complete gastronomical experience.
Although I disagree that this is a close match for Manuka honey, it is definitely a special variety of honey. It is a honey that is getting more and more scarce due to the loss of wildflower meadows in the UK, and as such it is one to be cherished by those with a more refined (honey) palette.