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Aging honey, a sweet success at Sugar Hill Berry Farm
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Drew Hill pours sourwood honey into a used bourbon barrel Friday, Aug. 30, 2019, at Sugar Hill Berry Farm in Murrayville.

Last year, Sugar Hill Berry Farm set out on an unusual mission — to make honey a little sweeter.

Jerry Hill and his family took on the endeavor ofaging honey in barrels in the fall, storing honey in bourbon and rye whiskey barrels from ASW Distillery in Atlanta. The process took about three months to complete, so by the time the honey was ready on Thanksgiving weekend, they had already presold 110 bottles.

Hill was only offering 100 bottles initially, but tapped out at more than 300 bottles. 

“We ended up selling about 250 bottles of the bourbon barrel sourwood and 75 bottles of the rye whiskey barrel orange blossom,” Jerry Hill, owner at the family-owned farm said. “It turned out to be at least as good as we thought it would be, if not better.”

Both of the flavors turned out to be a sold-out hit, according to Hill. He held five bottles back, which is all that remains of the stock for now.

“People that had ordered one or two jars would come back and buy 15 more,” Hill said. 

Gainesville local Henry Lawson walked away satisfied with his honey. 

Lawson has been a customer of Hills for about five years and bought several bottles of both flavors of the barrel-aged honey.

“The honey has a great flavor to use when grilling meat. I use it as a final glaze when grilling chicken or pork chops. I also put some in my coffee sometimes and use it to sweeten it,” Lawson said. 

The rye whiskey turned out to be a big hit among people that liked hot tea, according to Hill. 

Even though the bottles were selling for $20 per pound, the total profit is hard to calculate, according to Hill. 

Hill gets his sourwood honey from up in the North Georgia mountains and his orange blossom honey from Florida.

“On average, a beekeeper is going to lose 30 percent of his bees per year, so we operate on a very thin margin. It’s hard to figure the expense on honey,” Hill said. 

Hill says that there are definitely plans for more in the future. Currently, he has a 25-bottle-batch of rye whiskey orange blossom working that should be ready in about 10 weeks.

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