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In the dark days of January, (exacerbated this year by the grimness of a Covid lockdown) it’s not hard for our thoughts to drift off to the sunnier, warmer days of summer… Long, light filled days to be enjoyed outside in our beautiful Island countryside alive with birdsong, butterflies and bees…
There are (we believe) 80 registered beekeepers on the Isle of Man and thanks to our “disease free” status (well done bees – people take note!) the honey that is produced here is free from many of the chemicals found in other honeys where bees that produce them require constant treatment and disease prevention.
We also have an incredible array of different terrain and habitats which means Manx Honey (Mill Manninagh) is some of the best quality and most delicious honey there is!
Back in 2018, we decided that we would like to launch a Fynoderee Manx Vodka to complement our growing Manx Dry Gin range, and as with all Fynoderee products, it is important to us to include a local twist and create something that has genuine Manx provenance and backstory.
Our Master Distiller at the time was inspired by the quality of the local honey and did some trial vodka distillations with it. Our ambition was to create a characterful vodka that would have a discernible flavour (without over-powering), as well as a smooth and unctuous mouth-feel that would lend itself to being sipped neat or ‘on the rocks’ – a hall mark of a premium vodka…
We weren’t looking to create a “flavoured” vodka per see as this involves compounding flavours post distillation and we were aware that the flavour of honey can be a little polarising. Adding Manx honey to the still before distillation however created a soft, sweetness with the most subtle hint of honey flavour coming though on the palate only. We were hooked and delighted to set to work on bringing our Manx Vodka into commercial production.
Simultaneous to our distillery-based research and product development was the project to create a name and label for our Vodka… With a Manx brand firmly rooted in local tradition and folklore and a forager (Kevin Quayle) whose many hobbies include traditional Manx willow and rushes weaving of items such as “Bumbee Cages”, it didn’t take long for the concept of Manx Bumbee Vodka to evolve in our minds….
A “Bumbee” is Manx colloquial for a bumble bee… In days gone by, the older generation would tell children that a “Bumbee” was a bad fairy and that the fairy had done something wrong and been turned in to a bumble bee… To punish the “Bumbee” children would weave a small willow cage with a handle and then wait for a Bumbee to crawl inside a Foxglove flower. The child would carefully trap it inside the flower and transfer it to the cage thus creating a rattle.
When the child went to bed, the parents would then release the bee from the cage (thankfully!) and replace it with a small stone. On waking, the child would then be told that the Bumbee had learnt its lesson and turned back to a fairy and escaped again by fairy magic – the small stone is purported to have symbolised its ‘bad heart’ that it had left behind!
Now before you get agitated… we do know that Bumbees don’t make honey! Their friends the Honeybees do, but they are still great pollinators and members of the “Apidae” family and quite frankly… once you’re into the realm of the fairies, we’re calling on poetic license for the rest!
With a delicious vodka and heads brimming with ideas, it was time to talk to local artist Julia Ashby Smyth who creates all our Fynoderee illustrations and bottle labels. It wasn’t long before we were all “buzzing” with ideas on bringing this story to life on the label…
The concept of a Bumbee cage and a poor bumblebee being stuck inside is actually not all that nice and we were more inspired by the concept of its release… So, our “Bumbee Girl” character was invented and created to portray the freed Bumbee - she’s sassy, mad as hell and intent on some mischievous revenge! The label that Julia created for Manx Bumbee Vodka is a real favourite with the backdrop of honeycomb, the Foxglove flowers and our Bumbee Girl sitting centre stage illustrated in 1940’s pin up style!
Manx Bumbee Vodka has become a core product for The Fynoderee Distillery. Whilst Vodka as a category is far less popular than gin, those who enjoy and appreciate premium Vodkas really do enjoy ours and we are delighted with the number of repeat purchasers and Bumbee fans we have. Our vodka production is steadily growing, and we are very grateful to the members of the Isle of Man Beekeepers Federation who produce such great Manx Honey for us to purchase and use in our production.
In particular, we purchase a large proportion of our Manx Honey from Ballanelson Nurseries in Jurby. This is the same farm that grows the open-air Manx strawberries for our Fynoderee Summer Gin and it’s a lovely connection to our Gin that the honey we use in our Vodka is from the same bees that pollinated the strawberry plants. We use 10kg of Pure Manx Honey in every batch of Manx Bumbee Vodka and to supplement the honey stocks we are using from local beekeepers we intend to set up some hives of our own during 2021.
Manx Bumbee Vodka is available from all our island wide stockists as well as online at www.fynoderee.com
As we slip in to the Autumnal groove, we’re very pleased to confirm that The Fyn Bar will be remaining open every Friday and Saturday between now and Christmas!