The Luxe Bee Botanical Gift Set
Diving into the gin (sadly, not literally speaking), we spoke to Warner Edwards Conservation & Sustainability Manager/ Beekeeper, Jonny Easter about how Honeybee gin is made, and which flowers are best for bees.
How did you become the official beekeeper for Warner Edwards?
Well, I'm Marine Biologist by trade, so I've always had an interest in nature. Founders Tom and Tina Warner contacted me through Northampton Beekeepers Association, and I helped them set up hives, as Tina’s parents kept bees so Tom always wanted to carry this on. After that, they offered me the job!
Why are bees so important to gin?
Wildlife conservation is one of Warner Edwards' values. We rely on a natural, healthy environment, such as excellent water quality from the spring nearby that we use when distilling our gin. Hedgerows and wildflower meadows help make gin: Of the botanicals we us, 95 per cent are pollinated by bees. Without bees there would be no pollination, no sloes and no gin. Juniper is probably the only ingredient of our gins that isn't pollinated by bees (juniper is wind pollinated). Other essentials for our gin, such as Coriander, Angelica and Citrus, are bee-pollinated.
Just how much plant action is there in Honeybee gin?
There are 28 different botanicals in the gin, including the beautiful bright blue Cornflower which was once a common sight across our countryside. England used to have so many wildflower meadows , but we've lost so many of this flower-rich land, mainly through the industrialisation of fertilisers, farming and the use of pesticides, especially neonicotinoids. These have sub-lethal effects that messes up a bee's internal compass. They might not initially die, but they have shown to cause neurological changes. They lose their sense of direction, therefore use up more energy through more flying around. The colony gets less fuel and the result is stressed, exhausted and confused bees.
The Bee Botanical Gift Set
And how have bees been affected?
There has been a steady decline of bees over the last 100 years. Not all bees have declined- there are winners (like some of our common garden Bumblebees) and losers (like those adapted to specific habitats). In general, honeybees and other solitary bees haven't done very well. Solitary bees are by far the biggest and most important group in terms of pollination. Honeybees are artificially controlled in beekeeping, as we can create new queens. Wildflowers in our countryside are an important source of pollen and nectar in late summer for bees. If there's a shortage of food going into winter, of course more bees are going to die.
What can we do to make it easier for bees to prosper?
Bees are doing better in urban and suburban environments as people are becoming more aware of pollinators and bee friendly flowers, and ironically, in the countryside, they're not doing so well. A garden – no matter what size – where flowers that provide pollen and nectar are made available throughout the year can be valuable for bees. Nectar helps them make honey; pollen is their protein, and when combined with honey is called ‘bee bread’ which helps baby bees grow. An untidy garden is perfect for this : Dandelions, brambles, Honeysuckle, Lavender, Daisies and Hellebores all contribute to bees' welfare. Even a herb box including Rosemary, Chives and Thyme will attract bees when left to flower.
Finally, what's your favourite way to enjoy Honeybee gin?
With Fever-Tree Mediterranean Tonic, garnished with a slice of lemon, sage or lemon thyme.
The Beejou Gift Set