Two flights featuring a variety of flavors and strengths of mead are served at Hierophant Meadery on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2023, in Freeland, Washington. Co-owner Jeremy Kyncl half-joked that he hopes to win a gold medal for every single variety the meadery creates. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Two flights featuring a variety of flavors and strengths of mead are served at Hierophant Meadery on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2023, in Freeland, Washington. Co-owner Jeremy Kyncl half-joked that he hopes to win a gold medal for every single variety the meadery creates. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

All the buzz: For Whidbey’s Hierophant Meadery, sustainability is sweet

Jeremy Kyncl and Michelle Scandalis strive to influence culture around environmental issues through their business.

One glass of wine requires about 29 gallons of water, according to the global average from the Water Footprint Network. One glass of beer may need up to 20 gallons of water.

For one glass of mead, the water usage is less than a gallon. Couple Jeremy Kyncl and Michelle Scandalis, owners of Hierophant Meadery on Whidbey Island, estimate one gallon of their honey-based alcoholic beverage uses about six gallons of water.

“The bees just go and they find surface water,” Kyncl said. “They get the water they need, they come back. And so all the water that’s used in producing (honey) is on the land already. It’s not pulled up out of aquifers.”

Kyncl and Scandalis said they strive to influence culture around environmental issues through their business. While mead is a sustainable drink by design, the Hierophant Meadery owners said they localize operations and ingredients as much as possible. Keeping their supply chain short allows the herbalists to build relationships with farmers and surrounding natural spaces — the people and places who also support the “sacred” work of the honey bee.

In Hierophant’s tasting room, flights of mead are served on a honeycomb-shaped wooden tray. Varieties can range widely in level of sweetness, despite honey’s sugary base.

Some, like the Matricaria Chamomile Mead, are a gentle balance of floral and fruity. Others, like the Krokos Saffron Mead aged on French and American oak, taste purely natural, like a sip of the forest.

A short walk away from the meadery’s tasting room, a building houses a row of vats, each holding up to 400 pounds of honey waiting to be fermented. Behind that, several shelves are filled with containers of plants like an apothecary’s rows of remedies.

‘Folks we can shake hands with’

Hierophant Meadery owners and operators Michelle Scandalis and Jeremy Kyncl sit in the tasting room on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2023, in Freeland, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Hierophant Meadery owners and operators Michelle Scandalis and Jeremy Kyncl sit in the tasting room on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2023, in Freeland, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Sourcing is top of mind for Kyncl and Scandalis, both for acquiring honey and the flavors that distinguish each variety of mead. The couple works with beekeepers located in the greater Spokane area, where Hierophant Meadery started back in 2012.

“A really important piece of what we do is … keeping things to folks we can shake hands with,” Kyncl said. “It’s folks that we were tabling next to at the farmer’s market.”

Before Kyncl and Scandalis moved to Freeland in 2018, they had spent years searching for a place to grow their business. The couple was initially compelled by Whidbey Island’s agricultural tourism and small-town atmosphere.

As a plus, the property where Hierophant Meadery now stands is accessible to nearby trails and land filled with organic flavors that they dreamed of using in their products.

In 2021, Kyncl and Scandalis received a grant from the Pike Place Market Foundation to start a herb garden on their Freeland property. Instead of sourcing from miles away, their goal is to harvest flavors on site.

It’s a long-term project, but they’ve already started using and infusing plants from the garden, such as lemon balm. They hope to eventually create a “multi-tiered ecosystem” in their garden for pollinators to forage from.

With some botanicals, like vanilla, Kyncl and Scandalis have to buy them off of the world market because they’re just not available in Washington. Still, they aim to source herbs not grown in their garden from local farms or the area around them.

Nettle, for instance, grows “freely and abundantly” in the forest just beyond where the meadery stands. The plants, often likened to spinach, add a fresh taste to meads.

“I think that’s a lot of it,” Kyncl said. “How do we create beautiful, interesting flavors from the ecology that surrounds us in a way that supports the biodiversity around us?”

It’s easier to make mead sustainably, compared to beer and wine, because the timeline to make a batch is relatively short — roughly two months from start to finish, Kyncl said.

The meadery receives barrels, each filled with about 655 pounds of honey, every few months throughout the year. Then the honey is warmed, diluted and fermented for about four to five weeks before it is infused with botanicals, packaged and distributed.

‘Sacred and holy’

A bee from a neighboring farm stops by a lavender plant at Hierophant Meadery on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2023, in Freeland, Washington. The owners at Hierophant are working on expanding their garden and locally growing a number of herbs and other plants. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

A bee from a neighboring farm stops by a lavender plant at Hierophant Meadery on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2023, in Freeland, Washington. The owners at Hierophant are working on expanding their garden and locally growing a number of herbs and other plants. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Mead operations produce a minimal amount of solid waste — a critical sustainability element when food waste contributes to about 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Kyncl said with each batch, leftover wax, pollen and herbs are composted in their garden.

Meaderies like Hierophant support the essential work of pollinators, “skimming off the top” and taking excess honey the bees don’t need, Kyncl said.

“The entire point is to keep them alive,” Kyncl said. “This is not making bacon.”

The name of the meadery — Hierophant — is strategic and intentional. The name refers to someone who reveals “what is sacred and holy.” For Kyncl and Scandalis, the Hierophant is the honey bee.

Through this respect for pollinators, Kyncl and Scandalis continue to seek ways they can make their craft operations more environmentally-friendly. Using more sustainable packaging for their mead products is one area where they want to improve.

Scandalis said they’re hoping to use aluminum cans more often for their mead, partially because aluminum is one of the most recycled materials and has a smaller carbon footprint than glass and plastic.

The Hierophant Meadery brand, Scandalis said, is to make sustainability “sexy.” Especially because botanically-infused mead is still a niche in the industry.

“We want everyone to follow suit in the industry,” Scandalis said. “I’m hoping that if people care about it, then we don’t have to worry about losing pollinators.”

Ta’Leah Van Sistine: 425-339-3460; taleah.vansistine@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @TaLeahRoseV.

Sound & Summit

This article is featured in the winter issue of Sound & Summit, a supplement of The Daily Herald. Explore Snohomish and Island counties with each quarterly magazine. Each issue is $4.99. Subscribe to receive all four editions for $18 per year. Call 425-339-3200 or go to soundsummitmagazine.com for more information.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Food & Drink

Owner Fatou Dibba prepares food at the African Heritage Restaurant on Saturday, April 6, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Oxtail stew and fufu: Heritage African Restaurant in Everett dishes it up

“Most of the people who walk in through the door don’t know our food,” said Fatou Dibba, co-owner of the new restaurant at Hewitt and Broadway.

Featuring a pink blush over a yellow background, WA 64 combines qualities of Honeycrisp and Cripps Pink (aka Pink Lady) for a firm, crisp, sweet and tart bite. A naming contest for the new apple runs through May 5, 2024. (Photo provided by Washington State University)
Hey Honeycrisp, this new breed of apple needs a name

Enter a naming contest for WA 64, a hybrid apple with the same baby daddy as Cosmic Crisp.

Binita Shrestha, new co-owner of Boston’s Restaurant & Sports Bar, sits in her restaurant on Monday, March 18, 2024, in Smokey Point, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
New pizzeria owner took the scenic route from Nepal to Marysville

Binita Shrestha “wanted to be everything.” At 50, she can check off Korean beauty pageant contestant and restaurant franchisee.

Owner Andy Plumlee stands in front Popsies in Oak Harbor. (Photo provided by Whidbey News-Times)
Popsies offers kaleidoscope of popcorn flavors on Whidbey Island

Two years after taking over the business, Andy Plumlee opened another store in the Anacortes Marina on Monday.

Husband and wife Christian and Melissa Despi have started their own bakery in Everett.  (Dan Bates / The Herald)
Who takes the cake? The best bakery in Snohomish County

Herald readers voted on the best pastry shop to satisfy your sweet tooth.

This baby potato and fenugreek stir fry makes a great filling for a pita bread sandwich. (Reshma Seetharam)
Are potatoes vegetables? A national committee is hashing that out

The debate has sparked a national debate. Sen. Maria Cantwell signed a letter opposing reclassifying potatoes as grains.

This September 2020 photo shows a sliced baked ham on parchment paper in Washington, D.C. Leftover ham, which will last for up to five days in the fridge, can be a springboard for other meals during the week. Of course you’ll want a sandwich or two, but there are many other ways to put that porky, smoky flavor to good use. (Cheyenne Cohen via AP)
How to make an Easter ham last all week — or longer by properly freezing it

Sandwiches will eat up some of those leftovers, but what about the rest? Try adding it to a salad, a casserole or an omelet.

This image shows a larger adaptation of the Israeli dish shakshuka from Molly Gilbert's "Sheet Pan Suppers." (Molly Gilbert via AP)
To feed a crowd for Easter brunch, these chefs suggest baking your eggs

Molly Gilbert shares her take on a traditional Israeli dish while Lauren Lane offers up her version of an egg casserole.

Some posh cooks shunning vegetable oil

Concerns about vegetable oils are driving elite chefs and the affluent to products said to be healthier. Can ordinary home cooks afford to follow?

This April 2019 image shows a recipe for chipotle sliders with a colorful lettuce slaw and blue cheese dressing in New York. (Cheyenne Cohen via AP)
These mini-burgers are delectable, adorable and inhalable

And they might just be perfect if you’re hosting a gathering to watch the college basketball tournament on TV.

Downtown Edmonds is a dining destination, boasting fresh seafood, Caribbean-inspired sandwiches, artisan bread and more. (Taylor Goebel / The Herald)
What to eat on a foodie day trip to Edmonds

From doughnuts for breakfast to sushi for dinner, here are four absolute winners worth a food lover’s day trip to Edmonds.

Irish Guinness stew with mashed potatoes, soda bread and -- of course -- a pint of Guinness. (Quil Ceda Creek Casino)
Don’t wait for St. Paddy’s Day 2025 to cook up this Irish stew

This take on traditional Irish stew from a Quil Ceda Creek Casino chef is a delicious and practical way to feed the whole family.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.