Uh huh honey
It was clearly fate. The gentle, persistent drizzle turned into a downpour and I ducked into the nearest open business which was, of all things, an olive oil store. It was only polite to browse in exchange for the shelter, and after I'd amassed a collection of local benne seed oil, okra seed oil, and some blue Geechie Boy grits on the counter (I should mention I was in Charleston, SC, but you probably figured that out), I peeked out the window. Still pouring. I went prowling for more, and suddenly I found it: Holy Smoke Hickory Smoked Wildflower Honey.
I'm a sucker for anything smoked, and with one sniff from an open jar, I was sold. I'm a later-in-life honey lover because I had so much of the fake, cruddy stuff growing up, and I'm making up for lost time. Good, honest honey tastes like the place it's from and the honey for this comes from John's Island in the Lowcountry of South Carolina where Holy Smoke is based. I tracked down the company's co-founder, Max Blackman, at the New York Fancy Food Show this week because seriously, what are the odds that these folks would come to my town, and he gave me the buzz on how this honey came to be.
Blackman and co-founder Kyle Pane were working together at a restaurant in Folly Beach, SC, and during a post-shift drink, Pane told Blackman that he liked to give homemade smoked salt to people as holiday gifts. He'd tried smoking olive oil, but the heat destroys the integrity of the product. Blackman took that as a challenge and built a cold-smoking machine that kept things at a cool, consistent 37°F, and their business, Holy Smoke, was born. The line includes that original oil, smoked pepper, smoked bloody mary mix, and this honey that knocked my senses for a loop.
Honey was a natural next step, Blackman told me, because along with molasses, it's so closely associated with barbecue which—if properly prepared—is redolent of smoke. Holy Smoke uses hickory in particular, and it's gloriously present, but subtle enough to complement but not overpower the slightly floral sweetness of the honey. I've loved it on the edge of a tea glass and straight from a spoon thus far, and within the next 24 hours, I'm going to swirl it with a little oil, salt, and vinegar to drizzle over raw vegetables. This was the happiest possible accident, and I want this honey on everything. It's that good, and I'm not just blowing smoke.