Founder and Queen Bee, Lee Hedgmon
Lee Hedgmon, a trailblazer in the world of honey alchemy, is the founder of The Barreled Bee, LLC, where she transforms honey into a liquid narrative of time and place. With a philosophy reminiscent of wine appreciation, Lee sees honey as a snapshot of a moment, a testament to terroir, capturing the essence of blooming flora and the journey of industrious bees. The inception of The Barreled Bee was inspired by a transformative moment: a taste of honey that had been artfully barrel-aged by a distillery. Intrigued by the potential marriage of different barrels and honey varietals, Lee embarked on a flavorful exploration that has since yielded an impressive array of artisanal honeys.
Lee's journey into the world of honey craftsmanship began during her undergraduate years at PSU when she discovered the art of mead fermentation. As her passion evolved, so did her pursuits, expanding into the realms of brewing beer, wine, and cider during her graduate studies at the University of Minnesota.
Armed with a bachelor's degree in Women's Studies and a master's in Feminist Studies, Lee's academic background uniquely enriches her role as a distiller at Freeland Spirits. Her ability to think interdisciplinary comes to life in the distillery, where crafting spirits is akin to assembling a puzzle without a visible picture.
Lee's refined palate, certified through her role as a BJCP certified beer judge and co-founder of the SheBrew Festival, laid the foundation for her innovative venture, The Barreled Bee. In 2017, she began experimenting with barrel-aging honey sourced from local beekeepers and apiaries, pairing it with spirit-flavored barrels from nearby distilleries.
The Barreled Bee has become Lee's solo symphony, a year-round production where the single varietal/single barrel honeys mature for 4-7 months in barrels, yielding 300 to 400 bottles per barrel. The demand for her unique creations speaks to the magic Lee brings to each batch, where the same honey, aged in different barrels, reveals distinct and enchanting flavors.
Beyond the barrels, Lee is a dynamic force, constantly testing new ideas, seeking sales avenues, fundraising, learning the intricacies of business management, and fostering connections within the maker community. The Barreled Bee is more than a brand; it is a testament to Lee Hedgmon's unwavering passion for crafting exceptional honey-based products that celebrate the local terroir and forge connections across the vibrant Portland culinary landscape.
Lee's journey doesn't stop at honey; she has expanded into beekeeping, constantly learning and innovating. The Barreled Bee recently released, a barbecue sauce and a spicy ketchup, where honey plays a central role in shaping the overall flavor—a testament to her commitment to pushing the boundaries of honey's culinary possibilities.
As one of the few individuals in the nation exploring the art of barrel-aging honey, Lee Hedgmon invites you into her world of trial and error, where each barrel is a canvas for showcasing the very best flavors in individual honeys. The Barreled Bee is not just a product; it's an ongoing tale of exploration, creativity, and the sweet magic that happens when honey meets barrel.