Join me on a long-awaited adventure to the remote apiaries in Spain's Cuenca Alta del Manzanares Regional Park, where I uncover the mysteries behind Antonio's award-winning Rosemary honey.

Back in the day Rosemary was one of the first raw honeys I discovered in a little mountain shop high in the Pyrenees.

I was astounded that you could actually taste Rosemary in the honey, that was part of my awakening to the potency of raw honeys.

This is Claire and myself (Tim) having just suited up

To the source of Antonio’s Rosemary….

Anyway… for 5 years I have been trying to visit the remote mountain apiaries where Antonio's bees create his sublime Rosemary honey – but for various reasons a visit never came off. (This is Claire - Operations Manager - and myself, having just got suited up. We are excited to go and start videoing and photographing Dani and Ruben and the wonderful wild place where the Rosemary hives are.)

This is the premium honey that won Platinum in the London Honey Awards two years ago – in Spain it is Antonio’s most popular honey.

But after years of wanting to visit these remote mountain apiaries, I was determined to make it happen this year. Not just to see the Rosemary but also to spend some time with Dani (Antonio’s son) and Ruben (Antonio’s son in law) as Antonio is largely retired now.

However, with this year's unpredictable spring weather, the timing was uncertain.

Dani, said he would let us know when the time was.

Claire fielded the phone call I had been eagerly anticipating…….

It was early spring, and Dani was on the line to her with news that would send us on an unforgettable journey into the mountains north of Madrid.

To a place where the flowering Rosemary turns the mountainside lilac.

The hives mainly lie at a place called Patones in the Cuenca Alta del ManzanaresRegional Park, a vast wilderness area, encompassing the best area in Spain for Rosemary.

We swiftly organised ourselves and on March 6th, we were on our way to Madrid.

Early the next (surprisingly) crisp morning, we met with Dani and Ruben in the village of Cobena to prepare.

Into the mountains…..

They loaded some hives into their van, and we were off.

Soon we were speeding away from the small towns and villages that surround Madrid and winding higher and higher into the mountains along deserted roads.

Looking out, I could see the deep purple-green haze of Rosemary blanketing the hillsides, in the morning light.

Then suddenly, Ruben pulled off the main road and we were bouncing down a bumpy track, the van jostling us as it navigated the rocky terrain.

We held on, laughing, until we stopped in a little hollow surrounded by the aromatic Rosemary shrubs.

It was here that we suited up in protective clothing, the anticipation building. Dani and Ruben headed off to check the hives and Claire and myself started taking video and photographs, the scent of Rosemary literally filling our bee suits.

Hands on with Antonio’s Bees…..

The chilly winds kept most of the bees inside, but Dani said they had been actively working between the milder spells – as evidenced by combs he showed us full of glistening, fragrant honey.

Watching Dani and Ruben carefully inspect the hives, I was reminded how this first hand observation is critical for showing you, the customer, the quality and standards of the beekeepers we work with.

Then after this inspection it was back into the van and heading to a second Rosemary location.

This was even more remote…...

This was even more remote and we found the hives in an isolated clearing near Torrelaguna, nestled amidst the shrub-covered ridges.

The off road part of the journey was even bumpier.

The air here was warmer, the Rosemary scent softer and more subtle.

(Apparently this is part of the estate of the Chair of Real Madrid. He has let Antonio keep his hives here for many years – even though Antonio supports Atletico Madrid!)

After checking the hives, Dani opened a jar filled with gleaming, golden Rosemary honey he had brought from a previous extraction, for us to sample and photograph.

There was a real aptness in this - having witnessed their sustainable practices in action this reinforced the honey's impeccable traceability, right at its source.

….a deep respect for these protected lands…..

Like Antonio, Dani and Ruben share a deep respect for these protected lands ensuring that future harvests will maintain the same exceptional flavour profile now that Antonio is virtually retired.

Later, back at the warehouse, I tried it. The aroma of the fresh Rosemary honey was extraordinary – first the herbal aroma in the super fresh honey and then a soft, delicate sweetness on my palate, underscored by a more savoury note reminiscent of the Rosemary shrubs surrounding us.

I was happy to see the harmony of traditional methods and the pristine wilderness that this Rosemary comes from.

(Back at Antonio's warehouse with Ruben left and Dani right, myself Tim in the centre. With a picture a customer had drawn of Antonio.)

This photo shows Ruben (Antonio's son in law) left, myself (Tim) centre and Dani Antonio's son right

I would add that the weather was not ideal. It turned really cold and poor Claire was absolutely freezing when we got back from visiting the hives.

And the very next day we heard that it had snowed in Patones!

Such is the unpredictability of the weather that the bees have to live with now.

Anyway, I am so glad that we got to visit this place and to share with you the experience. You can see a short interview with Dani here

And find Antonio's Rosemary honey here

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