Humans have been aware of the intoxicating effects of mad honey for thousands of years.
In 17th century Europe it was called “Miel Fou”, or crazy honey, and was imported by the ton from the Black Sea region of Eastern Turkey, where it originated. Locals there called it “Deli Bal”, or mad honey, and appreciated it for its mild, euphoric effects. It was purchased eagerly by northern tavern keepers interested in giving their ales an extra kick.
Many luminaries of the ancient world, including Aristotle, Strabo, and Pliny the Elder reported experiences with this most special honey but Xenophon of Athens, a student of Socrates, provided us with the earliest report.
Xenophon was a Greek historian and soldier, and in 401 B.C.E. led a Greek Army along the Black Sea on their way back to Greece. At one point they encountered a stand of beehives and, seeing no locals, stole the honey from inside and devoured it hungrily. Within a few hours, the soldiers found they could no longer stand, and collapsed, intoxicated and disoriented. Upon awakening the next morning, however, they found themselves none the worse for wear and pushed on for home.
A few centuries later the Persian army weaponized mad honey and used it to defeat a large contingent of Roman soldiers. The Persian army was being pursued by Pompey the Great and his legions. In a stroke of military genius, the Persians filled pots with mad honey and placed them strategically in the path of the Roman army.
When discovered, the hungry Romans shared this bounty among themselves, and in fairly short order fell under the honey’s disorienting effects. The Persians returned and, finding the Romans unable to fight, quickly dispatched a thousand soldiers while suffering limited casualties themselves.
Mad honey has been a fixture for many cultures for hundreds and thousands of years and is prized for its medicinal and stimulating effects. Until recently it was mostly unknown outside of those familiar with traditional medicine but Deli Bal now brings this ancient honey to anyone interested in trying it.