A Torrington couple have turned an alcoholic hobby into a promising mead business and hope their bubbling honey wine could take on the world - so long as an out-of-control bushfire doesn't get in the way.
Glenice and Pierre Armand, owners of Torrington's Two Wild Souls meadery, never expected to be so successful so quickly when they turned a long-term hobby into a business last year.
But their all-natural non-carbonated sparkling mead is already lighting up tastebuds across NSW. At time of writing the couple are currently shopping around bottles of their product at Sydney tastings, with several high-range boutique liquor stores already offering their near-unique product - some have already sold out.
The meadery's secret weapon: they do things the old fashioned way.
The honey-based drink is the world's oldest alcohol, with records of human consumption dating back nearly 10,000 years - but most modern meaderies use a cheap carbonation process to quickly manufacture an inferior product, said Glenice.
"We could have a parrot on our shoulder because we have to be repetitive because people don't know anything about sparkling mead," she said.
"We've had people that have gone - yuck, I've tasted mead, it's sweet it's tacky. We've had to explain to people why it isn't sweet, why it isn't tacky.
"It's been a learning experience for us, trying to teach people."
Two Wild Souls uses the old-fashioned methode champenoise, the same two-year process used to make classy sparkling wine.
And their base in Torrington has another big benefit - it's one of the few parts of Australia where bees are subjected to almost no chemical contamination.
"We're lucky because we've got the forest and we've also got the state recreation area (around us). That's untouched basically.
"You've got lovely forested, timbered areas and that's where the bee farmers have always gone in and put their bees in."
The fire destroyed reportedly ten homes and has smashed the local bee industry, forcing many apiarists out of the Torrington area.
"Worth the fires it's not going to be in another year or two that the bees are going to get back and have decent food.
"Our bee farmers are going elsewhere and trying to put their bees on other trees or orchards to at least give them food."
They will still be able to get honey from yellowbox trees, but some varieties won't be possible locally, said Glenice Armand.
"We might be finding it difficult for the next couple of years I'd say."
"We may not be able to have the choice of some of our species here. We may have to be patient and wait until there's recovery."
The meadery will still be able to sell their reserve of over ten thousand bottles until supplies recover. And Glenice will keep knocking at the door of Sydney's alcohol elite.
"When they realise there's no crap in it, and it's done in the old fashioned way, they say wow.
"I feel very humble that this so-called boutique places are taking our mountain mead."