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What Does a Honey Judge Look for When Judging at a Honey Show?

This is basically a run down as to what a honey judge is looking for when judging at a honey show.

First things first, it is very important when entering for a honey show to read the schedule and the rules as there may be some ambiguities which will have to be ironed out between the show committee  and the Judge’s referee, for example:

  1. Special instruction
  2. Number of prizes and prize cards
  3. Type of jar and lid
  4. No identification of the exhibitor is allowed except for commercial classes when a label is in order.

The preliminaries before the tasting are

  1. Duplication, where an exhibitor may have two exhibits in the one class, those would have to be judged and the best one left in the class.
  2. Presentation, any finger marks or the cleanness of the jars or caps, for example, rust is a cause of elimination; wet caps on the inside due to transit can be excused.
  3. Particles otherwise known as floaters in the honey lead to disqualification;
  4. Muddy or dull samples are suspect to granulation;
  5. Uniform unity of jars lids and colour;
  6. Right class;
  7. The surface of the honey for scum and the shoulders of the jar for cleanness as this is an area that could be overlooked.

Usually, most of the exhibits are eliminated before a jar is opened, the next three steps are where the final judging takes place,

  1. Aroma, usually the judge barely lifts the lid, as the best aroma is had when the lid is lifted, it also keeps any floaters from getting into the honey also this is the best time to determine if the honey was overheated thus a burnt smell, particularly in dark honey;
  2. Viscosity or density, a honey judge at his or her own discretion can use a refractometer to take a reading of the moister content, the ideal reading is 17%, some use a humidifier to extract moisture from the honey, personally, I think it can be overdone;
  3. Finally taste, as a rule, judges do not differ much except for this point, it could mean the difference in the first placing.

Judges may differ in the order and method of carrying out their job. A very good book called “Bee Produce”, was written in the 20th century, it is still relevant today, producing, preparing, exhibiting and judging, written by W.HARROD HEMPSAL, F.R.E.S. One could try Northern Bee Books. Generally judging is carried out by a comparative system, it can also be done on a points system although it may take longer to carry out, and it is sometimes used in some of the smaller classes. In the run honey, there are usually three classes in run honey, Light, Medium and Dark honey.

Naturally Crystallized (Granulated Honey)

  1. Honey, firm granulation of smooth fine texture, good uniform colour, cream or white and of course granules.
  2. Honey should be clear from streakiness or solid air scum or fermentation.
  3. It must have a good aroma and taste.
  4. The honey should have a butter texture with no movement in the jar.
  5. There must be uniformity of colour, cream to white with no air spaces or bubbles at the sides of the jars also there should be a clean dry surface with no sign of scum or fermentation and undue shrinkage from the sides of the honey jars or honey frosting.
  6. The honey should have a good aroma and taste. In all cases of comb honey and otherwise, the judge will taste the honey with a glass rod to make sure that it is pure honey and not infiltrated with sugar syrup the same goes for sections and all honey. At this stage may I say that the judge has a particular procedure for tasting honey?   He will use the glass rod to take the sample and transfer the sample to his forefinger and taste the honey from his finger; he will never put the rod in his mouth.

 Combs suitable for extraction

  1. The comb should be drawn out evenly on both sides suitable for extraction also cleanness of the comb surface, the comb should be properly wired.
  2. The cells should be well sealed and attached to the frame all around, new foundation is best for this purpose.


Briefly, I have dealt with the honey only, some of the main classes as best I can, again some judges may differ, I expect not a lot.

There are many more classes to a honey show, such as bees wax, honey cake, fruit cake, honey sweets, mead, bee wax polish, bee wax candles etc; it would make this article way too long.

Wishing the honey show committee every success for this year 2022.


Yours sincerely

Jim Power.