For the last ten years, the rooftops of Piccadilly have been a-buzz with the sound of many a striped worker bee making its journey from a unique set of hives to pollen from some of the most important residences in London; this really is honey from the herbaceous borders Buckingham Palace and the window boxes of Mayfair.
Fortnum & Mason's four colonies have been busy producing honey so truly delicious that these exclusive, famous, bees have a waiting list for their produce.
There are five beehives, at six feet high almost twice the height of a normal beehive, each with a distinct triumphal arch entrance designed in a different architectural style – Roman, Mughal, Chinese and Gothick. Each hive is painted in Fortnum's signature eau de nil, with copper-clad pagoda roofs and gilded ‘bee skep’ finials.
The exciting thing about Fortnum’s honey is that the bees produce one crop a year, harvested in September making this honey bee-autifully exclusive and the limited edition pots of gold will go under the hammer at Fortnum's Honey Auction & Dinner Event on 11 October at 6.30pm.
This year, the event will be hosted by broadcaster and beekeeper Bill Turnbull, and the auction will be accompanied by a special charity dinner: a four-course meal with canapés will place honey (what else?) at the core of the menu, served with a cocktail that includes our new honey-infused gin.
Fortnum & Mason's resident Bee Master, Steve Benbow, will also be on hand to tell guests about the history of Fortnum’s bees, and stories from the beekeeping frontline.
Proceeds from every jar sold will go to The Felix Project and Bees for Development, a charity which promotes sustainable beekeeping in developing countries; helping remote and poor families earn essential incomes with low-cost beehives to harvest and sell honey, turning natural resources into sustainable livelihoods.
Just 40 tickets are available – so book early to secure your place and avoid disappointment. Please note guests may be seated on shared tables.
Fortnum's Rooftop Honey
The honey, called simply Piccadilly London Honey, varies from year to year, depending on the flora available to the bees, but is usually a lovely pale, toffee colour with a soft consistency. The very first crop tasted of the Oxfordshire countryside, where the bees had been staying before they were transported to London.
More recent harvests, gathered every autumn, hint at the bees' journeys through London’s nearby parks and gardens, including Buckingham Palace, Clarence House, and Green Park. The result is a honey of depth and freshness, with subtle traces of chestnut, lime and garden flowers.
In 2014, Fortnum & Mason built a new pied-à-terre for Fortnum's bees, with a new set of hives in Hoxton, East London. Based on the top of an old warehouse, this new living space gives the bees chance to roam through the parks and buddleia flower-swathed canals to produce the unique and delicate Fortnum's Hoxton Honey.
The lucky bees at Somerset House have got one of the best seats in the house as the hives reside high above the Thames with an incredible 180-degree view of the river and south London.
Fortnum & Mason's Piccadilly bees are native Welsh Black bees, known for their gentle ways, so they are less likely to sting unsuspecting shoppers and tourists.
Pollution is also not an issue; nectar sits deep within a plant and is sucked up by the bee’s proboscis, then taken straight to the hive and sealed into the honeycomb, safe from outside influences.
If you want to take your morning honey to the next level, then Fortnum & Mason have a delightful Beehive Honey Jar that has been modelled on the stylish hives on their rooftop.
Fortnum's Eau De Nil Hive Honey Pot
Match with this beautifully made honey drizzler, handcrafted from the finest sterling silver by traditional British silversmiths and golden olive wood. There's a sweet little honey bee on the top of the drizzler and it's perfect for sweetening toast, porridge or tea in style.
Olive Wood and Sterling Silver Honey Drizzler
Autumn is a magical time for filling your larder with the bountiful goodness of the harvest where we gather and store precious produce at the end of the growing season. Fortnum & Mason excel at offering a diverse range of delectable jars and hampers that are full to the brim with the delights of the season; it will keep you going all autumn long as the nights draw in and our fires begin to burn.