Pairing smokey scotch with oysters
Pairing scotch with oysters
Let’s talk about peated whiskies and how delicious they are paired with fresh seafood, especially one of our favs, oysters.
We’ve been pairing food with your favourite drinks since the beginning of time. The experts suggest balancing the weight of your drink with the weight of your food. A big hearty steak pairs naturally with a bold, hearty red wine, while lighter vegetable dishes or chicken is best served with a beer or Pinot Grigio. So a common question many have when pairing a smokey / peaty Scotch is wouldn’t all that smoke overpower those delicate flavours that come from the sea?
The short answer is a no. There is something eminently compatible between the salty, smokey tang of Islay Scotch whiskies and the sweet saline, minerally flavour of the oyster. It’s kind of the transformation that takes place when you bite into a perfectly cooked burger or brisket that’s been cooking on the smoker all day matched with your favourite beer, Scotch or bourbon. The right whisk(e)y can take a dish and excel it to the next level for your taste buds - a true foodgasm.
Ok, let’s get to the oysters, that’s why we’re here. Here is everything you need to know about oysters, including some key regions and flavours, as well as a simple method on how to best pair and consume these salty treasures with your favourite coastal Scotch.
Fresh is best. There’s no argument there. Go to your local fishmarket or order online from a seafood wholesaler, there’s a few now like Martin’s Seafood and Manettes Seafood Market (thanks to instagramer @oxfordallday for the recommendation) with many well-priced options. Pick up your favourite dozen oysters (or grab 2-doz). Australians are so lucky when it comes to choice, we’ve got 60+ oyster farms divided by regions and estuaries.
A few noteworthy regions worth checking out are:
- Coffin Bay King Oysters, South Australia. Unlike most oysters which are grown for 18 months, coffin bay’s usually grow for 6-7 years. A more meatier texture than your typical rock oysters, yet the meat is much larger in size, firm, juicy with a hint of sweetness, crisp saltiness and lingering oceanic finish.
- Tasmanian Oysters (like Smithton or St Helens). All sustainably grown and harvested along the north, east and south coast of Tassie. Whisky instagramer @debadz suggests that for Tassie oysters hit up any from Northern Tasmania, like Smithton, known for their white flesh, clean shells and a subtle combination flavour of sweetness and saltiness which leaves a clean, crisp taste on the palette. We’ve spent some time chatting oysters and upon reading up on the region further, a combination of factors like their cooler coastal waters, mixed with some of the highest rainfall in the region, provides a constant supply of nutrient rich water all year round. But if you’re chasing a creamier oyster, go for some from St. Helens. You won’t be disappointed.
- Sydney Rock Oyster (Pambula or Merimbula, NSW). There are 13 estuaries along the east coast of NSW that grow oysters. Two of my favouite Sydney Rock Oysters are Pambula, NSW, a region known for plump flesh with a tasty mineral flavour from oceanic trace elements. The other region I chase frequently is Merimbula, NSW, with their bold mineral zing on the palate, rich and creamy finish that is an explosion of umami in your mouth. Pure bliss.
Ok let’s eat some oysters.
Eating Oysters: The traditional way is straight up freshly shucked. Or, as many prefer, with a squeeze of lemon or a teaspoon of mignonette. Or better still, try mixing with some peated Scotch. Today we’re gonna mix with Ardbeg, a distillery that’s been producing tasty smokey whisky for over 200 years, made on the small, remote Scottish Isle of Islay.
I have a few Ardbeg’s to choose from but opted to try the Ardbeg Dark Cove at 46.5% ABV, with its oily mouthfeel, some citrus zest. It’s an elegant dram with a smokey profile. And also compared the Ardbeg An Oa, 46.6% ABV with flavours of tobacco leaf, some sweeter fruits, more subtle citrus notes, golden syrup, cigars and black tea for me. Both worked well with oysters but I usually just drink oysters straight up with Ardbeg 10 year old (sells for sub-$100). Can’t beat this classic dram.
When it comes to eating a whisky oyster there seems to be two main schools of thought on how to properly execute the pairing. Method one is simply to consume the oyster fresh followed by a shot of smokey whisky. The other is pour the dram into the oyster shell (as demonstrated in our video) along with the brine and mollusk, and consume all three together. Absolutely sublime!
Hope you enjoyed our pairing, learnt a thing or two and get to try this delish pairing with your favourite peated smokey Scotch sometime.
Article by whisky & oyster lover Oliver,
Looking for some Ardbeg, try these https://thewhiskylist.com.au/search?query=%22Ardbeg%22