Achieving a perfect match between a whisky and a dish sometimes turns out to be a more difficult adventure than it seems, both in terms of the choice of the agreement in question and the place to enjoy it to the full.
Also, to do so, I will take you to the northeast of the pearl of the Hebrides, Islay, in the northernmost and most complicated distillery writing area: Bunnahabhain.
By bike, the northern coastal road is beautiful in good weather. It runs along the inlet between Islay and Jura, giving this second island one of the most beautiful views. The coasts and descents follow one another, passing sometimes along the Loch d'Ardnahoe, sometimes above the cliffs in the middle of the sheep. Like a taste of the end of the world or like a grail, the distillery appears after a last turn. One last descent and we find ourselves in the middle of piles of empty barrels waiting for their precious liquid.
Our eyes are drawn to a magnificent sailboat docked at the end of the loading dock but no one on the horizon, just the sea and in the distance the mountains of the island of Jura. The place is solemn with its buildings more than a hundred years old and its workers' houses now ghostly.
In silence we venture into the courtyard of the distillery while passing under the porch engraved with his name. On the right the offices but especially on the left, the warehouse.
The door is ajar and we silently enter this humid and dark place. Surrounded by barrels of all kinds. We then reach the bottom of the building only lit by our torches. In front of us are barrels (pedro ximenez Noe, Bunnahabain mòine...) make us say that we are in the right place. No one here but on one of the barrels is a bottle (of those which, with their wide bottoms, easily supported the roll when crossing the continent) of Cruach Mhona and glencairns.
Always in the light of our torches, we each serve ourselves a glass. The light is very limited but it allows us to see that the colour of this whisky is rather clear. It looks like a natural whisky (aged in new American oak barrels) which should in no way mask the peaty strength of the barley that makes it up (the famous mòine or peat malt in Gaelic in the text).
A noise runs through the warehouse making us fear the end of this tasting may be prohibited. But it's actually just a mouse running through the walls.
Our noses plunge into the glasses and make us discover a lively and peated whisky (we were warned because Cruach Mhona means a pile of peat in Gaelic). Once we take a breath and let our nose relieve itself of the peat, aromas of dried grass and even burnt hay appear. A third passage even throws some spices at us. What a beautiful announcement.
Let's taste it quickly before we get caught! In the mouth it is a real journey because, however clear it may be, it appears very soft to the palate. Certainly its 50 ° launch a strong alcoholic sensation in the mouth, but very quickly it fades away to give way to a sweet sweetness and a kind of soft layer of peat in the mouth. We would almost feel the incomparable grassy matter on our palate.
The finish stands out worthy of the place on salty and iodine notes but also on a background of peat (rather unusual for this distillery).
We look at ourselves and say: "but of course it would be perfect with something to eat". Fortunately in good French, one of us takes bread and a block of duck foie gras out of his bag (as everyone knows, we must never conquer the northern island of Islay without food!! NDR).
Once in the mouth, the mixture of southwestern France and northeastern Islay Island occurs. The soft and creamy propel each other. The peat gets sugar, the dry hay starts to catch fire. It is a perfect success, an optimum match. In addition to the salty notes, peppery and even vanilla notes are now added, nuancing the flavours and bringing even more sweetness. It would have been a pity not to make this beautiful discovery.
It is delighted with this feeling that we are leaving the distillery. We didn't think we would have a smoky mouth when we came to Bunnahabhain, but we are ready to climb the coasts and valleys again on our proud mounts for new adventures.