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Issue 14 - Tough guys with tender hearts

Whisky Magazine Issue 14
February 2001


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Tough guys with tender hearts

Martine Nouet embarks on another culinary experiment with Islay malts, pungent yet sweet whiskies she describes as sharing the same character traits as the lleachs

How many times have I heard my daring culinary experiments, such as cooking a full meal with Islay malts, mocked or ridiculed. “These whiskies are too pungent to allow other flavours to express themselves” people complain, or they even exclaim that attempting the menu is akin to “swallowing a full ashtray.”

A dinner featuring a peaty and seaweed like Islay malt certainly has a higher aromatic profile than a fish and chips dinner but it is not exclusively for the aficionado's palate. Firstly, there is so much more than smokiness in Islay malts. Their aromatic spectrum is fascinating.

The character of Islay malts oscillates between pungency and sweetness. The best example of this duality being Ardbeg: on the nose as well as on the palate, one will find the strong presence of the sea and of the peaty earth of the island. But there is also the sweetness of the cereal, honeyish malty flavours and the smoothness brought through by maturing, especially when it involves sherry casks. The sweet proposed in my menu plays on that opposition. The citrus fruit brings a touch of acidity and bitterness which perfectly matches the sharp iodinic aromas of a Laphroaig 10-year-old. The sweet orange marmalade (note how little extra sugar is added) gives a little softness without weakening the freshness of that light dessert. Light but tasty. The south coast malts (Lagavulin, Ardbeg, Laphroaig) and, for a milder taste, Port Ellen or Caol Ila, will perform better in this recipe than the ...

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