Food pairing is the new territory explored by Mackmyra distillery in Sweden with Marcus Torgeir, the creative chef of Mackmyra restaurant in Gävle. What a feast. And a passionate exchange of views when I came to the Mackmyra day last May.
On my arrival at Mackmyra Distillery, I was told I would meet Marcus, the chef of Mackmyra village small restaurant and we would chat over a light dinner.
Light dinner? Marcus, fuelled by a genuine passion and a tireless curiosity had decided to have me taste all his creations.
Presented in the nibble size but yet, the menu was rich. There was no place (and no intention to do so) for cherry-picking.
A selection of my favourite pairings…
1 Cured topside beef and Mackmyra Foriagrad
The beef is marinated with herbs, a bit of garlic, sugar and vinegar. Then it is barbecued and served with a kind of mayonnaise made from curd cheese, hazelnut, mustard and chopped sardines (for the umami)
Mackmyra Foriagrad – 50,8% – is a double wood release. It spent three years in a bourbon cask and two in 30 litres Swedish oak)
The presence of garlic (even faint) worried me, I could feel the garlic in the end, and I think it shortens the finish but this is a beautiful and well-balanced matching. It plays on the harmony between the meat and the oak flavours. Unexpectedly, a lot of sweetness comes through.
2 Smoked trout and Mackmyra 1st edition 2008
The wild trout is home smoked, the cucumber is treated as in gravadlax (cured with salt and sugar). A citrusy mayonnaise brings in a light fresh note. Crunchy raw vegetables bring a contrast with the soft texture of the fish.
Mackmyra 1st edition 2008 has matured in 100l casks, mostly ex bourbon (only 5% sherry casks). A grassy and malty whisky with fresh aniseed notes.
A very refreshing and lively matching which plays on citrussy flavours and crunchy textures. The sweetness of the cucumber is toned down by the whisky.
3 A creamy salted caramel fudge with roasted almonds
The salted caramel sauce has been mixed with mascarpone, flavoured with a touch of coffee and topped with roasted almonds.
Mackmyra Midnattssol whisky (midnight sun) – 46% (this whisky has been finished a few months in casks which had kept silver birch sap wine (hence a sweet wine).
This results in a gorgeous matching based on fusion. The whisky is creamy, very lively with a rich sweetness, marzipan and luscious fruity notes. The pairing ticks all the boxes, lots of sensuous flavours and textures, the salt exploding in the mouth. A stunning pair.
4 A licorice cream with candied ginger and dried raspberry
Mackmyra Svensk Rök (Swedish peat) is a peated single malt (juniper is burnt in the kiln with the peat). The whisky is smoky with a good sweet malty core.
The combination is excellent with the ginger and licorice. The sweet and the whisky, the licorice gives the finish an extra length. The ginger brings in a sweet spiciness.
The flavours are unusual, pungent. A daring and experimental matching which proves sucessful.
All these experiments will result in a specific menu which will be suggested to the distillery visitors to give an extra dimension to their sensory experience this summer. Marcus, the inspired chef is determined to go further. I will follow his achievements with great excitement.
Glann Ar Mor and Kornog at The House Of Bliss
Judging from the packed yard of Bruichladdich distillery on the second day of the Whisky and Music Festival week at the end of May, Islay is undoubtedly the most powerful magnet to attract whisky lovers! The soon to become ninth Islay distillery, though still in limbo, already raises curiosity and interest. As the owners Jean and Martine Donnay were on the island, I offered to host a tasting of their Breton whiskies, Glann Ar Mor and Kornog and asked Jean to bring a sample of my own cask, filled in 2008. I was as eager as the participants to taste it. My cask received a full and enthusiastic approval. I was even offered to sell it!
I was impressed to be able to sit 18 people round my dining-table! Quite a diverse group: Scots, English, French, Italian, Dutch, Canadian…
As usual, I had worked on pairing each whisky with a savoury and a sweet nibble.
Jean explained that the new Gartbreck will be a sibling of Kornog, the peated version of Glann ar Mor. See tasting notes
The grassy and light Glann ar Mor was paired to roasted salmon and a salted caramel panna cotta, the marine Kornog was enjoyed with a prune wrapped in unsmoked bacon and dark chocolate mousse with a touch of raspberry, and the complex “Martine’s cask” was enhanced by pan-fried black pudding and apples and a rhubarb and ginger crumble.
What a feast!
I can’t wait to start working on pairing Gartbreck and Islay fare! Patience Martine, patience…