If you look at whisky advertisements, you will often see a man (more often) sitting by a log fire and enjoying his dram in an old leather armchair, surrounded by Victorian paintings hung on wood panelled walls. A cliché that seems to continue in spite of new ways of consuming and the obvious change in the whisky market profile around the world.
This simplistic view is truly far from reflecting reality. There is more to whisky enjoyment than indoors and late evening winter times!
Summertime means outdoor activities. Nothing is more exhilarating than spending a whole sunny day by the sea or a river with friends or family. This is the occasion to treat your guests with a memorable picnic which will include a good dram (or two!).
Not everyone has the same notion of picnic. I have memorable childhood memories of the Sunday ‘expeditions’ to the sea. My mother started organising the picnic the night before. She always cooked potatoes and French beans (from the garden) and added her French dressing when they were still warm so that they absorb it, then she finely cut shallots and chives, mixed the lot together and kept it in preserves jars. We, as kids, were dreaming of a bag of crisps instead of the salad. But we always enjoyed the rest of the picnic, especially the strawberries and the homemade lemon cake.
So the picnic I am inviting you to does not consist of stopping at a supermarket to buy a wrapped egg and tomato sandwich with a can of beer or coke. It is a real meal, to be thought of and prepared in advance, and to be enjoyed with the adequate ceremonial.
So you will need comfortable seats, maybe a table or at least a tablecloth, refrigerated containers and proper crockery and dishes. My father would never drink his wine or cider from a plastic glass. This is probably a family transmissible aversion as I cannot enjoy my whisky in any other glass than the tulip tasting glass. I would warmly recommend putting a set of good glasses in your picnic bag.
That said, let’s have a look at the menu. Here are two menu suggestions, matching with the environment you could choose for your outdoor day. A day on the beach or a day by the river.
Whisky on the rocks
This is the time to enjoy all the treasures the sea offers. We will start with oysters, then we will grill scallops, fish and maybe langoustines on the BBQ. If you are lucky enough to find a spot where you can gather mussels, have them steamed with seaweeds.
It is extremely important to keep your food chilled. So you will have to take as much ice as possible. A good tip: fill a plastic bottle with water and place it in the freezer two days before. With one bottle in your cool bag, you can keep your food refrigerated for several hours.
Have you ever tried fresh oysters with a few drops of whisky to replace the lemon juice or Tabasco? The best combination I have experienced with oysters is Laphroaig. The medicinal notes enhance the saltiness of the oyster and bring out a sweet flavour. It is important to throw away the first water of the oysters after opening them. They will produce another one, less salted, provided they have not been shelled (hence killed) of course. Savouring oysters by the sea, a glass in hand, sitting on a rock and breathing in marine air is a memorable experience.
If you don’t have a BBQ, just buy a disposable one, handy and safe. You will just make sure that you place it on a bed of pebbles or on a rock, to avoid sand being blown on your food or any risk of combustion if you are surrounded by dry grass.
Marinate your fish (cut into big cubes) and scallops a few hours before with olive oil, lemon or lime juice, grated ginger, spices and chopped coriander. Put them on skewers which you wrap in foil paper. To accompany your sea-food mixed grill, opt for a rice salad with raisins, crunchy vegetables, herbs and toasted pine nuts. Or my mum’s famous potato and French beans salad. Carry on drinking the Laphroaig 10 Years Old with your sea-food. Caol Ila 12 Years Old is delicious too.
What about cheddar on toast to follow with a glass of Hedonism (Compass Box) for instance? Which you can also serve over the summer fruit salad. Glen Grant 10 Years Old is perfect too.
One last important thing, especially if you hold your picnic party on the West coast of Scotland: don’t forget a good midge repellent (I am not convinced any exists).
Déjeuner sur l’herbe
You don’t live by the sea? No problem, you can find a beautiful spot in the country. Maybe a river similar to the Spey, choose a shady bank and enjoy peace and quiet.
The river will provide a natural fridge where you can leave your whisky bottle to chill. Secure your bottle between stones and tie a small rope round the neck. You don’t want it to follow the current!
You could start with a scrumptious Roquefort and walnut cake (see recipe) and a chilled glass of Kilchoman single malt.
Enjoy the tasty aperitif while the BBQ gets ready to welcome your burgers and sausages.
If you precook a few big potatoes at home and you wrap them in foil paper, you can heat them on the charcoals.
Serve them with an easy made dip: a bowl of cream with chopped chives and a dash of whisky.
You could have a salad of raw mushrooms and cherry tomatoes seasoned with balsamic vinegar, olive oil and chopped tarragon.
Now which whisky to match these dishes?
An Aberlour 18 Years Old or a Balvenie Double Wood would be ideal. These two single malts have a sherry influence which will complement the grilled meat and the mushrooms.
For the pudding, an almond and apricot tart served with a Glenlivet 12 Years Old or a Glenmorangie Nectar d’Or will elegantly conclude that delicious “déjeuner sur l’herbe”.
You like whisky indoors? You will love it outdoors...
A few recipes
Roquefort and Walnut CakeServes 6INGREDIENTS
- 3 eggs
- 100 g flour
- 200g Roquefort
- 1 small glass of vermouth 2 tablespoons of peated whisky
- 1 teaspoon baking powder 70 g chopped walnuts
Preheat the oven at 200°C.2.
Beat the eggs and add the flour.3.
Use a fork to mix the Roquefort with the vermouth and the whisky.5.
Add the baking powder and the walnuts.6.
Pour in a greased cake tin and cook for 30 min.
Summer Fruit Salad with a Floral NoteServes 6INGREDIENTS
- 200 g strawberries
- 200 g raspberries
- 1 table spoon of rose syrup
- The juice of half a lemon
- 1 pinch of ground pepper
- A few marshmallows cut into dices
Cut the strawberries in a bowl, add the raspberries.2.
Spice them up with a pinch of pepper.3.
Add the lemon juice and the rose syrup.4.
Top with the marshmallow dice.6.