French Whisky and oysters, a match made in Brittany
Whilst visiting Celtic Whisky Distillerie in Brittany, a tasting of the Gwalarn and some local oysters was organised by our hosts.
Joel Gicquel greeted us warmly and explained the process of looking after and harvesting oysters in Brittany. From his premises in Armor-Pleubian, Joel grows oysters and mussels, the full process from seed oyster to final maturation. A journey that can take up to three years for an oyster to fully mature.
Covering 4.8 hectares, the oyster grounds produce around 150 tonnes of oysters. Joel has been working these beds since 1994 and will be passing on looking after the oysters and mussels to his son.
Why are Breton Oysters so good?
As you will see from the surrounding countryside, Brittany is stunning. Swathes of unadulterated land which is not only calming to the eye is surely a benefit for nature. The water currents are active and give the oysters plenty of food. That and the expertise of farmers such as Joel, make Breton oysters ones to seek- as we soon found out.
When is the best time of year to eat oysters?
Have you ever heard of the term “loi des mois en R”? It is a rule that says you should only eat oysters during the months containing the letter R, that is January, February, March, April, September, October, November and December. Do you know why? The oyster reproductive season is from May to August and during this time the oysters are spawning which can change their taste and texture. Plus, giving the oysters a break enables oyster numbers to be maintained.
What nutritional value do oysters have?
Oysters are renowned through history - the legendary lover Casanova was reported to have eaten fifty raw oysters for breakfast each day. SoMething we do know is that oysters are low in calories, and they have lots of zinc, copper, vitamin B12, vitamin C and lean protein.
How to eat oysters
The simplest way to eat oysters is raw, with nothing added. Other ways are to eat them a squeeze of lemon juice, some ground pepper, or with shallot and wine-vinegar dressing.
Oysters can also be eaten hot. I like them grilled with some garlic butter and breadcrumbs, as seen at Loch Fyne Oyster Bar and Restaurant.
Pairing oysters with whisky
Gwalarn (‘the northeast wind’), a blend created in tribute to the origins of CWD, collects whisky from distilleries in the Celtic region.
Gwalarn is a rich and opulent whisky with taste notes ranging from tobacco and leather to honey and salt. These flavours worked extremely well with the fresh oysters, and a drop, or two, of whisky into the oyster shell before eating is recommended to try.
Thank you to Mr Gicquel and everyone at Celtic Distillerie for the experience.
WHERE TO BUY
Gwalarn can be found at The Whisky Exchange in the UK.