Oysters of Ireland: Tasting (Part 2 of 3)
In this episode of Oysters of Ireland, I'm going to take you on a cross-coast tasting tour. At the BIM Oyster Conference, oyster growers from around the country were invited to put their palate to the test.
Several dozen oyster growers from near and far gathered in Galway for the BIM Oyster Conference at Hotel Meyrick last month. It was an opportunity to learn, network, and enjoy the fruits of everyone's labor. Once the business-related presentations (including mine) were over and done with, we broke for lunch and also a fun little tasting experiment. Five trays of "mystery" oysters labeled A through E were placed down a long table as shown above. Each tray contained freshly shucked oysters from a distinct region in Ireland. Without being given any other clues, other than the names of the five possible areas, everyone had to identify each oyster by taste alone.
At first, I sensed a lot of confidence from the crowd. They were pro's. Pro's who worked with oysters day in and day out. But to everyone's surprise, not one person got all five right! While many growers were able to identify their own product, it was pretty clear that the rest were tougher to pin down than expected. Although I'd like to think that if I had tried all of them beforehand, I'd have a pretty good shot! Here were my "blind" tasting notes matched up to their respective mystery oysters.
Moyasta from Poulnasherry Bay, River Shannon, Southwest Ireland
Flavor: 6 | Salinity: 5 | Sweetness: 6 | Texture: Dense, creamy When I first tasted it, I immediately thought to myself—this has to be the Moyasta. It was the only oyster that I've tried before. The smooth, uncluttered shells were a dead giveaway. The signature grassy taste rang true. No other oyster in the bunch exhibited such a crisp, vegetal taste.
Galway from Galway Bay, Western Ireland
Flavor: 5 | Salinity: 6 | Sweetness: 5 | Texture: Buttery These oysters had a nice bright and beachy essence to them. They were fairly briny, but not overwhelmingly so. There was definitely a noticeable minerality—most likely zinc—in the finish.
Carlingford from Carlingford Lough, Northeast Ireland
Flavor: 7 | Salinity: 8 | Sweetness: 3 | Texture: Pillowy and tender, a little bit like egg custard When I tried this oyster, my senses immediately took a marine plunge. It was like cannonballing into the ocean and swimming back ashore. Shockingly fresh, unapologetically briny. Upon further chewing, I also detected some really pleasant earthy, vegetal notes which evolved from a quiet undertone of moss and melon rind into a subtle mineral finish.
Dungarvan from Dungarvan Bay, Southern Ireland
Flavor: 9 | Salinity: 7 | Sweetness: 8 | Texture: Meaty, tender The Dungarvans were definitely the "dessert" oyster of the bunch. A well-balanced salty and sweet truffle from the sea. Some of the oysters had a lovely citrusy note, while others had a more earthy umami-ness to them. The subtle and clean cucumber finish made these a delight to savor.
Majestic from Donegal Bay, Northwest Ireland
Flavor: 5 | Salinity: 3 | Sweetness: 5 | Texture: Plump, jelly-like Subtle and sophisticated, this oyster had the most refined flavors. These were also perhaps the "fattest" of the oysters, in that the entire bodies were consistently plush and opaque. The mild brininess was a refreshing change from the rest and I enjoyed its delicate texture. I've nicknamed the Kusshi as the "cheesecake oyster" but this one gives it a run for its money.
And in case you're going on your own Ireland oyster tour, be sure to bring this cheat sheet with you! By the way, all the blue highlighted areas are counties that produce oysters. If you've had another variety of oyster from Ireland that's totally out of this world, be sure to leave me a comment. I can't wait to go back for more someday.