Interestingly, when you search the keywords “oysters” and “whiskey,” not a whole lot of inspiration comes up. Most people are confused as to whether or not it would make a legitimate pairing at all. During the Whiskey Washback tasting event last Friday, I had a chance to find that out for myself. Here’s a quick recap of the experience:

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At Bowery Collective’s Whiskey Washback event last Friday, guests were invited to sample over 75 (!?) types of premium whiskey, bourbon, scotch, rye, and more. If you’re a super lightweight like me, you had to be pretty selective about what to try. Fortunately, the team at Sustainable Seafood Week curated a unique trio of farmed seafood and scotch pairings.

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First up: Fishers Island Oysters with Bruichladdich Islay Barley-spiked mignonette paired with the Islay Barley 2007. These oysters possess full-on oceanic brine, a zesty savoriness, and clean finish. The scotch is made with barley sourced from a single Islay farm. The bright complexity of this scotch makes it a great complement to briny oysters.

Steve and Sarah Malinowski (above) were initially cautious about how much scotch they mixed into their mignonette, but it didn’t take long for things to loosen up. The concoction worked surprisingly well on their ocean-grown Fishers Island Oysters. I think the floral, tangy accoutrement helped to marry the oyster with the scotch seamlessly.

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Next: Cape May Salts (naked) paired with Port Charlotte Scottish Barley. I visited the Cape May Oyster farm a few months ago (I will be writing about my trip… eventually) and was very impressed with their oysters from this year. The plump, buttery meats are a delight to savor. While the Scottish Barley is beautiful on its own, I didn’t love the pairing in this case. The strong peatiness of this scotch overpowered the subtleties of the Cape May Salt. Had the oyster been somehow cold smoked with a liquid smoke version of this scotch, I think it would’ve done well. Or maybe if you cut the scotch with oyster liquor? Just brainstorming…

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Another cool thing that was happening during this tasting was shell collection by Billion Oyster Project! If you don’t know what that is, check out my page on Sustainability. Special receptacles were placed around the oyster tasting table to collect empty shells, which is a critical first step in oyster reef restoration.

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Finally: Crave Fishbar’s Chef Todd Mitgang created a beautiful Faroe Island Salmon Crudo with Honey Bruichladdich aioli, black barley, golden beets, and tomato confit, which was paired with a Bruichladdich Scottish Barley — The Classic Laddie. The honey notes in both fish and scotch played well together. Perhaps I will try this at home sometime…

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All in all, I think that there is a promising intersection between oysters and scotch. If not in consumption, at least in production. When taste matters, place matters. Oyster farmers and distillers both share a great respect for the natural resources and environments that enable them to create memorable, site-expressive products. Now that’s something worth toasting to.

Many thanks to Sustainable Seafood Week for the invitation!