Whisky of the Week

Meandering the world, one whisky at a time

Islay Whisky and Lamb Pairing

Lamb and Islay whisky header

Most of my whisky food pairings involve, cheese. Whisky and cheese make for noteworthy combinations. I have tried various kinds of cheese and whisky pairings. One of our favourites was the Laphroaig 10 yo Cask Strength and Stilton pairing. I enjoy our cheese pairings usually as a late afternoon snack or after dinner as part of a cheese platter.

I wanted to broaden my whisky food-pairing repertoire and when John came back from his Iceland expedition, it was the perfect time to try something else.  The Scottish has been pairing whisky with lamb since whisky was first made. Here in South Africa, this combination have not made it to the dinner table quite yet. Most of the meals, if served with alcohol, is served with wine or beer.

I had a lovely piece of lamb in the fridge waiting for John’s return. I picked John’s favourite whisky region, Islay, forthe pairing. The recipe for the Rosemary and Garlic Leg of Lamb is below.

Islay Whisky & Lamb pairing – Bunnahabain 12 yo

Islay whisky and lamb Jeannette's garlic rosemary lamb recipe Bunnahabhain 12 yoOur first whisky and lamb pairing was with the Bunnahabain 12yo. A non peaty Islay Whisky.  Our tasting notes for the Bunnahabhain 12 yo included   notes of rich fruity sultanas and toffee.  The Bunnahabhain 12 yo has a nice mouth feel with smooth notes of sherry sweetness, herbal nuttiness and salty chewiness.  There are notes of warming oak spice, vanilla, candied fruit and little hints of smoke.   The pairing was acceptable, however the strong rosemary and garlic overwhelmed the Bunnahabain 12 yo a bit. The lamb was smooth and soft and brought out a few more salty and smoky notes in the Bunnahabain. We give this Islay whisky and lamb pairing a Rating: 3/5.

Islay whisky & Lamb pairing – Ardbeg 10 yo

Islay whisky and lamb Jeannette's garlic rosemary lamb recipe Ardbeg 10 yoSecondly we tried with the Ardbeg 10 yo. Our tasting notes for the Ardbeg 10 yo included notes of peat and smoke, wonderful citrus and hints of vanilla. It continues to coffee and a bit of iodine. The Ardbeg 10 yo is a big complex whisky, but not overwhelmingly so. It has enough peat to be typically Islay, but not so much that it would frighten a non-peat lover.  Pairing the Ardbeg 10 yo with the Rosemary and Garlic Lamb was amazing. The Ardbeg was robust enough to stand up to the garlic and Rosemary and cut through the richness of the lamb.

The peat and smoke in the Ardbeg enhanced the lamb’s earthiness and made it deliciously tasty. We give this Islay whisky and lamb pairing a Rating: 5/5.

We wanted to try the Laphroaig 10 yo pairing too, but this Ardbeg pairing was so delectable, we finished all the lamb before we could try any other combinations. So, next Sunday afternoon when you sit down with your lamb roast, leave the beer and the wine in the fridge and pour yourself a Ardbeg 10 yo. You will be glad you did.

Islay whisky and lamb Jeannette's garlic rosemary lamb recipeRosemary & Garlic Lamb

5 big cloves garlic (more if you love garlic)
Handful of fresh rosemary twigs
Zest of 1 lemon
Olive Oil
Leg of lamb (bone in)
Black Pepper
Baby Potatoes
3 Onions
More Garlic
250 ml white wine

Take the lamb out of the fridge and allow it to reach room temperature. Heat the oven to 150 C.   Remove about half of the rosemary leave from the stem. In a pestle and mortar, mash 2 cloves of garlic with the rosemary leave, some olive oil, the lemon zest, some salt and pepper. Put aside.

With a sharp knife, make small cuts in the meat and stuff it with the remaining garlic and some rosemary. Rub the lamb with the garlic and rosemary mixture from the pestle and mortar.

Cut the onions in thick rings and put in the bottom of a roasting pan. Pour in the wine and put the meat on top of the onions. Add the baby potatoes. We usually add a few (read many) more cloves of garlic to the pan as well.

Cover with foil and slow roast until nearly done. Roasting time depends on the size of the leg and on how you like your lamb. We roasted it for 25 minutes per 500g, but if you prefer your meat more well done, you can go up to 35 minutes per 500g.  Take the foil off for the last 30 minutes of roasting.  Take the lamb out of the oven and carefully put the foil back on.  Allow the meat to stand for 15 minutes before cutting.  Sit down and enjoy with a glass of peaty Islay Whisky from Ardbeg.

Also Read: Smoked Leg of Lamb marinated in Black Grouse

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  1. can not do the whisky but lamb…yes. It was my ultimate craving when I was pregnant with the twinnies.

    • Jeannette Wentzel

      I love lamb. It is my favourite. We make this lamb over and over again. Thanks for the visit.

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