14 June 2002

SERVING UP THE BEST OF ISLAY FAYRE

Islay fresh and smoked

meats promise to make

a culinary splash at

Ingliston next week

MAKING its debut in the Royal Highland Shows Food from Scotland exhibition this year will be The Islay Fine Food Company.

This fledgling business, based at Mark and Rohaise Frenchs 1000ha (2500-acre) Rockside Farm on the west coast of the Isle of Islay, produces a range of fresh and smoked meats, including Islay Whisky Smoked Beef.

Launched at last years Speciality Food Fair at Olympia in London, The Islay Fine Food Company currently supplies more than 70 retail outlets, from Inverness to the English home counties, with smoked beef and smoked wild venison. The beef is from the Frenchs own herd of 150 Aberdeen Angus cross cows.

The Frenchs flagship, the award-winning Islay Whisky Smoked Beef, is, according to Mr French, a combination of two of the finest products of the Isle of Islay – malt whisky and beef.

Islay has seven malt whisky distilleries, including Bruich-laddich, which produces the whisky used for marinading the beef before smoking.

Each week Mr French selects two prime cattle, which are slaughtered a few miles away at Bridgend. Carcasses hang for a minimum of three weeks.

Only the rumps are used for the smoked beef. The other high-value cuts are either sold via www.islayfinefood.com to mainland customers, or to the abattoir owner, Gilbert MacTaggart, who also has a butchery business supplying the domestic market, hotels and restaurants on Islay plus some top eateries in London.

The beef rumps are taken to Rannoch Smokery in north Perthshire. While some goes into the Bruichladdich whisky marinade, some beef is also smoked without the whisky flavouring. Smoking takes place over oak wood chips.

The smoked meats return to Rockside Farm for slicing and vacuum packing, before distribution in chilled, insulated containers.

Chris Bond of Argent Energy, sponsors of the NFU Scotland Innovation Award. "I was particularly impressed that somebody had got off their backsides and had found innovative ways of doing something about declining farming returns.

"By identifying some of the special features of Islay and combining them in a professional, well marketed way, the French family are not only benefiting their own business, but also the wider, economically fragile, Islay community".