In Scotland, 2015 is officially the Year of Food & Drink, and to prepare the world for the occasion, T+L asked Fiona Hyslop, the country's Culture Secretary, to give us her list of Scottish musts. Lamb whose unique flavor comes from a diet of seaweed? Gin as glorious as Scotch whiskey? Turns out you may not know Scotland as well as you think you do.
"You must eat the seafood, in all its glory," says Hyslop. Scotland is surrounded on three sides by the sea, and the rocky shores are especially rich with shellfish—whelks, mussels, razor clams. "The langoustine—so large and delicious. The scallops, too."
Hyslop also recommends Stornoway black pudding, a local sausage made of beef suet, blood, oatmeal, and onion stuffed into a bit of intestine. For red-meat fans, there's Aberdeen Angus beef, a hornless breed of cattle developed there in the 1800s. And then there's Scottish lamb. "You cannot find better quality," Hyslop says. If you're really adventurous, you might try the North Ronaldsay lamb, whose one-of-a-kind flavor comes from the animal's diet of seaweed.
You can't visit Scotland without tasting some of its famous whisky (or "the water of life," as Hyslop calls it), or at least visiting a distillery to see how it is made. (She herself is "a Speyside girl.") Hyslop also points out that craft brewing is experiencing "huge growth" in Scotland. A few brands to look for: Black Isle, Cromarty, Barney's, and Inveralmond.
And Hyslop also recommends Scottish gin. What, you didn't know that Hendrick's, Tanqueray, and Gordon's all come from Scotland? They do. Plus there is a growing craft gin movement there. "The gin distilleries are starting to rival the whisky distilleries," says Hyslop.
If you can go to only a handful of places on a trip to Scotland, Hyslop has some suggestions. For nature? "Skye," she says, "because of its beauty and majesty." For big cities? "Edinburgh, one of the world's great arts capitals." And for history? "Go to Orkney, especially for the Neolithic sites, but also for the 4,000 years of history since."