The Inverawe smokehouse lies at the dead end of an oak-lined lane, downwind from the Campbell-Preston family’s centuries-old stone house. Walk past its black tar walls, keep the Awe river on your left, climb the foothill to Ben Cruachan, and you’ll leave tree cover quickly, coming upon hillocks of heather and gorse. You'll be surrounded to the north and west by Loch Etive, which empties, several miles west, into the Atlantic. The loch (lake), walled in by steep, treeless hills, holds the trout and salmon the family use. The forest along the road is where they collect windblown oak to fuel the smokehouse.
To smoke their fish, they use whole oak logs (not sawdust), employing no climate control beyond the fires they light. It’s the old way of smoking fish, rarely done today, and it’s quite tricky. They divert the smoke of the slow burning white oak logs into a small room where the fillets of salmon and trout hang. There are no temperature controls. It's traditional, the way it's always been done, but once HVAC and thermostats came around almost every fish smoker installed them and turned their back on free-form smoking. Instead, Inverawe retains smokemaster Tony Hynes. He shows up in the middle of the night and during holidays because fires never sleep.
The whole oak logs impart a more subtle flavor than the sawdust that most smokers use today. Inverawe's lean fish also have a firm texture. They don’t break down over the long smoke time. It’s one of the characteristics I first noticed about their fish and one that you'll pick up on right away. The salmon is never soft or mushy like more commercial varieties can be. It's firm. Not tough, not overcooked, just toothsome, with a snap when you bite.
Subtle, slightly sweet with oaky smoke notes in the finish, this smoked salmon is wonderful. But don't take my word for it. This is the only smoked salmon the Queen of England serves at Christmas time.
In February 2021, the Inverawe smokehouse burned down in a fire. Our hearts go out to the Inverawe team at this difficult time. They're working toward rebuilding their operation, but in the meantime, we don't have an ETA for when we expect to have any of their fish available again.