Quinlan’s Kerryfish Wild Smoked Salmon Wins UK Taste Test

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Femail’s Deni Kirkova taste tests Quinlan’s Kerry Fish Wild smoked salmon against high-street competition from Marks and Spencer and Tesco Finest.

  • Quinlan’s Kerry Fish sell their Irish Wild Smoked Salmon at £25 per 250g
  • Made using secret smoking recipe known only by founder and his 3 sons 
  • FEMAIL tested the expensive salmon against Lidl, M&S and Tesco versions

Christmas is now just three weeks away and many of us who are hosting will have our shopping list sorted and our recipes planned.

The smoked salmon blini – a fish starter on a bed of cream cheese topped with lemon – is a staple festive canapé.

A new variety of smoked salmon on the market hopes to take centre stage on British platters come December 25 – but at £25 for 250g, is it really worth it?

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FEMAIL's Deni Kirkova taste tests the most expensive smoked salmon in the UK against Lidl, M&S and Tesco Finest

FEMAIL’s Deni Kirkova taste tests the most expensive smoked salmon in the UK against Lidl, M&S and Tesco Finest

Quinlan's Irish Wild Smoked Salmon ranked highly - but at £25 per 250g, how much is the perfect bite worth?

Quinlan’s Irish Wild Smoked Salmon ranked highly – but at £25 per 250g, how much is the perfect bite worth?

Irish company Quinlan’s Kerry Fish pride themselves on their wild salmon, which is now one of the most expensive varieties on the British market.

The Quinlan family has specialised in hand curing fish since 1963. using traditional methods, natural ingredients, oak chippings and lots of manpower.

Founder Michael Quinlan developed a unique smoking technique and he and his three sons, Liam, Fintan and Ronan (who is the current Master-Smoker) are the only four people in the world to know the secret recipe.

The process involves salt, smoke, and brushing back the natural fish oils into the salmon during the smoking.

This helps to give the unique taste and texture that Quinlan’s, Kerry Fish has become famous for.

Their smoked salmons scooped two prizes at this year’s Great Taste Awards – the wild was one of them.

Tesco Finest Hickory & Oak was a little too oaky
Tesco Finest Hickory & Oak had  an overpowering flavour

Tesco Finest Hickory & Oak was a little too oaky, with an overpowering flavour

Wild salmon is a rare product because fishermen have to comply with EU pre-set quotas and the ultra-short window the wild salmon are in the appropriate area.

The family source it from nearby shores and the salmon is then prepared for hand smoking in the original family smokehouse.

They started shipping to the UK two weeks ago – just in time for Christmas – and promise to have your order to your door from Ireland within 24 hours.

Prices for Quinlan’s Irish Wild Smoked Salmon start from £12.50 for a small 125g portion – more than double the regular high street price for smoked salmon – through to £79 for a whole side.

Is it worth it for wild salmon? Femail test the taste

As a smoked salmon enthusiast I had no qualms about taste testing four varieties.

The others were Marks & Spencer , Lidl and Tesco Finest. None were wild.

My colleague made a little canape using each variety and I tried them all on camera.

FEMAIL taste tests Quinlan’s Kerry Fish Wild smoked salmon

Fourth place: Lidl Laschinger Drycure Scottish, £2.66 per 200g

Lidl didn’t impress compared to the others. It has crunchy little bits in it and the colour was pale.

Third place: Tesco Finest Hickory & Oak, £4.80

This smoked salmon from the Shetland Isles was a little too overpowering on the oak flavour, quite unusual.

A lovely smoked uniform colour though, so it would look good for a dinner presentation.

Second place: Marks & Spencer Lochmuir Oak & Applewood, £3.69 per 100g

M&S was actually a close second, and considering the price, it is incredibly good value. The texture was smooth and silky with little fat to cut through.

It’s worth paying an extra few pounds to get your hands on this.

First place: Quinlan’s wild, £12.50 for 125g or £25 for 250g

My favourite was actually Quinlan’s. It tasted healthy, firm and lean, and it was succulent with a rich, deep flavour without being overpowering.

Makers say it tastes ‘as natural as possible’, nodding to the way the fish is caught – swimming through the Atlantic on its migration route as nature intended.

It’s almost 10 times the price of Lidl salmon per gram. But Quinlan’s careful selection, curing and smoking processes, artisan skills, age-old recipes and fine fresh ingredients reflect in the superior taste.

The high price mark up from farmed to wild smoked salmon is a product of the strict limit in fishing and difficulty in sourcing.

But why did it taste so much better?

Regular smoked salmon – the farmed kind seen on most supermarket shelves – has a particularly high in fat content because the fish have usually been reared in small confined areas where they cannot swim freely and put on muscle weight.

Wild smoked salmon, on the other hand, have naturally swum hundreds of miles through migration to spawning grounds and contain just a third of the fat of farmed version.

Don Staniford, director of the Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture, has described the two types of smoked salmon – wild and ‘flabby’ farmed – as virtually two different foods.

He said: ‘The farmed salmon is a couch potato compared to the majestic and iconic wild salmon.’