RKS Food: Mary Macleod’s Shortbread Visits Portugal, Ireland, Scotland and Canada

Although Mary Macleod is no longer with us her shortbread proudly pushes onwards and upwards. Mary opened her first ever shortbread shop in Toronto in 1981. The tiny bakeshop was the origin of her signature small batch all butter shortbread made by hand using simple premium ingredients. It recently had a retail shop but now has high end shops distribute the shortbread with almost all of them located in Ontario. But do not fear Mary Macleod’s ships throughout North America. At one point years ago their lone retail shop had many travellers returning home from Canada pick up their shortbread before heading to Toronto Pearson Airport. That is a fine compliment to international recognition of Mary Macleod shortbread indeed!

Mary Macleod learnt how to make shortbread from her Scottish mother and French grandmother.

Flavours include Classic, Chocolate Crunch, Dutch Chocolate, Maple Crunch, Gluten Free, Butterscotch and Truffles. There are a wide range of jars and tins well suited for gifts. You’d best check their website for purchasing options and price https://marymacleod.com/collections/boxing-week?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIhri97pSq_AIV0caGCh09LQyGEAAYASAAEgKJJ_D_BwE.

Although I had no intent to compare Mary Macleod shortbread with competitors, assuming they exist, I bought some shortbread at a large supermarket chain in Toronto called Metro at their high-end bakery “Front Street Bakery” which is touted as “Our Absolute Finest”. They were soggy and sickly looking and bland with no character. Strangely no ingredients were listed. I suspect due to a lack of butter taste on the palate there was a healthy dose of lard and a myriad of chemicals. Yech!

Dutch Chocolate Shortbread

Pocas 2015 Late Bottled Vintage Port (PORTUGAL)

The Pocas 2015 Late Bottled Vintage Port is a rich blackberry, blueberry ad milk chocolate influenced Port. Does the chocolate shortbread pair with this Port? The Mary Macleod Dutch Chocolate is sublimely rich and leaves a lasting Choco impression on the palate which is dense yet not overly sweet. The Pocas Port and the cookie are in harmony. In fact the chocolate in the shortbread draws out some raspberry from the Port. An excellent match as both compliment each other.

Tullamore D.E.W. Irish Whisky (IRELAND)

Tullamore D.E.W. Irish whisky has notes of apricot, peach, orange marmalade and ginger. It is somewhat less fiery on the palate than Scotch whisky and you might want to say smoother. Yes there is a burn but a smouldering one as opposed to raging one. As the heat is less intense there is no need to reduce its temperature with a few drops of water unless you are looking for an even mellower drink. Notes of honey, toasted marshmallows, cooked oatmeal and apricot jam. The finish is warm, long and lingering.

I admit I am totally surprised Tullamore and the chocolate don’t self destruct . Instead the Tullamore shines its apricot and orange nature. I would say Tullamore is a good match but not an excellent one.

Southbrook Canadian Framboise (CANADA)

As for aromatics it is replete with just picked ripe raspberries tinged with a miniscule bit of milk chocolate. The palate is silky and smooth with just plain old ripe raspberries with a moderately long finish. Not complex but straightforward and delicious. There is enough acidity to keep this wine from being cloying or sickly sweet. It is a perfect match for chocolate such as Mary Macleod’s Dutch Chocolate shortbread as it draws out even more raspberry when it hits this shortbread. The best of the three!

The Classic Plain Shortbread with a chocolate chunk in the centre

Pocas 2015 Late Bottled Vintage Port

The chocolate chunk in the middle of the cookie imparts a chocolate influence to the cookie but not as intense as the solid Dutch chocolate shortbread. It draws out the grape in the Port and nudges out some of its milk chocolate character. An excellent match. 

Tullamore D.E.W. Irish Whisky

A decent match. Strangely it is the chocolate that pulls out some of the orange and apricot qualities of the whisky.

Southbrook Canadian Framboise (CANADA)

As for aromatics it is replete with just picked ripe raspberries tinged with a miniscule bit of milk chocolate. The palate is silky and smooth with just plain old ripe raspberries with a moderately long finish. Not complex but straightforward and delicious. There is enough acidity to keep this wine from being cloying or sickly sweet. It is a perfect match for chocolate such as Mary Macleod’s Dutch Cholate shortbread as it draws out even more raspberry when it hits this shortbread. The best of the three!

The Classic Shortbread Cookie

Pocas 2015 Late Bottled Vintage Port (PORTUGAL)

Not a good match. Leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.

Tullamore D.E.W. Irish Whisky (IRELAND)

Not a good match as the solitary good qualities of the spirit and cookie neutralizes each other.

J&B Rare Blended Old Scotch Whisky (SCOTLAND)

On the nose apricot, mango, pear, quince, tangerine and persimmon. Almost tropical. On the palate the heat is pleasant and not quite firewaterish. There is also honey, butterscotch, spice and orange with just a bit of sweetness.

I seem to recall a few years back when doing an exhaustive tasting of spirits and Mary Macleod shortbread it was this Scotch Whisky that rose above the pack to be the best match. With its slight sweet twist J&B is the best match for Mary Macleod Classic shortbread. The best of the three.

If Mary Macleod’s is interested next stab at matching might be milk and shortbread. Which is best…skim, 2% or homo?????

Published by Robert K Stephen (CSW)

Robert K Stephen writes about food ,drink, travel, film, and lifestyle issues. He also has published serialized novels "Life at Megacorp", "Virus # 26, "Reggie the Egyptian Rescue Dog" and "The Penniless Pensioner" Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. He also holds a Mindfulness Certification from the University of Leiden and the University of Toronto. Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he has established this publication. His motto is, "Have Story, Will Write."

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