Having been to Iceland before, I was well aware of the bounty to be found on this intriguing island, but my trip to Reykjavik last week provided me with enough temptation to warrant checking a suitcase into the hold on my return flight. This time, however, it wasn’t sculpted silver jewellery or patterned knitwear that caught my attention, but the results of the island’s impressive hot geysers, which rise, in science-fiction fashion, out of the landscape. Or in other words: salt, one of my passions.
During my stay I came across several Icelandic brands of salt with packaging as appealing as the crunchy, white flakes within. One that stood out was Nordur Salt (£15.96 for 12 x 125g boxes, first picture), whose Arctic sea flakes are boxed into a turquoise container showing the mermaid, Alda, owner of a haunting voice that drove many sailors wild (or so the packaging tells me). The salt comes from the tiny island of Karlsey in Breiđafjördur Bay. Often referred to as “the underwater rainforests of the north”, these biodiverse waters are filled with algal forests and seaweed. When heated by geothermal energy at a very low temperature, trace minerals are preserved, giving the salt a singular flavour.
Another brand that impressed me was Saltverk, which also uses geothermal energy in its production, but the raw material comes from the Westfjords. This sustainable, hand-harvested, artisanal salt comes in more than several flavours (from £2.49 for 90g), packaged into little jars or boxes, and making ideal presents. The Lava Salt is coloured with activated charcoal, a natural detoxifier, and promises health benefits, while Liquorice is without a doubt the most Icelandic of the tastes, but I fell in love with the birch-smoked variety (second picture). It now sits on a shelf in my kitchen and every time I pass it I have to remove the top to inhale its deliciously smoky smell, which is not unlike Diptyque’s Feu de Bois candle but much better on my morning poached eggs. I also bought Saltverk’s Arctic Thyme; chunky flecks of the herb are scattered through the salt, and although I haven’t experimented a lot with it yet, it was a match made in heaven on grilled lamb chops.
I found these salts alongside the wonderful Sóley Organics range of face and body products – which I have written about before on these pages, and which now includes a line of skincare specifically for those over age 35 – at the aptly named shop Inspired by Iceland. A dip in there is strongly recommended.