Ireland Guide

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Irish Cheese Awards end October Month of Cheese on a High!

Far from being new, The Irish Cheese Awards are eagerly anticipated each year. But they have tended to move around a bit and this year, for the first time, judging culminated very fittingly with a brilliant Awards Ceremony & Dinner in The Grainstore at Ballymaloe House – what a way to round off the Discover Farmhouse Cheese campaign’s ‘October Month of Cheese’.

Selected from the 145 cheeses from 29 companies that were entered for the competition, this year’s
Supreme Champion is the magnificently traditional ‘Mount Leinster Clothbound’ made by Tom Burgess of Coolattin Cheddar in Co Carlow, which also won the Best New Cheese and Best Cow’s Milk Cheese categories (Tom is seen here with Bord Bia CEO, Aidan Cotter).

Veteran West Cork cheesemaker, Veronica Steele – producer, with her husband Norman, of the iconic Milleens Cheese since 1976 and recognised as the mother of the Irish farmhouse cheese revolution – was also specially honoured, with the Irish Cheese Awards’ first Lifetime Achievement Award, for an outstanding contribution, not only as a pioneer but also for mentoring and tutoring other aspiring cheese makers.

The Supreme Champion topped a total of 36 winners in 12 classes, with other outstanding successes including Ardsallagh Cranberry by Ardsallagh Goat Products from Cork (Best Goat’s Milk Cheese), which has found a special niche, being especially popular over the Christmas period, the relatively new Young Buck, a cow’s milk blue made in Co Down by Mike’s Fancy Cheese, and Veronica Steele’s neighbour, Jeffa Gill’s, Smoked Mini Durrus Cheese.

This is the most prestigious event in the Irish cheese industry calendar and the calibre of the panel of judges says it all: including both international and Irish experts, the team assembled to make the hard decisions included Bruce MacDonald, The Guild of Cheese Grades UK; Eddie O’Neill, Teagasc Moorepark; Kevin Sheridan, Sheridans Cheesemongers; Roland Barthélemy, International Guilde of Fromagers; Clem Rowcliffe, Rowcliffes UK; Peter Ward, Country Choice; Isabelle Sheridan, On the Pigs Back; Rory O’Connell, Ballymaloe; Jess Murphy, Kai Galway; and Owen Bailey, Neals Yard Dairy.

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start is the cheese making courses at The Organic Centre in Co Leitrim where Hans Wieland, who has been a professional cheese maker for over 25 years, introduces students to the joys of producing artisan and farmhouse cheeses made with unique milk – and he has still a couple of places available on the Cheesemaking Course this weekend, October 31st and November 1st. Hans knows how much determination successful cheesemaking takes, so he is delighted – and students will be encouraged – to see another new cheese coming onto the market: “Cloonconra Cheese” is made by James Gannon on his organic farm in Roscommon with fresh raw milk from his herd of rare breed Irish Moiled Cattle – and James just happens to be a former student on one of Hans’s cheese making courses at The Organic Centre (

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