WEST Cork cheese producers were honoured at this year’s Cáis Irish Cheese Awards which took place at the Ballymaloe Grainstore.
Gubbeen, Durrus, Milleens and Coolea were singled out for prizes at the prestigious biennial ceremony that celebrates the plentiful and diverse range of Irish Farmhouse cheeses produced in Ireland.
The difficult job of choosing the winners in each category was left to the highly-experienced panel of judges, which was headed up by Eddie O’Neill of Teagasc and included valuable input from Mia Buckley of Musgraves; Clifford Webb of La Rousse Foods; Ros Windsor of Paxton and Whitfield; Stephanie Ciano of World’s Best Cheeses; John McKenna of the McKennas’ Guides; Astrid Dalman of Fallon & Byrne and Paul McSweeney, head of food and nutritional sciences at University College Cork.
The judging process began from early morning and was finalised just a few hours before the ceremony began –in good time for guests to arrive.
Speaking about this year’s stiff competition, Eddie O’Neill of Teagasc said: ‘It was extremely difficult in certain categories to pick an outright winner as the standard was through the roof. We are all aware of the talent that exists all over Ireland within the food sector, but to see the extent of amazing produce that the numerous producers involved in this year’s awards are putting forward is both mind-blowing and hugely exciting. I think I echo the sentiment of my fellow judges when I say that I was so proud to be a part of this year’s selection process.’
Supreme Champion Award went to Tom Burgess of Coolattin Cheese for his Mount Leinster Cloth Bound Cheese while a Lifetime Achievement Award went to Cashel Blue Farmhouse cheese.
Clonakilty native and chief executive of Bord Bia, Tara McCarthy said: ‘This country is up there with the best of them when it comes to the quality and reputation of the cheese we produce and to see our homegrown brands receive the recognition they deserve, not only here at home but also on an international level, is a very satisfying feeling.’