A KILKENNY cheese producer has scooped the top award at the prestigious British Cheese Awards, regarded as the “Oscars” of the dairy world. Knockdrinna Farmhouse Cheese, from Stoneyford, was declared the best of almost 1,000 cheeses and crowned Supreme Champion at the Awards for its Kilree Cheese, a semi-soft, rind washed goat’s cheese.
As well as being declared the overall award winner, Knockdrinna also won the Best Semi-soft Cheese and Best Irish Cheese categories for Kilree which was served to the Queen on her recent visit to Ireland.
Knockdrinna beat competition from Ireland, England, Scotland, and Wales to get the top honour. Entries included nearly 700 vegetarian cheeses, 170 raw milk cheeses, 110 organic, 60 blue and over 40 goat and ewe’s milk creations.
The judges nosed, nibbled and narrowed the field to a list of winners in 22 categories before declaring Kilree the best of the lot. This is the first time in 12 years that an Irish cheese producer has taken this huge honour.
The hotly anticipated results were announced at an event at the City Hall in Cardiff at the weekend. Judging took place on September 8th by an esteemed panel of cheese experts, food writers, chefs and gastronomes in a marquee in Churchill’s, a village in the heart of the Cotswolds.
The British Cheese Awards were established in 1994 to raise the profile of British cheese and create a recognised symbol of excellence for all British cheeses.
A delighted Helen Finnegan of Knockdrinna said she was overwhelmed by the win. “This is a fantastic opportunity for us to grow our business and to open many doors for us both in the Irish and UK market.”
Knockdrinna has two elements to its business in Stoneyford, just five miles from Kilkenny - a cheese production plant, plus a farm shop and café.
“As well as being able to increase our production and export potential, this win also helps put us on the map in terms of a visitor destination so people can come and see what we do, and how we do it.
Helen is a member of the Taste of Kilkenny Food Trail and will be taking a stand at the upcoming Savour Kilkenny Food Festival from October 28th to 31st. She said Irish artisan food producers are making a huge impact both at home and abroad. “This is a very important sector and winning awards like this one helps put Irish food producers on the map.”
Helen first started making cheese in her kitchen in Stoneyford in 2004 and has enjoyed phenomenal success ever since, winning many cheese awards in recent years. Her cheeses are on sale in Ireland and the UK.
“We pride ourselves on making the finest quality artisan cheese, using the best quality milk from local farmers. We have developed our recipes and techniques and now have a range of Sheep, Goat and Cow’s milk cheeses to meet a variety of tastes, from the mildest gentlest goats cheese flavours to the most robust mature sheep’s cheese and lots more in between.”
Knockdrinna has also developed other products including pesto’s, relish and Tapenade which are great accompaniments to its cheeses. The Knockdrinna Farm Shop and Café is open from Tuesday to Friday from 9am to 6pm, Saturday from 10am to 6pm, and Sunday from 12 to 6pm.