Tasting Irish Cheeses

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Of course we all know you cannot say it without smiling. I actually cannot say it without salivating. The actually origin of cheese varies, with some food historians claiming it was first created in the Middle East, others in Greece and France. I am not a food historian so I won't offer any insight, although I do find the story of the Arab Nomad pretty romantic. After having filled a saddlebag with milk for a long journey across the desert he was surprised to find that the contents of the bag had separated into curds and whey. Did I mention the bag was made from the stomach of a young animal, giving the process the enzyme it needed to make the cheese?

I don't know about you, but hot milk under the desert sun isn't exactly my idea of refreshing. Couldn't he have just taken along a mai tai? Oh wait, then there'd be no cheese. Nevermind.

Ireland hasn't always been in the forefront of my mind when it comes to cheese production. Shamrocks, single malts and ballymaloe always came to mind, but cheese? English Stilton, Cheddar and Cheshire have always been favorites, so you can imagine how shocked I was that I wasted so much time getting to know the cheeses of Ireland.

Bad Matt! Bad Matt!

Boy, I had a lot of catching up to do. And catching up I did. I called up my friend Loren, got a few Irish cheeses together and had a small tasting. Definitely love at first bite.

Matt's Tasting Notes
Because of Ireland's climate, dairy herds graze on fresh pastures every 12 months. This results in rich, creamy cheese that is bold, assertive, and downright delicious.

Vintage Irish Cheddar
It's no secret that my personal flavor profile includes strong, full-bodied tastes and a love of strong, savory ingredients. Vintage Irish Cheddar was right there with me. It's been aged for 12 months which results in a rich, rounded flavor and smooth body. I could eat my own body weight in this stuff.

Kind of hard to pinpoint, this one. A harder cheese similar to cheddar but with an almost-nutty aftertaste like a softer Swiss. I read that it makes for a great grilled cheese sandwich (insert Pete Wells joke here) and I can see why. Delicious with a capital D.

Tipperary Irish Cheddar
Quick, get this block of cheese out of my hand now! I think this is the perfect snacking cheese as its creamy texture just melts in your mouth. A bit sharper than the Vintage Irish Cheddar I tasted.

Cahill's Whiskey Cheddar
When I say this was one of the most unusual things I've tasted in quite some time I mean it. Visually it's just as striking too, with a beautiful chunky mosaic pattern that is the result of Irish whiskey blended with cheddar. There's no missing the flavor of the whiskey at first bite, giving way to the tangy taste of the cheddar after a few seconds. And then there's the aroma of this cheese, too. Wow.

Green-Waxed Balleycashel
Big, green and striking, the result of the wheel being dipped in green wax. Creamy and soft, one of the lighter flavored cheese in this tasting.

Cashel Blue
Ok, so apparently Jane and Louis Grubb have been making this cheese since the 1980s and I'm just tasting it today. I'm embarrassed, ashamed, and on a mission to catch up. This is Ireland's only blue, lighter, softer and milder than its blue cousins around the world. I'm going to stop gushing about this cheese because I harbor a secret bias in favor of blue cheeses. I can never get enough.

Of course this isn't an extensive list of Irish cheeses, just the ones I could get my grubby little hands on. Know of any favorites you can suggest? I'd love to know. And if you live in Ireland and have an empty couch, well, I'm always available. I'm the perfect guest!

9 Responses to “Tasting Irish Cheeses”

  1. Anonymous Monkey Gland 

    Young man! The minute you ever land in the UK I am marching you straight to the Neal Street Dairy and subjecting you to a cheese fest of epic proportions.

  2. Anonymous Matt 


    (dreaming of English cheeses now.....)

  3. Anonymous melissa 

    have you ever had boilie??? it's wonderful - it reminds me of tiny fresh balls of mozzarella in a jar of brine, but it's goat cheese in a jar of oil. they're creamy, and slightly flavored with garlic, and i *highly* recommend them.

  4. Anonymous tami 

    aaah the cashel blue. it's probably one of my favorite cheeses - and certainly my favorite blue cheese. amazing stuff. who knew ireland had such a gem?

  5. Anonymous bea at La Tartine Gourmande 

    Hi Matt,

    My first time on your blog although now I can see I had admired your pics on Flickr already. Many congratulations on a nice designed little treasure!

    And for the cheese, my hubbie is Irish. So with him Irish and me French, we make a cheese eating happy pair! Thanks for the insight!

    And added to my list!

  6. Anonymous Liz 

    Cashel Blue and Cahill's Whiskey Cheddar are two of my favorites.

    I think it might be time to go flyfishing in Ireland again soon. With a little cheese tasting on the side, of course.

  7. Anonymous Oliver 

    Hey Matt, enjoyed your post on Irish cheeses a lot! And it inspired me to ask for these at our favourite "cheese department" - the added benefit, or why it's our favorite, has to do with the fact that the staff working there is super friendly, informed and willing to let you sample any and everything. Needless to say, when Nicky and I go food shopping, I'm the one getting the cheeses...

  8. Anonymous Melissa 

    Dubliner has been one of my favorites for years. It seems to have disappeared from the shelves in the UK, though every time I go back to the US I find it with no problem. It's getting to the point where I'm considering arranging a monthly flight over to Dublin just to stock up on cheese! Several of the others I've never heard of though, so thanks for the heads-up!

  9. Anonymous Pille 

    I got my first bite of Cashel Blue just a few months ago, and it's now clearly my first choice for a blue cheese as well. Really-really tasty.
    I have to check out some of the other cheeses on your list - which is much appreciated.

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About me

  • I'm Matt Armendariz
  • From Los Angeles, California
  • A man with a passion for good food and a wonderful life with a dash of irreverence. Read at your own risk. Advertising director by day, wino by night. All photos on this site by Matt Armendariz.
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