Our story begins in the early 1970s, when Jeffa Gill bought a small farm on the hillside valley of Coomkeen just above Durrus village in West Cork. She set about rebuilding the tumbling-down farmhouse, growing vegetables and milking cows.
Having studied and worked in fashion design in London and Dublin, and originally from a farming family in Worcestershire, Jeffa was part of a small group of creative and pioneering women, spearheaded by her friend the late Veronica Steele of Milleens, who experimented with small-scale farmhouse cheese making.
1980s and 1990s
A write up in the Irish Farmers Journal in 1981 highlighted the efforts of these early innovators and at one of the first Irish Farmhouse Cheese competitions held at Clones Agricultural Show in 1984 Durrus Cheese won Gold. It was to be the first of many.
By the mid 1980’s, more help was needed, so friend and neighbour Ann McGrath joined in with the enterprise. Ann still works with Jeffa today where she oversees all the maturing and packing of the cheeses. By 1986, the cheese was being distributed within Ireland by specialist wholesalers and to the UK, much to Neal’s Yard Dairy who further exported it to the USA & Australia.
In the early days the farm kitchen was converted to hold the cheese vat and maturing shelves and by the mid 1980’s production was extended into the farm out-houses. In 1991 all cheese making was moved out of the family house and into converted farm buildings in the yard.
Fast approaching its fourth decade Durrus Cheese is still handmade by Jeffa Gill along with her daughter Sarah Hennessy, Ann McGrath and the rest of the team. The cheese continues to win awards at both national and international level, most recently winning 2 and 3 Gold Stars for the Durrus Mini and the Durrus Óg at the Great Taste Awards in the UK.
We are now producing four cheeses and will continue to make delicious, high quality artisan cheese from the excellent milk produced from the rugged terrain of West Cork.