Our Story


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 grown up on a farm in Worcestershire, Jeffa went on to work in fashion design in London and Dublin in the late '60s. After moving to West Cork in the early '70s, Jeffa was among 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. The rebirth of Irish Farmhouse cheesemaking was underway - and the industry enjoyed continued growth and success into the 21st century.

Sarah and Ann on the hill in the early 1980s
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.

Sarah and Ann on the hill in the early 1980s
Sarah Jeffa and Ann by window
Present times

Now in our fifth decade of producing farmhouse cheese, Durrus Cheese is still handmade on the farm where it all started.

Daughter and mother Sarah Hennessy and Jeffa Gill, with Ann McGrath and the rest of the team continue to produce award winning artisan cheeses.

Our top quality milk has been sourced from Corney and John Buckley’s herd of Friesian cows for over three decades, and from Noel Dukelow's herd on the shores of Dunmanus Bay.

Lifetime Achievement

In early 2020, Jeffa was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award for her contribution to Irish Food from the Irish Food Writers Guild.

Jeffa and Lifetime Achievement Award 2020

“Cheese, more than any food has the capacity to reflect the place it is from…...a great cheese is not fixed but evolves with the people, climate and landscape which creates it”  Kevin Sheridan, Cheesemonger