We have worked with the team at St Tola goat’s cheese for more than 21 years, and our Executive Chef and his team delight in creating delicious dishes with this fantastic local product. The St Tola goats graze on natural flowers such as red and white clover and honeysuckle, resulting in a product that is full of the flavours of Ireland.

How long have you been working with the Ashford Estate?

I have been working with the Ashford Estate since I first starting making St Tola 21 years ago.

How did the partnership first start?

I fortunately inherited the partnership from Meg and Derrick Gordon, the original creators of St.Tola Goat’s cheese, and continued the relationship.

How is your product used in our restaurants/bars?

It is used on the cheeseboard and in some beautifully creative dishes by the restaurant chefs.

What three words would you use to describe your product?

Zingy, raw and flavoursome.

Tell us about the history of your business

I took over the creation of St Tola goat’s cheese from my beautiful neighbours Meg and Derrick Gordon 21 years ago, who I had grown up knowing.

I wanted to do something sustainable with our 60-acre family farm so taking over the well known and loved creation of St Tola cheese made sense to us. The range and production of St. Tola cheeses have grown over the last 21 years but we still stay true to the values of creating our own raw cheeses from our own family herd of goats. We have grown from strength to strength by working closely with nature and what it provides and creating products for our dear customers who have the same values as us.

What is the proudest/most memorable moment in your partnership with the Ashford Estate?

Hosting Euro-Toque chefs for our 20-year celebrations here on the farm in 2019 for a celebratory lunch.

How is your location/connection with your local area reflected in your product?

Provenance and sense of place is so important for us. We are just seven miles from the Atlantic coast and at the foot of Mount Callan. Therefore the natural saltiness in the soil here and the peatiness of the land comes across in the flavours of our cheese. The flavours of our cheese reflect the natural flowers on which our goats feed, such as red and white clover and honeysuckle. Our ash coated cheese reflects the flagstones of the Cliffs of Moher.

What plans do you have to develop your product/your partnership with Ashford?

We would like to work in partnership with Ashford to grow the awareness of supporting and protecting raw milk cheeses, as there are now just a handful left in Ireland. We would like to also develop new recipe ideas for using our range of St.Tola goat cheese with the Ashford chefs. We believe that it is important that we would work together in promoting sustainable tourism as we all become more aware of climate change.

Describe a typical day in creating your product - what is the farm-to-table story?

Milking our herd starts early in the morning in conjunction with feeding our goats with fresh hay and giving milk to our young kids. The milk is then pumped directly from the milking parlour into the cheese vats, where starter and rennet are added in a timely manner. We then decide what type of cheese we are going to make that day from the batch of milk, whether it be our fresh St Tola Divine curd, St Tola Crottin or our original or ash St Tola Logs.

Cheese moulds are prepared for whichever cheese we decide to make for filling the following day. Existing cheeses are tasted and decisions are made whether to turn and mature for longer in the armoires or if they are ready to be packed for dispatch, depending on our individual customers’ requirements.

If the cheeses are ready for dispatch then they are individually unmoulded and “buttered” using a warm knife to smooth down the surfaces of the cheese, if being sold fresh. They are then packed and ready for dispatch. There is lots of washing down and preparing of cheese and packaging but our small in-house team always take the time to sit down for a  break and discuss events past, current and future. Some customers who collect from us directly pre- and hopefully post-Covid, often join us for this chat as we love to get feedback from our customers and get their ideas and thoughts on our cheese.