Experimenting in her kitchen in 2004, home chef Helen Finnegan made the very first batch of what was to become Knockdrinna Farmhouse Cheese using just a few simple household utensils and a small amount of goats milk. Deciding to invest in her passion for good food, Helen began making cheese full time and the first Knockdrinna cheese – a Goats Cheese Camembert, Knockdrinna Snow – was born.
“I had a friend, Elizabeth Bradley of Carlow cheese, who started to make cheese at the same time. She showed me the basics, and I started to experiment with a cheese-making kit that I bought on the internet. We had a little back kitchen in our house converted it into somewhere to make cheese. We bought a little secondhand 120 litre vat and made cheese in it. Our cheese press was two axe handles with a little weight hanging out of the wall.”
“We made some great cheese in that little room, and we made some terrible cheese in that little room as well. We had lots of cracked rinds, funny looking cheeses; in fact I’d say we had the best fed foxes in any part of the country for those first few years! We moved from our converted back kitchen to our small cheese dairy in 2005 and thankfully everything worked, our curing rooms developed our distinctive range of bacteria which give us our lovely golden rinds.”
In 2008 Helen took over the production of Lavistown from another local cheesemaker, Olivia Goodwillie. One of Ireland’s oldest Farmhouse cheeses, Lavistown is a cow’s milk Caerphilly style cheese, and has held its place as an Irish favourite for over 25 years, and is now well established under the Knockdrinna banner.
Eight years on and Knockdrinna now has a range of goats, sheep, and cows cheeses and over 40 International and Irish awards, the most recent being a major category win for Knockdrinna Gold semi-hard goats cheese at the 2013 British Cheese Awards where it was named ‘Best Modern British’.