Jeffa Gill & Sarah Hennessy

Sarah Hennessy

Jeffa Gill & Sarah Hennessy

In 1979, Jeffa Gill began making cheese for her family using some of the milk from her small herd of dairy cows in the upland townland of Coomkeen near Durrus village on the Sheeps Head peninsula. There were a small group of women at the time, kick started by Veronica Steele of Beara, experimenting and learning cheese making from each other in the area.

More than 35 years later Jeffa is still making Durrus Cheese according to her recipe and is recently joined in the business by her daughter, Sarah Hennessy. “Some of our earliest customers were local chefs who recognised the merit of a locally produced farmhouse cheese. We have been lucky in West Cork that we have had great support from local businesses and individuals who champion local produce – John Field of Fields in Skibbereen and O’Keefes Supervalu in Bantry having been two of the earliest shops to stock our cheese along with Val Manning of Mannings Emporium over the road in Ballylickey.

Running a rural business such as ours has been a way of making a living and staying on the land in an area of otherwise low employment. We employ a small dedicated team of three women with whom we are proud to continue producing our award winning cheeses from West Cork. Challenges have presented themselves of course - the quality of the road network and access to broadband being some.

Over the years we have received good support from our Local Enterprise Office and value the network of small businesses in the area. Today we no longer have our own herd of cows but source our milk from two nearby farmers with whom we have had long standing relationships. Our cheeses are still made by hand using traditional skills that result in a unique style of washed rind cheese that is very much linked to the land and that capture all the subtleties of flora and season in their flavours. We now produce four different cheeses.

Alongside our classic Durrus Cheese, we make a Durrus Óg, a Smoked Durrus and a harder styled Dunmanus cheese. Our cheeses have won their awards, most recently Best Smoked Cheese at the Irish Cheese Awards, 2015, and can be found on good cheese counters and in some of the best restaurants across the country. We export to the UK from where some is transported even further to the USA and even Australia.

This month as part of the Food Academy programme, which we participated in with our Local Enterprise Office, we are launching our Durrus mini and Durrus Óg cheeses in Supervalu stores in Cork North and West. We hope that now customers in towns such as Charleville, Macroom, Mitchelstown, Bandon, Clonakilty and more will be able to find our cheese in their local store.”

How to contact us: Email: Tel: 027 61100 Twitter: durruscheese Facebook: /DurrusCheese/