ROTARY Club of Bridge of Allan & Dunblane: Strathearn Cheese
Tasting was on the agenda when Pierre Leger and Drew Watson talked to the Bridge of Allan and Dunblane Rotary Club about their relatively new enterprise, Strathearn Cheese Company.
The Company is the outcome of an initiative by Drew and Pierre, who had the concept of producing exciting artisan cheeses in the heart of Perthshire, using local milk supplies and adding local flavours. The Company was created in January 2016, operating from a unit in the Cultybraggan camp (an old WWII prisoner of war camp) near Comrie.
Following catering college, Pierre, a Frenchman, was, for a period, a chef in the Crieff Hydro, after which he spent time in other hotels and then with a speciality food wholesaler. During these various roles, he was increasingly aware of a growing interest in cheese. It was clear that hotels and restaurants were on the lookout for a more varied selection of cheeses. Realising this, and identifying a potential gap in the market, Pierre teamed-up with Drew. Together, the combination of Gallic flair and Scottish pragmatism provided the basis for a successful team.
Initially, there were two significant problems: finding premises and finding a suitable local source of milk. The former was solved when they visited Cultybrannigan camp, where they found an ideal space with a solid, natural floor, necessary to withstand the frequent washings of the cheese. The second problem was more difficult: there were very few milking herds around Comrie. Ultimately, they reached agreement with Graham’s Bridge of Allan diary that was able to promise regular delivery of milk of the necessary volume and standard.
These preliminaries having been resolved, it was time to move towards production. The major issue was to decide the range and variety of cheeses to be produced. Having had the benefit of experience in the market-place, they decided to focus on two speciality cheeses with a local identity: the Strathearn cheese, and the Lady Mary cheese (taking its name from the popular walk along the river in
Crieff). The former of these is washed with brine, together with a tiny amount of Glenturret whisky, helping to give it a distinctive taste. The Lady Mary is a milder, softer cheese washed with the addition of wild garlic, and dressed with rapeseed truffle oil. Production of both cheeses is now well underway, using a 200 litre vat from Germany, and other specialist equipment sourced from France.
Although a comparatively young company, success has already come its way: important inroads have been made into the market. But, most excitingly, the Strathearn cheese, having been entered into a world cheese awards competition in Spain, was awarded a gold medal, and was named the best Scottish cheese. Buoyed by this early achievement, Pierre and Drew are looking to the possibility of employing an additional member of staff.
Following the presentation, members were invited to taste the cheeses. There was a very positive reaction to both, and, following the closing of the meeting, the cheeses were available for sale, with a brisk trade evident.
Andrew Hilley, speaker’s host, congratulated Pierre and Drew on their initiative, and on their evident success. He felt sure they would build on their early promise, a belief shared by members who endorsed these comments with applause.
There will be a meeting on Thursday, May 4 in the Westlands Hotel, Doune Road, at 6pm for 6.30pm. Craig Mair will tell the story of the Tambar, a Grangemouth ship in colonial Australia . Visitors are always very welcome to meetings.
Anyone interested in attending should contact the club secretary, Iain Fraser at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 01786 822751.
More information can be found on the club website at dunblanerotary.org.uk
Report by Peter Holmes