Based in Kanturk in Southern Ireland, the Burns family have been involved in dairy farming since 1925, when Eugene Burns established a herd of pedigree Friesian cows. Until 1983 the family sold the liquid milk from their herd. Then, inspired by a handful of other small daries that had turned to cheesemaking, Eugene's son (also called Eugene) and his wife Mary began experimenting on their own.
Ireland's temperate and damp, maritime climate makes it ideal for the production of washed rind cheeses, however, it being early 1980's Ireland, most people had not yet developed a taste for pungent farmstead cheeses, and initially Ardrahan found a much greater fan base with the French. Gradually sales strengthened, particularly in Ireland and the United Kingdom, and now the Burnses sell everything they make.
For production of Ardrahan, milk is heated to 88°F, starter cultures and rennet are added, and after coagulation the curd is cut, put into molds and allowed to drain naturally.
After unmolding, the young cheeses are brined for several hours before being transferred to the aging room, where they are matured for about four weeks. During this time they are washed with salt water to encourage the growth of the Bacterium Linens mold. This ripens the cheeses and gives Ardrahan its classic washed rind, breaking down the texture from chalky to smooth.
The aromas of Ardrahan (like many washed rind cheeses) are much more pungent than the flavor of the cheese. The rind is orange-brown in color, with the occasional patch of white mold and has a soft, sticky texture. The interior is pale, butter yellow, dotted with small holes or slits, and is smooth and yielding.
Flavors are complex and meaty with savory hints of earth, smoke, bacon and butter.