Production of Cabrales takes place on small-scale, traditional dairies in the twenty or so villages in the Cabrales and Penamellera Alta districts of eastern Asturias in northern Spain.
Milk for production is sourced from livestock located in the mountain areas that, during the summer months, take advantage of the abundant summer pastures at high altitude.
Although traditionally made with a mix of raw cow's, sheep's and goat's milk, today's cheeses are much more commonly made solely from raw cow's milk.
Cabrales has a deserved reputation for being among the most distinctive and powerful blue cheeses. Traditionally wheels are wrapped in leaves, although most that find their way onto the United States market have natural rinds and are foil-wrapped. Either way, when fully ripe, Cabrales has an incredibly strong blue flavor.
Cheeses are aged from two to six months in maturing rooms located in the limestone mountains of the region. The relative humidity in is typically 90%, while the temperature is a cool 45°-55°F. These conditions favor the Penicillium Roqueforti molds that are so instrumental in developing the dense blue-green veins throughout the interior paste of the cheese.
Aromas of Cabrales are powerful and can be assertive. When ripe, cheeses have a smooth texture, punctuated with holes and pockets of blue, and studded with crunchy granules of crystalized amino acids.
Not for the faint hearted, flavors are often wild and spicy, with distinct notes of salt that become even more intense as the cheese ages. In the case of mixed milk cheeses, these flavors can sometimes be quite acidic and very complex.