Ireland does not have an illustrious history of cheesemaking. There are no ancient regional varieties to match France's Reblochon or Italy's Gorgonzola, and no daily habit of eating cheese with bread. And what traditions there were disappeared with the centralization of the dairy industry during World War II, leading to the domination of bland, machine-made Cheddars.

In recent years, farmhouse cheeses have returned to the Emerald Isle. A number of dedicated natives, along with some European expats, are experimenting with the country's legendarily rich cream (from animals fed on the country's wonderfully green grass), combining spectacular local ingredients with a spirit of open-minded creativity, and producing excellent results.

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This cheese reminded us of camembert, but the texture was more firm, akin to bread dough. The aroma is slightly pungent. The washed, golden colored rind gave the cheese a nutty flavor, and added a sensation similar to the crust on toast. Ardrahan cheese is handmade so the size and shape can vary somewhat, but in general it's made in large wheels that weigh aproximately 2.5 pounds. The shelf life of this cheese is about 12 weeks.

A great, slightly sweet version of brie, buttery but not runny. Durrus is a raw milk cheese that has a semi-soft washed rind. It had a faint root-vegetable taste (think carrots and parsnips) and a sharp aroma. As the cheese matures the flavor will grow stronger and fruitier.

What a blue! Deep, explosive, clean. Pure cream. If you like blue-cheese dressing, you will love this cheese. This was our favorite of the eight we sampled. A close relative is Crozier Blue, which is a sheep's milk cheese and has more of a bite. Cashel Blue is a cow's milk cheese and was first launched in 1984. It can be enjoyed young when it has crumbly texture. But if left to mature for up to four months the cheese takes on a rich, creamier texture.

Arriving in a jar, marinating in oil and herbs...what's not to love? A delicious goat cheese with a hint of garlic and salt, very light and creamy. Boilie is fresh cheese curds that have been rolled by hand into balls. They are then sealed into jars with fresh herbs and garlic. Try to make this yourself, using chevre, your favorite herbs, and safflower oil. The wonderful thing about Boilie is that it can be kept on the pantry shelf and used when needed as the oil acts as a preservative. Once the cheese is gone you have a great salad dressing.
A gorgeous wedge of marbled cheese, with deep brown veins running throughout. A waxy rind encases a meal in itself. The distinctive taste of Porter, an earthy brown beer, brought to mind the hearty taste of beef stew. It is made from pasteurized cow's milk. But Marion Cahill doesn't just flavor her cheese with Porter but has even created an Irish Whiskey Cheddar.
A soft, smooth classic brie. We noted a taste of chicken broth with a lemony twang. On a hunch, we tried it on a sweet butter cookie, and it was delicious! It would work perfectly in one of our favorite hors d'oeuvres, brie on gingersnaps.
A bright yellow wax rind surrounds a sweet creamy cheese that reminded us all of Havarti. Of all our selections, this was the most mellow and smooth, as close to butter as cheese can get. As the cheese ages it can develop a bit of a bite. It is a handmade cow's milk cheese. Ann and Pat O'Farrell the makers of this amazing cheese suggest enjoying it after dinner with a glass of port.