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Owen Davies wins Affineur of the Year 2024 with coal-aged cheddar

Posted: 4 July 2024

By Patrick McGuigan

Owen Davies Tŷ Caws

Cheesemonger Owen Davies of Tŷ Caws in Cardiff drew on Welsh history and terroir to win last month’s Affineur of the Year competition with a unique cheddar aged in coal.

The truckle of Quicke’s cheddar, nicknamed Pwll Du (‘Black Pool’ in Welsh) was aged for 12 months in a chamber lined with Welsh coal.  “The idea was inspired by the rich coal mining history of my home town,” said Davies. “The aim was to create an environment for the cheese to age naturally. Enclosing the cheese in coal ensured consistent humidity and temperature.”

Now in its third year, the Academy of Cheese contest explores the impact of affinage on different styles of cheese. These included Cropwell Bishop Blue Stilton, Quicke’s Clothbound Cheddar, Fen Farm Dairy Baron Bigod and White Lake Cheese’s washed rind cheese Solstice, matured in various innovative ways. 

Category winners included Burt’s Cheese, which won Best Stilton with a cheese wrapped in vine leaves, and White Lake, which took the Best Soft Cheese award for a Baron Bigod washed in Somerset Cider Brandy and wrapped in vine leaves. Best Washed Rind was won by the Fine Cheese Co for a Solstice washed in whisky. The cheese also won the People’s Choice award.

The nine expert judges included Patricia Michelson, founder of La Fromagerie. 

“What transpired by affinage was a complex and fruity cheese, with elements of toasty nut and crisp bacon,” she said of the winner. “Here was a Welsh cheese that could not be replicated in any other place and that, in my mind, made it special.”

This article first appeared in the July 2024 edition of Fine Food Digest .