Posted: 15/03/2022

Westcombe Dairy launches “higher tier” extra-mature cheddar brand

Somerset cheesemaker Westcombe Dairy hopes to spark a discussion about farming practices with the launch of a premium, extra-mature cheddar called Oxonlees. 

The new cheese is aged for 18-24 months, compared to around 14 months for standard Westcombe, and fetches a higher price. 

It was first released last year and is being sold exclusively by Neal’s Yard Dairy, which charges £29.30/kg for Oxonlees compared to £24.05/kg for Westcombe.  

“We’ve honed in on big changes in our farming process and in the dairy and now have more confidence to have a higher tier,” said owner Tom Calver. “Oxonlees has a bigger, rounder flavour.”

Westcombe has been changing the way it farms to improve biodiversity and the quality of its cheese, which is being documented in a podcast called The Westcombe Project

Herbal leys and paddock grazing have been introduced, while soya and maize silage is no longer fed to the cows. 

The dairy has also been trialling historic cheddar recipes by influential 19th century cheesemakers, including Joseph Harding, Edith Cannon and TC Candy, while the company also plans to explore making its own starter cultures by culturing raw milk.   

Named after one of the fields on the farm, the Oxonlees brand aims to highlight these changes, especially on the farm. 

“Terms like mature, extra mature and vintage have been eroded by block cheddars that use different adjuncts and starter cultures to speed up the maturing process,” said Calver. “Oxonlees helps tell the story of what we’re doing on our farm. It will promote conversations in cheese shops and allow cheesemongers to talk to their customers about farming and cheese.”

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