ELCHIES, a premium sheep and goat meat business based at Campbell Cairns farm, above Aberlour, in Speyside, has been given a rare distinction in this year's Guild of Fine Food 'Great Taste' awards – it is the only meat producer in Scotland to be awarded a Three Star rating out of the many hundreds that entered.

In total, 12,772 products were sent in from over 100 different countries, to go through the Great Taste judging process – which involves over 500 of the 'most demanding' palates, belonging to food critics, chefs, cooks, restaurateurs, buyers, retailers and producers, as well as a whole host of food writers and journalists – which underpins what is widely acknowledged as the most respected food accreditation scheme for artisan and speciality food producers.

From this process, Elchies was awarded a Three Star Great Taste award for its Haunch of Ryeland Mutton, and a Two Star accreditation for its Boer Goat Meat.

In addition, Elchies was nominated as one of three finalists for the top regional award of Best in Scotland alongside Loch Fyne Oysters and Shortbread House of Edinburgh.

As well as a badge of honour, the unmistakable black and gold Great Taste label is a signpost to a wonderful tasting product, which has been discovered through hours and hours of blind tasting by hundreds of judges.

The joint owner of Elchies, Brian Cameron, said: "We set Elchies up as our farm business at Campbell Cairns ten years ago with the sole objective of producing great tasting meat. We were recommended to the Great Taste awards by Nigel Barden, food and drink journalist, and it is fantastic to achieve such recognition against the very best in Scotland, the UK and overseas."

Julie Comins, Brian’s wife and the driver behind Elchies’ products, added: "These awards and the nomination has already opened doors to new retailers and customers through the credibility given by some of the UK’s top food experts.

"We are going to have a wee celebration with all the team, including our missing members Jess and Emma Hall, for all our friends, customers and supporters at our Farm Tasting Day on October 26. Anyone who would like to try some of our product is very welcome to come and join in!"

Judging for the Great Taste Awards is notoriously uncompromising, putting taste above all else, and completely disregarding branding and packaging. All products are removed from their wrapper, jar, box or bottle before being tasted by the judges, who then savour, confer and re-taste to decide which products are worthy of a One, Two or Three Star award.

Of the 12,772 entries into Great Taste this year, only 208 emerged with Three Stars; 1326 received Two Stars, and 3409 achieved One Star. The panel of judges this year included cook, writer and champion of sustainable food, Melissa Hemsley; MasterChef 2018 champion Kenny Tutt; author,Olia Hercules; chef and food writer Gill Meller; Kavi Thakar from Dishoom; food writer and stylist, Georgina Hayden; and author and chef, Zoe Adjonyoh; as well as food buyers from Selfridges and Fortnum and Mason.

After nibbling on Elchies’ Boer Goat Shanks, the judges commented: "A fine addition to any table…sweet meat, sticky almost on the lips the flavour has maturity running through it... succulent and moist... falling off the bone" – and when judging Elchies’ nominated mutton: "A generous, handsome piece of meat…delicious mutton, real character…we were surprised how tender and delicious this is. Does it deliver? Oh yes!"