Highland Fine Cheeses, maker of popular brands such as Caboc and Strathdon Blue, has won a clutch of awards in two highly regarded world competitions – the 2022 International Cheese and Dairy Awards (ICDA) held at the Staffordshire County Showgrounds in August, and the Global Cheese Awards (GCA) held in the Somerset town of Frome.

Judges at the 125-year-old former event, which attracts around 5500 entries and 40,000 visitors, decided that the company’s Blue Murder, a bold, strongly flavoured cheese made with cows’ milk from the Highlands, was worthy of a ‘gold' award.

Another HFC product, Fat Cow, a Gruyere-style semi hard, washed rind cheese with a strong meaty aroma, delicate sweet flavour, and smooth texture, was deemed worthy of a ‘bronze’ award, as well as winning the same accolade in the Best Scottish Cheese category.

At the latter event, held annually in Somerset since 1861, Fat Cow topped the rind washed hard cheese category with a 'gold' accolade, while Blue Murder won the 'silver' award.

Owner Rory Stone, whose parents established the near-£2 million turnover company in the 1950s, said: “The ICDA and the GCA are amongst the world’s biggest platforms to champion world class cheese and dairy products, and are watched closely by retailers and food service companies all over the world, so it is a huge honour to be awarded these accolades.

“We are, I think rightly, proud of Blue Murder which we have been developing over the past few years, and it is a huge tribute to our team here at Tain in Ross-shire, that it has appealed to the palates of two highly sophisticated judging panels.

“To win awards for our Fat Cow cheese, is also a fine tribute to all the hard work that goes into its production at our farm-based factory.”

The awards follow a series of major steps forward for the 14-strong business. From earlier this summer, its Morangie Brie, named after the Glen of Tranquillity, has been promoted by M&S at its outlets across London.

In addition, the company’s recently re-affirmed relationship with Kent-based dairy product giant, Rowcliffe, the UK’s leading importer and distributor of quality cheese and fine food, has led to Rory’s cheeses featuring in Waitrose selection boxes sold from its deli counters across the UK as part of the chain’s lockdown-inspired support for artisanal cheesemakers.

Rowcliffe is now among Highland’s top five customers, taking 10% of its output. Other major buyers include Co-op, Aldi, Lidl, Crest, Clark Speciality Foods, Braehead Foods and Williamson Food Service.

Rory added: “Despite challenges in the form of soaring raw materials – milk prices have gone up by 60% – as well as energy and labour costs, we are now very well positioned to flourish in a greatly expanded territory.”