Cooleeney Farm, Located near Thurles in Co. Tipperary, Ireland, is home to the Maher family, fourth generation dairy farmers and their herd of pedigree Friesian cows.
There is a long history of quality milk production here, with their first award for milk having been presented in 1905.
Breda and Jim Maher together with their son Pat started their cheesemaking operation in 1986. The rich, peaty Tipperary pasture is among the best in the world and ideal for producing artisanal cheeses.
As with so many other dairying families in Ireland, part of the spur for getting into cheese production was the introduction of European milk quotas in 1984. The quotas effectively meant that the Mahers were forced to find a way of adding value to their milk.
Breda, who already had a degree in hotel management, took a course in cheesemaking at the University of Cork and also gained experience at Ryefield Farm in Cavan.
The first stage of the Maher’s cheesemaking plant was completed in 1989. In 1999, the family also purchased the Dublin-based Dúnbarra cheese company, effectively adding several more sales channels. In 2000, Cooleeney also added goat’s milk cheeses to their production range.
Gleann Óir was first created in 2009 and is Ireland’s only firm, natural-rinded goat’s milk cheese. Inspiration for this more aged cheese came from the sweet, rich flavors of the goat’s milk and the success of the Maher’s other highly popular soft goat cheese, Gortnamona. The name Gleann Óir comes from the Irish words for “Golden Vale” - a term used to refer to Ireland’s prime dairyland, of which Tipperary is a part.
Milk is sourced from a neighbor’s goat herd where the animals roam and graze freely. The pasture here is verdant and lush as a result of the rich, peaty soil.