The Irish Food Awards 2017 – Blas na hÉireann – took place recently in Dingle, County Kerry. Celebrating their 10th year, the awards are the biggest event of its type in the country. Dee Laffan highlights the top products and winners from this year’s awards.
Judges, members of the media and buyers from all major supermarkets and food stores in Ireland and the UK descended onto Dingle for this year’s highly-anticipated Irish Food Awards. They are the largest blind-tasted food awards on the island of Ireland and they recognise and celebrate the very best Irish food and drink. This year more than 400 finalist producers competed in 130 categories and 136 gold awards were presented.
The biggest accolade, Supreme Champion 2017, was awarded to a traditional Irish butter – Glenstal Irish Creamery Salted Butter. It is made by Arrabawn Co-Op in Tipperary for Glenstal Foods Abington Rectory in Murroe, Co. Limerick. It is traditionally churned and wrapped in parchment paper. It gained the highest score out of more than 2,500 entries in the competition.
Gareth Coleman from Glenstal Foods said, “We are delighted to win. We like to think our butter is one of the creamiest, naturally spreadable and tastiest available. We work in partnership with Arrabawn who have more than 100 years’ experience in butter making. They use only the creamiest summer milk from pasture-reared cows.”
“Consumers are returning to butter in increasing numbers,” he continued. “It is as close to nature as we can get. There are just two ingredients: cream and a pinch of salt. This resonates positively with today’s health conscious consumer.”
Another big winner and top-class product at the awards was – Burren Balsamics Blackberry and Thyme Vinegar, which won Best Artisan. The fruit and herb-infused vinegar from County Armagh, Northern Ireland was a stand-out product in terms of quality and innovation.
Susie Hamilton Stubber from Burren Balsamics said, “We take a lot of care to source only local fruit and herbs to infuse in our vinegar. This combination really works and it’s super that it came through based on blind-tasting alone. I am thrilled with our win. ”
A craft beer from an Antrim co-op won Best New Product – The Devil’s Washtub Ale, made by the Lacada Brewery in Portrush. The ale is named after an enigmatic rocky inlet on the east side of Ramore Head. Described as a mysterious malty beer, brewed with four hops and four malts.
“We are stunned to get this Best New Product award for The Devil’s Washtub Ale, plus our other awards – a Gold for The Devil’s Washtub in the Ale category, a Silver for Utopian Stout and a Bronze for our Whiskey Barrel-Aged Stout, both in the Stout category!” said Laurie Davies, the brewer from Lacada.
“We are a co-operative with 280 members who all bought shares. This is great recognition of all the hard work of the co-op including the many volunteers.”
Another drink that stood out and was awarded gold in the Spirits & Liqueurs category is Bertha’s Revenge Sloe Gin from Ballyvolane House in Cork. The original Bertha’s Revenge Gin, also an award-winning product is a unique small-batch Irish milk gin using whey alcohol from Irish cows milk, infused with 18 locally foraged botanicals and their own own spring water.
“Sloe Bertha is a warming tipple made by infusing wild sloes with Bertha’s Revenge Gin. The wild sloe berries are picked from the hedgerows around Ballyvolane House and beyond, when they ripen in the autumn. We then steep them in Bertha’s Revenge Gin for several months and add some sugar syrup at the end to sweeten.”
Cork and Dublin had the highest number of gold awards, with 21 and 19 respectively, however Tipperary, famous for its quality producers had the third highest number of golds, with 11 gold wins for the premier county, including well-known JamesWhelan Butchers for their Heritage Cure Ham on the Bone.
Other much talked about gold wins of the awards were the DV8 Cream Liqueur from Laois, Dublin’s Bretzel’s Bakery’s Sourdough and Baguette, O’Neill’s of Wexford’s Dry Cured Back Rashers and Corndale Farm’s Fennel Salami.
The Calvey Family from Achill brought home a gold to County Mayo for their new Lamb Blood Pudding, while The Happy Pear’s Lovely Basil Pesto was a winner for the second year in a row.
A low sodium salt made with Irish Wild Atlantic Organic Kelp from Kerry was the gold winner in the Salt category, Oliver Carty Meats from Roscommon took home the most awards this year including gold for their products: Crushed Peppercorn and Sea Salt Butter, Cranberry, Port and Orange Zest Stuffing, and Alabama Rub.
The Seafood Innovation Prize was awarded to Goatsbridge Trout, from Thomastown in Kilkenny for their Flaked Hot Smoked Trout Marinated with Chilli, Lime & Ginger. This prize was designed to recognise and encourage seafood product development teams for excellence in creating an innovative new seafood product.
For more information on the Irish Food Awards and to see a full list of winners, visit the Irish Food Awards website.
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