If you’re as much of a blue cheese nut as I am, you’ll be constantly on the snout for something new to try – so let’s get you acquainted with this outrageously-named specimen from the Highlands.
There’s something deliciously fantastical about the title of this blue. It conjures, for me, macabre flashes of Lady Macbeth drenched in blood. Or, more comically, in the back of my head I hear that old Taggart classic - “There’s been a murder”.
But it’s not quite as outrageous as another moniker of one of the cheesemaker’s products. Who on earth would want to buy something called Minger? Well, me as it so happens. And anyone else who appreciates a melting, orange-coated washed-rind of a stunner.
Highland Fine Cheeses, who should be applauded for their sense of humour, are based up in Tain, on the shores of Dornoch Furth. It’s in many ways what you might call ‘quintessentially Scottish’. Think tumbling glens furnished with greenery. Water. Nature. Almost Gothic-style architecture in parts. The kind of place where you might hire a wee cottage to bunker down in over the winter months, tearing into the latest bestsellers with a dram of whisky, a blanket on your lap and a freshly-lit fire at your feet.
The business was launched almost accidentally in the 50s by Reggie and Susannah Stone – who transformed milk from their small herd of Shorthorns into Crowdie. One of the purest expressions of cheese, cast from simple drained curds and salt, Crowdie can be thought of as Scotland’s answer to fresh paneer or perhaps ricotta, ready to eat without maturation, thickly lashed over a sturdy oatcake.
It remains part of the story for the Stones (with son Rory at the helm since 1994), and comes in a skinny, and an oatmeal and black pepper rolled version, alongside the hole-riddled Scottish-style Emmenthal, Fat Cow, aforementioned Minger, a Highland Brie, Morangie Brie, Strathdon Blue, oatmeal rolled Caboc, and clothbound Tain cheddar. Blog fodder for another day.
Milk is sourced from Sibster near Wick, Organic Jerseys grazing in Thrumster and from Rootfield on the Black Isle.
And onto the tasting.
Blue Murder has almost frilly, ridged edges. Like it’s been set in a WI loaf cake liner. This only adds to its artisanal charm.
On appearance it has a magnolia, off-white heart, blending to delicate buttery yellow at its edges. Veining is deep, rising and falling in swells that almost mimic the Highland landscape.
Give it a sniff and there’s a vegetal, herbaceous bitterness, softened by notes of cream.
The texture is slightly sticky and tacky at room temperature (never serve your cheese fridge cold – it's a sin), yielding under the knife like an unripened brie. So an easy one to slice and share.
In the mouth Blue Murder delivers a punch of salt, rounding out in the mouth with a distinct blue savouriness, but without the, lactic tang, pungency or spiciness that often puts haters of blue cheese off.
Being on the mellower side, I’d steer away from partnering this with anything too punchy drinkswise. Let it speak for itself alongside a crisp farmhouse cider, non-peated whisky, or unoaked Chardonnay.
Visit the Highland Fine Cheeses website for stockist information. Even better, ask your local cheesemonger (if you have one) to get some in!