Callum MacInnes lives on Orkney and produces smoked cheese for Tesco. Here, he speaks to us about making cheese on the island
How is The Island Smokery cheese made?
We take a 14-month matured Orkney cheddar then smoke it using a specialist ash wood recycled from a local craftsman who makes bodhran drums. This eliminates his waste product while giving our cheese a unique flavour. We smoke our light version for four hours and our dark-smoke variety for 12 hours. We’ve spent the past few years perfecting the taste.
How has supplying 45 Tesco stores made a difference to your business?
It means producing an extra 10-15 tonnes of cheese each year. To meet this increased capacity, we have invested in a new smoker, our fourth. We also have plans to install a further one, or possibly take on two members of staff. This may not sound a lot but on a small island such as Orkney this is a big deal. We think the future is quite bright for us and it’s especially great considering the recession we have been in.
How did the relationship with Tesco come about?
One of the Tesco buyers tasted our cheese at the Royal Highland Show and it went from there. The local sourcing team at Tesco have been instrumental in putting this together for me.
How do customers know that the cheese they are buying is good quality?
The cheese is from the Orkney Cheese Company, which means that the milk is also from Orkney. The good weather and fresh air on the island make a difference to yield, and, I think, to taste. Since introducing the new ash-smoked variety we have won lots of awards, including silver and bronze in the same category at the World Cheese awards 2010, so people will know that they are tasting a high-quality product. Our cheese is also SALSA-approved – the Safe and Local Supplier Approval scheme – which is a rigorous food-safety certification programme.