Round, glowing in a warm yellow orange and surrounded by a thin stripe of spruce bark, the paste a beguiling, spoonable runniness, that surely must be a perfectly ripened Vacherin from the Jura end of the Alps. And yet it isn’t. Instead of centuries of tradition the Rollright’s history goes back less than two years, and it is neither French nor Swiss, but English, from Oxfordshire.
In March 2015 David Jowett teamed up with a business partner to establish King Stone Dairy on the Haine familiy’s eponymous farm, five months later the first Rollright was on sale. Although back then, it didn’t sport his wooden bandage, so that its ample hips tended to spread out, like an XXL form of Reblochon. But David had attended the School of Artisan Food at Welbeck, worked at Paxton & Whitfield and Neal’s Yard Dairy as well as a row of other dairies: he had a clear idea of where he wanted his cheese to go, and the flatter shape did not lead into that direction. Therefore he ordered spruce rind from the Jura and reigned his creation in with a corset. Vacherin carries his for exactly those same reasons; the spruce’s resiny aromas, which are stronger the nearer you get to the rind, represent a side effect that then developed into an identity marker.
Which undoubtedly is the same for the Rollright, joining a growing family of „wood-matured“ cheeses, not least the super delicious Harbison from Jasper Hill in northern Vermont – where not so coincidentally David worked as well (and possibly one day he’ll do like the Kehler brothers at Jasper Hill and ask somebody locally to produce spruce rind for him).
I bought my piece of Rollright (which was very happy that same night to encounter a 2008 Barolo from Cavallotti, making me happy in turn) from Adam Verlander. Since October last year he’s enrichting Oxford’s culinary landscape by offering a very fine selection of English cheeses, presented with great expertise. His Jericho Cheese Company is a satellite establishment of London’s Neal’s Yard Dairy (where Adam used to work). I fell in love with Jericho, an area of central Oxford with less tourists and real character, on my first ever and very nervous attendance of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery, when that conference was still at St Antony College furhter up the road. This inspiring community of like-minded souls and spirits long since moved from Jericho to the verdant premises of St Catz on the other side of town. But my walk from the station from now on will make a big loop to include Adam and the Rollright.