The team at Apostle Whey Cheese has a new prized possession in their ever-expanding trophy cabinet after their brie was named the best white mould cheese in the country at the recent Australian Grand Dairy Awards.
It was an honour that owners Julian and Dianne Benson said was 'absolutely the biggest thrill' since starting Apostle Whey Cheese over 13 years ago on their dairy farm in Cooriemungle - which is just a short drive from the iconic Twelve Apostles.
Apostle Whey Cheese is a fully integrated, on-farm operation that produces award winning handmade cheeses, bottled full cream milk and even Italian style gelato.
Julian said the venture continued to be a labour of love. He said it combined his passion for farming, the environment and boutique production.
"We started out determined to develop a paddock to plate enterprise and an artisan cheese brand that celebrated the way we farm and the quality of our milk," he said.
"Thirteen years on, our on-farm production facility is certainly much bigger, we're moving much larger volumes and our team has grown considerably, but I'm most proud that we've managed that growth and stayed true to what we believe in."
Julian said every single decision that was made at the family farm was about milk quality.
"We're always striving for the perfect balance between mother nature and production. Our cows are grass-fed, have lots of paddock space and plenty of shelter," he said.
"Happy animals save energy and that reflects in the quality of milk we make our products with.
"I think we've become very good cheese makers, but I'm a big believer that the way our son Luke and daughter-in-law Susan care for our cows plays a huge part in the quality of all our products.
"We start off with the best quality milk we can get and only our own milk goes into our products. That quality and consistence is definitely the key factor."
Julian said years of dedicated herd management had resulted in milk that had much higher butterfat and protein levels, which was important for flavour and cheesemaking.
"By the time Luke and Susan have finished milking the vat is down to 4-5 degrees, so nothing has a chance to grow - the milk quality is first class," he said.
"When we make cheese, it's with the previous evening's milk which is piped straight from the dairy, through the pasteuriser and then we make the cheese."
The team at Apostle Whey Cheese produces 12 core cheese products.
In addition to their nationally recognised brie, they have a camembert, wash rind, five semi-hard varieties, two blues and two feta-style fresh cheeses.
Their onsite cheese shop is open every day except for Christmas Day and there's even viewing areas to to watch the cows being milked and, if you're lucky, calving in the Mooternity Ward!