Andy Swinscoe of The Courtyard Dairy has very kindly agreed to chat with us about his number one passion – cheese! He has also recommended some of his favourite cheeses that make the perfect partner to Damson No 12. Andy’s selection of cheese and Damson No 12 are available to buy in our ‘Entertaining Hamper’ right now. 

Andy Swinscoe at The Courtyard Dairy pairing favourite cheese with our Damson 12

1) How did it all start with The Courtyard Dairy? 

 ‘I met my wife, Kathy in fine-dining restaurants. We had amazing French cheese boards  and after contacting the French cheese supplier, I was offered an apprenticeship in cheese maturing in France. From there I worked in Bath and Somerset in the cheese industry before setting up The Courtyard Dairy with Kathy in 2012; with the ethos to champion and support farm cheesemakers in Britain.’

2) What is it you are looking for when sourcing a cheese? 

‘Flavour is most important for us.  After that we look at traditional cheese-making techniques, sustainable practices, diverse farm-production, then raw milk and finally locality.  

We operate a night-club policy in our cheese shop – 1-in-1-out, so a new cheese has to be better or tick more of these boxes than an old one!’

A bottle of Gattertop Drinks Co Damson No 12 Vodka

3) Please can you tell us about the cheeses you have selected to pair with Damson No 12 in our Entertaining hamper this Christmas?

Kirkham’s is our best seller, is a real crowd pleaser and won’t overpower the Damson vodka.  Graham, who makes this cheese is the last farmer making raw-milk, farm-made Lancashire cheese left, when once there were thousands.’

‘The rich creamy Cote Hill Blue from Lincolnshire is a modern-classic and made by using the farm’s cows milk.  The damson vodka tastes light and fresh complimenting the blue cheese after dinner.’

‘This cream-enriched brie: Finn from Herefordshire has a decadence that goes well with sipping the damson vodka neat!’ Cheese and Damson No 12 <3

Andy Swinscoe pairs cheese from The Courtyard Dairy with Gattertop's Damson 12 for the Entertaining Hamper

4) A big question, do you have a favourite cheese?

‘It’s like asking if I have a favourite child!  It varies!  And depends on the seasonality of the cheeses and time of year – fresh sheep’s milk cheeses in Spring – like the brilliant St James from Cumbria. In the winter,  Young Buck Blue cheese with Port and fire and Tunworth Camembert and a crusty baguette in the Summer.’

5) What do the majority of people not know about cheese that they should? 

‘A lack of good retailers and a disconnection between people and their food I think, and this is in general across all foods.  We need to get people more into cooking, and food shopping, when they are young.’

6) Sorry to ask…but do you have any good cheese jokes? 

‘We once ran a competition to find new cheese jokes and it went viral!  In fact it is our most visited page on our website:

My favourite is: 

Q: What cheese can you disguise a small horse with?  

A: Mascarpone.’