If you love cheese, you probably know about the recent crackdowns on two prominent raw milk dairies in Washington state. I’ve been reading a lot about food policy this week, so I treated myself to a side-by-side tasting of two British blues – one made from raw milk, the other pasteurized.
Meet Stichelton and Colston Bassett Stilton.
These blue cheese brothers essentially share one mother – a similar recipe – but they are made from different milks. I was curious to see if I could taste a difference. First, a little history.
Colston Bassett is a top-shelf Stilton made from pasteurized cow’s milk. The milk comes from the same dairies that have supplied this cheesemaker since the early 1900s, and the wheels are aged by Britain’s premier affineurs at Neal’s Yard Dairy.
Stichelton is also aged by Neal’s Yard Dairy, but the wheels are crafted from unpasteurized milk — the way Stilton was produced before regulations required pasteurization. Cheese lovers revere Joe Schneider for bringing back this traditional raw-milk version.
Here’s what surprised me: these cheeses look, smell, and taste radically different. If you want to educate your palate, recreate this tasting. It’s a fun way to compare similar cheeses and discover very different flavors. Just be sure the cheeses reach room temperature before you serve them.
Here are my notes:
Colston Bassett Stilton
Smell: Moist leather, human sweat
Texture: Crumbly, fudgy with flinty blue veining
Color: Cigar-colored rind, paste is cream-colored with a golden cast
Taste: White chocolate+lichen+salty licorice. A flinty, fudgy, warm-leather cheese. Makes me want port and a cigarillo.
Smell: Bright, chalky
Texture: Fudgy, slightly waxen
Color: Hay-colored rind, paste is ivory with rivers of sea-blue veining
Taste: Grapey with a pronounced sweet-salty flavor and mellow fade. Not overly earthy, subdued with hints of walnut and white pepper.
My conclusion? Both of these cheeses rival any supermarket blues I’ve ever tasted. Of the two, Colston Bassett Stilton is more complex, but I could eat more of the Stichelton in one sitting. The Stilton appears more aged, which may be why its bold notes are so pronounced. Comparing the two is like comparing dogs and cats; the Stilton has a lot of bulldog in it, while the Stichelton is more delicate, full of purrs rather than sharp barks.
As I study the raw-milk debate, I look forward to more comparisons between raw-milk and pasteurized cheeses. Ultimately, I’m just glad to have the choice.
If you’re cheese curious, check out Madame Fromage