Achill Blackface Lamb


Atlantic Drive
Achill Island
Co. Mayo
Phone: 098 26006 / 086 880 7801

Quite simply, the finest lamb I’ve ever tasted from the highlands of an island just off the Atlantic coast of Ireland. And you can have it delivered.

The mountain lamb from CaorAcla is, quite simply, the best lamb I have ever tasted. The first time I tasted it, indeed, it was cooked by own fair hand and I knew I could take no credit for delight expressed by my family, beyond keeping it a respectable shade of pink, and serving it in such a way as to let its unique flavour full rein without interference from strong seasonings.

The next time I tasted CaorAcla lamb, it was cooked by Ross Lewis at Chapter One and he, to be fair, was a bit more elaborate in his approach! However, again, the lamb’s flavour came through, loud and clear. I was entertaining a billionaire at the time, a man who eats in the best restaurants in the world all the time. He, too, felt that this was the best lamb he had ever tasted.

Why? Well, the man who introduced me to Achill blackface mountain lamb, Ed Johnston of CaorAcla, explained to me that it was a question of what the animals eat, the thoroughly varied plants and wild herbs of the highlands and shorelines on Achill Island and the Currane Peninsula in County Mayo. Most lambs and cattle these days graze on quite monocultural pasture, eating a couple of grass varieties and a bit of clover if they are lucky.

By contrast the CaorAcla animals eat dozens of plants and acquire, as the French would say (usually in a wine context) the goût de terroir or the taste of the place.

It’s very hard to define exactly what that is. There’s a remarkable tenderness to the meat but also a kind of sweetness, a suggestion of aromatic herbs, a buttery quality. And this flavour, as I’d collectively call these sensory signals, has what in wine terms, again, is called length or finish. It has an intensity that simply goes on and on. But I’d stress that the taste of this very special lamb is not strong; instead, it’s very complex and persistent.

To me, CaorAcla lamb is one of life’s great luxuries. Forget wagyu beef, foie gras and caviar. Seriously. I’ve had them many times and they rarely get me excited.

CaorAcla lamb, on the other hand, is a genuine treat. A rare, finite and very seasonal treat. Not a lot of people know about it and I hesitate to spread the word but CaorAcla is, essentially, a co-op of Achill hill farmers whose amazing lambs used to just go to the factory with all of the ordinary ones.

That simply is simply wrong. And CaorAcla has put it right.

P.S. If you are lucky enough to be drinking a great mature Burgundy in a great vintage, you need to be very careful what you put with it. This stuff is worthy of La Tâche.

To find out more about this amazing lamb meat or to purchase a whole butchered lamb or a half lamb for your freezer, check out their website at