The American fascination with Irish butter may only have been spurred a few decades ago, but love for the Emerald Isle's deep, velvety butter is nothing new. The English, for one, were mad about the stuff, necessitating the foundation of the Cork Butter Exchange and the so-called Butter Road, forged from the wheels of the horse-drawn carts that stalwart farmers traveled on for hours to reach the market. In fact, during the mid-19th century, Cork was the largest exporter of butter in the world, and the country's sweet, tawny butter stored in oak "firkins" traveled as far as India and Australia.
But is the hysteria warranted? Is Irish butter really the best?
When we talk about Irish butter, chances are we're talking about Kerrygold. The third most popular butter in the United States (behind Land O'Lakes and Challenge), it's estimated that by 2017, sales will nearly double to just under 20 tons of the golden bricks.
Fun fact: The brand was almost not called Kerrygold, a name that rolls off the tongue and conjures images of buttery cookies and rich, melting ribbons dripping off hot bread. Over 60 other names, including Leprechaun, Buttercup, and Tub-o-Gold were considered before the name that would introduce the virtues of Irish butter to the world was decided upon.
With its trademark shiny gold foil and green pastoral logo, Kerrygold harkens back to a time when life was slower and the small family farm was an ubiquitous presence in every community. And although Kerrygold is not churned by hand, the golden hue — so bright and sunny it might be assumed the butter is shot up with a dose of fabricated color — and the sweet, unmistakably agrarian flavor is reminiscent of this traditional way of producing butter.
Its superior flavor has everything to do with the cows and the way they are raised in Ireland. Compared to the majority of dairy cows in the United States, Kerrygold cows are hormone- and pesticide-free. They live out their lives munching on the nutrient-rich grass that imbues Ireland with its electric green color. Kerrygold cows spend over 300 days a year roaming across the hillsides in a perpetual search for the next satisfying mouthful of grass.
In fact, there are few other dairy cows in the world who spend as much time feeding on grass at their leisure, soaking in the Irish sunshine on those glorious summer days that are seemingly without end and not minding the rain that transforms this small island nation into a fertile green wonder beloved the world over.
You can taste (and see) the difference in every bite of Kerrygold that we have become fond of slathering across our morning slice of toast, plopping into a bubbling stew to thicken it in its final stages, and kneading into bread and cookie dough.
So, I'm saying it: Kerrygold butter is the best butter in the world — at least that's what every Irishman will tell you.
See How Kerrygold Stacked Up in Our Blind Taste Test: The Best Butter for Your Toast: We Tried 7 Brands and Ranked Them