17 Top Stinky Cheeses
Massimo Ravera / Getty Images
Do you enjoy notes of body odor and dirty socks with hints of sour laundry and wafts of barnyard with your comestibles? If so, this is the list for you.
Although many cheeses may have a bit of pungency about them, it’s the washed-rind family that takes top honors in the stinky cheese division. During the aging process, the rinds of these cheeses are rinsed — with anything from brine to brandy, wine, beer or even pear cider — which works to inhibit mold and encourage the growth of friendly bacteria. The bacteria, Brevibacterium linens, is what gives the rind its aroma; it just so happens that B. linens is also the very same bacteria responsible for making feet stink.
Fortunately, although some of the pungency permeates the cheese itself, most of it remains in the rind, leaving a soft-ripened or semi-firm cheese within that is usually milder in flavor than a pair of fetid feet.
In the who’s who of stinky cheeses, the following washed rind varieties rank among the world’s most malodorous.
One of France’s more famous cheeses, the first Camemberts were made from raw cow’s milk, and the AOC variety “Camembert de Normandie” is required by law to be made only with unpasteurized milk; but unpasteurized Camembert is getting harder and harder to come by. Known for its strong mushroom notes, one cheese columnist described an authentic Camembert as having “hints of garlic, barnyard and ripe laundry.”
2. Ami Du Chambertin
Made from unpasteurized cow’s milk in the Gevrey-Chambertin area of Burgundy, the rind is washed with Marc de Bourgogne brandy and the smell hovers somewhere between barnyard and “putrid” . but the flavor is of grassy butter and cream.
3. Epoisses de Bourgogne
This cow’s milk cheese produced by Jacques Hennart in the village Epoisses, France, is commonly just called Epoisses. Also rinsed in Marc de Bourgogne brandy, Epoisses is famous for its stink — so stinky that it is banned from the Parisian public transportation system — and sweet, salty flavor.
4. Fiance Des Pyrenees
An unpasteurized goat’s milk cheese from the Pyrenees, the aroma of this gooey, oozy cheese is described as “yeasty” and “fragrant.”
Originally produced in the historical Duchy of Limburg, but now in other places as well, the granddaddy of stinky cheeses is made from pasteurized cow’s milk. Its fragrance is most commonly compared to mushrooms and ripe underarms.
6. Trou du Cru
Berthaut, the maker of Epoisses (the one so stinky it’s banned on the Paris Metro) also makes Trou du Cru, which is often described as being a petite version of Epoisses. It is washed in the French spirit Marc de Bourgogne and aged on straw, which adds some boozy barnyard hints to the other notes of body odor and sour milk. Beyond the rind resides a sweet, creamy, lovely cheese that is favored by many.
7. Livarot Munster
Named after a village in Normandy, this cow’s milk cheese is one of the oldest in the region. Don’t be scared by its aroma, which may be best described as hardcore barnyard.
8. Le Pavin d’Auvergne
An unpasteurized cow’s milk cheese produced in the Auvergne region of France. Beyond the fungal funk of its rind resides a mild, sweet and nutty cheese.
9. Pont l’Evêque
About this cow’s milk cheese produced in Normandy, one cheese seller says, “The aroma of this cheese is likened to moldy cellars, barnyards and bacon.” Some say it is so stinky they leave it outside until ready to eat.
While many cheese shops describe this cow’s milk cheese from the Alps as having a pleasant aroma, the internet abounds with testimonies asserting a dirty-foot and vomit fragrance.
11. Robiola Lombardia
This Italian cheese made of cow’s milk, goat’s milk or a combination both is made in a region near its stinky cousin, Taleggio.
A cow’s milk cheese from Austria with a slimy rind, it is one of the stinkier cheeses on the block. It is “robust,” and best-suited for those with a strong like for a strong stink.
13. Soumaintrain Berthaut
This French cow’s milk cheese from the Département de l’Yonne in Burgundy has its rind manually rubbed two to three times per week during aging. And while the aroma of Soumaintrain is quite assertive, the flavor is relatively demure; one seller describes it as “pleasantly pungent, with a fruity, yeasty beefiness.”
This Italian cow’s milk cheese from the Val Taleggio region is washed in seawater once a week during aging to arrive at its wet-socks-and-grass aroma; beneath the rind is a subtle, sweet and tangy cheese that is far more mellow than its smell would suggest.
15. Stinking Bishop
This cheese made by Charles Martell & Son at their Laurel Farm in Dymock, England, uses milk from the rare Gloucester breed of cattle. It takes its name not from its outrageous stench, but from the Stinking Bishop pears used in the brandy with which the rinds are washed. How stinky is Stinking Bishop? In a contest to determine England’s funkiest-smelling cheese, it took first place, with judges describing it as smelling like “a rugby club changing room.”
16. Tomme de Chevre
While this raw goat’s milk cheese from the Aspe Valley in the French Pyrenees may not be the stinkiest one of the bunch, it does have a more assertive aroma than the mild goat cheeses that your local supermarket may offer. It’s grassy and nutty, but with a strong goaty smell that has a particular kind of gaminess that some people can find off-putting.
17. Vieux Lille
This stinker from northern France is so stinky that it’s nicknamed “old stinker.” Vieux Lille is a type of Maroilles, and washed with a brine for three months to make it one of the most pungently fragranced cheeses on the planet. Not for the faint of heart; perfect for those who think the stinkier, the better.
Because one man’s reeking stinky cheese is another man’s treasure.
Why does cheese smell?
The smell of cheese can, at times, divide opinion, with those that love it and those that loathe it. Either way, however, there is an argument that the smellier a cheese may be, the tastier it ultimately is. So why is it that something that smells so bad, can taste so good? Below we will explore why cheese smells, and what it means for taste.
What causes smelly cheese?
Not all cheese will emit a strong smell, the smellier cheeses tend to be washed-rind cheeses such as Gruyere, Taleggio, Epoisses or Limburger. The smell of a cheese will come as a result of one of three things, firstly the starter bacteria that is added when producing the cheese, how long the cheese has matured and what the cheese has been washed in as it matures.
Washed rind cheeses are washed in brine over and over again as they age, in a number of different solutions from saline to wine or beer. As the cheese is continually washed, moisture builds up which results in precibarium linens (a bacteria also known as b. linens). These b. linens are the root cause of a stinky cheese.
Why does smelly cheese taste good?
Many cheese experts stress not to judge a book by its cover, meaning don’t judge a cheese on how stinky it is. In fact, the human body has a wonderful way of transforming this smell into something delicious, called ‘backwards smelling’.
Essentially this means that when you begin to eat smelly cheese, the aroma is released into your mouth and detected by the smell detectors at the back of your nose. However, your brain will perceive this smell in an entirely different way than when you smell something in the usual way. This ‘backwards’ scent combined with the texture and taste of the cheese is what makes the cheese taste so delicious.
How to know when smelly cheese is off
Due to the fact that these delicious but smelly cheeses are already pungent, it can be difficult to discern when they are no longer edible, however there are a few things to look out for to identify a spoiled cheese. A strong smell of ammonia is likely to present when a cheese is nearing expiration, you may also notice the rind surrounding the cheese beginning to break down at this stage.
Why is it that something that smells so bad, can taste so good? Here we will explore why cheese smells, and what it means for taste.