17 Top Stinky Cheeses
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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.
I Tried The World’s 5 Smelliest Cheeses
I’m fairly culinarily fearless. I can’t have alcohol for medical reasons and anything with too much chilli or carbonation spells bad times, but if it’s texturally weird, strange-smelling, or involves the words “fermented,” “rotted,” “blood,” “organs,” or “bizarre regional delicacy people trick tourists into eating,” I am there with a bowl. But outrГ© cheese has never been my cup of tea. A tasty cheddar is one thing, but the serious, prize-winning wheels soaked in unimaginable substances and left to fester until they develop sentience? Never. Which means, obviously, that if I was going to get a cheese education, I had to try the stinkiest cheeses in the world .
No entry-level piddling brie for me; I went seriously hardcore, and because I’m in England, I could source stuff that’s actually illegal in the U.S. The results opened my eyes вЂ” as well as scouring my sinuses.
The worthwhile experiment: I needed some help in my pursuit of cheese-based punches in the face; a lot of seriously smelly cheeses have had their rinds washed in alcohol, which means I can’t touch their outer hard bits. So I got in two pinch-hitters: my husband, and my mate Alice. (I am so sorry, Alice.) We stored the offending dairy in airtight cake tins and layers of Saran Wrap, covered the table in biscuits, water, and chocolate to stave off nausea, and dived in.
As a testament to just how badly smelling these things were: a very badly behaved dog was in the room for the first three taste trials, the kind that regularly eats other dogs’ poo and regards fetid compost as his personal gourmet pantry вЂ” and he didn’t even go near them. This was some Serious Disgusting Smelly Cheese. But it was an interesting journey. Here’s what happened.
What it is: Rainbow’s Gold seems to have been produced by a prankster trying to make his farmer mates gag. It’s made from unpasteurised cow’s milk in the county of Somerset in England, and washed every day for several weeks with golden ale, until it smells so incredibly strong that it could make your hair curl if you accidentally stood half a mile downwind.
Smell: “Gym gear sweat. You know, the smell you get on gym mats that haven’t been used for a while?” “The underside of a Casio wristwatch in summer.” “Smelly feet. Really, really smelly feet.”
Taste: “Um. It tastes like somebody buried my cheddar cheese in the compost and then dug it up again. I think I’m going to be sick.” “A very, very tangy cheddar.” “Sweet, but the rind is awful. I can smell it from here. Are you supposed to eat that?!”
Verdict: A truly horrible, sticky smell from a profoundly ripe cheese. The actual cheese bit was all right, but I’ve never felt so reminded of teenage bodily excretions by a foodstuff. It’s Proust’s smell-memory crossed with a Nine Inch Nails album.
What it is: Morbier, a cow’s milk cheese from the French mountains, is recognizable by the layer of ash that runs through its middle. It used to be made with two different layers of cheese, from morning milk and evening milk, but nowadays the manufacturers just add in the ash line to keep it looking cool.
Smell: “Grass cuttings, going off in summer.” “The inside of a food waste bin. It’s that rotting vegetable matter thing. Sweetness on the edge of decay.” “Baby poo. Seriously, it’s just like baby poo.”
Taste: “Creamy aftertaste, but sharp as sh*t.” “It’s a little bit like cider vinegar.” “Sweet, but . odd. Still getting the baby poo thing.”
Verdict: This one actually tasted fine, which surprised me. Despite the severe psychological road block of tasting something that smelled like compost or a baby’s diaper, it was pretty chilled out.
What it is: This is famous, the Big Daddy, the serious connoisseur’s stinky cheese. Ours wasn’t sufficiently ripe enough to be truly overpowering (it’s hard to ripen a cheese when you’re living in a house that’s about five degrees Celsius), but it was still horse-faintingly strong. It’s washed in perry cider in Gloucestershire, and it had a cameo in the film Wallace & Gromit, where it’s used to bring a character back from the dead. That now seems like an entirely rational proposition.
Smell: “Like earth. The rind smells like something’s gone fetid.” “Stale cigar smoke? I think I’ve had much smellier ones, actually.” “It smells like something sweet’s gone putrid, like rotting flesh.”
Taste: “The middle bit tastes like smoke.” “Nutty sweet cream cheese. Yeah, this definitely wasn’t ripe enough, the last time I had Stinking Bishop I had to scrape off my tongue with a knife.” “Acrid. Seriously, I am going to be sick.” [This was Alice. She wasn’t sick. She did, however, not expose herself to the final two cheeses. Because she is sensible.]
Verdict: We didn’t get the true horrific power of the Stinking Bishop, which makes me grateful, because goddamn. Goddamn. The sleeping power of that thing should be used by the military. STINKING BISHOP FIRE IN THE HOLE.
What it is: This is a bit of a gourmet cheese. It’s Camembert, the famous soft cheese you’ll see at pretentious college parties, soaked in Calvados liqueur and then covered in breadcrumbs. The Calvados treatment, unsurprisingly, is what makes it deadly.
Smell: “It smells like dog sh*t.” “Silage. Definitely silage.”
Taste: “I mean, it tastes great if you like Calvados and really, really strong cheese.”
Verdict: I couldn’t taste this one because it was literally so soaked in alcohol you could squeeze it like a sponge, but its seriously unnerving dog-poop smell means that I’m not too upset about that.
What it is: Epoisse is a French cow’s-milk cheese, and it’s so pungent that it’s actually banned on French public transport . Literally, if you buy this thing in France, you are getting a cab or walking home. It’s that legendarily pungent. It’s smeared in brandy continually, so it’s both smelly and spoilt. Fun fact: it is completely illegal in the U.S. Free the cheese!
Smell: “Oh, god, it actually singes your sinuses slightly. It smells like the gunk that accrues under your toenails.” “I was going to say rotten eggs, but yeah, that too.”
Taste: “Wow. It, er, doesn’t taste as much like the devil’s asshole as I was expecting?” “It’s a perfectly normal, sweet brie with a massively bitter aftertaste.” “What aftertaste? Oh. OH. Yes. Sulphur ahoy.”
Verdict: This was another that hadn’t ripened to its full nostril-searing potential, but the smell wasn’t actually a huge turn-off. If you like sweet things that turn around and punch you in the tonsils after a minute and a half, it’s a fun ride.
I’m fairly culinarily fearless. I can’t have alcohol for medical reasons and anything with too much chilli or carbonation spells bad times, but if it’s texturally weird, strange-smelling, or involves the words "fermented," "rotted," "blood,"вЂ¦