While stink isn't something you want when it comes to sneakers, fish, or locker rooms, when it comes to cheese, odor can be a very good thing. In fact, smelly cheeses are known for their complex flavor profiles, which is why many cheese connoisseurs argue the smellier, the better.
Most noxious-nosed cheeses are of the washed-rind variety, which means the cheese is rinsed in a salt brine or alcohol that attracts bacteria and gives the rind its pungency. If you’ve ever compared stinky cheese to body odor there’s good reason—the most prominent bacteria, Brevibacterium linen, is also what makes sweat so smelly. Sounds delish, right?
The good news is that stinky cheeses rarely taste as strong as their aromas, so if you can get past the olfactory shock, you’re in for a treat. But don’t take our word for it. We’ve rounded up seven of the world’s most odorously challenged cheeses to try for yourself.
1. Stinking Bishop
This aptly named English cow’s milk cheese owes its origins to Cistercian monks, but is now solely produced by Charles Martell & Son in Gloucestershire. Its distinct aroma comes from the rind, which is washed in perry, a pear-based alcoholic beverage. Despite its notorious odor—in 2005’s Wallace & Gromit: The Case of the Were-Rabbit, Gromit uses Stinking Bishop to revive Wallace—Stinking Bishop is described as rich, meaty, and slightly sweet.
Most blue cheese has a noticeably pungent aroma, but Roquefort, a raw sheep’s milk cheese from France, is widely considered the most extreme. Unlike the majority of smelly cheeses, blue cheese is injected with mold, which creates its even blue veining and extends its odor well past the rind. Roquefort also stands out for its robust hit to the palate—it can be sharp, tangy, and almost spicy, as well as wonderfully creamy and slightly sweet.
First made by Trappist monks in 19th century Belgium, this semi-soft cow’s milk cheese is now mostly produced in Germany. Its ammonia-like odor gets stronger with time and comes from its washed rind and a process called smear-ripening, in which bacteria is added to the rind. While relatively mild in flavor—it’s usually described as grassy and mushroomy—Limburger’s smell made it a pop culture icon, used for laughs by the likes of Charlie Chaplin, The Three Stooges, and even Mighty Mouse.
Handmade from the milk of Mary Burns’ small herd of Friesian cows in Country Cork, Ireland, Ardrahan is washed in salt water, which makes its rind sticky and orange and gives it an aroma so funky it’s been likened to a barnyard. Beneath that seriously smelly exterior, Ardrahan has a wonderfully dense and buttery texture and tastes tangy, nutty, and even slightly smoky.
This French classic, formally called Époisses de Bourgogne, is so famously odorous that it’s rumored to be banned from public transportation throughout its home country. Made from raw cow’s milk, Époisses’ rind is washed in marc de Bourgogne brandy and smear-ripened, which is the source of its characteristic stink. If you can survive the smell, grab a baguette for dunking in this lusciously runny cheese that hits all the right notes of salty, spicy, and sweet.
6. Pont l’Eveque
With origins that date back to 13th century Normandy, Pont l’Eveque is one of France’s oldest cheeses. It’s also one of its stinkiest, thanks to its washed rind. Though some compare Pont l’Eveque’s rustic aroma to the Norman countryside, others say it smells like the inside of a barn. If you can brave the odor and cut into a square of Pont l’Eveque, you’ll discover a soft and smooth cow’s milk cheese that’s rich, buttery, and infused with notes of hazelnut and fruit.
Among domestic stinkers, Winnimere takes the prize. Made only in winter using the rich milk of Jasper Hill’s Ayrshire cows, Winnimere is wrapped in spruce bark, which imparts woodsy, smoky flavor, and washed in a cultured salt brine that’s responsible for its odor. After aging for 60 days, Winnimere is so decadently soft and runny that it’s best enjoyed with a spoon.
Bravotv.com’s digital series Going Off the Menu takes viewers on an exclusive culinary adventure as host Graham Elliot uncovers the most delicious offerings within Los Angeles’ underground food scene. From a secret supper club serving smuggled cheeses to an eight-course liquid dinner, join Lance Bass, Cheryl Burke, Reza Farahan, and more as they give fans the secrets to unlock these extraordinary food experiences.
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