Stinky Cheese - Cheese Guide

June 12, 2019 | By Dave Mattingly

Stinky Cheese is a connoisseur's favorite type of cheese and not for the timid. The unmistakable striking pungent aromas and flavors of Stinky Cheese put them in a class of their own. While many cheeses may be considered stinky, most Stinky Cheeses originate in the family of washed-rind cheeses. Unlike blue cheeses, which ripen from the inside out, washed-rind cheeses ripen from the outside in. A washed-rind cheese matures through bacterial growth on its surface. Brevibacterium linens, or b-linens for short, is a bacterium that is formed on the surface of the cheese when it is bathed or washed in a brine of saltwater and occasionally the addition of alcohol. B-linens thrives in a warm, moist environment and creates an pinkish/red hue on the surface of the cheese. Washing the rind inhibits mold growth and encourages bacteria growth, causing chemical reactions within the cheese to create nutty, buttery, woodsy and complex flavors. Thanks to b-linens, it is here on the cheese surface where "stinky" aromas originate.

Monks in the northern coastal regions of France are believed to have been the first to make washed-rind, or Stinky Cheeses. In order to prevent harmful mold from forming on the cheese, monks would typically wash the surface of the cheese mixture in alcohol since at the time it was more hygienic than using saltwater mixtures. The combination of salt, humidity and low-acidity created an orange/pink colored rind with pungent aromas.

Enjoying a Stinky Cheese is often considered to be an acquired taste. Aromas of Stinky Cheese may be described as mushroomy, barnyardy (evoking a hay/straw smell), gaseous or even bacony. It is important to note that there are no direct correlations between aroma and flavor. Some Stinky Cheeses have a pungent meaty flavor, while many Stinky Cheeses are much milder than their smell would indicate. Milder Stinky Cheeses may be fruity, grassy or nutty, with a grainy, smooth or even runny texture. Often a brighter orange coloring and stickier surface on the cheese will suggest that the cheese will be “stinkier”. Washed-rind cheeses are usually aged at least 60 days and have a semi-soft to semi-firm texture.

Types of Stinky Cheese

Epoisses: A notorious Stinky Cheese, Epoisses is one of the world's great French cheeses. Epoisses is a washed-rind cheese that is formed into rounds and packaged in a distinctive circular wooden box. With an orange/red rind, Epoisses is salty and creamy in flavor. Since 1991, Epoisses has been granted AOC (controlled designation of origin) status which regulates production locations and methods within France.

Esrom: A delightful Stinky Cheese from Denmark, Esrom was originally a monastery cheese whose production went dormant and then was rediscovered in 1951. Esrom is a washed-rind Stinky Cheese that is formed into loaf-shaped forms. It is full-flavored with a big, rich, pungent aroma and becomes spicier as it ages.

Munster d'Alsace: Munster d'Alsace is a strikingly pungent cheese, known for its orange/red rind. The earthy aroma of this Stinky Cheese translates to a spicy rich flavor. Munster d'Alsace pairs well with fresh fruit or a piece of crusty French bread.

Limburger: This Stinky German Cheese was created by Belgian Trappist Monks. Limburger flavor is creamy and sharp, similar to Brie. Yet the cheese is much tamer than its aroma, especially after the rind is trimmed! Limburger is traditionally served with onions on a think piece of rye bread and a strong lager beer or coffee.

Liederkranz: This Stinky Cheese is an American original that actually went out of production for 25 years. Now its production, true to the original recipe, has been revived. Liederkranz is a smear-ripened specialty with a distinctly pungent aroma and unique, hoppy, full-bodied flavor.

Livarot: A famous Stinky Cheese from Normandy, France, Livarot is a disc-shaped, washed-rind, pungent cheese that comes packed in a round wooden box to help hold its shape. Livarot has an orange rind that conceals a cream-colored interior paste. It has been nicknamed "The Colonel" because the cheese is banded with strips of paper, reminiscent of a colonel's stripes.

Pont L'Eveque: One of the oldest known wash-rind cheeses, Pont L'Eveque is a powerfully strong French cheese that has a soft creamy consistency. Aged for 45 days and one of the smelliest cheeses in the world, this creamy pale yellow cow's milk cheese is rich, buttery and savory in flavor.

Stinking Bishop: The name says it all. Stinking Bishop is an award-winning washed-rind cheese fermented in pear juice, or perry, creating an orange rind and a sticky surface. Named after the Stinking Bishop pear variety from England, this cheese has a sticky orange rind and is runny at room temperature.

Taleggio: A member of the famous Italian Stracchino cheeses, Taleggio has a strong aroma and soft consistency. Originating in the Lombardy region of Italy, this tangy cave aged cheese has a milder flavor than its aroma would suggest. Delicious when spread on a piece of fresh crusty bread.

Stinky Cheese Facts

  • Cranfield University in the United Kingdom determined in 2004 and again in 2007 that Vieux Boulogne from Northern France is the world's stinkiest cheese. Washing this French cow’s milk cheese in beer creates the cheese’s extraordinarily pungent aroma. Notably, English Cheddar and Parmesan were a few of the least smelliest cheeses.
  • Napoleon was a huge fan of Epoisses, which was once considered "The King of Cheeses".
  • Epoisses de Bourgogne's aroma is so strong that it is banned from public transport in its native France.
  • Stinking Bishop cheese garnered international attention when it was featured in a scene in the Academy Award winning animated film "Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of The Were-Rabbit". The cheese was used to revive Wallace from the dead. Subsequent to the film’s 2005 release, demand for Stinking Bishop reportedly rose by 500 percent!

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