A lot of people are afraid to eat “smelly” cheeses, but it's important to realize the way a cheese smells is not necessarily representative of its taste. In fact, the taste of a stinky cheese usually isn't nearly as powerful as their “nose” would lead you to believe, and stinky cheeses generally have a broader flavor profile than more mild-smelling cheeses. Here are what we believe are the six stinkiest cheeses on earth. Next time you see one, try it! We bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
A semi-soft cow's milk cheese that has roots in Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands, Limburger is undoubtedly the first cheese people think of when they think "stinky." It does smell quite a bit due to the fact that it's a washed-rind cheese, which means there is bacteria growth on the outside of the cheese producing that signature smell. The bacteria influence the earthy, slightly sour and mushroomy taste of the cheese. It's delicious on top of rye crackers.
Époisses de Bourgogne
This cheese is a small-format cow's milk cheese made in the village of Époisses in the eastern part of France. It is washed in Marc de Bourgogne, an unaged brandy that imparts a pungent smell of sour milk. But don't let that deter you! This cheese is the best example of a stinky cheese that is approachable, especially when young; it's great served on a crusty toasted baguette with a Belgian white ale.
This cheese is washed in fermented pear juice, and its rind is so intensely flavored that it must be removed before eating the paste (interior). It has strong flavors of moist hay and wilting flowers. Produced just outside of London, this is yet another cow's milk cheese; tasty with sliced pear (a no-brainer) and nut bread.
Serra da Estrela
A sheep's milk cheese from eastern Portugal, Serra da Estrella is renneted with thistle, giving it complex herbal flavors. When the Portuguese speak of the smell of this cheese, they use the phrase, "whiff of the tail," which gives you a pretty good idea of the stinky factor. In spite of this odor, though, it's quite pleasant when accompanied by white port wine and grilled vegetables.
Like the Époisses, this is a cow's milk cheese washed in wine. It is aged in high-humidity caves in Alsace, which is located in northeastern France near the German border. When refrigerated it has a toasted grain taste, but when you leave it out at room temperature (as it's meant to be eaten), the aroma blooms to a smell that could be described as post-workout underarm stinky (yes, I went there). I would suggest eating this on a sandwich with spicy cured meat to hold up against its intense flavor.
A mixed cow-and-goat's milk blue cheese from northern Spain that is wrapped in oak and sycamore leaves and aged for two to three months. Blue cheeses naturally "weep," meaning the ambient water seeps out during the aging process. This keeps the leaves moist, creating a smell that can be likened to decomposing vegetation on a humid forest floor. However, the cheese has a beautiful flavor nowhere near the strength of its smell, and is traditionally served with Marcona almonds and sweet honey bread.