17 Top Stinky Cheeses

Because one human’s reeking stinky cheese is another man’s treasure.

Cheeses on the counter at a market

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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.

We think of stinky cheeses as one of the poster children for the sustainability movement known as slow food. The opposite of junk food and American-style "cheese products," these malodorous beauties generally come with a long cultural tradition behind them, they are crafted with care, and they are something to be savored.

In the who’s who of stinky cheeses, the following washed-rind varieties rank among the world’s most malodorous.

1. Camembert

Person scooping out a portion of baked camembert cheese
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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.”

5. Limburger

slices of limburger cheese on rye bread
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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.

10. Raclette

Melted raclette cheese being scrapped from a wheel of cheese onto a bowl of bread cubes and potatoes
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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.

12. Schloss

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.”

14. Taleggio

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

a slice of English oozy cheese
Gilgongo / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SAY 4.0

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.