Photo: Chris Buecheler/Flickr
French actor Gerard Depardieu said in an interview on Thursday that France was “populated by imbeciles making wine and stinky cheese”.
While we'd disagree with the imbecile bit, he has a fair point when it comes the the cheese.
In fact, France makes some of the strongest-smelling cheeses in the entire world. Cheese Louise some of them will blow your hat off.
But before we get into the stinkiest cheeses, where does the smell actually come from?
While some cheeses can smell from the mould inside, the ones below are all smelly due to the rinds.
In the process of cheese making, the rinds of many cheeses are rubbed with brine (salty water) in order to moisten the surface and attract bacteria that helps the fermentation process.
The damp surface typically attracts Brevibacterium, a type of bacteria that can be found on the human skin and can cause foot odour.
So why do people love the cheese if it stinks so much?
Easy – it tastes great. In fact, many of the stronger smelling cheeses don't actually taste anywhere near as strong as they smell. And if you can find a good drinkor food to pair with the cheese, all the better.
“It smells like the gunk that accrues under your toenails,” wrote one reviewer.
Epoisses, if you've never heard of it, is a very soft cheese that's washed in brine and brandy before being aged for six weeks.
And its smell is so strong that it was once banned from public transport in Paris, or so the rumour goes.
But don't let the smell put you off, and enjoy it with a sweet wine like Sauternes.
This is the most famous cheese on this list, yet also one of the funkiest smelling.
A cheese columnist once compared the smell of the cow's milk cheese to having “hints of garlic, barnyard, and ripe laundry”.
In this online advice thread, a woman was so surprised by the “rotten feet” smell of a boxed camembert sent from France that she asked if she would likely die from eating it.
Photo: Danielle Martineau/Flickr
This is one of the oldest cheeses to come out of Normandy – though it might smell to you like the oldest thing to come out of your fridge.
One cheese blogger said its interior “smells fecal, a bit like horse or dog droppings”.
But it tastes good, of course, but we recommend eating it at a picnic rather than in a tiny Paris apartment, for example.
A monstrous smell, this eastern France version of the Munster cheese has a rich flavour and it comes with what some have called an “unbearable odour”.
It matures in damp cellars, gets washed in brine, and has a “very pronounced, powerful aroma that is oddly reminiscent of fried eggs”, at least according to this website that specializes in selling gourmet delicacies.
One blogger who came across the Gerome cousin of Munster wrote “You can't escape the stink with this cheese. Just from unwrapping the cheese, my hands smelled of barnyard and grass for the rest of the evening.”
One reviewer may have compared it to baby poo and rotting vegetable matter in the same review, but many swear by it.
The cheese is made from cow's milk, and comes from the tiny village of Morbier in eastern France's Franche-Comté.
It's visually quite distinguishable from other cheeses thanks to the fine black layer of ash running horizontally through it.
Good luck getting past the smell though, which one reviewer compared to “a putrid creature from the depths of hell”.
And lastly… Be prepared for an attack on the nostrils with this one. First made by monks from northern France over a thousand years ago, this cheese has been a favourite in France ever since.
Once again, its rind gets washed in brine during the processing, causing its distinctive smell.
Some have compared it the smell to a barnyard smell, others have said it reminds them of dead rodents, and others have suggested you gobble it up at once because your fridge at home will never smell the same again if you save a bit.
Photo: Frédérique Voisin-Demery/Flickr