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Why does cheese smell?

The smell of cheese can, at times, divide opinion, with those that love it and those that loathe it. Either way, however, there is an argument that the smellier a cheese may be, the tastier it ultimately is. So why is it that something that smells so bad, can taste so good? Below we will explore why cheese smells, and what it means for taste.

Why does cheese smell

What causes smelly cheese?

Not all cheese will emit a strong smell, the smellier cheeses tend to be washed-rind cheeses such as Gruyere, Taleggio, Epoisses or Limburger. The smell of a cheese will come as a result of one of three things, firstly the starter bacteria that is added when producing the cheese, how long the cheese has matured and what the cheese has been washed in as it matures.

Washed rind cheeses are washed in brine over and over again as they age, in a number of different solutions from saline to wine or beer. As the cheese is continually washed, moisture builds up which results in precibarium linens (a bacteria also known as b. linens). These b. linens are the root cause of a stinky cheese.

Why does smelly cheese taste good?

Many cheese experts stress not to judge a book by its cover, meaning don’t judge a cheese on how stinky it is. In fact, the human body has a wonderful way of transforming this smell into something delicious, called ‘backwards smelling’.

Essentially this means that when you begin to eat smelly cheese, the aroma is released into your mouth and detected by the smell detectors at the back of your nose. However, your brain will perceive this smell in an entirely different way than when you smell something in the usual way. This ‘backwards’ scent combined with the texture and taste of the cheese is what makes the cheese taste so delicious.

How to know when smelly cheese is off

Due to the fact that these delicious but smelly cheeses are already pungent, it can be difficult to discern when they are no longer edible, however there are a few things to look out for to identify a spoiled cheese. A strong smell of ammonia is likely to present when a cheese is nearing expiration, you may also notice the rind surrounding the cheese beginning to break down at this stage.

Here at J.S. Bailey we have something that everybody will love, both stinky cheese and non-stinky cheese loves. Take a look at our product range and place your order with us today.