Congratulations are in order: the Vieux Boulogne marks 14 years undefeated as the world’s smelliest cheese. It seems like yesterday that the northern stinker was named whiffiest of all by a cabal of scientists, beating the likes of Époisses, Brie de Meaux and Munster to the (not-so coveted) title.

Not only did the Pas-de-Calais delicacy wear down Cranfield University’s 19-strong olfactory panel during an eye-watering sniff test, but it smashed the scale of a high-tech electronic nose. More than a decade on, its signature stench – a cloying blend rotten leeks and farmyard pong – remains unmatched.

So what gives the cheese described as a perfect storm of “body odour mixed with dung” its foul odour? The Boulogne-sur-Mer fromage achieves its unique potency from having its rind washed in beer. The interaction of bacteria in the brew with the cow’s milk enzymes of the ‘skin’ eventually releases its tell-tale whiffs. Surprisingly, considering its unsavoury kudos, Vieux Boulogne’s bark is far worse than its bite and beneath the stinky rind is a smooth and pleasantly mellow cheese. A real treat for turophiles in the know, it’s rather hard to come by, even in its native Pas-de-Calais.

Vieux Boulogne
It may be the world’s smelliest cheese but beneath the whiffy rind, the Vieux Boulogne is surprisingly mellow. IMAGE © FOTOLIA

First printed in our sister publication France Today

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