What Makes Minger Cheese The Smelliest In The World

Connoisseurs of stinky cheeses are in luck. There's a funky product that you may not have heard of on the market, and it may just be the stinkiest of them all.

The Minger, a cheese created by Scotland's Rory Stone, gets its name from British slang for foul-smelling people. It's an apt name for a cheese that its inventor described to the BBC as having a redolence reminiscent of a "[W]elly boot." Despite that descriptor — or perhaps because of it — the cheese has proven quite popular. Asda, a large U.K. supermarket chain, announced that it would begin carrying the "pungent cheese" in December 2023.

But what makes it so stinky? The Minger, like most of the world's smelliest cheeses, is a washed-rind variety. This means it's washed with a salt brine (beer and brandy are also sometimes used) so that bacteria can flourish. These bacteria, along with existing yeast and proteins, combine to create both its distinctive odor and attractive flavor compounds.

How the Minger gets its funk

Rory Stone's comparison of the Minger to a Wellington boot is undoubtedly accurate. Washed-rind cheeses typically contain a specific bacteria known as Brevibacterium linens (B. linens), which are introduced or grow naturally following their salt-brine washes. These bacteria are the same ones that grow on our skin and cause foot odor. Hence, the frequent association of stinky cheeses with smelly feet or old gym socks.

B. linens also help to give the Minger its rind's distinctive color, which Highland Fine Cheeses — the Minger's purveyor — describes as "orange annatto." It also breaks down the cheese, giving it a creamy, gooey, brie-like texture. The breakdown of the cheese's bacteria, yeast, fatty acids, and protein ultimately creates both a uniquely minty flavor and a strong cabbagey, foot-like odor.

The Minger is aged for only six weeks, a shorter timeframe than is used for other famously smelly cheeses, like Époisses, which is typically aged for two to three months.

Is the Minger really the smelliest cheese in the world?

It bears noting that the title of the world's smelliest cheese is not an official designation. According to The Guardian, France's Vieux Boulogne — a cow's milk cheese whose rind is washed not in salt, but in beer — was declared the world's stinkiest by researchers at Cranfield University in 2004. However, since the Minger wasn't invented until 2017, its pungency has yet to be officially measured. Rory Stone, a scion of a Scottish cheesemaking family who has been producing aromatic cheeses for over half a century, believes the Minger is now among the stinkiest — if not the stinkiest — in the world.

If you want to give it a try, the Minger, like any washed-rind cheese, can be a great addition to a cheese or charcuterie board, although due to its funkiness, it may be a bit overpowering in some settings. Possible pairing options in a meal context include salads and dark bread, as well as dark beers and rich red wines.