Gubbeen cheese smells a bit like the guys hall in your freshman dorm. Like stale socks and dirt.
And according to Zingerman’s employee Pat La Flamme, it’s the smelliest cheese at the Kerrytown deli.
The scent lingers on your fingers for quite a while after you’ve laid your hands on this pungent snack.
Biting into the cheese, however, provides an unexpected, delicious surprise.
The consistency is a bit harder than Brie and probably wouldn’t be classified as purely soft, but the cheese does melt and crumble lightly in your mouth.
There may be expectations for a strong taste based on the smell, but don’t be shocked when your taste buds are soothed by a cool milk flavor. It’s a little bit sharp, but not nearly as sharp as the smell would suggest.
At this point, you may be waiting for a bit more kick, but there is some excitement on the way.
The cheese finishes brilliantly, leaving a taste that could only be described as smoky black pepper on your tongue. However, there’s nothing but good old-fashioned milk in the cheese.
Giana and Tom Ferguson of County Cork in Ireland craft Gubbeen, which is available at Zingerman’s for $23.99 per pound. The name comes from the Gaelic word for “small mouth.”
The cow milk cheese is known as “washed rind” cheese, meaning it is rinsed with salt water during a two-month aging process.
This encourages some bacteria and discourages others during the aging. The bacteria that does grow on Gubbeen are what cause its powerful scent.
Zingerman’s gets Gubbeen and cheeses like it from London-based distributor Neal’s Yard Dairy, which finds small cheese makers and brings their products to the rest of the world.
Although the cheese isn’t one of Zingerman’s best sellers, it sells more than enough to keep it on the shelf, La Flamme said.
“It’s not for everybody,” he said. “There’s a pretty dedicated fan base for that sort of cheese.”