The story of Britain’s smelliest cheese involves monks, drunks, and endangered cows.
Stinking Bishop is an award-winning artisanal cheese. Among these accolades is “smelliest cheese in Britain.” Though it has a subtle, nutty flavor, the Gloucestershire specialty is most famous for its strong aroma, which has been described as putrid and evocative of a rugby team’s locker room.
Stinking Bishop gets its distinct odor from soaking in perry, a type of pear cider, as it ripens. Oddly, it’s the pear in this cider, a local Gloucestershire variety, that’s the source of the cheese’s name. The Stinking Bishop pear was named after a farmer who lived in the area from 1847 to 1919. Frederick Bishop was, by all accounts, a terrible man who liked drinking as much as he disliked bathing. The drunk farmer’s foul reputation earned him, as well as the pears on his property, the nickname Stinking Bishop.
It wasn’t until the late 20th century that the oddly named pear crossed paths with an endangered breed of cow. In 1972, dairy farmer Charles Martell bought some of the last remaining Old Gloucester cows, and put them to work producing milk for cheese. After discovering that his land had once been farmed by Cistercian monks, Martell decided to use the 17th-century monastic technique of washing his cheese rinds. His liquid of choice was, of course, pear cider.
So via monks, drunks, cows, and pear trees, Stinking Bishop was born. It has always remained an artisanal cheese that’s not available in your average supermarket, but its reputation sky-rocketed thanks to the 2005 stop-motion film Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. In the movie, Gromit uses the pungent cheese to revive his friend.
A few years later, Stinking Bishop was officially named the smelliest cheese in Britain, further cementing its position as one of the most well-known British cheeses, no small feat for a craft cheese that the majority of Brits have never tried.
Need to Know
You can buy Stinking Bishop in delicatessens, farm shops, and markets across Britain. The easiest way to find the retailer closest to you is by using the “Where to Buy” page on the Charles Martell & Sons website. Alternatively, you can but it directly from Charles Martell online.