Savoring the aroma of cheese does not only mean smelling its odor; when we put food in our mouths to taste, the nose is actually doing most of the work in a process called retronasal olfaction.
The temperature of the mouth, our chewing action, and the butterfat melting into our saliva release the volatile aromas from the cheese. This stimulates our olfactory receptors (our sense of smell).
Next time you feast on cheese, be reminded to engage your sense of smell to truly immerse in the taste and aroma.
Cheese tasting elicits all the senses but most of us just forget to engage our sense of smell.
This one simple trick will enhance your cheese-tasting experience without a doubt.
Odors and Aromas that are NOT a Good Sign
A good way to tell if your cheese has gone bad or not is through your sense of smell because most of the taste comes from the nose rather than the tastebuds.
If a cheese emanates the following odors or these aromas exist, it is generally not a good sign:
5 Positive Aromas Signs that Prove Your Cheese is Good
Here are some positive aroma signs indicating that your cheese is good:
- Fresh Milk or Cream: Fresh cheeses should smell like milk or cream. This is particularly true for unaged or lightly aged cheeses, such as mozzarella, ricotta, or feta.
- Fruity or Nutty: Many types of cheese, especially those that are aged, may have a fruity or nutty aroma. For example, a good-quality cheddar might have a slightly apple-like smell, while a Gruyere could have a nutty aroma.
- Earthy or Musty: Some cheeses, particularly blue cheeses or those with a natural rind, may have an earthy, musty, or even mushroom-like smell. These are usually signs that the cheese is fine to eat.
- Caramel or Buttery: Cheeses that have been aged for a long time, such as Gouda or Parmesan, can develop a caramel or buttery aroma, which is a positive sign.
- Yeasty or Bready: Certain types of cheese, like Swiss or certain washed-rind cheeses, might have a yeasty or bready scent, which can be a sign of the beneficial bacteria used in the cheesemaking process.
In cheeses, the overall palette of aromas you will find are:
- Dairy Aromas: These are the scents associated with fresh milk, cream, or butter. They are most commonly found in fresh and lightly aged cheeses.
- Nutty Aromas: These can range from the subtle scent of almonds or hazelnuts to the more pronounced aroma of roasted peanuts or walnuts. Cheeses such as Gruyère and Emmental often have a nutty aroma.
- Fruity Aromas: These can be either fresh fruity aromas (like berries, apples, pears) or dried fruit aromas (like raisins, prunes). Some cheeses may even have a citrus or tropical fruit note.
- Vegetal Aromas: These can include scents reminiscent of fresh grass, mushrooms, onions, garlic, or even cabbage. Many natural rind cheeses exhibit these aromas.
- Animal Aromas: These can range from the barnyardy (think hay, horses, or goats) to the more pungent (such as the scent of game or cured meat). These are more common in washed-rind cheeses.
- Spicy Aromas: These can include notes of black pepper, cloves, or other spices, and are often found in blue cheeses or cheeses that have been seasoned with spices.
- Fermented/ Yeasty Aromas: These can include the smell of bread dough, beer, or sourdough, and are often found in cheeses like Swiss or certain washed-rind cheeses.
- Caramelized Aromas: These include scents of caramel, toffee, or butterscotch, and are often found in aged cheeses like aged Gouda or Parmesan.
Also read: Why do the French Like Raw Milk Cheese?
Did you know?
- A scent or odor is detected in the nose.
- An aroma is what is detected by the nose when the cheese is on the palate.
- Flavors are released on the tastebuds. When we speak of flavors, we refer to the five basic flavors detected by the palate: sweet, salty, acid, bitter, or umami.
Cheeses can release very distinct aromas that may be deemed a quality in some cheeses but a flaw in others.
Just because some cheese experts fall in love with a cheese does not mean you will like it too.
We have to learn to find our own ‘taste’ and judge for ourselves.
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