A SCOTTISH cheesemaker who made headlines around the world with their “smelliest” offering has said the international attention was actually a marketing “disaster” – because they didn’t have enough to sell.

Highland Fine Cheeses, in Tain, started producing the smelly “Minger” seven years ago – but the media frenzy only began in December after a press release from supermarket chain Asda.

“Asda put out a little press release to say ‘Asda are now going to stock new cheeses from Highland Fine Cheeses’, which wasn't going to get anyone too excited,” maker Rory Stone (below) told The National.

“But the Mail on Sunday decided to run a piece where they said ‘the world's smelliest cheese’, which is a hell of an assumption. It's impossible to qualify, so I guess we have no less or no more right to say it than anybody else … Everybody picked on that.”

The National:

In the days that followed, Stone was flying some Minger down to the Good Morning Britain team, taking calls from outlets including the New York Times and ABC Melbourne, and appearing on news sites as far afield as Israel and New Zealand.

“We started getting emails from lots of people in America saying ‘I’m dying to give this to my partner for Christmas’,” Stone said. “And it still hasn’t stopped.

“Yesterday, I did an interview on Tasmanian radio about Minger and we were back on Sky News again for the end of year round up. We even ended up on the website edition of Have I Got News For You.”

A soft cheese that melts and oozes at room temperature, the Minger (below) comes in a distinctive orange washed rind.

The Highland Fine Cheeses' website describes it as “decadently pungent” and “hinting at the flavours of the farmyard”, which might give some idea of the aroma.

The National:

Stone said: “It's a very malodorous, pretty sulphurous smell, and it just creeps everywhere. When you actually open the cheese directly, you would think ‘well, it's not that bad’.

“But when it's contained – you put it in the car and you come back 20 minutes later – you go, ‘oh no’. It just has a particularly nasty smell, but luckily that's not where the flavour comes from.”

Stone said there was a “great tradition of cheese making in the Highlands”, but that the processes which give Minger its distinctive smell and flavour were created in Europe.

“The real process there is in establishing this sulphurous rind, it was practiced by Trappist monks in Europe, in France, in Belgium,” he said.

“They used to take a cheese and wash it in brine or beer and it promotes this naturally occurring brevibacterium linens. When that starts to work … it breaks down the fats and the proteins from the outside in.

“So, you get this very, very heavy smell, but you get these wonderful meaty, proteiny, quite sweet flavours in the cheese.”

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But all the global media’s stories describing the cheese did little to help sales because, Stone noted: “We don't export.”

And keeping up with domestic demand proved hard enough.

The cheesemaker explained: “We would have seen a huge boost in sales if we'd had enough product to sell. That's the hard thing, all of a sudden everybody's talking about it, so everybody wants it.

“Everybody's talking about it and we’ve absolutely no cheese left to sell to anybody. So, as a marketing campaign, in many ways it was a complete disaster.

“But hopefully, people won't have forgotten about the product.”

Stone said the market for Scottish cheese was worth around £280 million a year, while “the rest of the UK represents £2.7 billion”.

He said that to take Scottish cheese to the “next level”, the goal was to “try and dominate a little bit south of Hadrian's wall”.

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Stone, who took over the family business started by his father, said that an expansion into markets in the south east of England could pave the way for further expansion internationally.

“People travel more now and people experience so much more and are exposed to so much more,” he said. “They're beginning to grow to like these different flavours, these soft cheeses, these smelly cheeses, blue cheeses.

“When I was a little boy showing people around the dairy in the 1970s, if I said we had a little cottage cheese with a garlic taste in it, they recoiled.

“Now people are really much more experimental and open to trying new and different flavours.”

Minger is produced by Highland Fine Cheeses. You can find the firm’s website here.