This Is What 340-Year-Old Shipwrecked Cheese Smells Like

The tin containing “dairy product, butter, or cheese” was found in a 17th-century shipwreck off the coast of Sweden last week.
Phoebe Hurst
London, GB
August 2, 2016, 2:33pm
Photo via Flickr user Stuart Webster

It's hard to beat the smell of a good cheese—that Stilton stink, Parmesan pong, or the almost indecent odour of a really ripe Camembert. There's a deliciously animalistic thrill to be had from smearing something that whiffs like a pair of used hockey socks on a cracker and stuffing it in your mouth.

However smelly your recent trips to Cheesetown have been, we're willing to bet they weren't nearly as pungent as the chunk of 340-year-old cheese recently uncovered amidst a shipwreck off the coast of Sweden.

READ MORE: This Is What 200-Year-Old Beer and Champagne Tastes Like

Historians say the 126-gun battle ship known as the Kronan sank off the southern tip of the Baltic sea island of Öland in 1676. Divers have been exploring the wreckage in stages since it was discovered in the 1980s, and found a tin of cheese pressed into the seabed last week.

Lars Einarsson from Sweden's Kalmar county museum, who is in charge of the dive, told local media that he was "pretty sure it's some kind of dairy product, butter, or cheese."


When the tin was brought to the surface, some of the mystery dairy product leaked through the lid. And boy, it was stinky.

Einarsson said: "That's when the smell hit us. I certainly don't recommend tasting it. It's a mass of bacteria."

He went on to describe the smell as "like a mixture of yeast and Roquefort, a sort of really ripe, unpasteurised cheese."

READ MORE: A 220-Year-Old Shipwrecked Beer Was Resurrected by Scientists

For those not well-versed in fromage, Roquefort is a sheep's milk cheese, made in the South of France. Similar to fellow blue cheeses Stilton and Gorgonzola, its smell comes from the mold that its surface develops through age. In other words, the Kronan cheese scored high on the stink-o-metre.

Kronan isn't the first shipwreck to harbour the vestiges of sunken dinners. In 2011, excavators of a Baltic Sea shipwreck uncovered a 170-year-old beer which, when analysed by scientists, was found to have "vinegary, goaty, and soured milk[-like]" flavours.

Einarsson and his team are sending the Kronan cheese to a lab for further analysis. No word yet on whether this involves Ritz crackers or red wine.