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Know your cheese language

Here is our glossary for some commonly used terms to support your understanding and enhance your tasting experience and allow you to sound like a pro!

Heat Treatment: The way the milk has been treated prior to being used in cheesemaking can have an impact on the final flavour.

  • Raw milk that has not been heat-treated, so retaining the natural bacteria and enzymes present in the milk. Native microbes can contribute to significantly more interesting and complex flavours.

  • Pasteurised milk that has either been heated to 72 degrees Celsius for 15 seconds, or to 63 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes. The slower method is more expensive, but as it is almost more gentle, it is favoured by many cheesemakers, who say that it avoids damaging the milk.

  • Thermised milk that has been heated to a temperature of between 57 degrees and 68 degrees Celsius for at least 15 seconds. This milk is not pasteurised, but neither is it raw. Some people call it “unpasteurised’. This treatment is often chosen with the intention of destroying some of the bacteria while not completely removing those that can contribute to flavour.

Flavour Profiles

  • Buttery: Some cheeses have paste that is dense, creamy and sweet, reminiscent of butter

  • Earthy: Think of the scent of freshly turned soil or a leaf-strewn forest floor. When cheeses are matured in cellars, the aroma in the air seems to permeate into the paste of the cheese, bringing out these earthy tones.

  • Floral: Occasionally cheeses may have hints of heady, floral scents such as honeysuckle or orange blossom.

  • Fresh/ Milky: Some young and semi-mature cheeses, like King Richard III, have a flavour very close to the fresh milk that is used to make them.

  • Fruity: Cheese is often described as fruity, but there’s quite a range of fruit to choose from. Some young, lactic cheeses have a citrus tone, semi-mature cheeses can have hints of orchard fruits while more mature cheeses can have tropical notes of pineapple.

  • Fudge / Caramel: Cheeses that are ‘cooked’, i.e. brought to a high temperature during the make, often have sweet tones. Think of the moment when the milk and butter starts to change colour when you are making fudge. You can find hints of that same intense sweetness in cooked cheeses.

  • Grassy: Cheeses can make you think of the glorious scent of a freshly cut grass or meadow

  • Honey: Some cheeses have a sweetness that is altogether lighter and more delicate, like a clear acacia honey

  • Lactic: Some cheeses have a pleasant hint of refreshing sourness similar to yoghurt. Exemplified beautifully by a Ticklemore.

  • Meaty/ Savoury: Cheeses that are washed (wash rind cheeses) regularly develop a sticky, tacky, orange exterior that can be fairly pungent. These cheeses often have an intensely savoury flavour that may remind you of roasted meat.

  • Mushroom: Soft mould ripened cheeses may have mushroomy tones while some washed rinds or very mature cheeses can even have intense umami flavours which are reminiscent of porcini broth.

  • Nutty: Semi mature and mature cheeses are often described as nutty. Again there can be a wide range of goats and sheep's milk cheeses often have hints of almonds or even marzipan. More mature cows milk cheeses can have tones of hazelnuts.

  • Onion / Garlic: Cheese can have a sharp acidic tang (like Keens mature cheddar) which can be reminiscent of onions or garlic.

  • Peppery: As a cheese matures it can develop a slightly hot spicy tone, too much may be a sign that the cheese is too old. A hint of pepper can be a very welcome flavour.

  • Toasted/ Bread Crumb: Sometimes cheeses may have an aroma which is similar to freshly baked bread or toast.

  • Vegetal/ Cabbage: Soft, mould ripened cheese can have distinct cabbagey tones. While this might sound unpleasant to some people when made with skill these cheese can be richly flavoursome and satisfying.


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