updated 11/26/2004 2:57:34 PM ET 2004-11-26T19:57:34

A soft, pungent cheese from northern France has topped a British researcher's study of the world's whiffiest cheeses.

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Academics at Cranfield University north of London said Friday that Vieux Boulogne, a Normandy cheese made from cows' milk, was the smelliest of 15 cheeses tested. Two other Normandy cheeses, Pont l'Eveque and Camembert, came in second and third.

Scientists at the university used human sniffers and a computer-linked "electronic nose" to rank the cheeses by odorousness.

Stephen White, who led the research, said the smelliest cheeses were those whose rinds had been washed in brine, brandy or -- as with Vieux Boulogne -- beer.

"There was no obvious correlation between the age of the selected cheeses and smelliness, nor type of milk origin, although cows' milk cheeses did dominate the smell chart," White said.

Vieux Boulogne owes its distinctive orange color and pungent smell to the brushing of its rind with beer during the two months it spends aging in cellars around the town of Boulogne-sur-Mer in northern France.

The smelliest dairy products in the survey, commissioned by a group that promotes French cheese in Britain, came from France. Munster, a cow milk's cheese from the eastern regions of Alsace and Lorraine, was fourth, followed by Brie de Meaux and Roquefort.

Hard cheeses, such as Parmesan and English cheddar, were the least smelly of those tested.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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