The rarest and costliest ingredients are a necessary part of the experience for serious foodies, especially when it comes to cheese.
It’s not always true that the most expensive foods are the tastiest, as any food truck or food cart chef will tell you. Yet, when it comes to cheese, the cost is directly related to how it was made. You may be able to buy a delicious wheel of provolone or cheddar cheese coated in a rind made of wax or plastic. Essentially, they are stuffed in a refrigerated cooler and left to age. Artisanal cheeses are different. Cheesemakers use specific, often rare, ingredients that give their product a distinct flavor. They also age the cheese naturally, meaning they have to maintain, turn, and sometimes wash them daily. Similarly, the cheese loses its weight while it ages. This means that what’s left is now one of most expensive cheeses you can get.
Whether or not these steps are worth the price is up to you. The most expensive cheeses range in price from $20 per pound all the way up to as much as $600 per pound for the rarest one. While it may seem over-priced, know that in supporting these artisans, you are supporting a food-making tradition that goes back centuries. It’s good business to mass-produce your product, so as many people as possible can buy it. Making cheese this way takes more work for a smaller amount of product, but arguably much higher quality. For the cheeses that age for years or even decades, this means that it can be difficult to fund the operation. Which is where luxury foodies come in. Check out our list of the most expensive cheeses to see which ones you want to learn more about and support with your business.
The Top Fifteen Most Expensive Cheeses for Your Gourmet Palate
Below you will find the rarest and most expensive cheese that are widely available. Like with most products, exclusivity drives up prices. So, if you know of a small operation with a high-quality product, mention it in the comments below. Nonetheless, the brands listed below create truly unique cheese with premium ingredients. You’re bound to find a few that would suit your tastes.
1. Lord of the Hundreds
Like all of the most expensive cheeses, Lord of the Hundreds takes a lot of time and effort to make. A semi-hard artisanal cheese made from raw sheep’s milk, it develops a natural golden rind and a nutty, caramel flavor balanced between savory and sweet. The cheese is meticulously produced by Cliff and Julie Dyball of the Traditional Cheese Dairy in the United Kingdom. It derives its boxy shape from being ladled into baskets without being pressed. The Dyballs turn and rub the cheeses each day over a period of six to eight months. At around $20 per pound, it’s one of the more cost-effective options on this list. If you like dry cheese with a grainy quality to them, like Parmigiano-Reggiano, you’ll enjoy this one.
The most expensive cheeses usually have some level of scarcity, which makes what’s produced so valuable. The renowned brie product of Jasper Hill farm in Vermont, Winnimere, is only ever made during the winter months, mostly out of tradition. This means that there is a limited supply, and if you run out it can be exceedingly difficult (or costly) to get more.
This soft artisanal cheese possesses a creamy texture that’s perfect for spreading, though you might just want to eat it by the spoonful. On its own Winnimere is practically sweet enough to be a dessert. The sweetness is layered with a woodsy aroma, usually because in the early stages of production they are wrapped with spruce cambium strips. Over the two-month aging process, the rinds are washed with a locally brewed beer, giving the rind a pinkish color. If you like sweet, creamy cheeses, this delightful cheese is worth every penny of it’s $30-per-pound cost.
3. Gorau Glas
At $40-per-pound, Gorau Glas is one of the most expensive cheeses produced in the United Kingdom. The brand got its start in 2002 when Welsh dairy farmer Magaret Davies developed a process for making blue cheese from her family’s cows. She only learned to make cheese at all because her soon booked a class at the Coleg Manai Food Technology Center, and then blew it off. Her process is her trade secret, but she describes it as so “labor intensive” it took her six weeks to make 100 truckles. Now sixteen years later, Gorau Glas is still going strong and Mrs. Davies has more help than she did when she began. It’s a soft blue cheese that started out as an ingredient in local restaurants and is now an international brand.
Made in Italy from the pasteurized milk of a water buffalo, this semi-hard and compact cheese is a delight for the senses, both taste and smell. Caciobufala cheese is often identified by its singular – and pleasant – aroma. What makes this cheese, similar in some cases to others in the region, unique are the ingredients they use. This cheese is made from milk exclusively from cows at the Piana del Sel dairy. They add salt and calf rennet and allow the curds to drain for up to a year in the caves of Casa Madaio. All this gives the cheese the buttery flavor of soft cheeses but with the texture of a semi-hard. It’s an ivory colored cheese with some marking, though it’s often slight. Perhaps less well-known than some of the other brands in the region, Caciobufala is up there in quality and price. You can let this cheese melt in your mouth for about $45 per pound.
5. Epoisses de Bourgogne
This luxury cheese from France is not for the feint of heart, or at least it’s not for those who aren’t already huge fans of cheese. Epoisses de Bourgogne is both chewy and firm, spicy and sweet, and its smell is legendary. Perhaps one of the most pungent cheeses on the list, it is nonetheless something every foodie should try at least once. The orange rind is washed with Marc de Bourgogne, a brandy made from vineyards close by to their facility on the Côte-d'Or. However, this spreadable delight does not take that long to reach maturation. The entire process from cow’s milk to finished cheese takes about six weeks, but this still runs at least $45 per pound.
6. Extra Old Bitto
While this might sound like the name of a Star Wars character, it’s actually one of the oldest cheeses out on the market. While China is not often thought of as a place known for it, the most expensive cheeses are highly desired there. Bitto cheese got its name from the river in Italy near where it was first produced. A combination of goat and cow’s milk it’s made only in the summer months when the livestock eats certain alpine grasses. Yet, it’s a tough business to be in. Old Bitto needs to be aged at least 10 years, while extra old Bitto takes even longer. One wheel of cheese made in 1997 sold recently for $150 per pound in Hong Kong. A tough cheese to track down, the prices for it are likely to only rise higher.
7. Moose Cheese
While your first impulse might be to think that this is a product of Canada, Moose Cheese actually was born in Sweden. As the name implies, this fresh soft cheese is made from Moose’s milk at the Algens Hus (Elk House) dairy farm in Bjurholm. With a smooth flavor and creamy texture, this cheese is so soft it’s usually kept in a jar. An exclusive product, a pound of this can be sold for more than $450-per-pound, making it one of the top five most expensive cheeses in the world. Algens Hus makes four types of cheese from their Moose milk, Feta, White Mold, Creamy Blue and Dried Blue cheeses. Of these the Feta is most popular. The aging process doesn’t take long, and the cheese is stored in vegetable oil. It can last up to a year but it’s best in the first six months.
8. Rogue River Blue
Made in Oregon, Rogue River Blue is the flagship product of Rogue Creamery, which dates back to the Great Depression. Today, however, it produces one of the most expensive cheeses. Rogue River Blue is made only during the autumn months, overseen by cheesemaker Cary Bryant. This $40-per-pound blue cheese is made from cow’s milk, which Rogue Creamery says is at its richest in the fall months. It’s a firmer blue cheese with a nice crumble and notes of nuts and fruit in the aftertaste. The family of the original founder, Tom Vella, sold the company in the early 21st century. However, the new owners are committed to still producing a high-quality product and see Rouge Creamery as an Oregonian institution.
9. Jersey Blue
With its natural, blue-gray rind, you might mistake a hunk of Jersey Blue cheese for a stone from an alien world. While this semi-soft cheese made from raw cow’s milk originated in the United Kingdom, it’s currently made in the Lichtensteig region of Switzerland by a cheesemaker named Wili Schmid. Using only locally-sourced raw milk, this cheese is known as an “eternally-rinded” cheese, a newer style used by certain artisans. This means that there are veins of mold through the cheese, giving it a tangy but musty flavor. The cow’s milk adds a smooth, buttery flavor which contrasts deliciously. The price ranges from $40- to $45-per-pound, but a full dome of this cheese is about four pounds. Still, if you love blue cheese, this is a must-try.
10. Old Ford
The name may evoke a rusted-out truck sitting on a farm somewhere, but Old Ford is actually a cheese. Made by Neal’s Yard Dairy in the United Kingdom, this cheese made from unpasteurized goat’s milk can actually smell, a bit, like goats. The floral and barnyard aromas are much better in person than they sound in print. The flavor of the cheese itself is salty and buttery, with notes of citrus and floral flavors. At $50-per-pound, what you experience from this will vary depending on when the cheese is made. It matures quickly in the summer, taking about three months. Later in the year, however, it can take up to eight months and results in a cheese with a denser texture and more intense flavor.
11. Beaufort D’Ete
Made in the French Alps, this cheese is known as the Prince of Gruyeres, the family of cheese it’s from. It’s made form the milk of Beaufort cows, a breed originally brought to France via Asia. It takes 130 gallons of milk to yield about 90 pounds of Beaufort. It is an aromatic cheese and the raw state of the milk makes its way into the flavor. However, it doesn’t overpower as it’s followed up with a nutty aftertaste. This is an ideal fondue cheese, because it melts very smoothly and easily. Otherwise it is a very firm, pale yellow cheese. While you can snack on it as is, you’re missing out if you don’t melt it down. Etremont, the makers, produce three kinds of cheese. This is their summer version. You can also get a winter cheese and a cheese made in chalets further up the mountains. The Beaufort D’Ete costs about $45 per pound.
12. White Stilton Gold
For reasons passing understanding, some people who truly want to feel like they are dining in luxury want to, literally, eat gold. Perhaps they’ve seen those old cartoons where people bite gold coins and believe it was for the taste not to determine the coin’s authenticity. Nonetheless, for those who want to ingest edible gold, the cheese world has a $450-per-pound treat for you.
White Stilton is a semi-hard cheese with a texture between creamy and crumbly. It has a tangy, savory flavor that blends well with fruit or other sweet items. A blue cheese made from cow’s milk and blended with other ingredients, such as mango and ginger in some cases, it was already a highly desired and expensive cheese. However a while back, Long Clawson Dairy produced a White Stilton made with gold liqueur and edible gold flakes for Christmas. This audacious cheese became a surprise hit, especially with celebrities. And at more than 60 times the cost of a pound of regular White Stilton, it’s one of the top three most expensive cheeses around.
13. Wyke Farms Cheddar
Perhaps you thought the above entry would be the only cheese made in the United Kingdom with edible gold flakes. If so, you’d be wrong. Wyke Farms is a storied brand known for producing cheese based on the 1861 recipe of a woman called Ivy Clothier. Today it is the largest and greenest cheese produce in the UK, using the waste of its animals to power the farm rather than power from the grid.
While their cheddar is their flagship product, they produce a special version infused with not just edible gold flakes but also French truffles. However, this is a considerably more economical option for the cheese-and-gold eater. Still one of the most expensive cheeses out there, Wyke Farms cheddar is $250 less per pound than White Stilton Gold. Is a cheddar cheese made with gold leaf and truffles worth $200 per pound? That will be a decision best left up to your taste buds.
14. Caciocavallo Podolico
Despite being made from pasteurized cow’s milk as opposed to water buffalo’s milk, this cheese is made much in the same way that the Caciobufala is. Aged in the same natural caves, this cheese has notes of earthy flavors and a fruity aroma. A soft cheese with a stringy texture, it can be difficult to spread because it is so springy. What makes this cheese so special and worth $50-per-pound is that it’s made from the milk of an exclusive and rare line of cows. Known as Podolica cattle, they are bred by the Casa Madaio dairy farm in Italy and only there. The chees takes on a rounded shape inside its natural rind. It starts out white, almost creamy, but as it ages it develops an amber color and flaky texture.
Ranging from $550 to $600 for just a single pound, this cheese is the most expensive on the market. However, its high price doesn’t come because it is infused with edible emeralds or anything like that. Pule is a cheese made from the milk of a very specific species of donkey, that just happens to be endangered. This species of donkey is found in the Balkan region, most notably at the Zasavica donkey reserve near Belgrade. In order to make the cheese, around 100 of these endangered donkeys are hand-milked to produce the ingredients. To make just one kilogram of this white, crumbly cheese you need at least 25 liters of donkey milk. That’s a lot of work and there is only a limited supply.
However, purchasing this expensive cheese could both help bring the cost down and might help save the species. The money from the sale of the cheese is reinvested into the donkey preserve to help sponsor their conservation work in the formerly war-torn region. Since making cheese is not their primary job, Pule is usually made only an advanced order basis. However, thanks to foodies with deep pockets and the curiosity about what this cheese tastes like, they are going to start exporting it. First to the United Kingdom and then, depending on how well the species bounces back, the rest of the world. This is one of the most expensive cheeses but the only one where the money goes to a good cause.
The most expensive cheeses aren’t simply high-priced for costliness’ sake but represent a truly remarkable luxury sub-genre of the culinary arts.
All of the items listed above are made with great care and dedication from cheesemakers at dairy farms spanning the globe. These delicacies all have interesting backstories and are made by individuals and not mass-produced in a factory. Is cheese made from the milk of a Serbian donkey really worth $600 for a pound? Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. Yet, the work that these artisans put into their craft in order to develop a unique product is certainly worth something. The most expensive cheeses are not simple brand names that can net a high price at the checkout register. No, they are culinary works of art meant to be enjoyed, savored, and shared with your family and friends.
What do you think? Did we miss any of the most expensive cheeses? Let us know with your thoughts, reactions, and experiences in the comments below. Don’t forget to share the article on social media if you enjoyed it.
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