Nigel Pooley has been smelling cheeses (professionally) for nearly 50 years. Currently working for Wyke Farms in the UK, he can tell how a cheese will taste—12 months down the line—without ever putting a piece in his mouth. He just has to smell it.
Over the years (18 to be exact), his super sensitive sense of smell (try saying that 10 time fast) has been saving the company millions of pounds (currency and cheese) on production and storage costs. If Nigel smells a bad batch of young cheese, it’s out the door.
So what do you do when you have such a highly-skilled, money-saving nose on your team? You insure it!
Wyke Farms pays a £25,000 annual premium to insure Nigel’s nose for 5 million pounds. The policy protects him against the loss of his distinctive sense of smell or damage to his nose.
A spokesperson for Wyke likened Nigel to a cheesy fortune teller” and acknowledges the money is well spent.
For those who are curious, Nigel isn’t just walking around all day sniffing cheese—he does have a method (and a cool sounding tool):
“Smell is the first sense I use after drawing a sample from a 20kg block of cheddar using my cheese iron; a thin, spade-like tool of about 100mm by 18mm that extracts a core from a block of cheese. I only ever grade cheese in the morning before lunch; my senses are much sharper at this time and tend to dull down as the day progresses. Your nose is working all day as you breathe, whether or not you have turned on the smell receptors, so no wonder it gets tired. Especially at this time of year when it can get blocked with pollen.”
And to clarify, he’s not looking to weed out stinky cheeses, he’s just looking to get out the spoiled, unclean, “backside-y” ones:
“Above all, cheese should smell clean with no off odours. Poor cheese can have all sorts of smells from things the cows have eaten like wild garlic or onions. Bacterial taints can lead to sickly smells, while a rancid cheese can, frankly, smell like a cow’s backside.”
Though Nigel says he loves his job, he says the super sensitive nose is not always a blessing. He says music festivals and some cleaning supplies are too much for him.
Nigel, even without a fortune-telling nose, we can sympathize.