How to taste Olive Oil
The different flavours in olive oil are determined by a wide range of factors. These include the type/variety of olive/olives used, time of harvest (how ripe the olives were when they were harvested), growing conditions (climate, soil type), crop maintenance (irrigation, pest control), the time taken between harvesting and milling, the handling of fruit from tree to mill, the extraction process itself, the way in which the oil is stored and the type of packaging used (glass, plastic).
The first and easiest way to describe an olive oil is by its intensity; mild, medium or intense. Mild olive oils are subtle in flavour and are often described as fruity and smooth. Medium oils are more intense than the mild oils and are generally described as green and grassy. Intense olive oils have the strongest favours and are often described as peppery.
Positive aromas and flavours which can be identified include but are not limited to; fruity, grassy, nutty, bitter, banana, mint, tomato, vanilla.
There are also negative attributes which can be identified. These include; earthy, vinegary, rancid and fusty.
To be deemed extra virgin, the oil must not have any defects. According to the International Olive Council, extra virgin oils must meet both chemical and organoleptic (flavour) standards and this includes the absence of any flavour defects.
How to taste
When tasting olive oil, many of the oil’s characteristics are perceived through the sense of smell.
Pour a small amount of oil into a small glass (glass is better than plastic)
Hold the glass in one hand and use your other hand to cover the glass while swirling the oil around. This warms the oil and releases its aromas.
Firstly, we want to smell the oil. Bring the glass to your nose and breathe in deeply a few times.
Next, to taste the oil, sip a small amount of oil whilst at the same time “sipping” some air as well (as though you were tasting wine). This helps to spread the oil throughout your mouth.
Finish by swallowing the oil and concentrate on the flavour.
If you are tasting more than one olive oil, make sure you cleanse your palate between oils. The best way to do this is with a thin slice of apple.
The colour of the olive oil is not an indicator of flavour or quality. The official Olive Oil Council’s tasting glasses are blue and obscure the colour of the oil to prevent any preconceptions about its flavour.