Tasting Extra Virgin Olive Oil Like A Pro
Did you know EVOO can go rancid?
When living in a shared house in my 20’s I soon became accustomed to my housemates' shopping habits. After seeing all sorts of oil purchases and finding random old bottles in the back of the cupboard, it occurred to me that most people have no idea what good olive oil tastes like. I realised they also couldn't tell when their olive oil has become old and rancid.
Fresh is Best
Below are some tips on what to look for in a good extra virgin olive oil (and how to tell if it should be moved from the kitchen to the garden shed).
The tastiest olive oil comes from fresh olives that have been pressed within a couple of hours of picking. But apart from the flavour, good olive oil is important for its health benefits: old or bad quality olive oil lacks those important antioxidants that are responsible for most of its health benefits.
Distinguishing good and undesirable characteristics
In order to be able to make some sort of judgment of whether an olive oil is fresh enough to eat, you need to know what a bad one tastes like.
So you can start by comparing different olive oils or a tasting. It’s like any other food or wine; you may need to work out what you don’t like first to inform your preferences. We encourage everyone to taste oils of different ages from different regions. The more oils you taste, the more you will start to understand the various tasting notes and nuances of EVOO.
What you may be tasting
Fruity: Olives are fruit, so good olive oil will have some fruitiness. This means it should contain certain flavours and aromas, such as green apple, artichoke, or banana. The term "fruity" is also used to describe the aroma that's reminiscent of the olive fruit itself. In great olive oil (like our Smooth EVOO), fruitiness is in balance with other positive attributes, like buttery, peppery, and grassy. Olive oil should taste fresh, not heavy or oily.
Bitter: Have you ever tasted a fresh olive straight off the tree? You would have been hit with a bitter taste. Bitterness is an elemental characteristic of fresh olive oil. The degree of bitterness depends on how ripe the olive is. Bitterness at the back of your tongue is a sign that what you are tasting is indeed an extra virgin olive oil. Depending on your taste, however, you may want to find an olive oil that has a balance of fruitiness and bitterness that you can tolerate. Our Punchy EVOO is a great example of an oil that hits the sweet spot of bitter and balance.
Pungent: This is a peppery characteristic that you will feel at the back of your throat when you swallow the oil. It can be cough inducing and also signifies the presence of certain antioxidants. This peppery sensation should fade, not linger.
Extra virgin olive oil should not display any of the following flavours (if it does, we recommend running for the hills).
Fusty: This taste appears when the olives sit for a long period of time and start fermenting. Fusty smells like or tastes like sweaty socks or swampy vegetation.
Musty: A mouldy flavour that appears when the olives are kept in a humid environment and have developed yeast and fungi (yuck!).
Winey-Vinegary: Exactly as it is described, your olive oil should not taste or smell like wine. Again, this is due to the fermentation of the olives.
Metallic: A taste that reminds of metal. Usually it is a result of prolonged contact with metallic surfaces during production (but can also be during storage).
Rancid: This is the most common defect; it is basically olive oil that is no longer fresh and has gone bad. You might have noticed this flavour before with old nuts. It may have a nasty sour taste, along with an aroma that is not quite fresh and smells "off."