Tasting Olive Oil

Tasting Olive Oil

Our Head Miller Bob Singletary has conducted thousands of tastings throughout his career. Here are tips on properly tasting olive oil.

How do you taste olive oil? Remember the ‘four S’s’ (from Nancy Ash, Strictly Olive Oil)

Swirl

Begin by pouring the olive oil into a small glass; a colored, tapered glass similar to a wine glass is best. Cup the bottom of the glass in your hand to warm the oil; cover the top with your other hand and swirl gently to release the aromas.

Smell

Bring the glass to your nose and smell the oil. Take a note of the aromas. 

Slurp

Next, take a slurp. As you do so, touch your tongue to the back of your teeth and inhale. This spreads the oil in your mouth and helps release the flavors of the olive oil. You’ll make a funny noise, which is normal! 

Swallow

Finally, swallow the oil and take note of the flavors you experience.

We recommend tasting more robust oils last, similar to starting with white wines and moving to reds. Between oils, eat a slice of green apple to cleanse your palate.

Many people are surprised that color identification is not part of the tasting process. It is a myth that color influences oil quality; in fact, professional tasters use colored glasses to avoid a ‘color bias’.

What impacts the taste of olive oil? The following factors make a difference:

Olive type – just as different grapes make different wine, different olives make distinct types of olive oil.  The olives are also impacted by weather and soil conditions

Harvest timing – early harvest oils tend to have ‘grassier’ flavors, while late harvest tend to have ‘buttery’ notes
Time between harvest and milling – the shorter the gap between harvest and milling, the more likely the oil will have a fresh flavor

Storage conditions – exposure to heat, light, or oxygen will negatively impact olive oil taste

International Olive Oil Council Sensory Assessment Tasting Terms