Olive Oil Tasting Tips

Olive Cooking Tips
Great Olive Oil Cooking Tips
August 18, 2018
Olives LeMoyne
Long Live the Olive
October 16, 2018

The Joys of Olive Oil Tasting

On a warm summer night we walked into the olive oil taproom excited to sip, swirl and taste. The walls were lined with beautiful bottles full of the silky smooth liquid ready to taste and enjoy.   Our hostess welcomed us with open arms and gave us a quick tutorial on how to best enjoy the fruity liquid and invited us to taste Tastealotta’s olive olis.

We took advantage of the invitation and immediately started in on the closest olive oil.  The little cups provided were much smaller than I expected but did the job perfectly.  Carefully our hostess decanted the golden liquid into our small tasting cups and followed our hosts’ instructions gently swirling it around the cup and warming it slightly from the heat of our hands.

Next, sticking our noses into the glass we took a good whiff of the “nose” and inhaled the aromas of the beautiful ripe fruit.  We both identified a tropical fruit smell as well as fresh cut grass.   All we had to do now was to tip the glass up to our mouths and take a sip and enjoy.  The taste was peppery and pungent, fruity and bitter all at the same time.  Doesn’t that sound like a good bottle of wine?   You are right! But we are talking about olive oil tasting.

Olive oil tasting is similar to a wine tasting — both wine and olive oil are liquids obtained by pressing fresh fruit, yes, olives are a fruit.

There are so many choices when selecting olive oils. You don’t have to be an expert to pull it off, either! Use these guidelines to get you started.
Olive Oil Cumberland County


Olive Oil Tasting Tips   

  • Pour a small amount of oil (about 1 tablespoon) into a small wine glass.
  • Hold the glass in one hand and use your other hand to cover the glass while swirling the oil to release its aroma.
  • Uncover the glass and inhale deeply from the top of the glass (stick your nose in the glass).
  • Next you slurp the oil; this is done by sipping a small amount of oil into your mouth while “sipping” some air as well.. Closing your mouth and breathe out through your nose (this is important). This is “retronasal” perception will give you a whole bunch of flavor notes.   This is possible because your mouth connects to your nose in the back.
  • Now swallow some, or all of the oil enjoying the good characteristics of the fruit.


Hint: Keep some apples and water nearby when tasting. The traditional palate cleanser between olive oils, is water, plain or sparkling, and slices of Granny Smith apple.


Good Characteristics of Olive Oil

Olives are fruit so a good olive oil needs to have some degree of fruitiness. This can come from ripe olives or unripe (green) olives. Olive oil should taste fresh, not heavy and “oily”. The fruity characteristics you may notice in your mouth may include nutty or buttery.


Yes, bitter is good. Bitterness is a characteristic of fresh olive oil and is an acquired taste. The degree of bitterness depends on how ripe the olive is. So a bitter olive oil is a positive thing. However, depending on your taste you may want to find an olive oil that has a balance of fruity and bitter that you can tolerate.


Pungency is a peppery sensation, detected in the throat. Pungency is a positive characteristic of olive oil.  It is a chemical irritation that can be very mild—just the tiniest tingle—or it can be intense enough to make you cough. Many people think this is bad but it is not, it is actually of olive oil from unripe olives and of fresh olive oil. Note this peppery sensation should go away fairly quickly, it should not linger.

Olive Oil Cumberland County


Poor Characteristics of Olive Oil

This is common defect that appears when the olives are gathered in piles and may cause advanced fermentation. Fusty has been compared to sweaty socks or swampy vegetation.


Basically a moldy flavor that appears when the olives were stored for several days in a humid environment and developed yeast and fungi.


Exactly as it is described, no your olive oil should not taste or smell like wine.


A taste that reminds of metal. Usually it is a result of prolonged contact with metallic surface during production but also storage.


This is the most common defect, it is basically olive oil gone bad and you may have come across this taste when you eat old nuts or stale crackers that are made with fat.

Once you have tasted different olive oils the next step is to pair it with foods. This is where olive oil comes to life! Just like wine pairing, some wines are best enjoyed with a hearty pasta and red meat entrée while others accompany fresh fish. Olive oil is the same – an olive oil that tastes pungent and bitter alone may pair beautifully with spicy dishes or grilled meats and roasts.


When tasting ask yourself these questions:

Does one flavor overwhelm the other?

  • Is the aroma pleasant or unpleasant?
  • Is the aroma mild, strong, or somewhere in the middle
  • Is the oil bitter? Would you describe the bitterness as mild, medium or strong? Is the intensity of the bitterness in balance with the intensity of the aroma?
  • When you swallow the oil, how does it feel in your throat? Did the oil leave a mild impression, or did it sting your throat or make you cough? Is the intensity of the oil’s pungency in balance with the oil’s aroma and bitterness?

You don’t need to be a pro to enjoy sampling olive oils at Tastealotta.  Pick up a couple different oils and invite a group of friends over. Add some red and white wines, bread and cheese and you have a party with a purpose.