OLIVE OIL TASTING: KNOW THE POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE TASTES IN OLIVE OIL
The following “Sensory Assessment Tasting Terms,” developed by the International Olive Council (IOC), help guide olive oil tasters in classifying and determining whether a virgin olive oil meets strict industry standards. When trying olive oils at home, consider the variety of flavors you can find in EVOO.
Positive Attributes in Virgin Olive Oils
- Fruity: Set of olfactory (sense of smell) sensations characteristic of fresh olive fruit, either ripe or unripe.
- Bitter: Characteristic of oil obtained from unripe (green) olives, this is perceived on the back of the tongue. Bitterness is an important part of the balance of flavors in oils.
- Pungent: Peppery sensation perceived at the back of the throat that is indicative of the oil’s freshness. Also a characteristic of pressing early season olives.
- Almond: Nutty flavor.
- Fresh: Good aroma, fruity.
- Grassy, green: A young, fresh, fruity oil; often mixed with bitter.
- Harmonious: All the qualities of the oil blend and work well with each other.
- Musky, nutty, woody: Trace characteristics that are very pleasing when not overpowering.
- Sweet: The opposite of bitter, astringent or pungent. Found in mellow oils.
- Others: Tomato, banana, berry, etc.
Negative Attributes or Defects
- Fusty/Muddy Sediment: Obtained from olives that were stored in piles prior to pressing, causing an advanced stage of anaerobic (without oxygen) fermentation or that has been left in contact with sediment in tanks and vats.
- Musty: Mouldy flavor in oils obtained when a large quantity of the olive fruit has developed fungi and yeast as a result of being stored in humid conditions. This defect is detected through the back of the nostrils after swallowing.
- Winey-Vinegary/Acid/Sour: Flavor that is reminiscent of wine or vinegar.
- Rancid: Flavor in oils that have undergone oxidation. As the most common defect; it can occur either before or after bottling, and if a bottle, either opened or unopened, has been exposed to light and heat.
- Metallic: Flavor that is reminiscent of metals. It is characteristic of oil that has been in prolonged contact with metallic surfaces during crushing, mixing, pressing or storage.
- Others: Heated or burnt, hay–wood, rough, greasy, brine, earthy, etc
Olive oil is sensory classified in the extra virgin (EVOO) category when it is fruity and free of defects.