How to taste olive oil?
From gentle aroma to tingly throat
To determine which bottle of extra virgin olive oil suits you best, taste it according to a sensory analysis. In addition to the basics in smelling, tasting and describing the flavors, we provide some practical guidelines. Before you know it, you’ll be organizing your own tasting with the goal of finding the best extra virgin olive oil.
The recommended time to taste extra virgin olive oil is between 10:00 and 12:00. This is because around this time your mouth is drier: afterwards your mouth produces more saliva which significantly reduces the precision of your sense of taste. As with tasting other foods or beverages, you haven’t eaten or smoked anything for an hour beforehand.
Be careful not to bring additional scents or temperature differences into the tasting. Avoid using perfumes, aftershaves, cosmetics or strong soaps. You prefer to taste each extra virgin olive oil at a constant temperature of 28°C.
Choose as many tapered wine glasses per person as there are extra virgin olive oils to taste. That narrowing edge will ensure that your aromas are better preserved, thus simplifying not only the smelling but also the actual tasting. Professionals or olive oil sommeliers choose a dark-colored glass so as not to be influenced by the color or brightness of the oil.
2. The trial run
In terms of tasting, we follow the standard set by Nancy Ash, the famous American olive oil sommelier. For each extra virgin olive oil, pour a tablespoon of oil into a glass. Cover the top of the glass with one hand to prevent volatiles from evaporating or other elements from ending up in your glass. Roll the glass with the other hand to warm and aerate the oil. This releases the aroma molecules of the particular oil. Then remove your hand and immediately apply the oil to your nose. Inhale deeply at the rim of your glass and note the intensity of the oil. Slurp up a small amount while also “sipping” some air. This air helps the oil to spread through the mouth giving you the chance to perceive every flavor nuance using just a small sip. Record your precise impressions in tasting notes and note the bitterness. Swallow the amount of oil and note the presence or absence of a stinging sensation in your throat. At this fourth step, you can assess the sharpness of extra virgin olive oil. As a general rule, good oil will make your throat itch or even make you cough. To clear your palette between tasting the different oils, eat pieces of apple or drink water. This way you avoid the tasting of one oil influencing the next tasting.
3. The sensory odor analysis.
Our olfactory system recognizes and classifies volatiles released from hundreds of thousands of molecules. To perceive the variety in aromatic sensations, it is important to smell without a stuffy nose. In fact, our human ability to taste is quite limited; the receptors on our tongue can only distinguish sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami. All other taste information is detected through the back of our nostrils (retro-nasal). Do you find the smell pleasant or not? Would you describe the aroma as mild, medium or strong? Next, begin a more concrete description of the scent. Exactly what aromas do you recognize? Casa Astrid’s extra virgin olive oil leans heavily toward grass, banana and green almond in the nose, for example.
- Mature / natural
- Olive Leaf
- Tomato Leaf
- Fig Tree
4. The sensory taste analysis
Registering taste is done with the oral cavity. On our tongue are the taste receptors. Sweet tastes are detected on the tip of the tongue, sour ones on the side of the tongue (posterior part), salty tastes are also detected laterally on the tongue (anterior part) and bitter tastes are detected on the back of the tongue. Umami flavors – the savory flavors you find in products like mushrooms, soy or chicken – are more likely to float between the tongue and the palate. The throat is also sensitive to flavors. In the case of extra virgin olive oil, you speak of a prickle in the throat. Note whether your oil is light and volatile, or heavy and mouth-filling. Do the flavors linger in your mouth or is the aftertaste short? Does the oil seem well balanced to you or is it so bitter that your mouth contracts? Also link your findings back to those of the aromas. Is the intensity of the bitterness balanced with the intensity of the aroma? What flavors do you recognize like that?
5. The flavor description.
In addition to being able to record your findings, it is also important to express yourself accurately about your sensory analysis in both positive (3) and negative (5) terms, as described below.
- FRUITY (retronasal) First, evaluate the fruit aroma (fruitiness) by inhaling from the rim of the glass. A fruit aroma is observed by default when tasting. With this, as a taster, you make the difference between fresh green or ripe fruit. Young oil is predominantly made from unripe (green) olives that taste grassy or in which you recognize artichoke and tomato leaf, while more mature olives tend to yield softer flavors often described as buttery, floral or tropical.
- BITTER (tongue) When the oil is in the mouth, further evaluate the aroma retro-nasally and determine the amount of bitterness on our tongue. The bitterness in extra virgin olive oil is caused by the natural antioxidants in fresh oil. When an oil does not taste bitter, it is more likely to turn out sweet.
- SHARP (throat) Finally, assess the intensity of the sharpness of the oil in your throat as you swallow it. Whether an oil is sharp, you can taste in the mouth and in the throat. Yet sharpness is more of a tactile sensation or biting punch caused by phenols when swallowing extra virgin olive oil than an actual taste.
For each oil, we recommend assessing these parameters separately but also paying attention to the balance between them: an extra virgin olive oil with a strong aroma without bitterness or sharpness cannot possibly be a perfect or balanced oil.
- INSUFFICIENT You talk about an impure oil when it has a boggy or barnyard smell. These aromas are caused by olives that are stacked for a long time before being processed.
- MUFFIG Musty refers to a moldy taste sensation and is usually the result of wet olives that mold before they are pressed.
- VINEUS You speak of vinous when your extra virgin olive oil produces a sour or vinegary odor and taste.
- NATURAL WOOD Your extra virgin olive oil tastes like wet wood when the olives on the tree were affected by frost or the olive fly.
- RANZIG Rancidity refers to the breakdown of fat molecules in extra virgin olive oil. As each oil ages, it oxidizes and can smell rancid like pencil or paint thinner. You can slow down the natural oxidation process by storing the oil in a cool, dry, dark place.
Contact Casa Astrid for a tasting and thus get to know the secret of extra virgin olive oil.