How to taste olive oil?

Step 1. POUR

What to do: Take a small wine glass or tasting cup and pour in between 30ml to 50ml of oil.  The more oil that is poured, the more the aroma is released.

Looking for: Technically colour doesn't matter.  However, if it does matter to you, hold it up to the light and take a good look!  Professional tasters use coloured cups so they can't see the colour of the oil.  In that way personal bias doesn't affect the result.

Positives: Colour can be anywhere between green (more chlorophyll in it) and gold (more carotene in it), however the real test of quality is in the oils taste.

Negatives: Personal preferences rule here.

Step 2. WARM and SWIRL

What to do: Cup the glass in your hand and swirl vigorously.  The taste characters of Extra Virgin Olive Oil come from just 1 per cent of the compounds in the oil and swirling and heating vaporises them.  This frees them up for you to inhale.

Looking for: Get the temperature up so that the oil doesn't feel cold in your hand

Step 3. SNIFF

What to do: Bury your nose deep into the glass and inhale.  The vapours need to get right into the upper palette. I often close my eyes to focus my senses on the aroma.

Looking for: Take in the aroma. How strong is the fruity smell?  What can you smell?  Are there any faults?

Positives: There must be at least some fruity aroma detected. This can take many different forms but the oil shouldn't lack a fruity aroma. Common descriptions include grass, herbs, olive fruit etc.
Negatives: Most faults are initially detected by smelling the oil. 

Step 4. SIP, WASH and SUCK

What to do: Sip the oil into your mouth. Wash it around into the deepest recesses and all over the palette. Make sure some gets onto the upper throat. Grit your teeth and suck air in through them. This further evaporates the volatile compounds in the oil so you can taste them.
Looking for: Are there faults? How fresh is the oil. What is its texture like? What does it taste of? Is there any bitterness or pepper? The best oils have a balanced taste and aroma. This means that there is harmony without any one factor dominating the oil.

Positives: There should be fruity tastes of one type or another. The oil should taste "fresh" rather than greasy. Complex oils are those exhibiting more than one flavour characteristic.  Combinations of fruit often lead to a complex taste.

Negatives: Are there any faults? Rancidity is the most common and can be likened to the taste of peanuts or stale almonds. No one factor should dominate the oil. If flavours are masked by an overpowering bitterness or pungency or there are no flavours then the oil would not be considered as premium.


What to do: You can either spit out or swallow the oil. I like to swallow just a bit of the oil to ensure some gets into my throat. This is usually the best place to detect peppery characters.

Looking for: Is there any peppery bite when the oil reaches the throat?


What to do: To cleanse your palette take a bite of a fresh apple. A mouthful of sparkling mineral water will also help.

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