Flavours in olive oil are determined by a wide range of factors including the type of olive (varietal), ripeness at harvest, growing conditions (climate, soil type), crop maintenance (irrigation, pest control), handling of fruit from tree to mill, and the milling process itself. For example, oil made from predominantly unripe (green) olives contain flavors described as grassy, artichoke, or tomato leaf, whereas riper olives tend to yield softer flavors often described as buttery, floral, or tropical.
When tasting olive oil, much of the oil’s characteristics are perceived through the sense of smell. Though most people enjoy olive oil with other foods, the following steps allow us to focus on the olive oil’s flavor without distraction:
Pour a small amount of oil (about 1 tablespoon) into a small tapered (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. Think about whether the aroma is mild or strong. You may want to write down descriptions of the aromas that you detect at this point.
Next you slurp the oil; this is done by sipping a small amount of oil into your mouth while “sipping” some air as well. (When done correctly, you will make that impolite noise that would cause you to be scolded when you were a child!) Slurping emulsifies the oil with air that helps to spread it throughout your mouth – giving you the chance to savor every nuance of flavor with just a small sip of oil.
Finish by swallowing the oil and noticing if it leaves a stinging sensation in your throat.
When tasting more than one olive oil at a time, cleanse your palette by eating a small piece of tart, green apple and then rinsing your mouth with water.