How to Taste Olive Oil

by Dorothy Reinhold on April 27, 2011

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How to Taste Olive Oil

Robert Jaye owns Malibu Olive Company, a producer of super premium, extra virgin olive oil produced and bottled in California.

Peppery, pungent, fragrant and a gorgeous golden color, this oil is an elixir, good on everything from a drizzle on steak or fish, to dressing for a simple pasta or a scoop of premium ice cream. Yes, I said ice cream.

Our state has among the highest standards for the production and sale of extra virgin oil, and producers here routinely sell for $17-$25 what importers are charging $40-$50 for.  That’s half price, my friends, for a guaranteed higher quality product.

As our olive oil educator, let’s let Jaye him teach us how to properly taste olive oil. Much like the rituals of wine tasting, olive oil has its own protocol.

How to taste olive oil by

How to taste olive oil

The proper way to do it is without bread, since the yeast in bread will affect that taste of the oil. There is a very rigorous protocol for formally tasting olive oil, which includes no food, no coffee, no smoking and no wearing fragrances. Tasters have water and slices of green apple for cleansing the palate between tastes.

For a less formal, but still informed, tasting, Robert Jaye advises trying it like this:

  1. Warm the oil up a little bit.
  2. Smell it to get a sense of the aroma (artichoke, almond, citrus, apple, kiwi, grass, hay, green banana?).
  3. Slurp it into your mouth, taking in some air as you slurp.
  4. Hold it in your mouth for 5 seconds.
  5. Swallow.
  6. Look for a pleasing aroma, bitterness on the back of tongue and a peppery finish in your throat that might actually make you cough. One grower quipped, “Three coughs are a compliment.” The bitterness and pungency are the complex antioxidants that are the reason olive oil is so healthy, and an indication of freshness. The bitterness softens over time.


The flavor profile of olive oils ranges from 1 to 10, 1 being light, and 10 being most robust. Jaye acknowledges that, “A lot of people aren’t ready for the 10s, but once you begin tasting and using super premium California olive oils, you crave a more robust oil. You can definitely train yourself to want a robust oil.”

Malibu Olive Company olive oilExtra virgin signifies the highest standard. The oil must be from the first pressing, cold pressed (as opposed to extracted using heat or chemical solvents), must have an extremely low acidity (lab tested), must have appreciable levels of pepperiness, bitterness, and fruitiness and must be free of official taste defects, which can include “musty,” “fusty,” and “rancid.”

Jaye’s Malibu Olive Company makes two oils, both extra virgin – one a Mission blend of Manzanillo and Mission olives, and a more robust version with a bite called Romanelli Quattro, a blend of Ascolano, Leccino and Arbequina olives.

Either of them more than do justice to the following easy recipes:

1. Vanilla Ice Cream with Olive Oil and Sea Salt
2. Canellini Beans with Olive Oil, Garlic and Oregano
3. Spaghetti with Garlic, Olive Oil and Chili

Olive oil is a healthy pleasure to cook with.

Use the best, and you won’t be disappointed.

How to taste olive oil

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Paul November 14, 2011 at 5:56 am

As tempting as the bread may be, let it be…I used to taste with bread and wondered why I was never satisfied with my favorite in-store choice when I drizzled it on my salad when I got home…


Dorothy November 14, 2011 at 3:31 pm

Thanks for the wise advice!


Amanda-The Sweet Details June 19, 2011 at 3:08 pm

Hey! Just wanted to invite you over to share one of your wonderful recipes at my link party- Savory Sundays!! Have a great week!!


Tanya @ Greetings From the Asylum May 7, 2011 at 7:16 pm

This is some really great information. I visited a boutique olive oil farm near my home last year. I wish I had known this then!


Dorothy May 11, 2011 at 10:21 am

Tanya, it was a revelation to me when I actually tasted it properly, and felt that peppery bite at the back of my throat and the urge to cough. Amazing!


Kristina Vanni May 7, 2011 at 7:56 am

It was great to meet you (briefly!) at Camp Blogaway! I love your tips here for tasting olive oil. Is is just as dynamic and interesting as a wine tasting!


Dorothy May 11, 2011 at 3:20 pm

I totally agree…tasting olive oil is every bit as interesting as tasting wine. And you can drive afterwards… 🙂


Dorothy at Shockinglydelicious May 6, 2011 at 10:00 pm

This post is linked to Tidy Mom


Lamb May 4, 2011 at 7:43 pm

I’m sorry, but the idea of slurping warm olive oil just seems icky to me 😉

It was so very nice to meet you at camp! There were so many strangers (well, just about everyone, really) and it was a relief to see a familiar, friendly face. I don’t think I’m up for another year of camp, but you’ll definitely see more of me here on your blog!


Dorothy May 4, 2011 at 8:30 pm

You must expand your palate! Slightly warm, as in room temp (as opposed to cold), and you just take a teeny, tiny slurp into your mouth. Promise me you will try it with a high quality oil and a cheapo supermarket brand. Promise.


averagebetty May 2, 2011 at 6:14 pm

I would love to partake in a REAL olive oil tasting. I sure know “the good stuff” can make all the difference.

Great to meet you at Camp; t is wonderful to know you!


Dorothy May 3, 2011 at 6:17 pm

Betty (Sara),
Back atcha with the love! The good stuff is worth it, in my opinion. An affordable luxury.


The Sunday Dinner Revival April 28, 2011 at 8:27 am

Dorothy, this was fascinating! I participated in a tasting of about 25 olive oils a while back and although we discovered so much about the nuances of flavor, we had no idea WHY they varied so much, or that we should be cleansing our palates with apple– not bread (oops!). Thanks for the lesson!


Dorothy May 2, 2011 at 9:12 am

You are welcome! I found this fascinating, as well. Robert can talk for an hour about the flavors, and it’s all interesting!


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