How do you taste olive oil?

Created on 7th Oct 2018

At Pomora we undertake olive oil tastings every week and are often asked various questions from the public on the characteristics of olive and what to look out for. Essentially, tasting olive oil uses a similar process to wine tasting, taking in the senses of smell, sight and taste.

We decided to provide our own mini-guide for how you taste olive oil:

To start your tasting of olive oil, start by selecting a high quality EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil). Note, all Pomora oils are Extra Virgin Olive Oils. See here for What is Extra Virgin Olive Oil?.

Pour a little olive oil, about 10ml, into a tasting beaker. Professional tasters use blue beakers deliberately to mask the colour of the oil as it is not predictive of taste.

Cup your beaker with one hand and cover the opening of the beaker with the other. The first hand gently warms the olive oil, releasing more of its flavours, and the second hand keeps those flavours in the beaker ready for you to nose or smell the olive oil.

Nosing the olive oil is your first experience of its flavour. The nose is an incredibly sensitive organ so take a really good sniff and pay close attention to all the aromas in your oil. Olive oils can contain a huge range of flavours from grassy, citrussy notes at one end of the scale through ripe tomatoes and artichokes in the mid range all the way to aubergines and melons at the other extreme.

Next we're going to taste the oil. Take your beaker up to your mouth and with a slurping action suck the oil in. The purpose of the slurping action is to take some air in with the olive oil which helps release more of the flavour. You want to take enough olive oil in to cover all your taste buds to get the full effect of the oil.

Your first taste of the olive oil will be via the taste buds at the front of your tongue. These taste the fruitiness or flavour of the oil. This is very similar but not identical to the aromas / flavours you experienced when nosing the oil. Pay particular attention to the differences - a good olive oil will exhibit complexity and depth. While the oil is still towards the front of your tongue, exhale through your nose in order to smell the oil "retro-nasally". The oil will be a little warmer now having been in your mouth and may reveal additional flavours. Again, compare the nasal experience to the taste experience.

As the olive oil moves further back across your tongue, it will encounter a set of taste buds to the back and sides of the tongue which are sensitive to bitterness. Bitterness is a prized characteristic of olive oil. The bitterness should add structure to the oil much as tannins add structure to a wine but should not dominate the oil. Different people have differential sensitivity to bitterness and this will dictate how robust an oil you will enjoy.

Finally, swallow the olive oil. As it goes into your throat you should experience a peppery sensation which is known as pungency. This comes from the polyphenols in the oil and is a sign of quality. If you're not used to tasting good olive oil, the first time you experience pungency can be a bit of a shock especially if the oil is robust.

If you are tasting more than one olive oil, clean your palate between oils with a small piece of Granny Smith apple and some water.

The extra virgin olive oils from our two award-winning growers have very different characteristics, as summarized below:


Carmelo's olive oil, from Sicily, is smooth and creamy and more front loaded:

Fruitiness: Full of flavour at the front of the mouth.

Bitterness: Very little bitterness at the back of the mouth.

Pungency: Small peppery kick at the end.

Carmelo's plain olive oils are perfect for salads and used for dipping.


Antonio's olive oil, from Campania, is light and fresh and more back loaded:

Fruitiness: Grassy flavours.

Bitterness: Medium bitterness at the back of the mouth.

Pungency: Large peppery kick at the end.

Antonio's plain olive oils are more Italian style, perfect for salads, pasta and meat dishes.