Tasting Notes

Olive Oil Tasting Terms

The International Olive Council (IOC) has developed a system for the objective organoleptic (tasting) assessment of olive oil in order to determine an oil’s quality and commercial trade value. This assessment method is based on panels of trained tasters recognizing the absence and/or presence of specific positive and negative (defective) attributes.

While the IOC assessment offers an objective method to determine if an oil has defective flavors or not, this method does not allow for descriptions of flavors because descriptive language is subjective. They offer the following terms to help guide you through your own tasting experiences.

Desirable
Apple/Green Apple indicative of certain olive varietals
Almond nutty (fresh not oxidized)
Artichoke green flavour
Astringent puckering sensation in mouth created by tannins; often associated with bitter, robust oils
Banana ripe and unripe banana fruit
Bitter considered a positive attribute because it is indicative of fresh olive fruit
Buttery creamy, smooth sensation on palate
Eucalyptus aroma of specific olive varietals
Floral perfume/aroma of flowers
Forest fresh aroma reminiscent of forest floor, NOT dirty
Fresh good aroma, fruity, not oxidixed
Fruity refers to the aroma of fresh olive fruit, which is perceived through the nostrils and retro-nasally when the oil is in one’s mouth.
Grass the aroma of fresh-cut (mowed) grass
Green/Greenly aroma/flavor of unripe olives
Green Tea characteristic of some unripe olive varieties
Harmonious balance among the oil’s characteristics with none overpowering the others
Hay/Straw dried grass flavor
Herbaceous unripe olive fruit reminiscent of fresh green herbs
Melon indicative of certain olive varietals
Mint indicative of certain olive varietals
Pear indicative of certain olive varietals
Peach indicative of certain olive varietals
Peppery stinging sensation in the throat which can force a cough (see pungent)
Pungent stinging sensation in the throat which can force a cough (see peppery)
Ripely aroma/flavor of ripe olive fruit
Round/Rotund a balanced, mouth-filling sensation of harmonious flavors
Spice aroma/flavor of seasonings such as cinnamon, allspice (but not herbs or pepper)
Sweet characteristic of mild oils
Tomato/Tomato Leaf indicative of certain olive varietals
Tropical indicative of ripe olive fruit with nuances of melon, mango, and coconut
Walnut/Walnut Shell nutty (fresh not oxidized)
Wheatgrass strong flavor of some green olive fruit
Woody indicative of olive varietals with large pits
Undesirable
Acetone aroma of nail polish remover, associated with winey defect
Blue Cheese aroma associated with muddy sediment defect
Artichoke green flavour
Brine puckering sensation in mouth created by tannins; often associated with bitter, robust oils
Bacon smoky essence that may indicate oxidation
Burnt/Heated caused by processing at too high a temperature
Cucumber off flavor from prolonged storage, particularly in tin
Dirty oils which have absorbed unpleasant odors and flavors of dirty waste water during milling
Dreggish odor of warm lubricating oil caused by the poor execution of the decanting process
Esparto refers to straw-like material in mats occasionally used in older mills that may create a hemp-like flavor in oil
Fiscolo refers to coconut fibers in mats occasionally used in older mills that may create a hemp-like flavor in oil
Flat/Bland oils which have no positive or negative aroma or flavor characteristic of olive oil; may indicate presence of refined olive oil
Frozen/Wet Wood sweet, dry, and untypical aroma/flavor derived from olives which have been exposed to freezing temperatures
Fusty naerobic fermentation that occurs when olives are stored in piles too long before milling
Greasy flavor of diesel or gasoline caused by equipment problems
Grubby flavor imparted to oil by olive fly damage to olives
Hay-wood flavor of dried olives
Muddy Sediment barnyard-like aroma caused by olives’ prolonged contact with dirt before or after milling
Musty moldy, humid flavor created by wet olives that have been stored too long before pressing
Metallic oils that have had prolonged contact with reactive metal surfaces either during processing or storage
Rancid the flavor of oxidation that occurs as the oil ages, often described as “stale nuts”
Rough pasty, thick, greasy mouth feel
Sour Milk aroma associated with muddy sediment defect
Stale Nuts flavor of oxidized oils, rancidity
Unbalanced oils with overwhelming flavors of bitterness and pungency
Vegetable Water oils that have been stored in contact with the water content of the olive after processing
Winey sour/vinegary flavor caused by aerobic fermentation of olives during processing (see vinegary).
Vinegary sour/vinegary flavor caused by aerobic fermentation of olives during processing (see winey).
Yeasty aroma of bread dough; associated with winey defect

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