how to taste olive oil

STAGE ONE: THE SWIRL

Begin by pouring a tablespoon of olive oil into your tasting glass. Cup the bottom of the glass in your hand to warm the oil and cover the top with your other hand or clock glass. Gently swirl the glass to increase the surface area of oil coating the glass. This will maximise the amount of aroma released as the oil warms.

STAGE TWO: THE SNIFF

Bring the glass to your nose and smell the oil. This first aromatic impression is very important for forming an opinion about the oil. 

Cover the glass again and in slow circular motion, continue to coat the sides of the glass with oil to release more aromatic particles. The second time you smell the oil, the inhalation should be long and slow to fully appreciate the subtle tones. You should take note of the intensity and be able to describe the aroma. 

If you are still unclear after the second attempt, rest for a few minutes before attempting again. Breathing fresh air to clear your senses or using other odours as a distraction can help; for example, smelling coffee or pepper.

STAGE THREE: THE SLURP

Next, take a small sip (approx. 1 teaspoon) of the oil while also “sipping” some air. This slurping action emulsifies the oil and helps ensure it reaches the entire surface of the tongue to the throat. When tasting oil, it is important to ensure there is a sufficient quantity of oil at the back of the throat as this is where the main bitterness and spike receptors are. 

The longer the oil remains in your mouth, the more saliva will be produced and this will dilute the taste of the oil. Therefore you should aim to evaluate the oil based on the immediate taste sensations.

When tasting, breathe in through the mouth and exhale through the nose. This will allow you to take note of the retro-nasal aroma as well as the intensity of bitterness. 

STAGE FOUR: THE SWALLOW

Finally, swallow the oil and take note of the flavours you experience. The oils pungency is judged by a peppery sensation in your throat so you must swallow at least a small amount to be able to evaluate it. 

NB: When tasting a series of oils, you should clean your palate between each tasting with a bite of green apple or white bread and rinse your mouth with room temperature water.

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