Thursday 26 April 2012

Olive Oil Tasting Challenge

I love all the different blogger challenges that we get picked to take part in as they're always good fun and sometimes quite educational, like this one for learning about olive oil. I received two mystery olive oils to compare - oil A and oil B. I knew that one was a branded extra virgin, single variety olive oil and the other was a market-leading branded pure and refined oil (non-extra virgin). Using the enclosed tasting notes, I had to try and work out which was which. Now, we always use olive oil here at The Madhouse so I had a pretty good idea of which was which just by looking at them. I have to admit that I still have no idea what the different terminology - virgin, extra virgin, cold pressed, first cold pressed, pure, refined ... - means though.

The first test was LOOK. The tasting notes say :
 "Decant the two oils into separate dishes. True extra virgin olive oil should have a green colour. When oil is exposed to the light, it can change in colour and quality, therefore storing the oil in a dark bottle stops this from occuring. Can you spot the difference between these two oils?"

Well, just look at the picture below. While I would have said  that the oil on the left is bright yellow rather than green, there is certainly no comparison with the totally clear, colourless oil on the right. I'd already put my money on oil A being the extra-virgin olive oil !

Next, SMELL :
"Smell each of the two oils. True extra olive oil should have a deep smell - rich with grassy notes and essentially, smelling of olives. Can you smell the difference between the two oils ?"
Again, there is no comparison. Oil A smells fruity and fragrant, reminding me of sun-drenched holidays in Turkey and Tunisia, while oil B doesn't smell of anything at all much.

And finally, TASTE :
"Dunk some bread or similar into each of the two oils. In our premium, extra virgin oil, you should notice green and ripe olive flavours in the mouth, with hints of other ripe fruit. There should be a broad grassy note, balancing perfectly with spicy nuances. On the finish, there should be a subtle sweetness."
Well, I found the taste of oil A to be slightly bitter (but not unpleasantly so), definitely fruity and - come to mention it - grassy. Oil B was insipid and bland and didn't make me think of anything at all.

There is absolutely no doubt about it in my mind - oil A is the extra virgin olive oil and oil B is the refined oil.

The tasting notes explain that the refined oil is created from a mix of different olive varieties and undergoes a harsh chemical extraction and refining process. High heat and strong chemicals are used to extract, de-gum, neutralise, deodorise and bleach the oil. The resulting denatured oil has virtually no smell or taste, and so a small amount of standard extra virgin is added to provide some minimal olive oil character. This 'refined", standard olive oil is on sale in UK supermarkets at virtually the same price as extra virgin.

The extra virgin olive oil is created using a single variety of olive so that it has a smooth, distinctive, high quality taste and an extremely low acidity, guaranteed to be less than 0.3% (against a maximum of 0.8% for all extra virgin olive oils). Surprisingly, both oils are on same for almost the same price.

All will be revealed once I've sent back my feedback so I'll come back in another blogpost to tell you if I was right (which I know I am !) and let you know what the mystery oil was. Watch this space !

Other reviews you may be interested in :


  1. quoting them
    "When oil is exposed to the light, it can change in colour and quality, therefore storing the oil in a dark bottle stops this from occuring"

    why did they send out your samples in clear bottles?

    always wondered why it was sold in pretty coloured bottles - and now I know - you learn something new every day

    1. Because it was just a temporary storage bottle that allowed you to see the colour for the purposes of the test - they did put this in the tasting notes ;-)

  2. This sounds like fun, I bet I couldn't taste the difference

  3. How did you get to sample these olive oils? It would be interesting to do something similar.

    1. It was a PR person for a new mystery olive oil brand who set up the tasting challange. I now know what that oil is and will be telling you more about it very soon :)

  4. ooh sounds like my kind of challenge, cant wait to hear more :)


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