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Arsenio Science: Train your Palate

Taste preferences are formed by habit and habits condition our expectations. Visitors to Italy are often astounded when they try a fresh Extra Virgin Olive Oil for the first time. Up till then they may have thought that olive oil should taste like butter or that it is relatively tasteless. Their palate has been shaped by constant exposure to poor quality oils.

If you have tried our monocultivar or either of the two blends, you will know first-hand that EVOO is incredibly rich with depth, nuance and flavor. The effects of terroir, the cultivar characteristics and the variations in weather conditions from harvest to harvest makes EVOO no less complex than fine wine.

As in so many things, education – and exposure to the good stuff – is key. Here are some suggestions to improve your olive oil experience and to clear out your pantry of anything less than the best.

  • To assess quality, taste your olive oil straight. Pour some in a spoon and really take a minute to think about the flavors and taste. If it tastes like absolutely nothing or of plastic, it needs to go. Avoid flavors such as moldy, cooked, greasy, meaty, metallic and cardboard. If it tastes fresh, green, and has a peppery finish, it can stay.

  • Only buy oils labeled Extra Virgin, other categories e.g. "pure" or "light" oil, "olive oil" and "olive pomace oil" have undergone chemical refinement.

  • Olive oil is a freshly squeezed juice and is perishable. The taste of the oil begins to deteriorate quickly, as soon as the olives are milled. There should be a best by, or bottled date. These are all guarantees of provenance.

  • Watch the wording: EVOO has to be first-press by default. Cold-press can also be misleading since most oils are made with centrifuges, not presses these days.

  • Don't worry about color. Good oils come in all shades, from green to gold to pale straw and changes occur in the bottle over time.

  • Don’t buy in bulk or in large containers but buy smaller quantities that you can consume quickly.

  • Buy straight from the purveyors and avoid middlemen.

  • Consider packaging; dark bottles protect the oil from the effects of light.

  • Most importantly, remember that if it looks too good to be true, it probably is! Making high quality extra virgin olive oil is an expensive venture – unfortunately that’s why it pays to cheat.

Here at Arsenio we take our integrity very seriously. It is hurtful to our entire industry when bad players damage the reputation of the industry and jeopardize the image of such a vital and health-giving ingredient. When you buy direct from us, you can rest assured that you are purchasing precisely what it says on our label and that every possible care has been taken from the tree to the bottle.

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