Taste and Tactile Qualities
The principal taste and tactile characteristics of a good EVOO are:
Bitterness. Typical flavor present in oils produced from olives that are still green. The level of intensity of bitterness in an EVOO can vary and render the oil more or less enjoyable to taste; however it remains a factor of quality as it represents the wealth of polyphenols (antioxidant components) in the product.
Spiciness. Pinching sensation on the inside of the mouth and throat that can vary in intensity. Spiciness derives from the use of very green olives in the production of the EVOO. There are some cultivars in which a high intensity of spiciness can be found more frequently (for instance Coratina). It also confirms the high quantity of antioxidants present, and is an indication of quality.
Astringency. Sensation between intense dryness and bitterness. Astringency tends to fill the mouth and is perceived principally on the tongue and palate.
Sweetness. This sweet note is due to the lack of the above-mentioned characteristics, bitterness, spiciness and astringency. The flavor is constant and dense, which results in a balanced taste. Sweetness is due to the use of very mature olives and is more frequent in EVOOs produced with certain cultivars (for example, Taggiasca and Grignan).
The most typical aroma of olives is that of fruitiness (which reflects the fruitiness of the olive itself). An EVOO taster must determine the intensity of fruitiness in the oil, and if it recalls green fruit or mature fruit.
Aside from the characteristic of fruitiness in EVOO, there is a multitude of positive aromas and sensations that can be perceived. The International Olive Council (IOC) lists them as follows: ripe olive, unripe olive, chamomile, grass, herbs, eucalyptus, flowers, fig leaf, olive leaf, tomato leaf, citrus, exotic fruit, berries, apple, pear, artichoke, green pepper, bell pepper, almond, walnut, pine nut and vanilla.
Aromas can be perceived both by directly smelling the product and by ingesting the product, by way of retronasal perception.
Click here to discover how to train your sense of smell with Extra Virgin Olive Oil Aromas.