Olive Oil Vocabulary

Descriptive Words Relating to the Aroma of an Oil

Fruity

Apple: flavor of olive oil is reminiscent of this fruit.
Banana: flavor of olive oil is reminiscent of this fruit.
Lemon: flavor of olive oil is reminiscent of its peel.
Melon: flavor of olive oil is reminiscent of very ripe melons.
Orange: flavor of olive oil is reminiscent of its peel.
Passion Fruit: flavor of olive oil is reminiscent of this fruit.
Pears: flavor of olive oil is reminiscent of cooked or fresh pears.
Tomato: flavor of olive oil is reminiscent of fresh tomato coulis or tomato skins.

Verdant

Earthy: can have unpleasant connotations but often used to convey the idea of a rustic oil.
Floral or Flowery: reminiscent of a bouquet of flowers.
Grass*: characteristic flavor of certain oils which is reminiscent of freshly mown grass.
Hay*: characteristic flavor of certain oils which is reminiscent of more or less dried grass.
Leafy: generally herbaceous.

Vegetal

Artichokes: flavor of olive oil is reminiscent of this vegetable.
Asparagus: flavor of olive oil is reminiscent of this vegetable.
Avocado: flavor of olive oil is reminiscent of avocados.
Mushroom: flavor of olive oil is reminiscent of this vegetable; providing this is not moving into very musty flavors it is usually acceptable.

Nutty

Almond*: this flavor may appear in two forms: that typical of the fresh almond or that peculiar to dried, sound almonds which can be confused with incipient rancidity. A distinctive taste is perceived as an after-taste when the oil remains in contact with the tongue and palate. Associated with sweet oils which have a flat odor.
Walnut*: flavor of olive oil is reminiscent of this nut.
Hazelnut: flavor of olive oil is reminiscent of this nut.
Nutty: flavor of olive oil is reminiscent of nuts.

Other Aromas, Including a Few Flights of Fancy!

Aniseed, Buttery, Car tires, Catty, Creamy, Dark chocolate, Dried flowers, Eggy, Petrol.

Words Sometimes Used to Describe the Overall Tasting Experience, Harmony and Balance

Aggressive: oils which have strong up-front flavors (punchy).
Delicate: oils which have light aromatic flavors.
Fragrant: similar to aromatic but perhaps more flowery.
Harmonious: oils which have good ratios of all organoleptic factors.
Mellow: oils which are soft and sweet.
Rich: oils which have a full rounded flavor.
Rounded: oils which are well balanced.
Rustic: oils which have hearty aromas and flavors.

Words Describing Off-Flavors Which May Find their Way into the Shop

Cucumber*: flavor produced when an oil is hermetically packed for too long, particularly in tin containers.
Fatty: refers to a greasy feeling in the mouth.
Flat or Smooth: flavor of oil whose organoleptic characteristics are very weak owing to the loss of their aromatic components.
Harsh*: characteristic sensation of certain oils which, when tasted, produce a mouthfeel reaction of astrigency.
Old*: characteristic flavor of oil that has been kept too long in storage containers. May also appear in oils which have been packed for excessively long periods.
Rancid*: characteristic flavor common to all oils and fats that have undergone a process of auto-oxidation caused by prolonged contact with air. This flavor is unpleasant and cannot be corrected.

Off-flavors Which Should Never Find their Way into the Shop

Brine*: flavor of oil extracted from olives which have been preservedin a saline solution.
Earthy*: characteristic of oil obtained from olives which have been collected with earth or mud on them and not washed. This flavor may sometimes be accompanied by a musty-humid flavor.
Esparto*: characteristic flavor of oil obtained from olives pressed in new esparto mats. The flavor may differ on whether or not the mats are made ofnew or dried esparto.
Fusty (Atrojado)*: characteristic flavor of oil obtained from olives tored in piles which have undergone an advanced stage of fermentation.
Greasy*: odour of oil extracted in a plant where residues of petroleum, grease or mineral oil have not been properly removed from the machinery.
Green leaves*: flavor of oil obtained from excessively green olives or olives that have been crushed with leaves or twigs.
Grubby*: characteristic flavor of oil obtained from olives which have been heavily attacked by the grubs of the olive fly.
Heated or Burnt*: characteristic flavor of oils caused by excessive and/or prolonged heating during processing, particularly when the paste is thermally mixed if this is done under unsuitable conditions.
Metallic*: flavor that is reminiscent of metal. Characteristic of oils which have been in prolonged contact under unsuitable conditions with foodstuffs or metallic surfaces during crushing, mixing, pressing or storage.
Muddy sediment*: characteristic flavor of oil recovered from the decanted sediment of vats and underground tanks.
Mustiness-Humidity*: characteristic flavor of oil obtained from fruit in which large numbers of fungi and yeast have developed, as a result of being stored in piles in humid conditions for several days.
Pomace*: characteristic flavor that is reminscent of the flavor of olive pomace.
Pressing mat*: flavor of oil obtained from olives that have been pressed in dirty pressing mats in which fermented residues have been left.
Rough*: characteristic perception in certain oils which, when tasted, produce a thick, pasty mouthfeel sensation.
Soapy*: flavor producing an olfactory gustatory sensation reminiscent of that produced by green soap.
Vegetable water*: characteristic flavor acquired by oil as a result of poor decantation and prolonged contact with vegetable water.
Winey-Vinegary*: characteristic flavor of certain oils reminiscent of wine and vinegar.

* = Words which are on the EC approved list together with their official definitions