Olive OilEach cultivar (variety) of olive has its own flavor and aroma characteristics, which can vary by region due to “terroir.” Photo of Greek olives and olive oil by Duygu Agar |SXC.




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KAREN HOCHMAN is Editorial Director of THE NIBBLE. She has a fondness for green and grassy olive oils.


November 2005
Last Updated March 2012

Product Reviews / Main Nibbles / Oils, Vinegars & Salad Dressings

The Flavors & Aromas of Olive Oil

Olive Oil Flavor & Aroma Chart

Part II


Desirable Flavors/Aromas OLIVE OIL FLAVORS & AROMAS
Almond Reminiscent of fresh almond or dried almond.
Apple Reminiscent of fresh apple.
Artichoke Reminiscent of fresh artichoke.
Astringent A  puckering sensation caused by tannins.
Banana Reminiscent of fresh banana.
Bitter A positive characteristic of oils usually obtained from green olives or olives turning color.
Fresh Good aroma of freshly pressed fruit; fruity, not oxidized.
Flavor and aroma of the mature, freshly pressed, olive resulting from picking the fruit at optimum maturity (all oils are fruity after pressing, but this dissipates after a few months; authentically fruity oil maintains the characteristic).
Ripe Fruity
Flavor of olive oil obtained from ripe olives, with a flat aroma and a sweet taste.
Green Fruity Another term for the bitter flavor of oil from green olives.
A green, grassy taste associated with green olives, or more mature olives crushed with leaves and twigs.
Descriptive of a young, fresh, fruity and slightly weedy oil. Green oil is often mixed with bitter oil, providing a spicy-bitter “cough” sensation at the back of the throat.
Green Leaf
A sensation obtained when a small quantity of fresh olive leaves are added to the press.
Harmonious All of the qualities of the oil blend/work well with each other.
Hay/Hay-like Reminiscent of hay (dried grass).
Herbal Having herb-like qualities.
Lemony Reminiscent of fresh lemon.
Mellon/Perfume The fragrance of a ripe melon (ethyl acetate).
Musky Reminiscent of musk. A trace characteristic. Musky, nutty, and woody, all trace characteristics, are desirable in moderation; they become undesirable when overwhelming.
Nutty Sometimes particular nuts can be associated, e.g. roasted hazelnut, almond. A trace characteristic.
Peppery A peppery bite in the back of the throat that can force a cough.
Pungent/Stringent A rough, burning or biting sensation at the back of the throat; stronger than peppery.
Rotund Descriptive of a filling oil with a pasty body and no aroma. It is always from mature olives. It is satisfying though without character.
Suave Characteristic of very mature olives, a pale gold in color. A very sweet aftertaste.
Sweet The opposite of bitter, stringent or pungent. Smooth and mellow.
Tomato/Green Tomato Reminiscent of a tomato or a green tomato plant.
Woody Notes of woodiness. A trace characteristic.
Undesirable Flavors/Aromas  
Bitter Listed above as a desirable characteristic in moderation, it becomes undesirable if overpowering. Characteristic of olives that are unripe and have little meat.
Briny Salty, made from brined olives.

A burnt taste resulting from excessive heating during processing.


Without smoothness or nuance.

Cucumber An off flavor that can develop if oil is kept in sealed bottles or tin cans for a prolonged period.
Dirty Oils that have absorbed the unpleasant odors and flavors of the vegetable water with which they remained in contact for too long after pressing.

Reminiscent of the odor of lubricating oil. Caused by the poor execution or omission of the decanting process.

Earthy Oil that has acquired a musty, humid odor because it has been pressed from unwashed, muddy olives.
Esparto Grass A hemp-like flavor acquired when olive paste has been spread on esparto mats. Flavors will vary depending on whether the mats are made of green or dried grass.
Discolor A defect caused by the use of filtering panels that are not perfectly cleaned; reminiscent of hemp.

Having no aroma or taste.

Frozen Olives that have been exposed to freezing temperatures. When cooked, the oil gives off very unpleasant odors.
Fusty An off flavor due to olives fermenting in piles while in storage, awaiting pressing.
Greasy A diesel, gasoline, or grease flavor.
Grubby A flavor imparted by grubs of the olive fly.
Hay-Wood Dried olive taste.
Heated See burnt.
Impersonal Having neither character nor personality. It is a trait common in all manipulated oils, and a serious defect for virgin oil.
Lampantino Denotes oil with defects that should be sent to a refinery where it can be made edible.

Metallic flavors acquired as a result of processing or storage with extended contact to metal surfaces.

Moldy or Old A quality of unhealthy or fermented olives due to excessive storage in warehouses.
Muddy Having too much sediment.
Musty A moldy flavor from being stored too long before pressing.
Olearic Fly or Olearic Worm Oil pressed from fruit infected by this insect: the flavor is both rotten and putrid.
Phenic Acid A flavor that develops in poorly kept, very old oils.
Poor Conservation Oil absorbs the odors and flavors of everything surrounding it, even if not in direct contact. A very common defect.
Rancid Old oils that have started to oxidize due to exposure to light or air.
Rough Pasty, thick greasy mouth feel.
Sour/Winey High acidic taste.
Vegetable Water An off flavor from storage in contact with the juice from the olive.
Warm A flavor that results from the fermentation of olives kept too long in bags.  If fruit is not crushed within hours of picking, the oil can become increasingly acidic and take on detrimental flavors and aromas.
Winey See sour.


Continue To Page  3: Olive Oil Flavor Chart

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