Which olive oil tastes the most olive-like?
January 15, 2013 10:11 PM   Subscribe

I want to buy olive oil that actually tastes like it came from olives. Which specific brand(s) would you recommend?

Bonus points for anything I can order online or buy locally here in NYC.

posted by 168 to Food & Drink (20 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
A good brand of extra virgin olive oil is the Whole Foods 365 California oil. Has a nice vegetal, herbal taste to it and as far as extra virgin olive oils go, it doesn't break the bank (~13$ for 750 mL, I think).
posted by scalespace at 10:18 PM on January 15, 2013

This stuff is the best-tasting olive oil I've bought (and tastes like olives), reasonably priced (just a little north of $10 for 750 ml), and available in many "normal" grocery stores in NYC.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:18 PM on January 15, 2013

You might want to check out Consumer Reports olive oil test results.
posted by Dansaman at 10:30 PM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

The Splendid Table just talked about this. Most relevant quote -

The two that I know I can recommend that are widely distributed in America: Corto Olive and California Olive Ranch. I've seen Corto Olive at Costco at 2 liters for $15.
posted by Garm at 10:31 PM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I picked up two large bottles of the aforementioned California Olive Ranch for - $15, I think? - at a Costco in the midwest. (Ironically, I dislike the taste because it's TOO olive-like - I guess I'm a fan of subpar and/or grapeseed oil masquerading as extra virgin olive oil!)

In other words, you might want to look at your local Costco for both of the recommended options here!
posted by artemisia at 10:40 PM on January 15, 2013

This AskMe thread was illuminating for me.
posted by victory_laser at 10:43 PM on January 15, 2013

I'm a fan on Frantoia but its pricey.
posted by turniphead at 11:18 PM on January 15, 2013

I have tasted raw olives, which I do not recommend, because they will hurt your mouth. But I did get a taste of exactly what "olivey" tastes like.

You can find Lucini first cold press extra virgin olive oil at major grocery stores, and it's not too extremely pricey, and it tastes quite a bit like olives.
posted by univac at 11:35 PM on January 15, 2013

I love Oil & Vinegar's olive oils. I buy the Sicilian type by the litre.
posted by neushoorn at 11:59 PM on January 15, 2013

this is a little more expensive but it's worth it. best i've ever had and my family in europe has an olive orchard and an oil press!
posted by zdravo at 5:22 AM on January 16, 2013

You can order incredible olive oil from Frankies Spuntino.
posted by entropone at 7:18 AM on January 16, 2013

I've been to a couple of stores that sell specifically just olive oil and vinegar, and every variety has a little tap where you can pour yourself a sample. If you want to compare lots of different olive oils to find out which has that exact taste you're going for, this is an easy way to try a lot of premium oils for free (though a bottle in one of these shops will probably cost $10-$20+, so your mileage on this will depend on how important it is to you to find an exact taste). A quick Google search points me to O Live Brooklyn in Williamsburg and The Filling Station in Chelsea.
posted by jessypie at 7:19 AM on January 16, 2013

On the cheaper side (under $10 on sale for a litre), I've had good luck with Gallo brand, but I don't know if it's available NYC. I think this was an import.
posted by jb at 8:20 AM on January 16, 2013

Note: Gallo won't be as nice as the very nice olive oils. I was just thinking that if you were looking for a cheaper but still nice one, it would do.
posted by jb at 8:21 AM on January 16, 2013

Since you're in NYC, you should head to Fairway and check out their private label, Barrel Imported Oils. The Gata-Hurdes and Catalan Arbequina are precisely what you're describing.

Best of all, you can taste the oils before you buy them if you go into one of the shops. But you absolutely won't be disappointed. I use both of the oils I mentioned above for sauces, dressings, and finishing foods. I also use the California Olive Ranch oil, but only for cooking.
posted by yellowcandy at 12:11 PM on January 16, 2013

I had a sample of Far North New Zealand olive oil at the grocery store and oh my lord but it was delicious and olive-y.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:13 PM on January 16, 2013

The taste of olive oil depends first and foremost on the olive varietal, and then on how fresh it is after harvest and production method.

And so, olive oil - like wine - is an acquired taste. Many - most - people are used to really bad, fake, adulterated, old and rancid oil, because that's what they've been exposed to, and so tend to associate olive oil with that taste and then search for that taste; I have frequently had the experience of going socially to an Italian restaurant, and having people praise the rancid awful olive oil put out in little dishes for dipping with bread, simply because that's all they know.

Olive oil has a different profile of fatty acid composition and polyphenol count depending on the varietal of olive. Many Extra Virgin Olive Oils (EVOO) are blends of many different oils from different olive varietals.

The most recent research associates many of the health benefits of OO with the amount of oleic acid and the polyphenol count of the oil. The higher the polyphenol count, the better.

Many olive varietals are naturally low in polyphenols, but some are high or very high (there are tables showing the various amounts by varietal).

High polyphenol count EVOO can be very - VERY - harsh, peppery, so harsh that you'll cough when swallowing, and feel a burning sensation in the back of your throat. Very fresh EVOO can also have an extremely grassy taste. And that leads us to the question: is this what you are bargaining for when asking for "the most olive-like"? Perhaps you actually won't like or enjoy the real taste of high-polyphenol EVOO. In that case, you may want to buy low-polyphenol EVOO from low polyphenol olive varietals - it *might* (case unsettled!) be medically less beneficial, but more tasty to your taste buds and acquired taste; personally, I like the high poly taste, but tastes differ; try both and see what you think.

The fresher the EVOO, the better - buy immediately after harvest, and keep in low temperature away from light and oxygen.

Here is a complication - even with the same varietal of olive, from the same ranch/farm, using the same production method, one harvest the polyphenol count may be fairly dramatically different from another. What this means, is that varietals are merely a rule of thumb, and there is quite a bit of variability.

There is no way to know the chemical profile of an EVOO without testing. But it's not practical for a private person - unless an eccentric millionaire - to test the EVOO. So initially I solved the problem by doing group buys of EVOO and we (a group of EVOO fanatics) had it tested at an independent lab, thus spreading the cost to something manageable. When you have lab results in hand, there is no chance of fakery, adulteration etc., and most importantly, you know exactly what you are getting as far as the fatty acid profile and polyphenol count. The downside is that you have to repeat the test for every batch and every harvest. It gets expensive if you have to do it for many oils. Therefore, I've developed a different solution: finding a supplier who does the same testing in the course of conducting their business, thus sparing me the cost. Of course, I have checked them out extensively.

The supplier in question is equally fanatical about sourcing the EVOO, about freshness, about profile - this supplier tests all their oils from every harvest at an independent lab. They're a bit pricy, but totally reliable - in my experience - and they sell online as well as have a physical store. I have no other relationship to them other than a consumer:

Amphora Nueva Berkeley Olive Oil Works.

As with wine - or chocolate - you can really go down the rabbit hole with all this, so you need to set criteria for yourself as to what you're looking for. For me, the criteria were: (1) health (2) taste, in that order. Cost was way down the list. Adjust accordingly.
posted by VikingSword at 12:15 PM on January 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

Came here to recommend the California Olive Ranch brand, but others beat me to it! I find that it has a very clean, fruity olive flavor, with a bit of peppery bite (for fun, I did a taste test of this and two EVOOs I had on hand -- Tuccioliva and Trader Joe's CA Estate, and the CA Olive Ranch was significantly more fruity tasting), and very reasonably priced. I recently bought a 750ml bottle at my local Sprouts for a little under $10.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 3:53 PM on January 16, 2013

The Splendid Table, previously linked, had a great segment on olive oil where an investigative journalist who had just written a book on olive oil talked about it. Great listen.
posted by forkisbetter at 10:04 AM on January 17, 2013

I don't know anything about olive oil, but a supplier sent a bottle of this for Christmas, and it is excellent!
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 10:29 AM on January 17, 2013

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