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Profiles & Sensory Qualities

harvesting olives

Early Harvest Profiles

Olives reach their full size in the fall but may not fully ripen from green to black until late winter.  Green olives have slightly less oil, more bitterness and can be higher in polyphenols. Many people like the peppery and bitter quality of early harvest oil. Flavor notes of grass, green, green leaf,  pungent, astringent are used to describe early harvest oils .Because of the higher polyphenols and antioxidants, early harvest oils often have a longer shelf life and are blended with late harvest oils to improve their shelf life.

Late Harvest Profiles

The fruit is picked black and ripe.  The fruit may have a little more oil but it is risky because waiting longer into the winter increases the risk the fruit will be damaged by frost. Late harvest or "Winter" fruit is more ripe so like other ripe fruit it has a light, mellow taste with little bitterness and more floral flavors.  Flavor notes of peach, melon, apple and banana.  Buttery, fruity, smooth, bland and sweet are often used in their sensory description. Because of the lower polyphenols and antioxidants, late harvest oils often have a shorter shelf life.

Sensory Attributes of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Not all olive oil is created equal, and certainly not all is created to the high-standards that are required to make extra virgin olive oil. Extra Virgin Olive Oil has both negative and positive sensory attributes that are rated on a scale from 1-10 based on their presence in the oil. 

3 Positive Attributes:

  1. Fruity --- This sensation is apparent in the nose and on the tongue. It can be described as green, medium or ripe fruit. Some common good attributes may be green apple, herbaceous, nutty, ripe banana or buttery.
  2. Bitter --- This sensation is apparent on the tongue soon after tasting. Bitter does not mean bad, it merely defines the profile of the oil.
  3. Pungent --- This sensation is apparent on the back of the throat after swallowing the oil. It will give the sensation of hot peppers in the case of a strong pungent attribute.

There are a number of negative sensory attributes that can be associated with EVOO, and all of these deficiencies are related to poor harvesting, processing and/or storage practices.

  1. Grubby — Typical aroma of olives that have suffered a strong attack by the grubs of the olive fly.
  2. Hay-wood — Produced from olives that are dried out, giving a woody characteristic.
  3. Earthy — Typical aroma of oil obtained from olives that have fallen to the ground or dirty because they have not been washed.
  4. Fusty — Typical aroma of oil from olives that have undergone an advanced stage of anaerobic fermentation.
  5. Winey/Vinegar —Typical aroma of oil from olives that have undergone and advanced stage of aerobic fermentation.
  6. Musty —Typical aroma of oils obtained from olives that have been affected by fungi or mold.
  7. Metallic — Associated with oils that have been in prolonged contact with metallic surfaces during crushing, blending, pressing or storage.
  8. Heated/Burnt — Characteristic flavor of oils caused by excessive and/or prolonged heating during processing.
  9. Rancid — Flavor of oil that has undergone an intense process of oxidation.