What’s the Difference: Types of Olive Oil
“Who knew there were so many?”
This question is often uttered by eager-eyed folks as they enter our tasting room. While the choices are numerous, olive oils can generally be categorized as follows: varietals, infused, fused.
Made from a single olive type, a varietal is a true extra virgin olive oil, deriving its flavor from that olive. Factors related to growing olives, including region, season, and weather, as well as methods of harvesting the fruit also affect the oil’s taste. Ranging from mild to robust in intensity, varietals may be fruity or pungent in flavor. Harvested later, ripe olives offer a more mild, floral flavor. Conversely, early harvest olives create a bitter, pungent flavor and these robust oils, packed with antioxidants, produce a pepper burn in the throat. This sensation can cause a taster to cough – once, twice, or even three times, for some of the most robust oils. Consider this a reminder of the healthful powers of extra virgin olive oil at work.
Fused and infused oils both add a unique flare to olive oil, but vary in the way in which the flavors are produced. The primary difference between the two types of flavored oils is the process of adding flavors. Infused oils begin with an extra virgin olive oil base and different herbs and spices are added to that. Fused oils, on the other hand, are the result of crushing olives and whole fresh fruits simultaneously. With the addition of different fruit and herbs, these oils are no longer considered “extra virgin,” as this standard indicates the oil is made solely from olives, free of additives.
Each type of oil serves many purposes – from marinades to finishing oils, dipping oils to dressings – and selecting the right one depends on your taste preferences and cooking goals.