What Are the Best Olive Oil Brands?

Olive oil is more than just a kitchen staple; it's a culinary legend! But with hundreds of brands, regions and styles to choose from, how do you find the very best bottle of olive oil available?


How is olive oil made?

Olive oil is made by pressing olives into a liquid. The process of making olive oil typically involves several steps:

Harvesting: The olives are harvested from the trees when ripe, which is typically in autumn/winter. The olives are then washed to remove any dirt or debris.

Crushing: The olives are next crushed into a paste using a stone mill, hammer mill, or modern machines that use metal toothed blades. This process breaks down the olives into a thick paste, including the skins, flesh, and pits.

Malaxation: The olive paste is then stirred or mixed to help separate the oil from the rest of the paste. This process is called malaxation and typically lasts between 20 and 40 minutes.

Separation: The oil is separated from the rest of the paste by a process called pressing.

The paste is placed into a press that applies pressure to the paste to extract the oil. The oil is then separated from the remaining liquid and solids.

Filtering: The oil is then filtered to remove any remaining solids, such as bits of pulp or pit fragments.

Storage: The oil is stored in a cool, dark place to prevent oxidation and maintain its flavour and nutritional qualities.

How is olive oil made?

How is extra virgin olive oil different?

Extra virgin olive oil is made using the same process as regular olive oil, with the exception that it is made exclusively from the first cold-pressing of the olives.

This gives the oil a stronger, more complex flavour profile, which closely reflects the olive variety used and the climate they were grown in.

Extra virgin olive oil is unrefined and has an acidity of less than or equal to 0.8. Lower acidity indicates less oxidation and better oil quality.

Hand-harvesting vs machinery

Large olive oil producers harvest olives at night using vacuum machines, which
suck in and kill millions of sleeping and dazed songbirds each year.

At Sous Chef, we only work with producers who use more artisanal harvesting methods, so the songbirds can rest happily in their olive trees.

To learn more about why we only stock hand-harvested olive oil, read our article: saving the songbirds.

What makes great olive oil?

Quality olive oil should have a harmonious balance of fruitiness, bitterness, and pungency. The taste of olive oil differs depending on terroir, olive varieties, how fresh the oil is and how many times the olives have been pressed. 

Oils made with pitted olives are less bitter than other varieties – this is because the tannins and polyphenols that contribute to bitterness in oil are mainly found in the stones.

The first olive pressing produces the best olive oil with the most distinct flavour, called extra virgin olive oil. In terms of quality, freshness really matters.

To ensure you’re getting an oil that has retained its flavour and health benefits, it is best to buy oil with a recent harvest date.

Look out for new season extra virgin olive oil each year – this is made with the first pressing of the year’s first harvest of olives, and offers up some of the most excitingly complex, nuanced and ‘olive-y’ flavoured oil you can buy. 

Like wine, different people have different taste. Some favour strong, peppery notes, while others prefer a milder, fruitier flavour.

Colour can range from golden yellow to green based on the olive type and region, so it's not an indicator of quality. It’s important to always prioritise taste and aroma over colour.

Sous Chef offers smaller discovery oil sets so you can discover your favourites before committing to full bottles.

How to find the best olive oil brand

What are the top olive oil brands?

Here at Sous Chef, we’ve spent over a decade scouring Europe and further afield to bring you the best olive oil from trusted world class producers. Here are some of our favourites:

https://www.souschef.co.uk/products/olio-guglielmi-monogram-intense-extra-virgin-olive-oil

 

  • Olio Guglielmi: Olio Guglielmi is a Puglian family business that farms 160 hectares of groves - and has done for over 60 years. The oils are made with olive varieties native to the region. This superb extra virgin olive oil is sweet and spicy on the palate and has a wonderful lingering complexity - and kick! It has notes of almond and jasmine. It’s a versatile finishing oil, ideal for drizzling over creamy cheeses, caprese salads and vegetables roasted with garlic and herbs.

Nicolas Alziari Fruity & Soft Cuvée Prestige Olive Oil

  • Nicolas Alziari: Nicolas Alziari fruity & intense, or Cuvée Pauline, olive oil is an Alziari house-speciality made purely from young, green olives for a fresh and lively flavour. The olive oil is a blend of oils obtained from different European olive varieties, and the exact recipe is a closely guarded secret over 70 years old! The olive oil has a fresh, grassy aroma and a fruity flavour with a slight peppery kick. Drizzle over fresh tomato salads or simply enjoy as a dip for fresh bread. It’s also an ideal finishing touch for grilled meats or carpaccio.

Puglian Extra Virgin Olive Oil in Blue Splatter Ceramic Bottle, 500ml

  • Galantino: The Galantino olive groves are home to over 15,000 Ogliarola and Coratina trees: a stunning visual feast spanning as far as the eye can see. Based in the beautiful mediaeval town of Bisceglie in the Apulia region of southern Italy, these olives are sun-drenched and full of flavour. The olive oil is cold-pressed on traditional stone mills by the Galantino family, who have been producing oil for nearly a century. The oil has a medium-fruity flavour, with aromas of artichokes and green, herbaceous notes. It has warming peppery afternotes, and a lingering hint of almond.

Honest Toil Extra Virgin Greek Olive Oil, 500ml

  • Honest Toil: Honest Toil extra virgin olive oil is unfiltered and cold-pressed and is an outstanding example of fine Greek olive oil. Made from 100% Koroneiki olives that are picked by hand in the rural Greek countryside, it is pressed and extracted within hours of harvest for the freshest possible product with the purest flavour. As the oil is unfiltered, it contains the sediment of olive skins and pips, giving it an opaque rich green colour and thickness. It has a light peppery spice that is balanced with fresh cut grass flavours for a full-bodied, raw extra virgin olive oil.

Frantoio Muraglia Intense Fruity Extra Virgin Olive Oil in Rainbow Terracotta Bottle, 500ml

  • Frantoio Muraglia: This medium fruity olive oil is made from peranzana olives, a cultivar that’s only grown in the Apulian region of Italy. The oil is fragrant with a very low acidity. It has notes of tomato, rocket and artichoke, which compliments very lightly cooked fresh fish and vegetable dishes. Take a leaf out of Michelin-starred chef’s Felice Sgarra’s book and use this olive oil to dress seafood dishes.

Maison Bremond Heritage Ripe Fruity Provence Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 500ml

  •  Maison Bremond: For over 188 years, Maison Bremond has celebrated the finest ingredients of Provence. They work closely with farmers to protect the Provençal environment, while producing extraordinary oils. This heritage extra virgin oil has a ripe and fruity flavour with a hint of floral sweetness. It is made from olives that are harvested by hand from the orchards of Monfort in Haute-Provence. The olive grove is made up of almost 1,500 trees, with olives of the Aglandau, Frantoio and Bouteillan varieties.

Brindisa Arbequina Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 1l

  • Brindisa: Use this cold pressed olive oil to season classic Spanish dishes such as the traditional breakfast of 'pan con tomate'. The extra virgin olive oil is made with the Spanish Arbequina and Picual olives and has a slightly sweet flavour with no bitter after taste. It's fantastic on baked white fish, paella, pasta and pizza. A great olive oil to keep on the table for seasoning as you eat.

Nunez De Prado Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 500ml

  • Nunez De Prado: From the sun-drenched hills of Andalucia comes Núñez de Prado. It's a blend of three famous Spanish olive varieties: Hojiblanca, Picual and Picudo. What makes this olive oil extra special is that it's 'the Flower of the Oil', or Flor de Aceite – the absolute highest grade of olive oil, obtained even before the coveted first cold press. This olive oil is fruity and citrussy, yet somehow spicy at the same time. It has a peppery finish that balances the initial sweetness. Use as a finishing oil only – drizzle over salads or white fish and seafood, or simply pour into a small dish and devour with fresh bread.

Should you use your best olive oil for cooking?

Premium extra virgin olive oil is best savoured in dishes where its flavour can shine—think drizzling over salads, fresh bread, or finished dishes.

It's more economical to reserve the best bottles for raw applications and use a good-quality regular olive oil for cooking.

That said, there's no harm in cooking with it, but stick to gentle heating, as high temperatures can diminish its unique characteristics.

Where are the best olive oils typically from?

While quality olive oils can hail from any olive-growing region, the most celebrated regions can be found in Italy, Spain, France and Greece, with the USA’s California a rising star, with many estates producing award-winning oils.

The flavour and colour of olive oils differ by regions and countries. This is due to the variety of olives used, the climate and even the soil conditions.

Greece is home to some of the oldest olive trees, the oils here often have a grassy note. French oils tend to be milder and more buttery.

Italian olive oil has a darker hue while Spanish olive oil is typically golden yellow. Olive oils produced in the same country can differ dramatically, too.

The French olive oil Grand Brahis vert is nutty and buttery, while the Grand Brahis noir has an intense aroma of fresh black olives. We've found the oils that epitomise the flavours of Provencal olive groves.

These oils are fruity, interesting and have a slight bitterness that isn't overpowering.

Flavour varies greatly across regions, from the big, bold flavours of Puglian olive oils from Galantino and Gugliemi to the fruity bitterness of Tumai Anfosso from Liguria in the north.

Different olive varieties hugely impact flavour. Olive oils made with ​​Spanish Arbequina and Picual olives tend to be sweeter, with a less bitter after taste, while an olive oil made with Apulian coratina olives has a pronounced spiciness – this is due to the exceptionally high levels of polyphenols in this variety of olive.

When it comes to olive oils, there really is a huge amount to explore and discover.

Which is the best olive oil in the world?

What should you look for in a really good bottle of olive oil?

When buying olive oil, there are several factors to consider to ensure you're getting a high-quality product:

  • Extra Virgin: Look for extra virgin olive oil, which is the highest quality and purest form of olive oil. All of the olive oils that we stock are extra virgin.
  • Origin: Look for olive oil that is made in a specific region, as this can give you an idea of the flavour profile and quality of the oil. Some regions known for producing high-quality olive oil include Italy, Greece, Spain, and France. 
  • Harvest Date: Always opt for the freshest oils to ensure optimal freshness. The more recent the harvest date, the better!
  • Olives: If a bottle of olive oil is high-quality it should say what olives it is made from. This will also give you an idea of the flavour profile of the olive oil. If it is made with a mixture of different olives it is more likely to be complex in flavour. It is made with pitted olives, it will be less bitter. And if made with young, green or black olives the flavour will be different again.
  • Taste and aroma: Like fine wine, every bottle of olive oil will have different nuances in taste. All of our descriptions help to describe the flavour profile of olive oils so you can make an informed decision based on your preferences, whether that’s green apple and almonds, to fresh grass and tomato vines. Avoid any oils that smell or taste stale, mouldy, or rancid.
  • Packaging: Look for olive oil that comes in a dark glass bottle or tin to protect the oil from light and air. Clear bottles or plastic containers can cause the oil to degrade more quickly. Read more on how to store olive oil correctly here.
  • Certifications: Indicators of authenticity and quality. Look for labels like "PDO" (Protected Designation of Origin) or "PGI" (Protected Geographical Indication), which authenticate the product's origin and quality.

Here at Sous Chef, we only work with trusted producers who make world class olive oils.

While brand recommendations and guidelines provide a starting point, your palate is the ultimate judge, so it’s worth exploring to discover the brands, regions and olive varieties you prefer. Happy tasting!

Which Olive Oil is the best one to buy?

Glossary of terms

  1. Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Extra virgin olive oil is the purest form of olive oil, made from cold-pressed olives that haven’t been pressed before. This gives the oil a stronger, more complex flavour profile, which closely reflects the variety of the olives and the climate they were grown in. Extra virgin olive oil is unrefined, and has an acidity of less than or equal to 0.8.
  2. Virgin Olive OilExtra virgin olive oil and virgin olive oil are both unrefined, however virgin olive oil has a higher level of acidity, between 0.8 and 2.0%. This means the flavour of virgin olive oil isn’t quite as nuanced as extra virgin, however the difference is very minimal.
  3. Cold Pressed Olive OilCold pressed olive oil is produced when the temperature of the olives during extraction does not go above 27°C. The olives are crushed into a paste, then separated into oil using a mechanical press. The simplicity of the cold pressing process means that no nutrients are removed or repurposed, and the natural aroma and flavour can shine through.
  4. PomacePomace is a by-product of olive oil, created during the olive oil making process. Pomace is the olive pulp which is left behind once the oil has been extracted. The pulp is then chemically treated and blended with other oils to create a finished product. Pomace is much lower in quality than olive oil – it lacks flavour and aroma.
  5. Unrefined Olive Oil: Unrefined olive oil is produced without any chemical or heating interference, creating an incredibly high-quality oil. As the oil is unrefined, you might sometimes find tiny pieces of olive within the oil. All extra virgin olive oils are unrefined.
  6. Refined Olive Oil: Refined olive oil is treated with chemicals and heat to change certain characteristics of the oil, without altering the glyceridic structure. Unlike unrefined olive oil, refined olive oil is blander, lacking nuanced flavours.


1 comment

  • Do you still have Grand Brahis olive oil?

    Kim on

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