Reviewer’s Note: Samples of the products discussed here were provided to me for reviewing purposes at no cost.
Australian olive oil producer Cobram Estate was kind enough to send me two examples of its Ultra Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil. For this review, I received one bottle of its 2014 Reserve Hojiblanca oil and a bottle of 2014 Reserve Picual oil.
Part of the joy I find in reviewing and writing about food and drink is derived from how it ensures that I am always learning new things. I will admit that before sampling this product, I hadn’t given much thought to how widely different varieties of olive oil might differ from one another. I certainly was unacquainted with any that could be considered award-winning. But on tasting each of these oils, their divergence with regard to aromatics, color, viscosity, and flavor elements was evident right away. These differences made for an enlightening tasting experience.
The terms “Hojiblanca” and “Picual” refer to the types of olives—in this case, Spanish Andalusian olives—from which each oil was produced. On pouring, I found the Reserve Picual oil, stated on the bottle label to be of medium-intensity, to be a golden yellow-colored oil with aromatics that reminded me of nuts and cut tomatoes and faint lemon. Complex bitterness and a warm, peppery finish meet these aromas to create a full and rounded flavor.
The Reserve Hojiblanca oil, a slightly thicker pour than the Picual, is greener on its nose as well as in color, with more overt fruit aromatics like banana joining its prevailing smells of chopped fresh olives and cut grass. The Hojiblanca, despite being labeled mild-intensity, offers notable heat to the throat after swallowing, bringing an added measure of excitement to the palate. The Picual does likewise, with a burn that feels more subtle but is longer-lasting by comparison. The Picual also feels lighter and crisper on the tongue, a different but never unpleasant sensation whose advantages, like those of the Hojiblanca oil, give a skilled cook much to work with.
Evaluating the oils with foods was especially revelatory, both about the oils themselves and with regard to future usage ideas for each. Garlic-focused foods drew forth the sweetness of the Hojiblanca, whereas they accentuated the heat of the Picual. Veggies played up the Picual’s bitter complexities and the Hojiblanca’s heat-mitigating fruitiness. Each of these oils benefits from a distinct personality sure to lend to a range of vastly different recipes. The Reserve Hojiblanca oil would be right at home featured in a meat or fish dish, or blended into a nice homemade pesto or aioli. The Reserve Picual also lends itself well to fish as well as tomato-based sauces and entrées. In short, Cobram Estate Ultra Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oils are full of complex, nuanced flavors that make it easy to understand how an olive oil could deserve as many awards as this producer has won.