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The world’s best olive oils and mills: a tour of Andalusia

Many a cultured traveler will have seen their fare share of wineries, tasted some of the finest vintages and built a good knowledge base around grapes and wines; but how many of these same people can name more than a few varieties of olive (there are in fact hundreds) or describe the difference in taste and colour between “picuda” and “picual” extra virgin oils? Olive oil production dates back at least as far as wine production, and many would argue the flavour distinctions between extra virgin olive oils are equally as complex. Olive oil So where to begin the exploration? Spain is the undisputed powerhouse of olive oil production with between 40 to 55% of global production annually, led by the southern region of Andalucia, and it is possible to visit some of the very best mills in the world there for tastings and educational tours. According to the appropriately named organisation, World’s Best Olive Oils, eight of the best ten olive oils in the world come from Spain, of these, all of the top five. In all, 29 of the best 50 olive oils hail from Spain; Andalucían mills represent all of the top four and 22 of the top 50 best products. See the World’s Best Olive Oils website for the complete list, compiled annually based on the results of the most important and prestigious international competitions. So why not combine a sun-splashed visit to Andalucia with a tour of some of the most important producers in the world and taste some of the most exquisite olive oils ever made? Here’s a little guide to get you started exploring… Mueloliva Mill, Muela Olives S.L., Priego de Cordoba The reigning champion olive oil is Mueloliva brand Venta del Baron from Muela Olives S.L. near the city of Cordoba in Andalusia. They are definitely doing something right; not only do they hold the top spot with Venta del Baron, a limited production blend of “Hojiblanca and Picuda” varieties that has earned more than 60 awards in eight countries, but they also hold the number eight position with their 100% “Picuda” variety oil. The mill’s founder was a pioneer in various, now commonly used, modern methods including cold pressing; still, the focus was always on tradition and quality rather than mass production. Mueloliva A339, km 24.5, 14800 Priego de Cordoba, Cordoba. Tel: +34 957 547 017 Melgarejo Mill, Aceites Campoliva S.L., Jaen The World’s Best Olive Oils organisation also compiles a listing of the best mills in the world based on different criteria and Aceites Campoliva scores one place higher than Muela Olives in this ranking. With three oils making the list of the 50 best, including numbers 20 and 21, the mill is clearly one of the world leaders. The proprietors actively promote activities to spread the culture behind olive oil production and educate the populace on the extensive uses and many health benefits of extra virgin olive oil; therefore, a tour of the Melgarejo mill is sure to be an educational experience. Melgarejo Camino Real, S/N, 23110 Pagalajar, Jaen. Tel: +34 953 361 081 Finca la Torre, Finca La Reja S.L., Bobadilla, Malaga The Finca La Torre brand olive oil made from “Hojiblanco” variety olives ranked fourth best in the world in the last year end analysis, yet has already been awarded best olive oil in some of the early competitions of 2015. Operating as Finca la Torre since 1260, the farm and olive oil production has existed in the same spot since 210 B.C., beginning with the Romans. As one of the oldest companies in the world with more than 2200 years of practice it’s no wonder that Finca la Torre produces one of the finest olive oils anywhere. Roman remnants are still evident across the estate of more than 376 hectares, exhibited for visitors to see in the form of ruins and artefacts, making a tour of this estate a fascinating lesson in history as well as olives and oil. The grounds and gardens alone are worth a visit. Finca la Torre Camino Finca la Torre S/N, 29540 Bobadilla, Malaga. Tel: +34 952 111 619 Oro Bailen, Galgón 99 S.L., Jaen Know-how clearly creates a professional advantage in any business, and the makers of Oro Bailen olive oils operate with a very scientific approach. However, as with wine making, the conditions of climate and soil also have a profound impact and here the Galgón 99 Mill in Jaen has an advantage over many other mills. Located in the foothills of the Sierra Morena, the site forms a natural border between the high Spanish plains and the Guadalquivir River valley creating a long corridor to the Atlantic ocean, which ensures regular rain in spring and autumn, while average temperatures remain mostly stable. The technical and scientific approach behind Oro Bailen make a visit to the mill a very educational affair; however, equally as interesting is the setting itself, an ecosystem of Mediterranean forest and scrubland housing various rare and endangered species across the stunning landscapes. The Oro Bailen Reserva Familiar Picual oil ranked third best in the world. Ctra. Plomeros, Casa del Agua, 23730 Villanueva de La Reina, Jaen. Tel: +34 953 548 038 Hacienda el Palo, Explotaciones Jame S.L., Jaen Ranked second in the most recent list of the world’s best, the Bravoleum Picual variety special selection olive oil has an intriguing green colour and complex hints of other fruits such as banana, artichoke and green tomato. The makers exercise full control over the production and process the olives on the same day that they are harvested to preserve the full aroma and flavour. Their precision and passion make for a truly engaging visit. Olive Groves Forever Carretera de Jaen, Km 0.95, 23630 Villargordo, Jaen. Tel: +34 953 377 190 The 22 of the world’s best extra virgin olive oils originating in Andalucia come from 16 different producers, meaning you could make a very long tour of it. Have a look over the list yourself and begin planning now! Image #1: Shutterstock Alan Hazel is Owner and Director of Cortijo El Carligto. If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

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  1. This is great. My wife is a hairdresser and has been looking into finding oils. The place in Malaga seems like it would be interesting to visit.

  2. Love reading this article which is unique of its kind.
    Always been a big fan of olive products.
    Thanks for the share.
    I look forward to your updates.

  3. Great post! I love this Finca La torre. In Malaga they have something like a day tour to visit the place where this wonderful olive oil is made.

  4. Should have read this article 2 weeks ago when I was driving through Andalucia. Olive oil is generally not in our family’s diet (Asian and California cuisines) but evenwe can taste the huge difference when we were dinning in the region. Not to mention the miles and miles of olive trees we drove by from approaching Cordoba to Ronda, Granada, through Jaen then back to Madrid. We have never seen so many olive trees in our lives – now we know why. Andalucia is a must visit for olive oil lovers!

  5. I used To think Middle East is largest producer of olive oil… But now I got to know that Spain produces 8 of the 10 best olive oil ….

  6. It’s not only Spain, or Andalucia but Jaen which it the major olive growing and olive oil producing province in Spain. Saying that all Spanish Extra Virgin Olive Oils (EVOO) are fabulous.

    Come to Jaen and see the sea of olives that stretch further than the view.

  7. Thanks for the great information! We are in the process of planning our trip to Andalucia in March of 2016. We will be using this as a guide for sure!

  8. So the main olive oil producers are none other than Spain right? Anyway great article, said everything in detailed manner. Look forward to your updates.

  9. Hi, Are there olive harvest end of April in cordoba? I will be visiting and would like to see how oolive oil is made.

  10. Hi Jennifer,
    The olive harvest generally concludes by the end of February and in places much sooner. However, you can still visit one of the olive mills mentioned in the article for a very insightful look into how the process works. The areas near Cordoba, especially just a bit to the south, have some of the most productive and high quality olive mills in the world! Check back through some of the links in the article and get in touch with the individual mills for specialist tours, or contact me through my website link at the bottom of my post for more specific information.

  11. What are the best Olive Oil producers near Seville? We are planning on visiting Seville and would like the names of 3-5 producers to visit whose Olive Oil is exemplary. Many thanks in advance, jamie

  12. Congrats on this excellent article Alan. Spanish extra virgin olive oil is such a luxury and a pleasure :-)

    Sad it is so hard to find in my native USA where it seems there is a plethora of bad quality olive oil imported via Italian companies that have been caught mixing cheaper oils & usingcoloring agents

    As a foodie & longtime Spain travel pro, I can really appreciate your selection here!

    I have been to most of these places and love them! Gracias, Rachel

    1. Rachel, check out Ojai olive oil company. Really excellent olive oil from California. We visited them and they are above board, no mixing.

  13. Beautiful article. Everything explained well. I am not a complete user of olive products. After reading this I got so much valuable information. Thanks for sharing and I look forward to your article.

  14. I actually live in Andalucia, not for from Bobadilla infact l named my cat after the place. I live surrounded by olive groves and yes its some of the best olive oil ever…..
    Great to see it recognised…. xxx

  15. We are going to be in Granada on the 1st and 2nd of November and would love to visit a olive processing facility.

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