Oro Bailen produce some of the best award-winning extra virgin olive oils with both national and international accolades under their belt. I visited the olive oil mill on the only grey, drizzly day we’d had for months but that didn’t dull the premises or enthusiasm and pride of the Oro Bailen team.
My GPS sent me around the edge olive groves, which at the time I didn’t realise belonged to Oro Bailen. The quality of their oils is precisely for that reason, they own and manage the olive trees and each stage of growth is cared for by their own team. The olives are harvested at the precise moment they choose and are taken from the olive groves to the mill and through the process to produce the incredibly rich ‘juice’ or liquid gold as it’s often referred to – gold is oro in Spanish.
When approaching from the front, the road from Bailen, the mill is quite imposing. Black railings with gold-coloured tips sets the standard I saw from arrival to departure and throughout the processing plant to the attractive shop where you can buy the products at source. This is slow food. Grown, produced and sold directly.
I was welcomed by Irene who speaks Spanish, English, French and German so you can choose whichever language you’d like to have your tour in. Taking about 1.5 hours it starts at the front of the factory where the tractors tip the freshly harvested olives into two large ground-level hoppers.
From the beginning of harvesting to the fruit arriving, being examined and the whole process of extracting the ‘juice’ begins is around 2 hours, minimising damage to the fruit and oxidation. The juice then rests for around 15 days before being filtered and stored ready for bottling.
From extraction to storage to bottling to shop the mill is clean and efficient, the whole ethos of excellence permeates every part of Oro Bailen – a gold star at every turn.
The shop holds a stylish array of black, green and gold bottles, tins and jars. Not only do they produce oils in bottle form but also in capsules, little pearls of explosive delight on the palate which also give a dish a distinctive look and a burst of flavour.
And then there’s the extra virgin olive oil marmalades made from the Picual and Aberquina olive creating a creamy, slightly sweet yet bitter spread for cheese, pastries or on fresh crusty bread. A blend of 50% olive oil and unlike most marmalades only 25% sugar.
A tasting session proves the colour of the juice or oil to be more green than gold and the aromas of fresh cut grass or very green apples, sometimes ripe bananas waft around.
My palate preferred the Arbequina oil, and visions of chewing the end of a fresh stalk of grass as a child came to mind with added hints of heat and bitterness.
I think I’m going to enjoy tasting olive oils as much as I enjoy wine tastings. Each was distinctive, each one very good indeed. Which one of the 300 plus mills should I visit next I wonder.
What did I go home with? A bottle of each.