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Olive Oil and Oil Tourism

Written by Hannah Parry


Posted on December 02 2019

We are fortunate to enjoy a country in which there is no doubt when one has arrived in Spain ... »There is a weak noise to drums and an aroma of raw olive oil ...». The British writer Anthony Carson toured the Peninsula in the nineteenth century, attracted like so many other European romantic travelers by the atavistic exoticism that emanated from the south of the continent.

And like almost all of them, we were struck by our excessive taste for olive oil. Clichés aside, it is true that there are areas of Spain that still smell like olive oil. It is enough to go around the province of Jaén during the olive harvest (December / January) to imagine the mark that smell and taste had to leave on those primed Britons from the cold world of butter.

In Jaén everything revolves around olive oil. The road that descends from the Castilian plateau crosses the port of Despeñaperros and as soon as you enter the province you will be immersed in that green-silver sea of ​​olive groves that cover the soft undulations of the Jiennense countryside. Sixty million olive trees are many olive trees. From Jaén 25% of the world production of olive oil comes out.

Two museums

Entire peoples live on this green gold. This is the case of Baeza, one of the great Renaissance cities of Andalusia. Half a dozen important olive companies operate in its municipal area, and just a look at the fields surrounding the city to know which is the dominant monoculture. The relationship of Baeza and its region with olive oil has been collected in the Museum of the Culture of the Olive Tree  (, installed in Puente del Obispo, eight kilometers from Baeza, in an old 17th-century Jesuit estate that a Madrid family irrigated in the first half of the 19th century as an example of modernization of the olive grove. The museum shows the various olive treatment processes, from harvesting to the press, and emphasizes the cultivation of the olive tree and its importance in the local economy model. It also shows various types of oil mills and several original presses from Andalusian farmhouses and mills.

Another action aimed at preserving and disseminating the Andalusian olive culture is the recently inaugurated  Active Museum of Olive Oil and Sustainability ( ), in the Oil Science and Technology Park (Geolit), just outside Mengíbar. A modern and, as the name implies, interactive building that has cost 7.1 million euros and whose main mission will be to inform tourists, schoolchildren and companies everything related to oil extraction, the technology to produce it and the latest scientific advances around that industry. There are spaces for oil tastings and courses on nutrition; and abroad, a forest of centuries-old olive trees and industrial machinery.

Visit the oil mills

Many of the jiennenses mills admit visitors. But whoever has to forget the romanticism of stone molars and esparto capachos. An oil factory is today like a wine or milk factory: a set of clean and aseptic ships filled with stainless steel tanks, pipes, elbows and pumps. In these visits not only the production process is taught; Small tastings are also offered to ensure that the neophytes in the subject understand once and for all that an olive oil like this is not the same, dry, that an extra virgin. The quality of the juice of the olive depends on many things, but especially on the moment in which the fruit is collected and on the damage that arrives at the mill. That is why centrifuges (presses are no longer used) leave three types of oil:

- Lampante olive oil: the worst quality, made with very ripe and damaged olives. It smells strong and stale, has more than two degrees of acidity and is not suitable for human consumption.

- Virgin olive oil: the first quality suitable for consumption, with good organoleptic qualities and without mixtures.

- Extra virgin olive oil: the best quality, made with olives collected the first days of harvest and that have not begun to ferment before reaching the mill. It has the best tasting: it smells like pure fruit, olive.

The surprise for the first one is that this lampante oil is not thrown away: it is taken to the refineries, where it is mixed with virgin oil and we already have the commercial oils that we see in the supermarket lines as olive oil 0.4º or 1º ( denomination now replaced by the words  soft  and  intense).

The culture of good oil has long been in Spanish cuisine. We no longer only make millions of liters in bulk. The stores specializing in oils are already becoming common in all major Spanish cities, such as wine bars, and offer half-liter bottles of delicious and transparent oil at prices of Chanel No. 5. If a wine from Rioja is not the same that one of Ribera del Duero, not a Garnacha grape than a cabernet-sauvignon, we must begin to accept that neither is an Arbequina olive oil that is the same as one of picual or another of cuquillo. Each one has its aroma, its body and its destiny. And so they should be used in the kitchen.


»Castillo de Canena  (953 77 01 01; ). Canena

»San Francisco Olive Oil Factory  (953 76 34 15; 666 53 49 58; ). Begíjar

»Melgarejo Oils  (953 36 10 81; ). Stick.

»Potosí 10  (902 36 36 40; ). Orcera

»Galgón 99 / Oro Bailén Family Reserve  (953 54 80 38; ). Villanueva de la Reina.

»The Fifth Essence  (953 78 50 31; ). Jódar (Jaén).

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