By Lana Bandy
What is The Olive Mill?
We sell olive oil, balsamic vinegar, herb spices and sea salt. We let customers come in and taste and sample the oils, vinegars and spices, so they can try before buying. They can taste that the oil is fresh and hasn’t been sitting around a year or so. And after tasting, they can ask questions about how it can be used and I give them ideas on pairings that work great.
How did you get started in this business?
I was running an art gallery in Saugatuck, Mich., when the owners opened a store just down from my gallery. I was intrigued by the idea that you could buy and taste balsamic vinegar and olive oil, because I love to cook. They opened a store here and offered me the opportunity to work for them and I said ‘yes.’
How many different varieties do you have?
We have 30 different varieties of oil and about the same in vinegars.
Where do you get your olive oils?
Depending on the time of year, Greece, Italy, Spain, Argentina, Peru, Portugal and California. Spanish olives get pressed in the fall and Peru in the spring. You get one season for olives. Once you press the olives, it takes one month for the sediment to sink to the bottom of the container. The oils are just two months old when we get them. For European oils, that’s good. In a grocery store, you don’t know how long they’ve been in a warehouse before coming to the store and then how long they’re in the back of the store before they hit the shelf. At 12 months, olive oil starts to lose its flavor and is not as powerful; 18 months after opening, it turns rancid.
Is it the same for balsamic vinegar?
No, balsamics are an aged product. It has to have been aged 12 years to be a true balsamic product. Just like olive oil, it should be kept away from heat and direct sunlight. You don’t need to refrigerate them.
What do you like best about your job?
I love informing people about balsamics and olive oil. Some people think they don’t like olive oil because they’ve had it only from grocery stores. When they taste it, they realize it is sweeter. They change, and you can see them enjoy it. It’s cool for me to see them change their minds and realize it is so much different. It’s also funny to see reactions, like ‘you want me to drink oil?’ It’s not motor oil; it’s juice of the olive. It’s good.
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