By Marissa Tejada Benekos | Reporting from Athens, Greece
In a clear, sleek, glass flask simply engraved with a modern Greek letter logo and hand-sealed by a special silicone cork, exists one of the most expensive olive oils available today. At $185.00 dollars (150 Euros) for 1,000 ml, Lambda is branded as the first luxury, ultra-premium extra virgin olive oil in the world. Its founder says behind its stylish presentation is unmatched quality from a country famous for its olive oil production.
“Too many brands were claiming the extra virgin olive oil description but were not of special quality. I love olive oil and I wanted to do something more, to create and reinvent the way people view it,” says Giorgos Kolliopoulos who developed Lambda through his luxury food and beverage company, Speiron based in Athens, Greece. Available since 2007, Lambda remains the priciest ultra premium labeled brand on the market, consistently maintaining benchmark qualities that rate better than extra virgin standards.
“Lambda was ahead of its time,” says Kolliopoulos who named the product after the Greek letter, lambda, which is the first letter of the Greek word for oil or ladi. “My intention was to make something that one can really savor, like the way one does with an expensive champagne or Bordeaux wine.”
In a growing trend over the past few years, entrepreneurs like Kolliopoulos and organizations like the Italian organization Association 3E, are recognizing a more exclusive, narrowly defined category above the extra virgin status. Association 3E members label their products as super-premium extra virgin olive oil and look to develop a niche market by establishing exclusive partnerships.
Besides the absence of sensory defects, super-premium is defined by analytical characteristics superior to extra virgin baselines, including free acidity levels of less than 0.3%, a peroxide value of less than 7.5, UV absorption of 232nm (K232) less than 1.85. The 2010 harvest of Lambda is quite competitive with a 0.29% level of acidity, a peroxide value at less than 5.1 and UV absorption of 232nm (K232) at 1.63, without defects. But Kolliopoulos insists Lambda is quite special on its own compared to any super-premium product due to its luxury marketing, packaging and its taste.
“It has special organoleptic properties, by this I mean you feel the difference in your senses which is exceptional and perhaps even addictive,” says Kolliopoulos about his product which has a deep green hue and a distinct fruity flavor and aroma solely coming from the Greek olive variety called Koroneiki . Lambda’s particular Koroneiki olives hail from the famous
olive oil producing island of Crete, in the village of Kritsa.
“From my extensive research, knowledge and just my love of olive oil, I found growers in Kritsa doing an amazing job among some of the oldest olive trees in all of Greece,” says Kolliopoulos. “There the acidity is constantly low. Plus Lambda is produced with extra control measures. Only a certain amount can be produced yearly.”
Lambda’s olives are pressed within eight hours of picking and processed through careful cold extraction. Then workers fill and label each flask by hand, without any machinery, to limit the harmful oxidation process which can affect taste and quality.
In his vision to continue to blend his ultra premium product with high-class design, Lambda can be ordered online in a handcrafted gift box and most recently, as part of a $1,240.00 (1,000 Euro) package which includes a signature of the client’s choice engraved right on the bottle.
The company’s recommendations for consuming any bottle of Lambda remain the same: don’t expose the bottle to heat or sunlight to avoid oxidation and to try to consume it within four months after opening it for the first time.
“Lambda is my attempt to create one the best olive oil products in the world and today with a growing clientele,” says Kolliopoulos, “I am just as determined to always offer the best of the best.”