Let’s skip to the chase.
Almost all truffle oils on the market contain aroma or essence; artificially produced chemicals that replicate the taste and smell of truffles that North Americans are still obsessing over.
This chemical, 2,4-dithiapentane, is petroleum-based and to certain palettes can mimic the taste of what a truffle might or should taste like even though the very complex aromas and flavors of real truffles are missing.
Authentic truffle oil uses truffle shavings and infuses them with a quality extra virgin olive oil for several days, sometimes weeks. The oil is then drained and bottled.
The process is expensive as the truffles are often hand shaved.
Black truffles themselves depending on the region and seasonality can cost upwards of $300 per gram while the price of white truffles is significantly higher.
Those of us who use truffle oil as a staple in our kitchens are often not afforded the luxury of purchasing authentic oil as it just doesn’t seem to exist.
Artificially enhanced truffle oils, on the other hand, are readily available at affordable price points and provide the necessary flavors and aromas for those who have never had the luxury of using an authentic oil to finish their dishes.
At the height of the truffle oil buzz, many chefs dismissed the use of truffle oils calling them “brash,” “disgusting,” and “unfit for human consumption.”
In May 2017, a lawsuit was launched in New York and California against 4 large producers of truffle oil accusing them of false, misleading and deceptive (mis) branding “of its truffle oil products.”
The issue was not the addition of synthetics to the oil but rather the fact that their label misrepresentations would have consumers believe that their truffle oil bottle(s) contain truffles.
We have become very label-conscious consumers in the past decade yet specialty products such as truffle oils continually deceive consumers by using chemicals and disguising them with the words “aroma,” “essence” and “flavor.”
On the other hand, if consumers know that they are not getting real truffle oil and are satisfied by imitation at a fairly tolerable price point, it’s their choice.
Anyone with whom I’ve discussed truffles in any capacity tells me in no uncertain terms that their past truffle oil purchases have left a harsh aftertaste and a chemically or metallic taste in the back of their throat.
They believed that they had purchased real truffle oil unaware that there were any synthetics in the market. Sadly, many people now associate truffles with this grossly enhanced taste.
Do yourself a favor. Hold out for the real thing. It’s out there!