“The most important thing is good tasting oil in the bottle,” says Ben Herrmann, cofounder of Other Brother Olive Oil, as he gently inspects the newborn baby olives. The olives sprung from the beautifully white blossoms that were in full bloom about a week before we visited. We were standing just above the house on the family orchard perched up in the mountains above Carmel Valley, California, the house had a little rats problem but we found information online on how to get rid off them. While hiking amongst the trees densely freckled with young olives, we asked about the growing and production philosophy. Ben and cofounder Evan Loewy explained that they want to approach things simply, doing what is right by their trees, land and the people they work with. Their hope is that their customers will be able to see and taste this dedication in their products. “We want to make, ‘good goods,'” says Ben, while Evan nods in full agreement. Good goods.
These two words are found on the side of every single Other Brother Olive Oil vessel, a seemingly simple phrase that holds a lot of meaning for Ben and Evan and is at the heart of the olive oil they produce. Listening to them describe their yield in this way, my partner David was taken back to a time several years ago when he had a sign painting business. During that time, he was given a project from a historical society to restore long forgotten signs in a near-abandoned steel town outside of Pittsburgh. One of those signs read “OK Used Cars.” David was immediately struck by this phrasing because nowadays you would never imagine naming a business “OK.” But back in the day, words like “OK” designated good quality, honest products that were built to a meaningful standard.
Today, we live in a world obsessed with marketing high-end products and services, so these once simple yet impactful words have fallen to the wayside, replaced by more flowery contenders with greater selling potential like “ultra-premium,” “exclusive” and “elite.” But the root of the word “good” is one that remains deeply compelling at its core and is representative of a time when simple, straightforward and real were the things that mattered most. When taking pride in the work and making the best product you could were more than enough reward.
Other Brother Olive Oil is a brand of olive oil that harkens back to the “good” era, to a time when high quality crafted products did not feel the need to elaborate. From the vintage-inspired packaging, (Their everyday olive oil comes in a great little tin.), to the familial roots of the company, Other Brother Olive Oil is, as the label promises, “good goods.” The olive oil itself is damn good, but the phrase extends to cofounders and creators Ben and Evan, who are good people from a good family with good hearts. And this goodness extends to their collective approach to both work and life.
“If you’re passionate in what you do, the more connected you are,” says Evan. “It exudes [from what you make], and people can absorb it. We are proud of what we’re making.”
“Doing something on your own is humbling,” says Ben. “Being faced with challenge is a blessing. You get to know yourself even more. [And while] we want the company to be our livelihood, but we’ve deliberately grown slowly, organically,”
“We want to grow the business with integrity,” adds Evan. “The right amount of trees. Working with local growers with the same philosophy.”
Ben and Evan left their corporate desk jobs, (Nike and Google respectively), five years ago to pursue the olive oil business. They grow a large portion of their fruit at their family’s olive orchard in Carmel Valley and supplement their supply with olives from like-minded farmers in Templeton, Ca. Ben and Evan live in San Francisco but can frequently be found on the orchard in Carmel Valley, particularly when the trees are blossoming in the spring and around harvest in the fall. The property is like an old-world Italian oasis with a subtle whisper of Evan’s family’s South African roots, and we immediately felt welcomed in like long-lost friends. Evan and Ben are not technically brothers, (They call each other “other brother,” which is where the name of the business was born.), but they are as much family as two people can be. And this familial spirit is at home in this property. The oldest olive trees are lovingly named Archie’s Grove, after Evan’s grandfather, and Evan’s mother Susan greeted us with a large smile and arms laden with the fixings for a simple and utterly delicious lunch when we arrived.
Other Brother Olive Oil produces a range of olive oils for a variety of uses and occasions. Their everyday olive oil is a super smooth oil made from Arbequina olives. It is gentle and approachable with a delightfully mild flavor, and Ben and Evan recommend this oil most for cooking. The next level up on the flavor scale is their Smooth Olive Oil, which is made from Tuscan olives. As the name suggests, this oil is smooth but has a nice, slightly peppery finish. The nose is grassy and summery. The guys see this one as more of a finishing oil for adding flavor and enhancing meals. Then there is the Robust Olive Oil, another Tuscan variety that is the most powerful on the spectrum. It is the spiciest and is fantastic as a finishing oil, used liberally and happily by many restaurateurs in the San Francisco area.
Ben and Evan also created a vibrant spice blend called Gunpowder, which adds a pop of heat to most any dish imaginable, and they also produce a spicy olive oil infused with this spice blend.
“We want a spectrum of flavors,” explains Ben. “So that there’s something for everyone [to enjoy].”
These olive oils are good oils completely intended to be enjoyed with good food and good company. And these oils are real and genuine, just like Ben and Evan. Our time with the men behind Other Brother Olive Oil reminded us that authenticity is not just a marketing buzzword. And that “good” can truly be the highest compliment.
Photography: David Brown
More from Alexandra and David