Good extra-virgin olive oil goes straight to your head like champagne. Sweet, pungent, peppery, grassy, and lemony all at once, it makes almost anything delicious.

And then there’s the crap I buy at Trader Joe’s. Yeah, I knew the cheap stuff wasn’t as good as the oil available in staggeringly expensive five-liter tins at the specialty Italian store, but who has the time to truck all the way across town just for one thing?

I might be making the time, however, after reading Cook’s Illustrated’s July/August taste-testing of supermarket olive oils (story not available online, sorry). Testers tried 10 of the top-selling extra-virgin brands widely available in grocery stores, and were pretty much disgusted by all but three of them. The tasting notes are a scream: “I can’t imagine what is in here, but they have a nerve calling it EVOO,” says one feisty writer about Goya. Star was described as “spicy, but in a motor oil kind of way.” Other selections were “soapy,” “menthol—think Vicks VapoRub,” “unpleasant, dirty,” and even had “kitty litter smells” and the fragrance of “a set of sweaty hockey pads.”

Cook’s ended up recommending Columela, costing less at $35.90 per liter than some of the cruddier oils. Also deemed acceptable were Lucini Italia and Colavita. Interestingly, DaVinci, formerly Cook’s pick for best inexpensive oil, tested next-to-worst in this go-round.

So if I’m not buying DaVinci, what to buy? Chowhounds have some recommendations on good, cheap olive oil.

Now, next thing to worry about: Is the oil in those pricey tins really what it says it is?

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