Don’t look at me like that. Yes, water tasting leads to better understanding the type of water you enjoy. And which bottled brand will bring out the best in your whisky or brandy, if you prefer to mix it. Hydro geologist and chairman of SA National Bottled Water Association, John Weaver, can pretty much predict which type of bottled water you’d like – it all depends on what you’ve grown up with. “It’s a generality, but 80% of people prefer drinking water with which they grew up.”
Karoo residents, for example, don’t usually prefer Valpré over Nestlé bottled water. The Nestlé palate is broader, there’s more body to it and has a higher alkalinity, much like the high-mineral water found in the area. It’s also the reason why Karoo tea is so delicious. However, high alkalinity doesn’t make the best cup of coffee, which needs a low mineral content to bring out the flavour, says Weaver. Capetonians, on the other hand, often prefer Valpré over Nestlé. European visitors, also used to more minerals in their water, often describe Cape Town-sourced water as “tasteless”.
Don’t believe me? Try it at home (probably the most harmless at-home test you can do): take a bottle of Valpré Still Water in your left hand and a bottle of Nestle Still in your right. Take a sip from each in quick succession and choose your favourite. The Nestlé water should have a broader, more complex palate. Now, repeat the exercise with the sparkling water versions of each. The CO2 lowers the pH of the water, so Valpré tastes decidedly less “sharp” than the Nestlé sparkling water.
Then you can graduate to the really fun part of the tasting: mix a dash of whisky with Valpré sparkling and Nestlé sparkling respectively (less harmless at-home test, yes) and taste from both.
“Don’t mix it with tap water,” says Weaver. “The chlorine in the water interferes with the whisky or brandy.”