E-pistle 2007/041 – Diluting Water Tasting

By Ho-cheng Yao, Taiwan

Date: February 10, 2007
Place: Fiesta Cafe, Taipei, Taiwan
Topic: Diluting water tasting (Ca and Mg is in “mg/100ml water“)
Attendents: Members Taiwan Single Malt Tasting Association.

Glenlivet 12yo (40%, OB), Glenfiddich 12yo (40%, OB)
Glenmorangie 10yo (43%, OB), Bowmore NAS Darkest (43%, OB)
Ardbeg 10yo (46%, OB) – as well as one cask strength single malt;
Dailuaine 25yo 1979/2005 (51.4%, Signatory, C#8958, 509 Bts.)

Tap Water (Taiwan), Taisun Pure Water (Taiwan), Volvic (France),
Evian (France), Highland Spring (Scotland), Acqua Panna (Italy),
Solan (Spain), Wattwiller (France), Contrex (France), Blue Gold
Deep Ocean Water
(Taiwan), Suntory Deep Ocean Water (Japan)
Rainboii Volcanic Water (Hawaii) and Kirin Alkali (Japan)

After so many vertical tastings and some interesting topics, I decided to do something different in our February monthly tasting.
We know from many books as well as advice from famous Masters, Never Use Tap Water for diluting whisky in a tasting.  But how many of us has actually done experiments on it, furthermore, which bottled water is good for this purpose? Thus I decided to sort out some famous brands and do a experiment in my club.

My main target I to compare the effect on the malt.  Thus I prepare three quite basic standard malts (Glenlivet, Glenfiddich, Glenmorangie), one more sherried malt (Bormore Darkest) and one very peated malt (Ardbeg), and just in case some one prefer single cask high strength, I also prepare the Dailuaine. With the three standard malts, I also take the chance to explain the MM scoring system again, and ask every body’s opinion for the “standard” malt as 75 points. Interesting, 9 out of 13 vote for the Glenlivet as more “standard” to him (she). To have more fun, I let everybody choose the malt he like to see the water effect. Most people use the same malt through the tasting. Only one person play a little bit with different malt. As most people don’t have too many glasses with him, we tried to taste three water ever round.
For myself, I use Glenmorangie 10yo as I think it’s nosing is quite complex and easy to see the difference.

1st round:

Tap Water  (Taiwan, Filtered)
Taipei’s tap water is quite clean, but wit lot’s calcium(hard water) and easy to tell chlorine nose.
Most public place provide filtered tap water and use sliced lemon to get rid of the unpleasant nose.
Amazingly, when adding this kind of water in, the beautiful nose just disappeared.  Just like pour some mud water into a nice malt.
Very dirty nose.  Interesting, everybody feel the same.

Taisun Pure Water  (Taiwan, almost no mineral content, pH 6~7)
This is a local bottled water, should be distilled water and get rid of most minerals.  I think this one performs quite well.
Brings out more fresh note. Something active but a little bit more alcohol comes out as well.
10 out of 13 think this one performs best in this round.

Volvic, France  (France, Ca: 1.2, Mg: 0.8, Mineral: 130 ppm, ph: 7)
Famous French water, Brings out more malty/grain feel. But a little bit boring.

… Everybody becoming quite exciting as everyone can easily tell the difference.

2nd round:

Evian  (France, Ca: 7.8, Mg: 2.4, Mineral: 309 ppm, ph: 7.2)
No further word necessay for this water. Brings out more citrus nose, Also help the palate getting rounded.
Quite sweeter finish. Very balance and really “help” the malt performs better. 6 people vote for it.

Highland Spring  (Scotland, Ca: 3.2, Mg: 0.8, Mineral: 136 ppm, ph: 7.8)
Brings out more tropical fruit note. Also more malty feel.  Layered and complex, seems totally different from Evian.
Some people using Ardbeg prefers this one. 5 people vote for this one.

Acqua Panna  (Italy, Ca: 3.3, Mg: 0.7, ph: 8.1)
This is very popular in local fine dining restaurants.  I also like this one a lot.
However, most people agree this one performs worst in this round.

3rd round:

Solan  (Spain, Ca: 5.8, Mg: 2.5)
This is Spanish mineral water, not good for nosing but make the malt taste sweeter. 5 people vote for this one.

Wattwiller  (France, Ca: 22.2, Mg: 1.8, Mineral: 889 ppm, ph: 7.6)
Quite hard water, brings out more layer on nosing. Taste very salty.  I like it, but tied with 5 votes.

Contrex  (France, Ca: 46.8, Mg: 7.45, Mineral: 1468 ppm, ph: 7.6)
Extremely hard water, yet quite boring in nose and damaged the palate.

4th round:

Blue Gold Deep Ocean Water  (Taiwan, Mineral: 150 ppm)
Deep Ocean Water is very popular in Asia.  With more Mg. and less Ca.,
Honestly, not so bad but reminds me the tap water.  And no one vote for this one.

Suntory Deep Ocean Water  (Japan, Ca: 2.2, Mg: 16.0, Mineral: 700 ppm)
Brings out more fresh fruit, but palate just OK! 5 vote for it.

Rainboii Volcanic Water  (Hawaii, Mineral: less than 10 ppm, pH: neutral)
This one should be more close to pure water, won’t bring out better nose but seems very close to original note. 6 vote for this one.

Till now we only have the last Kirin Alkali Water left.  This kind of alkaline water is very popular in Asia.
People believe you’ll easy get over hang-out if you had more alkaline water.  I ask every one to taste it and prepare for the final vote. Without comparison, this one still performs well, but not too impressive.

The final result:

Evian get 5 votes for the best diluting water. Highland Spring get 2nd place for 4 votes.
People general believe Evian is more balance to brings our nose and palate and even help make the malt performs better.
Highland Spring at the other hand seems brings out more layer, but won’t help the malt.

The most interesting thing for the tasting, everyone in the tasting can tell the difference. Even there are several new-bie who has no experience on single tasting before. Most people agree a little bit hard water will help you identify more nose, but not necessary make it better.  We can’t really identify which factor is most important for diluting water, It seems more Mg (magnesium) won’t help, a little bit Ca (calcium) should be OK.  “Pure Water” (neutral water) seems quite OK as it won’t change anything.
And the pH seems not an issue here.

The Taiwan club members would love very much to read a diluting water test from a club in an other country.
If you like this idea of diluting water tasting, please organize a tasting with your club and write a report for Malt Maniacs.
It would be very interesting to see if American or European palates have other preferences from Taiwan.