Wednesday, February 17, 2016
The Van Winkle of Water
I used to know a lot of people who competed in triathlons. The triathlon culture seemed to be as much about shopping as it was about athletic competition. Instead of buying stuff for just one sport, you could buy stuff for three!
I thought of the triathlon people when I saw this picture and the attached article. It is on the Tales of the Cocktail web site and all over my Facebook newsfeed. The author describes a tasting that compared the effect of Old Limestone in bourbon with tap water and distilled water. It was a serious effort and the article is a good read.
All of which may be beside the point. This sort of product sells to people who just love to buy stuff. When they develop a new enthusiasm, buying the accouterments is some or maybe even most of the fun. I've known people who, upon deciding to try country line dancing for the first time, went out first and bought boots, a hat, etc.
It's about liking to buy things but also about having what they consider the total experience. The whiskey enthusiasm is no different. Some people can't wait to buy the special whiskey tasting glasses and all the rest. Surely there must be a special water to use, to enhance the experience. The next thing will be a whiskey tasting jacket.
Many distilleries as far back as the 1950s have done branded bottled water. If you have a productive spring and an under-used bottling line, it's practically a no-brainer. Stitzel-Weller did it, there are still a few bottles of 'Weller Water' around. Nobody has ever had a big hit with it, but these are unusual times. Calling it 'mixing water' is a clever wrinkle, makes it sound like a thing. People who inherently like to buy this sort of item need only the smallest push.
But come on, it's water. If you use water in your whiskey, the same water you drink and cook with will be just fine. If it tastes okay to you on its own it will taste okay in your whiskey. If you are noticing off flavors in your drink, by all means change your water, but there are plenty of other quality bottled waters.
Objectively, the problem with 'whiskey water' is that your water doesn't have to match your whiskey, it has to match you and your taste. Do you drink water? Then you already know what you like. It's not broke so don't fix it.
Unless you just like to buy things. In which case go right ahead. It's good for the economy.