12.098 Taste Test: Mineral Waters


13 (Tue) April 2021

Taste Test: Mineral Waters

at home

-Changgok, Sujeong, Seongnam, Gyeonggi, Republic of Korea-

with IZ (and DJ)

Spring Cleaning (Day 2 of 5)

Years overdue, I am undertaking a water fast – nothing but water – for 5 days this week, Monday to Friday.

At the end of Day 2, I still feel fine.  A bit tired.  A bit peckish (I’m wondering if anyone is ever anything but a “bit” peckish – now that I think about it, “a bit peckish” seems redundant).  I would love a cheeseburger.

So long as I’m drinking water, I hoped to determine whether various bottled mineral waters taste any different, whether paying more for certain brands is worth the money.

SIDEBAR: Bottled water is not a big thing in Korea.  The main reason, I believe, is that most/all restaurants and other public venues, as well as most/many homes, have water filtration systems/dispensers.  Free clean cold drinking water is readily available almost everywhere.  I assume that some foreign restaurants sell imported bottled water (e.g., Pellegrino at an Italian place), but I can’t recall the last time that I saw it on a menu.  The first thing that a server at a typical restaurant does is to bring a carafe of water, sometimes tea.  Koreans only buy bottled water when they go on a picnic, or camping, or for some specific contingency.

Our local E-Mart had only 5 brands, each in bottles of 500 ml: Baeksansu (Korean) (340 won), Evian (French) (980 won), Icis (Korean) (350 won), Samdasoo (Korean) (430 won), and Volvic (Korean) (980 won).

With IZ’s help, I conducted a blind taste test.  I poured a quarter cup of each bottle, at room temperature, into a glass.  I took a sip of each one, taking notes on bouquet, flavor, minerality, then ranked them according to general preference.  I did the whole thing twice.

My rankings on the first try:

    1. Evian
    2. Volvic
    3. Baeksansu
    4. Icis
    5. Samdasoo

On the second try:

    1. Baeksansu
    2. Evian
    3. Samdasoo
    4. Icis
    5. Volvic

With concentration and slurping, and multiple re-tastings, I began to detect very subtle nuances between the brands.  However, what seemed like flavor or minerality in one round came across as impurity or staleness in the other.  Evian, which evoked a wisp of somethingness, scored high in both rounds.  I was glad to prove that Samdasoo, which generally seems to be everyone’s favorite bottled mineral water by default, wasn’t particularly impressive.  But ultimately, they all tasted perfectly fine.

IZ’s averaged rankings, based on 2 tastings:

    1. Volvic
    2. Samdsoo
    3. Icis
    4. Evian (“Oh my god.  This is so gross.  I can’t believe human beings drink this stuff.”)
    5. Baeksansu

DJ’s ranking, based on 1 tasting:

    1. Samdasoo
    2. Icis
    3. Volvic
    4. Baeksansu
    5. Evian

The takeaway was that the bottled waters all kinda tasted the same, no need to spend more on any of them.  With all due respect to water sommeliers (see for example He Tastes Water Like Some Taste Wine – thanks, GK!), I don’t think that enjoyment of water should be overcomplicated.

(See also FOODS)

(See also PLACES)

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