Why Fine Whisky Needs Iceberg Water (Seriously) - Spear's Magazine

Why Fine Whisky Needs Iceberg Water (Seriously)

It’s not often one attends a whisky tasting at which the water is just as interesting as the whisky. But on Wednesday night, at Hedonism wines in Mayfair, this proved to be the case. Well – almost.

It’s not often one attends a whisky tasting at which the water is just as interesting as the whisky. But on Wednesday night, at Hedonism wines in Mayfair, this proved to be the case. Well – almost.

Whisky connoisseurs are well-known for being extremely picky about how and what type of water they mix with their dram. This is surely fair enough: if you’re going to spend £300 on a bottle of whisky, it seems criminal to smooth it out with a drop of London’s finest, freshest tap water. Even Evian has its impurities.

Iceberg water provides an intriguing alternative. It is sourced from 12,000 year old icebergs that have naturally detached from the Canadian arctic ice shelf and drifted to the Newfoundland coastline. Old fashioned fishing boats ‘harvest’ a small number of these icebergs each year and the melted ice is then bottled and sold at £9 a pop.

Before we were let loose on the whiskies on Wednesday evening we had a taste of the melted icebergs. The water lived up – or should I say down – to expectations. It will surely be the only tasting I ever go to where it is hoped that what you are drinking tastes of absolutely nothing, which the Iceberg water did (or didn’t). This is precisely why it is good as an accompaniment for fine whisky, as it does not impose on the taste.

After establishing that the ancient, tasteless water was really very good, it was on to the good stuff. We were invited to taste five whiskies both with and without the water to experience the difference it made.

There were two stars. A powerful 59 per cent, 30 year old Caol Ila single malt had deep flavours of the oak barrel that lingered long after the initial taste, and a Big Peat Christmas Edition, Blended Islay Malt was deliciously smoky and mellow.

When mixed with the Iceberg, the alcoholic edge of the dram was softened but not at the expense of taste. Especially with the 30 year old Caol, which almost knocked you off your stool at first, this slight dilution was most welcome and enabled a fuller enjoyment of the whisky.

After five generous measures I came away convinced that bottled 12,000 year iceberg is the best accompaniment to fine whisky. And presumably, if you’re going to spend £250 on a bottle of single malt (the approximate price of the most expensive bottle we tasted) you won’t be too fussed about the £9 price tag.
 
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