Taste: In Search Of … : Bottled Water

Walk into Whole Foods, and you’ll be faced with nearly 20 brands of bottled water. Think it’s all the same? Line up varieties with widely varying mineral contents and geographical sources, as we did, and you’ll notice the differences. To educate our waterlogged palates, we conducted a blind tasting of still springwaters with Los Angeles water connoisseur Michael Mascha, of Finewaters.com, and oenophile Gregory Moore, of the Moore Brothers Wine Company.

Best Buy

Johnson City, Tennessee
Availability: Whole Foods; $1.19/1.5 L.
At a recent international water-tasting in California, Lauré was deemed the best domestic bottled still springwater in the nation. Our experts agreed with the accolades, choosing this crisp, well-­balanced water as their favorite. And at this price, it can’t be beat.

Excellent Waters

Viti Levu, Fiji
Availability: Whole Foods; $2.19/1.5 L.
Fiji seems to have every star chef in its pocket, based on testimonials from the likes of Charlie Trotter, who supposedly uses it to cook. It’s a bit expensive to boil pasta in, but the taste is bright and clean, with a lively mouth-feel.

French Alps
Availability: Widely available; $1.99/1.5 L.
Evian sells some 1.5 billion liters each year, making it the best-selling mineral water on Earth. Our tasters found it to be fairly neutral, with a slight sweetness.

Poland Spring
Availability: Widely available; $1.19/1.5 L.
This popular water has been the subject of debate in water industry circles, thanks to a settled class-action lawsuit suggesting that the water doesn’t come from a spring at all. Whatever its source, it’s well balanced, with no predominating mineral flavor.

Source: Puy de Dôme, France
Availability: Whole Foods; $1.99/1.5 L.
Originating in a volcanic forest, this water is naturally filtered through layers of volcanic rock and sand, and therefore has a low mineral content. Its taste was described as round, lively and bright.

Better Than Tap  

Paradise, Idaho
Availability: Whole Foods; $1.99/1.5 L.
This water is billed as a “Natural Mineral Supplement”; there’s so much natural silica and fluoride in it that they warn pregnant women not to drink too much. The mineral surplus causes a hardness we don’t want in our everyday water.

Iceland Spring
Heidmörk, Iceland
Availability: Whole Foods; $1.79/1.5 L.
According to the bottler, Iceland Spring is a favorite of Gwyneth Paltrow. But our tasters thought this water seemed heavy, with a flat body and a lingering aftertaste.

A variety of springs in New York and Pennsylvania
Availability: Widely available; $1.19/1.5 L.
The panel was unexcited by this fairly flat offering. Since Wissahickon gets its water from different sources, we imagine that consistency is a problem.