I tend to think of myself as a beer and spirits enthusiast. As in I am enthusiastic about drinking beer, rum, tequila, whiskey and sometimes gin among other spirits and liqueurs.
I don't claim to know much beyond the basics -- whisk(e)y is made from grain; Tennessee bourbon is charcoal-filtered and Kentucky bourbon is not; tequila and mezcal are made from agave; rum and cachaca are made from sugar cane; gin is not simply vodka that's been infused with juniper and other botanicals -- but I know what I like.
I like tequila with lime, but never lemon. And I can take, but usually leave the salt. I prefer lowland and speyside Scotches. I want whisk(e)y on the rocks.
Can I identify the numerous flavor compounds in any given spirit? Not really. I can say if there's smoke, spice, vanilla or fruit, but beyond that I'd be making it up.
But I do understand enough to know that a bit of water or melted ice can alter, or to use spirits-speak, "open up" the flavor of any given spirit, but especially whisk(e)y.
But does the specific water matter?
Well, according the Old Limestone bottling company the answer is yes.
What makes Kentucky bourbon better than other bourbons is the water, according to Old Limestone. Specifically Kentucky's limestone filtered water. (The superior water argument isn't new; for years New Yorkers have argued the city's tap water is what makes New York pizza crust and bagels better than all others.)
According to Old Limestone:
"Kentucky's limestone aquifer produces a water with delicious hints of calcium and magnesium, which give our bourbons a rich velvety smooth mouth feel, but with no iron in it, which would turn a bourbon mash black."
"Today, a splash of water opens up a bourbon releasing its entire spectrum of flavor and aroma nuances. The alcohol burn is diminished as a smooth, rich taste emerges, enhanced, never diluted."
Old Limestone recently sent me a bottle of its mixing water to try. At my husband's suggestion we decided to do a little experiment.
Could we tell the difference between Kentucky bourbon with Old Limestone ice cubes and Kentucky bourbon with Arkansas' own Mountain Valley Spring Water ice cubes? Mountain Valley Spring Water, like Old Limestone, contains calcium and magnesium.
And the answer is yes!
Both waters opened the bourbon, mellowing its harshness -- but each in subtly different ways, and both were better than our usual tap water cubes.
Unfortunately, neither of our palates is refined enough to pinpoint the differences, but it was definitely a fun little experiment.
As for which one we liked best?
Well, his tastes stick close to home, and I would probably very much enjoy a trip to Kentucky.
For more information about Old Limestone, visit oldlimestone.com.
For more information about Mountain Valley Spring Water, visit mountainvalleyspring.com.
Food on 11/15/2017
Print Headline: When it comes to spirits, water matters