I grew up in California in the 1970s and 1980s. I never really understood water when I was growing up. Water was in the ocean, but you couldn’t drink it because it was too salty. There was water in the garden hose, but that was for hooking up to a sprinkler and playing in. My mother would take water from the tap, but then mix it with instant lemonade powder, or Kool-Aid or something like that. Water wasn’t really something you drank on its own.
It wasn’t until the bottled water craze hit in the late 1980s that I ever considered drinking water – plain water. Because, when you opened up that kitchen faucet in California, you got a nice cold glass of liquid that you couldn’t see through. Liquid that wasn’t colorless, and very possibly might have had little bits of toilet paper floating in it. It didn’t look like something you’d want to put in your mouth.
One of the first times I visited Europe, I found myself in Zurich, Switzerland – dying for a glass of water after a long climb up a hill to the hostel I was staying in. Against my better Californian judgement I poured a glass from the tap and to my surprise found it more than drinkable – it was quite delicious. I remember coming home and telling everyone that would listen that the most incredible thing I saw while there was that you could actually drink the water in Switzerland from the tap! I’ve since moved to Oregon, where the water is pretty good and we all drink it from the tap with only the mildest of reservations.
I’m really not a fan of cheesy marketing gimmicks and am always a pretty skeptical guy, especially considering I work in the drinks trade. So when I met the people from Martin Miller’s Gin in New Orleans this summer, my cynical side kicked in and I told them I loved the gin but wasn’t buying the whole Icelandic water bit on the back of the bottle. Later they invited me to come to Iceland and drink a glass of water with them.
And I found that Icelandic water really is pretty incredible. Apparently the closest you’ll find to the original recipe of two parts hydrogen to one part oxygen, there is something along the lines of 5 parts per million other stuff in there with the H and the O. I drank it in my coffee in the morning, I filled bottles from the tap and took it on excursions with me during the day, and guzzled it at night with dinner to stay hydrated after all those Martinis. I even sat in it while snowmobiling.
They took me to the site of their spring, where the water flows out of the mountains and into an aquifer, which is then pumped (note the little shed) to the bottling plant in Borgarnes. And then the gin is shipped to the US and the UK, which is where the story of Martin Miller’s gin ends.
It’s simple, really. It’s amazing gin made by a brilliant distiller, cut with really excellent water, and sold by some really good people. Not a bad way to spend a week.