Europe is the largest producer and exporter of fine bottled water, followed by the United States. But with more than 3,500 water brands available worldwide, how is one able to determine which ones are the best? With several factors to consider—including the type of bottled water and its particular characteristics, whether or not it is paired with food, and the temperature at which it is served—fine bottled water is revered because of its range and diversity.
Here's a look at some of the best from around the world, tracing their origins, sources, and benefits.
Click on the image below for slideshow
GIZE. This gold-filtered mineral water has passed through ancient rock layers in eastern Canada that have been exposed to volcanic eruptions, glacier movements, and continental shifts, rendering a unique level of purity and mineralization. In 1500, the Mi’kmaq people indigenous to the region called this water their fountain of youth.
WALNUT GROVE. The Walnut Grove Spring is estimated to be around 15,000 years old. The Indiana countryside where the spring emerges from had been formed by an ancient river, which was fed by large glacial melts from millennia ago. When the river ceded, it revealed limestone formations that are particular to the region, in addition to sandstone and rich soil, all of which have filtered this fine mineral water. Recent discoveries have confirmed that historic civilizations had sustained themselves from the spring.
ICE SWAN. In 1767, Jesuit priest José García Alsué stumbled upon this glacial flow in the Queulat National Park of Patagonia while searching for the mythical gold city of Ciudad de los Césares. The brand’s name is taken from Patagonian cosmogony, which held that a group of indigenous Kawésqar women (who flew to the moon after their death) were in fact the winged spirits of the glaciers. Chilean artist Sebastián Errázuriz designed the bottle, which resembles the slender neck of a swan.
VIRGEN. The Guaranies, Amerindians who inhabited the Arequita Mountain range since pre- Columbian times, were the ones who named the source the “river of the high stone cave.” This is where Virgen natural water originates—from rain that has been filtered through the mountains’ 300-million-old volcanic and geological formations. This fine water from Uruguay is sourced from a secluded and protected artesian aquifer deep in the mountains.
VEEN. Originating from the Konisaajo spring in Northern Finland and discovered in the 1950s, VEEN spring water filters through hills and sandy terrain and has been bottled directly at the source since 2006. The name is inspired by the female water spirit Veen Emonen, from the 19th-century Finnish epic Kalevala, which details the myths and folklore of Finland.
LAURETANA. On the Alps of Biella in the Piedmont region of Italy lies a frozen spring located about 1,050 meters above sea level. Every summer, the Monte Rosa mountain glaciers melt into a river that filters through the crystalline granite rocks and rocky riverbeds of the Alps. The water’s low sodium level is suitable for athletes, which is why this brand is the water of choice for the A.C. Milan Futbol Club. Its glass bottle was designed by the late Ferrari designer Pininfarina.
WATTWILLER. This brand has one of the longest pedigrees of any water. Discovered by the Romans as far back as 450 B.C., Wattwiller was once known as Wasserweiler, or the village of water, during the height of the Roman Empire. Since 735 A.D., when the Abbey of Murbach inherited the water source, the monks spread word about the therapeutic benefits of the waters and baths of Wattwiller. In the 19th century, bourgeoisie from Basel, Switzerland and Mulhouse, France frequented the baths. The brand was acquired by the Spadel Group in 2004, and is served in many of the two- and three-Michelin star restaurants in France.
ILULIAQ. Located north of the Arctic Circle, the Sermeq Kujalleq glacier—made from fallen snow on a Greenland ice cap preserved through millennia—produces more ice than any other glacier in the northern hemisphere. The glacial ice breaks and flows into the Ilulissat Icefjord, where locals have been harvesting it for centuries. This is the unique source of Iluliaq water, which melts naturally and is only produced on demand, ensuring freshness and limited production.
FINÉ. Taking a thousand years to pass through mineral-rich volcanic rock, Finé water never comes into contact with air because it is collected in an aquifer positioned 600 meters beneath the Fuji volcanic belt. This artesian water is slightly alkaline and has one of the highest concentrations of silica in any commercially bottled water, which helps with collagen production and strengthens hair and nails.
ANTIPODES. Antipodes founder and restaurateur Simon Woolley had wondered for many years why premium bottled water was only being imported from Europe to his native New Zealand. So, he sought to find a pure water source in his country. Antipodes water, which takes 50 years to filter through rock and earth, is sourced from a 150- to 300-meter deep artesian aquifer in Rotoma Hills, an isolated area with very little human population and no industrial activity. The bottle was designed to mimic an old-fashioned New Zealand beer flask.
This story first appeared in Vault Magazine Issue 7 2012.