What does water taste like?
The stock answer is nothing at all. Which, of course, is a patent absurdity, like claiming that fresh air doesn’t feel of anything when it whips around your face on a wintery morn. Or that rain doesn’t smell of anything when it descends, in gushing torrents, onto the earth.
The best water tastes somewhat velvety, slightly toothsome, a little iodine, a little copper, a little pinch of fresh soil.
But it’s much more than just a subtle, indistinct flavour. Water represents life itself. Hydration, renewal and perspiration: we wouldn’t get far with any of these without that H20.
So, why not drink the best there is?
That question, and the quest to find it, was a task that Karlheinz and Elisabeth Muhr and their young children set themselves 19 years ago following a dinner table chat.
It was here that Elisabeth decided that the level of sugar in fruit juices meant that, from now on, she wanted the family to drink only water; namely the best water they could possibly find. It was a promise that would eventually lead them to create Hallstein Artesian Water.
But what are the qualities that make up the ultimate artisan aqua?
The conclusion the Muhrs came to was that the water they would look for must be natural, sustainable and emanate from an extremely deep aquifer that wouldn’t require pumping, an act that can change the molecular structure of water.
Underground maps were deliberated over, hydrogeologists with the most detailed subterranean cartographic research were consulted and more than 2,500 water samples from around the world were tested – and rejected.
In September 2005, a full six years after that fateful after-dinner conversation, the sweet spot was found. It was, and is, the only location in Europe where the geological structures were aligned in a way that would produce the high-level liquid that met the Muhrs’ standards.
More than 200 metres deep in a layer of rock beneath Obertraun, in the Hallstatt region of Upper Austria, the water that arrives at the artesian Dachstein well has the richest of narrative backstories.
A decade previously, this water was mere precipitation falling in torrents, drips and storms on these lonely, craggy, dog-toothed Alpine mountains.
What the Muhrs found at the well was not merely a stream of aqua champagne, but a bottomless Balthazar of liquid nectar that filters through uncommonly high-quality limestone and is protected from pollution by a level of earth called a glacial moraine.
Replete with exceptionally low levels of sodium and an extremely high natural pH level (this is a trait of alkaline water, which is said to neutralise acid levels in the human body), this Austrian aqua also has high levels of naturally dissolved oxygen, an attribute that most bottled-water companies dislike due to its tendency to corrode pipes.
For the Muhrs however, this was exactly the liquid they wanted.
What the Muhrs found was not merely a stream of aqua champagne, but a bottomless Balthazar of liquid nectar that filters through high-quality limestone
Year upon year of taste tests alongside the collecting of a staggering 57 different permits got underway so this water could be collected and bottled.
The myriad tests proved that this was no fluke: this was water that did indeed come from an aquifer that was constantly replenishing, that had never been exposed to atmospheric contamination, that didn’t impact other water sources and, most importantly, was stable, with no change to its make-up over time.
The result of this phenomenal work and exceptional commitment to quality may be an elixir to some and a hydrating tool to others. Hallstein’s end-product bottled water is protectively sealed so that the contents cannot be contaminated.
But crucially, water of such supreme terroir and progeny embodies something more all-encompassing.
WC Fields once wrote: “You can’t trust water: even a straight stick turns crooked in it.”
Thanks to Hallstein there’s now a water that combines taste and truth as well as that all-important trust: it’s distilled and bottled to create the purest essence of life itself.