Interview with Jan Bender, founder of Iskilde:
How did Iskilde get started?
When I first heard of Iskilde, this was in 2002, I was immediately fascinated. The spring is located less than 2000 meters from my farm, and I had no idea that there could be water of this quality in our area. I went to see the spring and taste the water, and the sensation was fantastic! The water is quite cold – as implied by the name – it has a silky texture which I found exciting, and the taste was characteristic for the waters in our area - when they are best.
How would you describe the flavor of the water?
Waters from the lake highland region have a fairly high content of minerals, but contrary to most other waters with a similar mineral content, they are neutral, almost sweet in their taste, a little bit as a glacial water, but with much more body.
This is due to the influence of the many different layers of soil and moraine in the area.
The soils consist of billions of tiny pieces of different minerals, bonded together by organic particles. So by sieving through these layers, the water is exposed to a huge surface, compared to the area encountered when penetrating rock through a crevasse – and it is exposed not just to one type of rock, but to numerous different types of rock.
During this process the water absorbs a wide variety of minerals, many of them rare from the soil – and each of them in fairly small quantities. So the apparent sweetness of the water is really a result of many different tastes balancing each other out. This is the reason why the water has more “body” then the glacial waters which it might resemble at a first impression.
What's your goal with Iskilde?
My goal for Iskilde was to transport the sensation of drinking the water at the spring to wherever you decided to open your bottle.
How do you archive this?
This seemingly humble ambition proved fairly difficult to implement in real life, however, and we performed a series of tests to see why the water changed character during the bottling process. It turned out that the answer was “air”. At the spring, when the water leaves the ground (today through a rather unromantic pipe), it has a very high content of air. The air is sucked into the water when it sprouts from the spring, just like air is sucked into the water when you let the water run quickly from a tap. This air changes the texture of the water and makes it soft and silky. Hardly surprising, when you think of it, but still it came as a revelation to us.
During a traditional bottling process, all air is taken out of the water. We had to find a way of putting it back in. We did a lot of experiments. Plain atmospheric air contains too many germs – even one germ is too many. Using pure gases was a challenge too, because many types of air have a distinct taste. Just think of how much adding CO2 will change the taste of a water. The only gas we could find, that didn’t change the taste, yet restored the life and silkiness of the water at the spring – was oxygen.
Still today, we like to take people to the spring, serve them a glass of Iskilde in one glass and a glass of water taken directly from the spring in another – and ask them to compare. There is a difference of course. But I am proud to say that it is so small, that only an expert will detect it.
Who designed the bottle, what was the idea here?
An excellent and renowned Danish designer, Jesper Mathiesen, created the packaging for me. The design goal was to make a packaging that was discreet, elegant, and functional. It should be as much at home on the table of a three star restaurant as in a ragged willow basket. It was very important for me, that focus was maintained on the contents, the water, rather than the packaging. Iskilde was to be a gourmet product, not a luxury product, if you understand what I mean.
The neck of the bottle is narrow, in order to minimize the waters exposure to the air over the bottle. We have covered the two-component screw cap with a capsule in order to obtain a completely tight closure, oxygen molecules are tiny and agile. And we wanted boxes that were good for handling.
Labor unions have recommended a maximum weight of 13 kgs for packages that are to be handled manually. Our cube cardboard boxes contain 16 bottles of 0,5 litre or 9 bottles of 1,0 litre – both of them optimized for manual handling, in respect for all the people who help us move the boxes around.