In 1513 Vasco Núñez de Balboa set out with a small party of 67 to cross the mountains in the center of the Panama peninsula. On the morning of September 25, 1513, Balboa climbed a peak and became the first European to look out on what would become the eastern shore of the Pacific Ocean (it was named by Ferdinand Magellan during his expedition around the world several years later). Building a pile of stones and a cross, they knelt and sang a Catholic hymn of Thanksgiving. Then they marched to the shore and formally took possession of the ocean in the name of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. Many Islands of the central Pacific would not be discovered for centuries, and Captain Cook’s famous voyages were still 255 years in the future.
Around the time Balboa saw the Pacific some rain fell on Viti Levu the main island of the Fiji group. From the mountain peaks, the rain water followed gravity on a long journey to the aquifer. Here it remained confined in a sealed chamber that protected the water from all outside influence for centuries.
When you open a bottle of Fiji Water today you drink the rain water that fell around 450 years ago at the time Balboa discovered the Pacific. Carbon dating tells that the what we drink today from a bottle of Fiji Water is rain that fell more than 450 years ago, and it has been percolating ever since through layers of silica, basalt and sandstone.
As far as the age of water goes we have a wide variety of choices.
In Tasmania, Duncan McFie the founder of Cloud Juice discovered that many friends were coming to his house to collect rain water from the tank. He knew that King Island had the cleanest air in the world. The rain bottled in Cloud Juice is formed over one of the largest, unspoilt expanses of water in the world - the Great Southern Ocean.
In Hawaii, Hawaiian Springs Natural Artesian Water is rain that fell in that tropical paradise a little more than 30 days ago. The rain water then filters through 13,000 feet of charcoal, on its way to the naturally flowing artesian well called Kea'au (which means clear, pure spring water) at the foot of Mauna Loa, one of the two largest volcanoes on Big Island. The short duration in the ground guarantees "young water" that has a low TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) of 64 mg/l.
The Ochil Hills in Perthshire, Scotland is an area of outstanding natural beauty. Layers of red sandstone and basalt formed these ancient hills around 400 million years ago and they provide a natural filter for the fresh rainwater, which falls on the undulating heather clad slopes. This same rainwater takes up to 15 years to reach the point deep below the hills and from which Highland Spring derives its source. On its way, the water passes through countless intricate cavities, absorbing wholesome minerals on its way.
The Wasatch Ice Water Company bottles water from a different source. Deep in the ground, in fact almost 2,000 feet below the earths surface is a huge pocket formed over 20,000 years ago. The pocket is filled with water from the ice age. Scientific study and testing has determined the water is between 18,000 and 22,000 years. To protect its purity, the water is bottled at the source in a state-of-the-art “Certified Clean Room”.
So does age matter? Is young or old water better?
None of the above. Unlike wine that needs time to smooth out tannin structure the age of the water does not indicate quality or better taste. What is important is the treatment and care the water receives during the bottling process. In general the less the water is handled the more it expresses its history and unique “terroir”.
We should pay attention to the age of the water we are drinking and enjoy the subtle differences in water from different ages as the “story” of the water can significantly contribute to the overall epicurean experience.