Associated Press writer Vicki Smith was among the judges choosing "World's Best Water" at the 12th annual Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting competition held in Berkely Springs, Calif., Saturday.
"Three quick sniffs, one short sip and a little concentration and the differences become clear Chlorine, mustiness, even sweetness rise to the nose, while salt, metal or a taste vaguely like pebbles can settle on the palate. How the water feels in the mouth is important, too, whether full and round, flat and thin, or soft and bubbly," she reported in an article for The Associated Press.
"We have incredible tools in our mouths," Arthur von Wiesenberger, a California author who has served as "water master" of the event for the past 10 years, told Smith.
Von Wiesenberger spent about an hour before the competition training 12 journalists-turned-judges to discern subtle differences for the 12th annual Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting, Smith reported.
"It gives you a finer appreciation for the subtle qualities of water," Peter Swanson, a filmmaker from Leicester, Mass., who was among the judges, explained to Smith. "It challenges you to focus your senses, and that's not something you do every day."
Six countries, 18 states and the District of Columbia competed for the best tasting water Saturday, vying in four categories: municipal, bottled, purified and carbonated bottled.
And the winners are
For municipal water Barraute of Quebec, Canada, was first, followed by Senneterre, Canada; Hesperia, Calif.; West Gilgo Beach, N.Y.; and Montpelier, Ohio.
For bottled water Ice Mist of Morarp, Sweden, was first, followed by Canadian Mountain of Barrie, Canada; Laure' Spring Water of Unicoi, Tenn.; Whistler Water Pure Glacial Spring Water of Burnaby, Canada; and Mountain Valley Spring Water of Hot Springs, Ark.
For purified water Blue Moon Water Systems of Brandon, Canada, and Cherokee Bottled Water of Cherokee, N.C., tied for first, followed by Whispering Springs Purified Drinking Water of Pierceton, Ind.; and Stoneclear Springs of Vanleer, Tenn.
For carbonated bottled water Oaza Tesanj of Tesanj, Bosnia, was first, followed by Gleneagles Scottish Spring Water of Blackford Scotland; and Highland Spring Scottish Spring Water of Blackford, Scotland.
"Generally, the more natural water is, the better it tastes and the better it fares in competition. Some municipal systems use as many as 30 chemicals to clarify, treat and flavor their water. Potassium, for example, makes water sweeter, while calcium and magnesium give it body," Smith reported.
"The ideal water is colorless and clear, odor-free, with a balanced mouth feel and no single overpowering taste or aftertaste. Each sample is judged on appearance, odor, flavor, mouth feel, aftertaste and overall impression," she explained.
"Tasting is subjective, with individual preferences often influenced by childhood experience or acquired tastes, as a trial run before the judging showed," reported Smith . "In the trial run, the judges tried three water samples. One, from Ohio, smelled of chlorine and had a metallic aftertaste, yet two judges preferred it. Another, from Moldavia, was salty and mildly carbonated. One judge preferred that, saying it was most like a gin and tonic. But the majority chose a Canadian water which had almost no taste or aroma."