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How Tap Water Is Ruining Your Bourbon
Jan 26/17

How Tap Water Is Ruining Your Bourbon Posted by: Aaron Stearns | 1 Comment

Traditionally, Kentucky bourbon has been distilled using the special, mineral-rich limestone water of that state. This is important information, even though it might not matter to you at all. That’s like caring about how salami is made. Yes, yes, it’s very delicious. Pass me a sample, please.

You’ve already got your preferred bourbon bottle in hand — whether it be Pappy’s, Bulleit, Maker’s or Four Roses, and that’s all the information you need.


Not exactly.

Because how you drink it, now, that’s important. You want to get the most out of the bottle. You want the many nuanced flavors to pop out of the glass without impediment.

So, here’s something you might not know: Your ice cubes are holding back your bourbon.

It’s true.

Limestone Bourbon Mixing WaterWhen bourbon is distilled, that special Kentucky limestone water has no iron, which can add bitterness to your beloved bourbon. It’s rich in calcium and magnesium and filtered through limestone via Mother Nature. And for those into pop culture, James Bond insisted that his Bourbon & Branch cocktails were made only with limestone water from Kentucky. Because it’s right and proper.

So, if you plop in a few ice cubes from your tap, you’re unknowingly crippling the more subtle notes of your bourbon and adding too much bite.

You may be skeptical about now, thinking the source of the water in your mixed drink simply cannot make a difference. If that’s the case, I challenge you to a blind taste test. That’s what I did.

Disclaimer: I’m by no means a bourbon connoisseur, which I would argue makes me even more trustworthy in this case. If a novice like myself can taste a difference, it will be even more pronounced for those with advanced palates.

I made two Bourbon & Branch cocktails for my cynical friend and I — one with filtered Arkansas tap water, the other with Old Limestone Mixing Water. I made them using Bulleit Rye bourbon while she was in another room.

I was not surprised when she accurately determined which drink was made with Old Limestone, and we were both astonished at the difference between the two glasses.

The drinks made with tap water had an unnecessary bite. They seemed more fiery, bitter, harsh. I made the classic “whiskey face” after each sip.

But the Old Limestone was noticeably ... buttery. So smooth. It was a pleasure to drink, coating the tongue in warmth. My friend noted, “The Old Limestone doesn’t change the flavor of the bourbon, it just makes it more mellow.”

Later, we incorporated her husband into the blind taste test. He could also tell which was Old Limestone, and after trying it, he immediately took a photo of the bottle and sent it to his bourbon-loving brother. Then called him.

“I found something you have to try,” he said. “I just sent you a picture of it.”

If that’s not a glowing endorsement, I don’t know what is.  

To make a Bourbon & Branch, mix:

2 oz of Old Limestone Mixing Water, chilled

2 oz of your preferred bourbon

Stir. Add more mixing water to taste.

For extra frostiness, add an ice cube made with Old Limestone.

Find out more about Old Limestone water here.


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Bill on December 12 2016 at 04:14AM

Sounds great, but where can I buy branch water in the UK? I can’t find any! Help!


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