bottled water blind taste test

Water | Blind Taste Testing in Vancouver

The idea

The weekend before COVID-19 officially hit us in Washington and I decided to hunker down, I visited my old college roommate and her family in Vancouver for a few days. One of my favorite things to do is chat with her son Noah, who is just this hilarious, delightful kid (he wants to be a marketing director when he grows up).

Noah and I got to talking about bottled waters and the flavors and nuances and somehow we got this brilliant idea that we’d do some water tasting. It’s like wine tasting only, you know, more subtle and less alcoholic. As we found out later it’s also riddled with the terrible conundrum of what sort of palate cleanser should be used when tasting water. Weirdly, we went with Club crackers. ๐Ÿคท

The candidates

Now, you know me. I don’t mess around. If we’re doing a water tasting, we are doing an epic water tasting. So, I stopped by the store and gathered all the water I could find. We ended up with 15 varieties. Noah introduces them all here (organized by pH, of course):

Note: Refreshe, Kirkland, and Arrowhead weren’t included in the taste test. They were just lying around the house and got added into the pH lineup.

The rubric

Seeing as I have a thing for emojis in spreadsheets and that my partner for this experiment was a 13-year old, we went with a 1-10 emoji scale of our own design, which we used to grade the bottles themselves, brand messaging, and our blind taste test. The emoji scale worked thusly:

  1. ๐Ÿ’ฉ
  2. ๐Ÿคฎ
  3. ๐Ÿ˜ฌ
  4. ๐Ÿคจ
  5. ๐Ÿคท
  6. ๐Ÿ˜Ž
  7. ๐Ÿ˜
  8. ๐Ÿ”ฅ
  9. ๐Ÿคฏ
  10. ๐Ÿ˜

The process

The first night, we each separately graded the bottles and messaging, but the final scores are simply based upon taste alone. However, here’s some standouts for bottle design and messaging:

  • Smart Water got high scores from both of us for messaging and bottle design.
  • Core was the only water to call out on the bottle that it’s fluoride-free.
  • Bai had a clear differentiator in being “antioxidant water.”
  • Earth H2O and AQUA both mentioned their bottles are BPA-free.
  • And we both really love Voss’s sleek and beautiful design.

The second night we set up the official blind taste test. We had 30 shot glasses, two for each bottle, marked only by a number when delivered to us to taste by Noah’s mom, Sarah. After we were done taste testing, we had Sarah run through them all, too, and added her scores to our spreadsheet.

The results

Below, you can see the results of our blind taste test. Some of the worst-tasting water includes Aquafina, Evian, and Voss. I had a personal guess that the worst-tasting water of all time would be Ethos (and it was my least favorite, but it didn’t end up the worst once we averaged them all). I also had a guess that Fiji was going to be amazing, but it was just so-so. Overall, it was a pretty surprising experience.

The winners

The three winners were all brands I had never tried before that night: Icelandic, Bai, and Core.

best water

The conclusion

This entire experience was eye-opening. It’s interesting how we allow packaging and branding to do so much of our thinking for us. Price points, too. I’ve always thought about Figi as a premium sort of water, and Voss looks expensive. I drink Smartwater daily. However, all of those waters are just so-so when it comes to taste. But Core, which I had never heard of before, is actually a very balanced, great-tasting water that promotes the fact that it’s fluoride-free. I’d say Core is most in line with what I’m looking for in a bottled water, and I never would have discovered it without this test.

Wonder what we’ll do the next time I visit…

What about you? When’s the last time something made you rethink your assumptions?ย