Water everywhere: An overview of Scotland's other other national drink
A combination of geography, climate and geology puts Scotland in an ideal position to exploit the modern taste for mineral water. David Pollock raises a glass to one of the country’s smaller producers.
Mineral water is so named because it has absorbed minerals during its sometimes decades-long filtration through soil and rock to the spring. Yet the magic ingredients that differentiate it from spring water or ordinary tap water remain elusive.
Martin Simpson, managing director of the Ballater-based, family-owned Deeside Water, humbly describes his company as one of the ‘smaller producers’ in Scotland. But he talks about his product with all the hands-on enthusiasm of the small businessman.
‘The thing about Deeside Water is that it has clinically proven health benefits,’ he says. ‘We’ve undertaken ten medical research studies to prove this, and also to prove that it has anti-ageing benefits for the skin. Ballater grew up as a spa town around 1760, so it’s because of the water that the town is there – it has a long history of health-giving properties, but we’ve had this research done independently by hospitals and universities to prove that the water actually has anti-oxidant properties. Otherwise, people are sceptical of these things.’
While not seeking to speak for the whole industry, Simpson does reckon that Scotland’s relative remoteness and lack of industrialisation helps the perception that water sourced from springs and wells here is purer than almost anywhere else.
‘The lack of people and pollution here does help, from our point of view,’ he says. ‘The fact we’re halfway up a hill in the middle of nowhere is certainly a contributory factor to water quality.’
Deeside, like Highland Spring, collects spring water through an automatic, enclosed system that pipes it straight to the bottling plant. This cuts down on human intervention and the possibility of contamination.
The quality of Scotland’s water is also bolstered by the steady rainfall coming in from the Atlantic. Competition is fierce, however, and small producers in Scotland express their frustration at going into their local supermarket and seeing countless bottles of French water lining the shelves.
Simpson gets most of his materials – bottles, labels and gas for carbonation – from Scottish suppliers. What he needs is available right on his doorstep. He is pleased at the reduction in food miles this brings, and recognises that such practices are one way of diminishing the industry’s environmental impact.