“ Manufacturer: Isklar / Type: Water „
I don't drink a lot of bottled water as a rule. Partly that's because I'm lucky to live in an area where the water is pretty tasty straight out of the tap, and doesn't need any filtering. The other main reason is that bottled water is phenomenally expensive when compared to tap water. Of course, the environmental arguments against bottled water are important too - not least certain makers' hilariously pompous commands not to reuse their bottles by refilling them with anything else; naturally I go out of my way to ignore this absurdity! Isklar doesn't try this one on, so that's a point in its favour from the start.
All that said, there are occasions when I will buy bottled water, mainly when I'm out and about and just want something to refresh a dry throat but not something that has a strong taste to it. I'm not that fussy about brands (a good job, as my favoured Malvern Water is about to be discontinued) but I was rather intrigued recently to see some Isklar on the shelves of my local Tesco supermarket. At 44p for a 500 ml bottle, it's competitive with well known brands such as Evian and Volvic (though, as I say, still many times the effective price of tap water) and so I thought I'd give it a go.
The bottle is one of the more attractive I've seen, and is actually quite a nice piece of product design. Although it's of about the same girth as other brands (I checked against a bottle of Buxton water) it manages to look slimmer and more svelte. The branding itself is fairly minimal, with smallish diamond-shaped labels front and back. More interestingly, this diamond motif is repeated on the plastic of the bottle itself. This clever shaping means that the bottle catches the light in interesting ways, and looks a little more upmarket than it actually is.
It's good to see a note on the rear label to the effect that the bottle is carbon neutral. Sorry, that should be CarbonNeutral® - much to my surprise, the term (at least in that format) turns out to be a registered trademark of something called "The CarbonNeutral Company". No, me neither. Anyway, the plastic of the bottle is also recyclable, but in all honesty I'd be annoyed if it weren't these days; there's no excuse any more for failure on that front. Add this to the fact that almost all of the Isklar plant's own waste is recycled and you have what by bottled water standards is a pretty decent green record.
And so to nutrition. Isklar, as is stated plainly on the label, has a "very low mineral content". I'm not entirely clear why something calling itself "mineral water" should be pleased about that; I doubt Tropicana will start advertising juices with "very low fruit content" any time soon. It would be more understandable if the company used words along the lines of "pure" or "simple" on the packaging, but they don't. Okay, there's the usual "natural", but then deadly nightshade is natural! The very low sodium content does at least have the practical upshot of making Isklar suitable for low-sodium diets.
As far as taste goes: well, it's water. I must admit that it does taste nice and "pure" to me, and though it may be just in the mind the link with its Norwegian glacial origin (that's why it's called Isklar - "ice clear") gives it a clean, uncomplicated flavour, especially if it's been gently, but not overly, chilled. It does the job if I'm in need of a bottle of water, and it's less environmentally damaging than some brands... but it won't replace tap water for everyday use. The cost of that would be enormous, and way out of proportion to any real or perceived benefits. Still, if you really must have bottled, then Isklar is better than most.
Over the course of the last 10 years, the bottled water industry has become more and more prominent in world markets with supermarkets selling several different brands of bottled drinking water across the globe, predominantly in Europe and North America. Amazing how something as simple yet essential as drinking water, drawn from the earth's natural resources has become a multi billion dollar industry in such a short space of time and yet we still have developing countries that do not have access to any clean drinking water, let alone bottled drinking water. How nice it would be to see at least one of these big brand names such as Volvic, Evian, Vittel linked with Danone and Nestle, the market dominator's of the industry, come up with a charity incentive such as a 10p donation to those developing countries in urgent need of clean water for each bottle of water sold...that's something I'd like to see.
The bottle versus the tap
So why as consumers do we choose to drink bottled water over British Tap Water? There is a common misconception that our tap water is full of nasty chemicals and bacteria and isn't as clean as it could be for drinking and so we choose to buy our water in plastic bottles. The truth of the matter is that the UK has some of the best drinking water in world but due to public perception bottled water has become the norm being consistently advertised as pure, healthy, natural and clean, and with so many brands to choose from, and it being readily available pretty much everywhere, from petrol stations to large supermarkets, we seem to have been drawn in by the bottled water industry even though it is readily available from every tap in our home, anyway - I digress, this review is not about whether or not we should be drinking water from our taps but rather on one particular brand of bottled water than has been advertised on the telly recently. I am of course talking about Isklar, the new natural mineral water from Norway.
The actual word Isklar in Norwegian means Ice clear and according to the website www.isklar.no
"Isklar is glacial mineral water of exceptional purity. It is filtered and purified by strata of glacier ice and hard aquifer rock, a hydrological process that produces a glacial mineral water of exceptionally low mineral content"
most of this means nothing to me, all I get really is, what once was ice is now sold as water. Kind of like the minerals in Volvic come from a dormant volcano, every brand of bottled water that is sold has to have a source I guess.
The one thing I have to take my hat off to Isklar for is their carbon neutral plastic bottles which are fully recycleable. Isklar believe that being environmentally responsible is key in todays markets and so are focused on being one of the greenest bottled water companies in the world. They use facilities that produce zero carbon emissions and have won the best bottled water concept award at the water innovation awards 2008. Isklar is very driven towards protecting the environment and promoting healthy lifestyles and it is this behaviour that impresses me.
Isklar comes in a variety of sizes from 1.5 litre bottles to 250ml bottles aimed at chilren. You can buy the bottles on their own or in packs of 6 and you can also buy this brand in a sparkling variety. The packaging is very distinctive and attractive, I guess it's been designed the way it has to represent it's original ice form, but it's certainly and eye catching bottle.
Where to buy
The only place so far I have come across this water is Tesco, and the only options they had were the 6 pack of 500ml bottles or the kids 250ml bottles. I purchased the 6 pack of 500ml and it cost me £1.49 on a promotion reduced from £2.09 which is excellent value for money considering you can pay up to £1 for a single branded bottle of water from your local newsagents.
The Taste Test
I open up my bottle that has been chilling in the fridge for the last 24 hours and drink....mmmmm it tastes just like water - next I grab myself a small glass of water from the filtered tap water I have chilled in my Stainless Steel Brita Aqua Fountain Water Filter Chiller. To be perfectly honest having tasted this brand of bottled water next to water that has been filtered straight from my kitchen tap, there really isn't anything distinctive about Isklar. Don't get me wrong it tastes nice but don't be fooled by the fancy packaging or the bold statements, this is nothing special. Sure..it might come from a remote region of Norway, unspoilt by industrial waste and pollution and that may appeal to some, but trust me, you can get water from your tap that tastes just as good and is just as good for you - I guess this may vary from region to region but up here in Aberdeen that certainly is the case.
My overall opinion
If you are wary about tap water in your area then Isklar bottled water is a good alternative. With it's green manufacturing and unspoilt source there are a couple of things that set this bottled water company apart from others. When it comes to taste I find this water is refreshing and tastes just how it should. I find when I drink bottled water such as Evian for example, that it has an earthy taste and this just tastes clean and pure like water should so I highly recommend this over the volvics and Evians of this world.
Funny how things change... Years ago we would have laughed at the idea of actually going to the shop and buying a bottle of water, when you're already paying your local water company to provide you with good quality drinking water at home. It just seemed a silly idea. Kids would call you a sucker if you walked out of the shop with a bottle of Evian...
Still, the bottled water industry kept bubbling away and soon buying a bottle of Evian or Volvic became perfectly normal. The market was flooded (ha, I had to use that one sooner or later...) with various brands, somebody somewhere was making heaps of cash and we were all healthier due to all that wonderful mineral water...
In recent years there have been campaigns by environmental groups (in London, Venice, etc.) calling for people to go back to drinking tap water, for example in restaurants. Transporting water from source to the shops, plus all that plastic isn't good, so save your money, save the planet and have a fresh glass of river Thames...right?
Nice idea, and I'm all for protecting the environment, but when you look at what's actually in your tap water, protecting your own health becomes a more obvious choice. Thus the pendulum swings again. Well, at least for now...
I'll skip the wild rumours regarding my local supplier Thames Water (the ones regarding the London wastewater being treated then circulated back to your tap several times over...) and stick to one or two facts.
I'm not sure if all water suppliers provide this information, but Thames Water are happy to let you know what they found in your local area last time they did a quality check. Type in your postcode and browse through the numbers on the pdf sheet...
For the purpose of this review and the time I have at my disposal to write it, I'll resist the temptation to Google every single item on the list. Instead I'll just mention a few things... A case of Coliform bacteria found in 2008 (ooh, lovely) plus Aluminium, Cyanide, Lead, Mercury, Arsenic and various pesticides! Slightly alarming!
Overall quality "good" and all the bad stuff is below prescribed levels (e.g. Mercury average is 0.1 micrograms/litre, where prescribed limit is 1 microgram/litre).
I'm no expert by any stretch of the imagination, but does this inspire confidence in you, or do you think your drinking water should perhaps have zero amount of Lead or Cyanide? Maybe I'm just paranoid, but what's the long-term effect of those tiny amounts of say Aluminium settling in your brain? Oh that's right... now I remember... Alzheimer's!
Anyway, draw your own conclusions from that, but for this cynical paranoid fool, tap water is out! (except when my mum makes soup, it's just too good to worry about tap water...)
So it's bottled water for me, and Isklar is my new favourite. I first discovered Isklar last year in my local Waitrose. It's been on the market since 2008 and is slowly appearing in more and more shops.
Isklar (meaning "ice-clear") comes from the 6000-year-old Folgefonna glacier in the Hardanger region of Norway, a remote area that has never been inhabited or industrialised and where "soaring mountains plunge into deep mysterious fjords", as the promotional waffle describes it.
It's also where Norwegian Black Metal bands film their videos (I'm just guessing...) and where mountain trolls dance around the fire and guard the source of Isklar (this bit is true, at least according to the legend!), only allowing those worthy of it to drink it!
While many other mineral waters are extracted by borehole, Isklar is bottled where it naturally bursts out of the mountainside, high above Hardangerfjord, and is shipped directly from there. The bottling plant uses locally generated hydroelectric power, all of which helps to reduce that pesky carbon footprint. Their bottles are CarbonNeutral (and guilt-free) and the company has invested in a plastic recycling plant. They also encourage their employees to swim to work, crazy Norwegians.
Filtered by layers and layers of hard rock and glacier ice, Isklar is one of the purest natural mineral waters in the world. It's always refreshing and I find that I drink more water than I used to. I suggest you give it a try and see for yourself.
Isklar is also low on sodium, for those keeping to a low Sodium diet. My tap water for example contains 24.7mg/l, while Isklar has only 1.2mg/l of Sodium.
Here's a typical mineral analysis (mg/l):
Calcium - 6.4
Potassium - 2.1
Sodium - 1.2
Bicarbonates - 17.2
Chlorides - 1.5
Sulphates - 8.8
Nitrates - 0.3
Silica - 1.2
Dry residue at 180C - 32
Isklar is sold in various sizes (single bottles of 250ml, 500ml, 660ml, 1litre and 1.5litre) as well as the usual multi-packs of 6. The bottle design is the best I've seen. It's easy to grip and the blue and white label plus all those triangles and diamond shapes reflect the light at various angles making the bottle appear to be a thick block of ice. Truly dazzling!
At the moment Isklar is on special offer at Waitrose. The 1.5 litre bottle usually costs 65p, but this month it's 48p. The 6-pack is £2.66, which works out even cheaper.
Also available is the new Isklar sparkling mineral water, but that's another review... For more information, check their flashy and ice-cold website http://www.isklar.no