Water's role sacrosanct while making alcoholic beverages
Water plays a critical role in the overall taste profile and mouthfeel of beers, says Zero Percent’s Ganesh Iyer, India's 1st and only water sommelier
The desire for purer living is reflected in so many different ways, which is why we've created the world's first online portal dedicated to 0 per cent products. Our aim is simple: To source the world's best products, with the very best taste, so you don't have to. If you're looking for leading brands when it comes to 0 per cent alcohol, 0 per cent dairy, 0 per cent pesticides, 0 per cent sugar, 0 per cent microplastic, 0 per cent meat, and natural waters, you're in luck. At Zero Percent, we have them all, says Ganesh Iyer, Managing Partner, Indian sub-continent, Zero Percent. India's only water sommelier Ganesh Iyer in an exclusive interview with Bizz Buzz explains why it is important to pay close attention to water while manufacturing alcoholic beverages
How important is the role of water in the production of liquor and in the case of Indian-made foreign liquor (IMFL)?
There is not life without water or rather life can't flourish without water. Our bodies consist of anything between 60-65 per cent of water. Likewise when it comes to production of liquor whether BIO or IMFL, water's role is sacrosanct. Therefore, it is least surprising that the word 'vodka' comes from 'vodka', the Russian word for water. Distillers around the world scout for the purest sources of water for the purpose of making their spirits. For the uninitiated, the Polmos Zyrardow distillery in Poland that makes luxury vodka 'Belvedere' sources its water from its two artesian wells which are 50.5 metres and 41.5 metres deep respectively. Of course they would eventually be demineralised but the core characteristics of the water remains largely intact. Water plays a detrimental role in changing the alcohol by volume say from 55 per cent to 43 per cent or as per the agreed strength of the said spirit. Similarly in the case of whisky, there are three main ingredients that determine the quality of whisky - water, barley and finally yeast.
Which water is suitable for the production of different categories of spirits like whisky, brandy, rum, gin, vodka, wine and beer?
There is no such thing as the specified water for a specified spirit, because once the base water say is a packaged drinking water or the RO water, irrespective of the antics deployed on the body or towards the ornamenting the water, the inherent quality of being the RO water cannot change. But yes there is the likelihood that the outcome of the said single malt can be experienced differently in case you were to use either a natural spring or a mineral water with their unique TDS (totally dissolved solids) levels. To elaborate further, there are different type of sources of water like spring water, mineral water, rainwater, iceberg water, glacier water, artesian water, or well water. Now for each of these type of sources of water, the TDS differ from each other and therefore a patron is likely to have different taste experiences when she/he were to have her/his single malts with these different sources of water. The low TDS rainwater is likely to blend in brilliantly well with the heavy single malt, conversely, a high TDS mineral water that is rich in potassium and calcium can also be paired with a single malt. In the case of beers, without a doubt hands down, water plays a critical role in the overall taste profile and mouthfeel of beers. It isn't a coincidence that some of the best beers are either German or Belgian and some of the best quality waters sources too are found in Germany and Belgium
If there is no natural water source, which is the best filtration process for IMFL?
I am sure the distillers are qualified enough and have been using tried and tested filtration process for treated waters in the absence of natural water source.
What standards would you adopt to ensure the quality of water?
This is quite a broader question but at the micro level more specific to hotels and restaurants, there is a prescribed set of filtration process and systems to be adopted while processing water through RO plants.
How would you rate the quality of water in India for the production of IMFL?
As a country, the high water energy tables are to a certain degree found in the northern part of India but unfortunately on account of rampant and mindless industrialisation in some of the not anymore pristine high water table and energy locations like Himachal, Kullu and adjoining areas, the ground water levels are getting depleted at an alarming rate. To add wound to the injury, 7-10 year tax holidays provided to business houses by respective State governments in this part of the world has ensured that the quality of the water has become abysmally bad in the sense that with effluent waste comes nitrate which significantly damages the mineral composition of natural water.
What recommendations would you suggest for Indian distilleries?
In the absence of abundance of natural sources of water, it is best to continue with their established bottling and filtration processes for water.
How much water is required for a 750ml bottle of liquor?
For any beverage 78-80 per cent consists of water.
What role could you play as India's first water sommelier in India's IMFL production, wine, and beer industry?
As a water sommelier, my humble contribution could be more at the consumer experience level at culinary tables rather than at the factory level wherein one could explain the merits of having a natural mineral water as an accompaniment to a fine meal, malt or wine.
What kinds of investments are required to make sustainable water resources for the Indian water industry?
At this stage, the need of the hour is to go back to traditional methods of water conservation like bring back water bodies, lakes in every urban city. The government and all agencies at the ground level should come forward and lend critical and mass support to water warriors like the ones in Bangalore who have done a fantastic job in restoring almost close to 80-90 lakes in the city of Bangalore.