The Lowdown Hub

How much can water cost, from £1 to £72k for a single bottle, and the Royal family's favourite water

How posh is your water?

The Royal family's favourite water since 1985. But is there really a difference between them all? “Someday, before I die, I would like to try… seltzer water,” Seth Rogen’s character confesses to Sarah Snook in An American Pickle, the HBO comedy-drama film. Seltzer water is, of course, sparkling water: a beverage of many debates.

The unofficial stereotype is that posh folks drink (even prefer) sparkling water as opposed to still, due to the little bubbles rising up resembling those found in champagne.

A six-pack of San Pellegrino sparkling water costs 50 pence more than Fiji Water.

“I do think you can tell a lot about a restaurant from the bottled water on offer,” says Karl Goward, head chef at Kitty Fisher's Mayfair, explaining that it’s a “staple like bread and butter or a great yet simple green salad.”

“Hildon is popular in most of my favourite places to eat,” Goward explains, yet his preference has always been the “Welsh water, Tŷ Nant favoured by Frasier Crane and you can’t really get any posher than that!”

Aesthetically, it might be fancier, but gulping down sparkling can cause hiccups, indigestion, and bloating, as the water is made by adding carbon dioxide under pressure. Anyone who has read Debrett's New Etiquette and Modern Manners manual will know that any act of belching is frowned upon at the dinner table. Yet, bottles of sparkling water are stocked up in middle and upper-class refrigerators. Even water has a class system.

Our own royals have been drinking a higher tier of water from the Malvern Hills since the 16th century. In 1895, Princess Mary Adelaide granted a royal warrant for Malvern Water and King George V followed with his own warrant in 1911. The glass bottled water accompanies the Queen on all her travels and Queen Victoria, the extravagant monarch, refused to go on any trips without it.

It is estimated that by 2028, the global sparkling water market size is expected to reach $76.95bn, a sum larger than the GDP of Oman and Luxembourg.

Martin Riese, a Beverly Hills water sommelier, has made a career out of tasting water. “To say there is just still and sparkling water doesn’t justify the varieties of water. Water is not boring and water is not tasteless,” he adds. “It would be as if I called all wines just white and red when we all know there are so many different flavours.”

“I have around 50 different waters available at my home, so when I drink, for example, a Riesling, I drink still water with low mineralisation to balance out the minerality of the wine. For a barbecue, I would go for sparkling water with high minerality which will cut through the richness of the food and my palette will be better refreshed and balanced.”

When it comes to labelling sparkling water, there’s often prejudice that it’s the posh alternative to still, but Riese disagrees, he thinks of all water the same, as they all come out of a tap.

“First and foremost, tap water is as safe to drink as bottled water and just as good for you,” says Taiji Maruyama, executive chef at MARU, adding that, “water has a much lower environmental impact than bottled water.”

In popular culture, the simple nature of water itself has been turned into a phenomenon.

In 2014, Gwenyth Paltrow claimed water is ‘full of healing power’ meanwhile Cameron Diaz declared she goes from ‘being a wilted plant to one that has been rejuvenated by the rain’ to Jaden Smith tweeting, ‘I’ve Bin Drinking Distilled Water For So Long That When I Drink Normal Water It Feels Like I’m Swallowing Huge Chunks Of Aluminum.’ And in the early 2000s, Madonna was drinking (and filling her swimming pool with) Kabbalah Water, which allegedly has mystical energy that’s connected to the Jewish faith, costing £232.

It all sounds a bit Californian woo-woo - not to mention that there’s already a Beverly Hills 9OH2O water brand on the rise, which sells single bottles for $72 (£52). Or, for the price tag of $100k (£72k), you can get your hands on the Luxury Collection: Diamond Edition, a diamond-encrusted cap with the same water that’s in the regular bottle.

The ludicrousness of luxurious water doesn’t stop there. Asa Soltan Rahmati, star of the Bravo reality TV show, Shahs of Sunset (cameras follow a group of Iranian Americans in Beverly Hills), ventured on setting up a diamond water business (a different concept to Beverly Hills 9OH2O). In one episode, we see Asa perform a special ritual next to a water tank with her diamonds to infuse it with “energy”, which would later be sold for $3 a litre. The slogan of her diamond water? Live healthily, shine bright.

Posh or not - the fuss over still and sparkling water might be moot. “There is no best water. I don't even think there is premium water,” Riese concludes.

I’d rather buy an Aarke sparkling water machine for £200 than spend the sum of a Rolex watch on water, which I can get free from my tap at home.

The ten fanciest water's:

10) Glaceau Smartwater: You might be able to get it at your local WHSmith’s, but Smartwater didn’t make it to the limelight until 2008 when Jennifer Aniston signed up as an ambassador until 2020. Now their new water girl is Gal Gadot.

9) Voss: Nothing says new luxury like a glass bottle with a sans-serif font.

8) Svalbarði: What does fancy taste like? Try a bottle of Svalbarði for a sip of melting Norwegian icebergs.

7) Fillico: Only 5,000 glass bottles are produced per month from Fillico because they’re made by hand. The water comes from Kobe in Japan and is used for sake. Cheers.

6) Clear Alaskan Glacial: This water was served at the US Senate in 2016. It’s water for middle-class people who tell you they’re not middle class.

5) Fiji: At the 76th Golden Globes Awards in 2019, the recognisable Fiji Water bottle caused a social media storm as it photobombed the stars of the red carpet, cashing in nearly $12 million worth of brand exposure.

4) Bling H2O: This is what musicians and millionaires drink, especially those who attended the 48th Grammy Awards in 2006.

3) Tŷ Nant: First discovered by water diviner Tom Astley in 1967 at the Welsh Cambrian Mountains, which has gone onto being sold in Harrods.

2) Beverly Hills 9OH2O: Possibly, the most expensive drinking water known to man, Beverly Hills 9OH2O is just as deeply layered, complicated and alluring as the zip code.

1) Malvern Hills: If it’s good enough for royalty, then who are we to argue? The royal stamp of approval is all that matters.

The Malvern Hills form an area of outstanding natural beauty straddling the counties of Herefordshire and Worcestershire in the UK.

The water has been praised by many famous people through the ages for providing healing and well-being properties, including Charles Darwin and Charles Dickens, both of whom visited the town frequently to relax and drink from the springs.

The water was also supplied to Queen Elizabeth II, having been granted a royal warrant by Princess Mary Adelaide in 1895 and later, in 1911, by King George V, although with the recent closure of Malvern Water bottling plant, this situation has changed.

Dr John Wall's analysis of Malvern water in 1756 was the start of Malvern's national fame as a hydrotherapy centre. This reached its peak in the mid-1800s as various doctors, most famously Drs Wilson and Gully set up clinics in Malvern for wealthy Victorians. Today, for your own piece of the 'water cure', you can buy handmade soap and SkinnyDip hand cream; both products being made using Malvern's spring water.

The wells, springs, spouts, and fountains around the Malvern Hills are now restored and conserved by The Malvern Spa Association which was founded in September 1998.

This was around the same time that sculptor Rose Garrard revealed "Malvinha" which is a drinking spout of a female figure sculpted in stone and bronze that can be seen today on Belle Vue Island in Great Malvern.

She then went on to create the "Engima Fountain" which was unveiled by The Duke of York on 26th May 2000, it is also located on Belle Vue Island alongside a statue of Edward Elgar.