If you were looking for an example of food fetishisation gone too far, then bottled water that tastes like burned wood and costs more than Scotch whisky could be a good contender.
Curated especially for British chef Heston Blumenthal, David Lea-Wilson and his wife Alison – who own Halen Môn, a company that produces sea salt in Wales – were challenged to come up with an easier way to imbue risotto with a smoky flavour at the Fat Duck, Blumenthal’s Michelin-starred restaurant in Bray, England.
“For anyone else, you would say, ‘No, you don’t normally smoke water,’” Lea-Wilson told Bloomberg.
But if Heston Blumenthal asks, then you “rise to the challenge.”
And that they did. Believed to be the only natural product of its type out there, the water is made using a process similar to barrel-ageing whiskey.
For 10 days, filtered tap water is circulated through loops that contain oak chips and oak dust and what comes out is an amber liquid with “the cleanest of aromas of burning wood.”
The most outrageously expensive food on the planet
But it doesn’t come cheap. A 100ml bottle of the Oak Smoked Water costs £4.10, by comparison, a bottle of Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve Single Malt Scotch Whisky is available for £22, or £3.14 per 100 ml.
Used in most Fat Duck dishes that have smoked elements to them, you don’t need to go to a fancy restaurant to experience the obscure ingredient as seven major food manufacturers have used the water in at least 10 products.
Marks & Spencer’s bread range includes oak-smoked water sourdough, while British discount supermarket, Iceland, has previously created a smoked turkey brine.
Reserved solely for cooking, Halen Môn’s website says the water is ideal for marinades and barbecue sauces but, if you’re feeling adventurous, freezing into ice cubes for cocktails is a great way to experiment.