A Google or YouTube search for "most expensive water" or "most expensive bottled water" turns up a quick series of lists. Most use old incorrect data including brands that no longer exist, and/or the prices are wrong. So we've gathered an updated list. We exclude the few "crazy" waters sold for tens of thousands of dollars as publicity stunts and count only brands that are really available somewhere in the world. So here are the world's top 10 most expensive waters in 2019.
Full details on the brands and why they are so expensive can be found in the rest of this post. From super-premium to luxury water, each brand carries a story.
THE FULL STORY:
For years headlines have popped up talking about expensive water. A Google or YouTube search for "most expensive water" or "most expensive bottled water" turns up a quick series of lists. Most of them have incorrect pricing, or use the same old data including several brands that no longer exist. The not-so-subtle message in these pieces is that it is crazy for water to cost so much. The reality is more nuanced.
Water is a human right and a delight
Water is a human right. Full stop. Food is also a human right. Full stop. And in both cases, it can and should at times also be a delight for our senses. Different natural waters like different foods can bring greater and varied enjoyment through taste, presentation, and origins. Enjoying premium foods that cost more in no way negates the human right of all to food. Similarly with water, enjoying a unique natural water that sells at a premium for its qualities and rarity can be a true delight, while the human right remains firm.
Many people think all water tastes the same. But most of us have known someone who can easily discern differences. Maybe you are one of them. And when the differences are explained and tasted, even more people understand. I have run numerous water tastings, usually with 6 different brands at a time, and no one has ever left without understanding that water is not just water. Most walk away with a favourite, such as in this brief clip of a water tasting we did at Gruvelageret restaurant here in Svalbard.
What can make a bottled water expensive?
Many natural bottled waters come from truly unique sources as water enthusiast Michael Mascha has described here. This can make the price much higher than ordinary brands because transportation, measures to offset the carbon footprint, purity maintenance, and ensuring the sustainability of the sources can be expensive. These are often small family businesses who care deeply about their sources and make great effort to preserve them for future generations.
Bespoke packaging is also a driver as brands try to make something interesting for the consumer just as wine and spirits do. In some cases where the water itself is nothing special, packaging may be the only major factor behind a high price.
How do we define the most expensive water?
Defining "the" price of a bottled water can be surprisingly difficult. Retail prices vary not just by country (reflecting transportation costs and taxes), but also outlet by outlet reflecting individual profit margin decisions. When one looks at restaurants or hotels who charge bigger markups to cover their higher costs, the variations are even greater.
So let's create an accurate up-to-date list for 2019. We have to make some rules to create an objective playing field:
These rules leave plenty of room for interpretation. But in general they produce a reasonable list truly reflecting the market position of each brand. So without further ado, here is the top 10 list of the most expensive bottled waters in the world in 2019.
#10 - Berg - $34 per litre
HIghest retail price: HK$198 for 750ml at Aqua House Hong Kong
Source type: Iceberg
TDS (mineral level in mg/l): 10
Alongside Svalbarði, Berg is one of only a small number of currently operating iceberg water companies we know of in the world. Like Svalbarði, they gather individual iceberg pieces in a very manual process. In their case gathering doesn't take quite as far a journey since they source from icebergs that have floated down from Greenland and are melting in the waters just offshore eastern Canada. A small local industry has grown up in Newfoundland producing different beverages from iceberg water including beer, vodka, and bottled water. The Quidi Vidi brewery in St. John's has a well known iceberg beer in a popular cobalt blue bottle that has been a big hit. Coming from an iceberg source, Berg is ultra-low mineral. They have a distinctive glass bottle for their signature packaging, and also produce a less-expensive plastic version.
#9 - BLVD - $40 per litre
Highest retail price: US$30 for 750ml at BLVD website
Country: Tasmania, Australia
Source type: Spring
TDS (mineral level in mg/l): 86
BLVD is a division of Jon Monsir, an Australian luxury goods company. They saw opportunity in premium water and sought out a unique source which they found in a spring in the pristine antipodean environment of Tasmania. The packaging aims for a high end market with a bespoke bottle using high quality ultra-flint glass and the brand name debossed in large letters. They sell only a sparkling version and only to the high end hospitality sector and online. The story behind the brand and source may not have quite the same oomph as the scrappy entrepreneurs behind brands like nearby rainwater-sourced King Island Cloud Juice, but they have placed real effort into the packaging and Tasmania is certainly a great location to source water from.
#8 - MINUS 181 - $48 per litre
Highest retail price: €29 for 681ml at Fine Liquids
Source type: Artesian
TDS (mineral level in mg/l): 320
MINUS 181 comes from a 181 metre deep artesian well in northern Germany. Fine Liquids in Germany is the only place we could find it for sale, but the website suggests availability in other regional venues. They have a rather odd-sized bottle at 681ml produced by Riedel, a company founded in 1756 known for their wine glassware. Which matches up with the fact that they offer a special gift box which includes bespoke glasses. The bottle bears similarities to Elsenham in the UK and the Arte bottle from Solé in Italy. They are also one of a small number of waters using the elegant Vinolok glass "cork" enclosure. Their website has a review with tasting notes from German water sommelier Peter Schropp, Managing Director of the Doemens Academy. They are clearly aiming high end, but with a fairly ordinary source and a design with strong similarity to others, they are going to need to work hard to distinguish themselves.
#7 - ROI - $48 per litre
Highest retail price: 88 AED for 500ml at ROI UAE website
Source type: Spring
TDS (mineral level in mg/l): 7481
ROI is easily the most extreme tasting water on this list, and possibly in the entire world. They market themselves as the world's highest magnesium water which gives it a crazy punch. Water sommelier Martin Riese once described it as being like "two alka-seltzers" (sidenote: the testers try Svalbarði after ROI in the video). The company has a history going all the way back to 1647, and a source bearing the legend that Apollo told his winged horse Pegasus to strike the ground from which the spring then opened up. They claim a number of health benefits from the extreme mineral composition. Then they go a step beyond with their elegant bespoke bottle which carries a gravitas and beauty that matches such a "heavy" and historic water very well.
#6 - Lofoten - $56 per litre
Highest retail price: US$50 for 888ml at Salacious Drinks in Washington DC
Source type: Surface?
TDS (mineral level in mg/l): 20
Norway's Lofoten archipelago above the Arctic Circle is a stunning mountainous region with pristine snow melt water sources. The precise source of Lofoten bottled water isn't clear from their website, but it sounds like it may be a local lake or river type of source. A quick google of lakes in Lofoten will show you just how lovely and clean a source that would be. The bottle is definitely different and has won several design awards with its Scandinavian-minimalism-meets-big presence vibe.
#5 - Uisge Source - $60 per litre
Highest retail price: C$8 for 100ml at WhiskyWater.ca
Country: Scotland, UK
Source type: Well, Spring
TDS (mineral level in mg/l): Varies by type - 125, 183, 225
Uisge Source is unique on this list as a water sold specifically for whisky pairing. Appropriately sourced from Scotland to match the region's famous whiskies. It sort of cheats getting on this list as it is only sold in small 100ml bottles which inevitably mean the price per litre is going to be higher for a premium special-purpose product. But we'll cut them some slack as they are doing something different that deserves to be on a list like this. They sell three types all at the same price point to give different whisky pairing experiences. Highland (225 TDS) and Speyside (125 TDS) come from historic wells, while Islay (183 TDS) comes from a spring.
#4 - Bling h2o - $104 per litre
Source type: Spring
TDS (mineral level in mg/l): 140
Bling is the epitome of a brand that is almost 100% about the bottle with virtually no focus on the water itself. Designed by a Hollywood producer who saw the opportunity to put a new kind of style item into the hands of celebrities by decking out a frosted bottle with Swarovski crystals. They revel in their gaudiness saying "Bling H2O is pop-culture in a bottle. But it's not for everyone, just those that Bling." They no longer appear to describe the water source on their website, but the old website said it was a Tennessee spring they filter 9 different ways. French distributor Eaux du Monde gives more information. Nonetheless, they are honest about who they are and when founded in 2005 were one of the first two significant brands to hit a true luxury price point (alongside Fillico). 14 years later they are still around and putting out multiple editions, so they have clearly succeeded in finding a market niche.
Quick side note, Bling does make a $2700 edition called "The Ten Thousand". We might have placed them at number 1 for that as one could argue it is "regularly" available on their website. But we left it off as it seems to be only custom-made and doesn't really reflect their brand pricing.
#3 - Svalbarði Polar Iceberg Water - $166 per litre
Highest retail price: HK$980 for 750ml at Aqua House Hong Kong
Country: Svalbard, Norway
Source type: Iceberg
TDS (mineral level in mg/l): 21
We created Svalbarði to become the first truly rounded luxury water brand, not just about design at this price point. The costs are high to be the world's northernmost water. Gathering icebergs from the seas around Svalbard next to the North Pole at 78°N. Bottling in high-design packaging worthy of the source. Supporting CO2-removing projects that save 100 times more arctic ice than goes into each bottle. But in so doing, Svalbarði blends a unique source, taste, origin story, design, and eco-consciousness to create a 360-degree luxury product unlike any other before or currently in the market.
#2 - Nevas (Design Edition) - $190 per litre
Highest retail price: €250 for 1500ml at NEVAS website
Source type: Artesian
TDS (mineral level in mg/l): Unknown, but calcium level of 62 mg/l
A relative newcomer, Nevas Water appears to be available only in Germany and possibly Ibiza, Spain. They are clearly aiming at the "celebration" market as an alternative for champagne, including by only selling a sparkling version. While design is a heavy focus, they definitely highlight their water quality as well, pointing to their calcium level and two "several hundred years old" artesian wells as their source. Though we could not find specifically where those wells are or the total TDS level (see water sommelier Martin Riese's explanation of what TDS is here). Their website shows a fair amount of positive press coverage in Germany. The tea and water sommelier blogger Michael Hemling speaks highly of them as a celebratory product and enjoyed its bold carbonation. Their main product is a 750ml bottle for €30, but they carry multiple magnum 1,5 litre Design Edition versions which are the ones that put them in the number 2 spot.
#1 - Fillico Jewelry Water - $616 per litre
Highest retail price: €395 for 720ml at Fine Liquids
Source type: Surface?
TDS (mineral level in mg/l): 113
With the moniker "Jewelry Water", Fillico is the ultimate over-the-top design focused water brand. Like Bling h2o, it began in California in 2005 targeting Hollywood celebrities. A year later they began selling in Japan which has been their home ever since, though they are available globally including online. Their website doesn't neglect to discuss the quality of their water from a historic source in Kobe, Japan called Nunobiki Water. Which they claim is sought after by chefs and tea ceremony masters. It is unclear exactly what type of water it is, but the Nunobiki name and a few clues in their online presence suggest a surface waterfall-fed source. In the end, the design with its Swarovski crystals and other aspects is so over the top - with their social media playing up that aspect almost exclusively - that it is the overwhelming reason for the pricing. If you want a unique eclectic piece of glass to show off for your event, Fillico has you covered. For a price.
So there you have it. Is there a brand we missed that should be here? A price we got wrong? Have you tried any of these brands and found them particularly interesting? Leave a comment and let us know.
[UPDATED 9/3/19: A few readers spotted some waters and prices we hadn't seen. We have updated to reflect.]