As with many of the ancient great brands, it is hard to place a precise date on the first time water was drawn from the source, in Highland Springs’s case, the Ochil Hills near what today is Gleneagles, Scotland. We know for sure that King James IV of Scotland kept a few flasks in his kilt as far back as 1503. And it’s likely that the native Celts were enjoying the same water as James, and us today, for thousands of years before that.
Highland Springs is something like the Evian of the UK – both in terms of its regard, and particularly in terms of its market presence. I had the pleasure of visiting the operation in summer, 2006, and saw what a big, modern, high production bottling plant was all about.
The modern Highland Spring's plant was christened by a member of Parliament in 1984. This followed the acquisition of the brand in 1979 by the Altajeer family, and they still oversee this quality operation.
Highland Springs runs four massive bottling lines. Their rate of output ranges from 16,000 bottles per hour up to 37,000 per hour, depending on the line and packaging. In 2005, the company’s output was an enormous 25 million cases.
The plant is in the village of Perthshire, and sits to the west of the north-south motorway that runs the length of Scotland. The hills where the water is drawn cover a large area to the east of the motorway. We jumped in one of the company’s Land Rovers, crossed over, and went to see the protected springs and collection stations.
Three 3” and one 8” stainless steel pipes carry the water from the collection sheds approximately two and one-half miles to the bottling facility, where the water goes into holding tanks. The water is untouched throughout the entire process.
Highland Springs is a very low TDS (total dissolved solids) water at only 136 parts per million. The main feature is 35 milligrams per liter of Calcium, and a slightly alkalinic, almost sweet flavored pH of 7.8. The water has 136 parts per million of bicarbonate, and nearly zero nitrates. All in all, a highly desirable chemistry. This glorious chemistry results from a long term filtration process of fresh rain water through the heather-clad slopes, and down into subterranean aquifers.