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Branch water is:
- Water from a natural stream (a term primarily used in the southern United States) that has been acquired as close to the source as possible so as to ensure the purest draw available.
- Popularly/commonly the addition of plain water (rather than soda water) to a mixed drink (for example, "Bourbon and branch" refers to Bourbon whiskey with water, see below)
- When a whiskey's natural palate is desired to be weakened or ‘cut’ (i.e., diluted by addition of another liquid, or watered down) prior to bottling or in a mixed drink, the water that is used is very important to the final product. The preferred source of water is called ’branch water’. Branch water comes directly from the stream that the distillery is built on; some companies even bottle this water, so that bar customers can further dilute their bourbon with the original bourbon water. This branch water starts its life in the underground limestone aquifer shelf that exists under most of Kentucky and a part of neighboring Tennessee. The limestone shelf acts as a naturally porous filter for water that passes through it. Branch water is particular for its lack of character, with no traces of iron or other minerals that would be harmful to the whiskey-making process, distressing the taste. The limestone is unique in its ability to leach the iron from the water
- Water that is steeped with a fresh young branch of a Douglas Fir tree, imparting upon it a distinct resinous flavor. Anecdotal evidence points to claims that water prepared in this way is cleansed of some impurities and odors and is also oxygenated. Natural stream water is, of course, steeped in a profusion of fallen brush and stream side plant material. Douglas Fir ranges in the Pacific NW and the Rockies.