Highball Brands: ‘vodka category has shifted the landscape of attitudes’

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A wave of more bespoke distillation processes coming back into the vodka category has shifted the landscape of attitude towards it, according to Fabrice Limon of Highball Brands.

An awareness of provenance and interest in the quality of raw ingredients used, rather than the number of times something has been filtered or distilled has prompted a surge of vodka launches, the brands director told Imbibe.

Virtuous VodkaVirtuous Vodka, distributed by Highball Brands, is 100% organic and made using ‘only the highest quality’, natural ingredients in both the Blond and the flavoured varieties that are available.

‘There are no nasties, synthetics, sugars, sulphites – basically nothing made in a lab. Virtuous Vodka is flavoured by nature,’ Limon added.

Price

Price was the next important factor. Virtuous is positioned at a ‘competitive price point’ so it’s ‘available to everyone.’

Limon explained: ‘We’ve chosen to do this rather than pricing it too high, as it allows more people to access it. This can only benefit the category as a whole as the end consumer is introduced to (and becomes more educated in) different vodka options.’

The design is also very much targeted at the back bar, Limon said, in its simplicity rather than the gaudy design at one time associated with vodka.

‘It’s not hiding behind elaborate branding or fancy labelling, instead the bottle design shows off the beautiful flavours created by nature. As an option for bartenders, the flavoured varieties also allow them to create strong, balanced flavours in cocktails without the use of sugary syrups, cordials and the like.’

Vodka might have struggled for column inches in recent years but Highball Brands’ Limon is very much of the opinion it’s the category’s time to shine.

‘It’s definitely time for vodka to come back to the party,’ he said. ‘It’s been left outside for a while, however it’s the same with anything that involves lifestyle as there’s always trends and shifts. Whether it’s art, fashion or music, trends always come back around, and it’s usually down to people changing something to make it relevant again. This is happening with vodka and it’s time to shine again has come around through the move towards craft.

‘Vodka has undoubtedly benefited from the gin boom as it’s shown consumers that white spirits can be different from each other. It’s also made people more open to tasting spirits neat to determine a personal favourite.’

On-trade

Limon is encouraging UK bars to embrace vodka.

‘There needs to be more of an understanding that vodka deserves a place on the back bar again,’ he said.

‘Bartenders have knocked the vodka category because of the limited options that have been available on the market. If you look at tequila as an example, 10 years ago there were limited options available, but now there’s an increase in sales/awareness/consumer demand due to a wave of different, and more authentic producers coming into the market. This could happen with vodka.

‘There are already some good brands being used, but there are more out there. The bar community needs to take them on, and acknowledge that they have a purpose – customers don’t always want drinks that are heavy on the palate, sometimes they want something simpler and pared-back.’

Bitter Lemon, Blond, Ginger, Raspberry: 38% abv,  £23.75/70cl, Highball Brands, 0207 637 7443

About Author

Holly Motion

Holly is the newest addition to Imbibe team. With just over three years’ global drinks writing experience, the UK on-trade now has her undivided attention. She's partial to a Bramble or a peated whisky, and says the list of wine favourites is far too long to list. She's in the right place.

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