With super premium vodkas on our radar, BeringIce offers a new taste of luxury
As Brits turn to quality over quantity, Tempus explores the rise and rise of premium vodka
When Joe Gilmore, the legendary head barman of The Savoy's American Bar died two years ago, there was a fact in his obituary that stuck out like a cherry in a Martini. During the 1960s, the amount of vodka that the Savoy managed to get through in a year was precisely one bottle. Yes, one. In an entire year. The reason was the Cold War, when all things Russian were deeply unfashionable and just as hard to get as a pair of Levi's on the other side of the border.
It was also a matter of taste. In that era, brown spirits were de rigeur in cocktails and, if it was going to be clear spirit that a customer ordered, then you knew it would be gin, usually served with tonic, in a fizz, Collins or Martini. We get through a lot more vodka these days. We now drink over £3bn worth of the spirit and export a whopping 54 million bottles to other countries. In the past couple of years even that has started changing, as enthusiasts now favour quality over quantity.
Sales of cheap vodka are tailing off globally due to a revived interest in brown spirits, a fatigue over outlandishly-flavoured vodkas and a switch in cocktail preferences. When Sex in the City was airing, every fashionable woman in town was drinking cosmopolitans with Absolut Citron, now they're more likely to indulge in an Aperol spritz or a nebiolo made with English gin and German vermouth.
But while people are turning away from the cheap stuff, the one type of vodka that we are drinking more of is super premium – a category that was launched 20 years ago with the advent of Grey Goose and its five-times distillation process, and now includes over 100 brands in the UK alone. Premium vodka sales are set to boom with the US and UK leading the charge. The reason there are fewer vodka distilleries in the UK compared to gin stills, according to Frank Harding, CEO of super premium vodka brand BeringIce, is that unlike gin it's much harder to distil vodka en masse. It's even harder to distil vodka as a super premium liquid in the way that his Swiss company is doing. >>
BeringIce is made using the highest quality luxury grade winter wheat. Wheat vodkas tend to be very light because wheat is a delicate grain and needs less distilling. "I find that any wheat vodka that's distilled more than five times is a waste of time and misleading," Harding said. "In general, wheat makes for a very approachable vodka, smooth, crisp and clean. We also use the purest water sourced from an ancient artesian well some 319m below the frozen ground of Belarus."
The vodka passes through an exclusive platinum filtration system, giving it a unique smoothness that's won the brand some of the highest accolades achievable. The first time BeringIce was entered into a competition it won Best Super Premium Vodka, Smoothest Vodka and Best in Eastern Europe – an incredible feat for a new contender. In 2016 it also won gold in The Luxury Masters out of 112 super premium entrants.
Another benefit of drinking BeringIce is that its certified 'gluten free' – a unique selling point in this day-and-age of caring about provenance and purity. Aroma is another key consideration. "Scent accounts for 80% of how we process flavour," said Harding. "The aroma of BeringIce is a key factor determining that its perfect to drink neat, on the rocks or in a cocktail, and is a result of the quality of our ingredients and Swiss technical excellence and precision."
Although we recommend BeringIce neat at room temperature, in Switzerland it is served on ice – and it's hugely popular. Each year increasing its consumption to 45,000 cases of what the Swiss simply refer to as 'ICE'. Super premium vodka is a sipping drink so, even if you are going to drink it from the freezer, it's recommended to only freeze it an hour before serving, and then wait a few minutes for it to thaw and allow the aromas and taste to open out – much like a fine wine.