Impure is the new pure in vodka. For the past decade vodka brands have been fighting it out over who can be the purest. Grey Goose win awards for it, Smirnoff had an iconic ad in which all the impurities were taken out of the sea leaving it crystal clear – and filtering became to vodka what blades are to shaving in the world of Gilette. Not just filtered but triple-filtered, quadruple-filtered, charcoal-filtered even diamond-filtered. Vodka had OCD and filtering was its obsession.
About 6 years ago, maybe more, one very brave vodka brand, Fallen, came on the scene not talking about filtering but talking about flavour. It had 3 different variants, one smoky, one with hints of Tequila, and one that was more gin than vodka if we remember rightly, all dirty and imperfect not clean. It seemed to disappear for a while but visit here for a stream of consciousness trip into the world of imperfection. It seems they were a front runner, gathering cultural traction before their time. Dirty is the new clean for washing powder (dirt is good) and it seems we’re seeing the same paradigm shift in vodka.
Both Sipsmith (all about the copper stills) and Chase (good natural British vodka that comes in a Marmalade variant) are going great guns. Absolut have just launched a premium variant called Elyx that promises a unique experience through ‘hand selected wheat’ and, again, ‘copper stills’. And Belvedere have just come up with ‘Unfiltered’ made from ‘rare diamond rye’. Karlsson from Sweden is another unfiltered vodka with a crotchety old master distiller telling us that the idea behind the process was to produce something with taste.
We’re glad to see all this dirt and complexity coming into vodka it makes us want to drink it on ice rather than mixed with Coke – it opens up the creative potential in way that is so much more powerful than a sickly-sweet vanilla variant. And in times of austerity and going to ground, we’re glad to see that copper is the new gold and grit and grime is the new pure.