The hip flask is a boon companion on the peg or moor, fighting the chills and celebrating the best shots of the day.
Some of the country’s best hip flask hooches were revealed in The Field’s Hip Flask Championship 2013. We are now looking for the best of the home brews for this year’s competition. Do you make a cracking caramel vodka or scorching sloe gin? The best hip flask recipe, is it yours? Join the challenge and send us your top tipple.
It is only fitting that such toothsome lights be contained within receptacles of equal merit.
HIP FLASKS IN THE FIELD
Hip flasks have been reviving those in the field for centuries. Nothing seals the sporting bond better than the hand proffering a full flask, preferably with something homemade inside.
Flasks fell into the shape we recognise in the 18th century, when they started to be made from silver (it was believed the precious metal did not taint the contents). “The V&A has a spirit flask dating back to 1690,” says Nigel Williams of Nigel Williams Silver. “They were particularly popular in the Victorian and Edwardian eras, when they were often engraved with initials, family crests and mottos.” Williams has an ever-changing collection of antique flasks in “many varied designs and materials, including glass bodies with silver mounts, glass with silver mounts and snakeskin shoulders, and all silver. Many have detachable cups.” There is something eminently covetable about well-made antique flasks, although some modern brands can compete.
THE TRADITIONAL HIP FLASK, WITH A TWIST
For the traditionalist, Ettinger has an elegant 6oz stainless steel captive-top hip-flask covered in burnished calf leather in Acorn or Oxblood (£140). The twist comes from the adornment by leading British tattoo artist Saira Hunjan. “It is one of the most popular collection items in our collaboration with Saira,” says CEO Robert Ettinger. “The fox head and pheasant designs are exquisite and the clarity of the design detail on the leather is regularly commented on as absolutely stunning.”
Holland & Holland also adds a pleasing twist on the standard, in its 8oz stainless steel Toffee Tweed hip-flask with bridle leather (£195). “The defining feature is our signature tweed,” says the creative director, Niels van Rooyen. “The tweed design was created using archive imagery of the company’s founder, Henry Holland.”
If choosing between favourite tipples is too tiresome, there’s Aspinal’s Triple Decanter in Amazon Brown Mock Croc and Stone Suede (£195). With three 7.5oz glass decanters in a carrier – each with a differently coloured leather band for identification – it may not fit snugly in the pocket, but it will keep the party’s spirits up. The carrier zips at the top and has a useful strap to carry it by. It is also available in black and cognac leather, and makes the perfect shooting present.
HIGH TECH HIP FLASKS
For a blend of high technology and tradition, look no further than the sparingly named Flask (£600). A novel collaboration between The Macallan and Oakley Inc, it “has allowed us to defy convention and take a truly design-driven approach in crafting this beautiful, yet high-octane flask”, says Ken Grier, director of malts at the Edrington Group. A great malt should be drunk out of only the finest drinking vessels, to preserve the character of the whisky. The Flask – made from food-grade steel, welded by laser, wrapped in carbon fibre and clad in black, anodised, aerospace-grade aluminium, with a rubberised bottom – preserves this level of distinction on the move.
Tom Cecil designs and makes a delightful alternative to the standard flask. The tactile, brass-plated #084 (£350) is made from flat sheets of stainless steel. Each one is stamped with the design and serial number and holds about 50ml.
“I was experimenting with creating forms by cutting shapes out of sheet metal and welding the edges together, but in such a way that the form has both curved and flat surfaces. The larger surfaces of the hip-flask are subtly curved in both directions because of the way the edges are pulled together,” says Cecil. “The hip-flask was one of the first forms I made, and it felt so lovely to hold I didn’t want to put it down.”
The flasks are made in his London workshop and delivered in a handmade walnut box filled with hand-planed wood shavings. (The £300 stainless steel flask comes in an oak box). “I put my favourite Johnnie Walker Green Label, in mine. It’s got a clean, subtly complex flavour and hasn’t yet given me a hangover,” he says.
WORTH THEIR WEIGHT IN SILVER
William & Son has a range of luxury silver hip-flasks, from the traditional version to a rather splendid half-bottle size shaped like a cartridge (£2,100). The most unusual is an ergonomic 6oz one, made to be clasped in the hand (£1,155), which would do justice to the best of your home brew.
Sharing a dram with chosen companions is one of the sporting day’s great pleasures. So here’s to a tricky bird downed, a mammoth hedge cleared and the one that got away, toasted in style.