A few would have made Dr Jekyll hesitate before sipping, while others had the ruby depth and clarity of a premier cru.
All were the handiwork of the dedicated hip-flask brewers who occupy the ranks of The Field’s readership.
Our offer of a case of gin or vodka, both generously donated by Sipsmith, attracted 61 entries for the inaugural Field Hip-Flask Championships, and most were unspeakably delicious (we were rendered incapable of speech after the prolonged tastings).
Helping us was that doyenne of the wine world Sarah Kemp, the publisher of our sister title Decanter.
She provided the expertise and groovy phrases (“a little youthful”, “long finish”) to counterbalance The Field staffers’ more tweedy approach (“if you can’t pull a chalet girl with that, you are not trying”).
But we were unanimous in our choice of winners, and we admit to being surprised and educated.
We learnt that in poor natural-harvest years, such as 2012, those old standbys sloes and damsons just don’t work on their own and are outclassed by some decidedly unusual recipes.
So, the winner in our Off-Piste Class was the amazing Beetroot & Horseradish Vodka. It sounds weird, but it has a beautiful colour and the taste is just incredible, akin to Sunday lunch in a glass. This just pipped the Toffee Vodka; had the latter been served over ice, well, it would have been an even closer call.
And for the traditional? Raspberry Gin won by a least four lengths, for the sheer perfection of its taste and colour.
The winners will be receiving a case of Sipsmith’s finest forthwith, the runners-up Highly Commended certificates to pin next to the school photos in the downstairs loo.
Our warmest thanks to all who entered and we urge everyone who has a hankering for hip-flask concoctions to start work now, ready for next year’s championships.