I like hip flasks. In some ways, they are the gentleman’s version of a bottle in a brown paper bag. If you think about them objectively, they are the purview of a person who cannot (or does not want to) go without a dram for a day. That said, they ooze sophistication and whenever one is produced, everyone is duly impressed and appreciative. They allow for a warming nip in the most unlikely of places and generate camaraderie wherever they surface.
I own (or have owned) a few hip flasks.
I cannot recall if my first hip flask was a present. It was a cheap affair with faux black leather sides and a rubber washer to seal the lid, which was lost eventually, making it useless. That must have been about 20 years ago – I don’t even know where it is now.
My second was definitely a gift; it was a leaving present, bought for me by work colleagues, and bears the engraved words “Dug’s Gin”. This one holds tremendous sentimental value to me and is as much a household ornament as a drinking vessel.
My third was a very cheap brushed-steel thing that was bought to hold whisky for a England-Scotland rugby match; I found it recently and, for all it was a cheap flask, the whisky left in the bottom (which must have been in there for three years) is as good as the day it was filled. So, anyone that tries to tell you that leaving whisky in a steel flask for more than a day turns it black and tainted, can take a hike.
I’ve recently been given a 4th hip flask and, while each of my others have history and memories attached, this new one is akin to a driving Bentley after driving a Ford for most of your life. It oozes style, sophistication and quality, and is the reason I am now waffling about hip flasks.
The Flask in question is a SWIG Flask, from their Executive range (pictured).
It comes in an elegant but understated, ribbon-bound, card box. Inside the box, nestled in satin-like fabric (which was oddly reminiscent of a cravat one might wear with a smoking jacket) is a gleaming hip flask sheathed in leather.
The flask itself holds 6oz (170ml) and is of a seamless stainless steel construction (I would love to know how to make a seamless metal flask), has pleasingly rounded corners and is polished to a mirror finish. Now, I’m a sucker for smooth tactile objects (as attested to by the number of beach pebbles in our house) and this hip flask really ticks that box for me; I can spend ages just handling it – the only drawback being the greasy smears that end up marring the mirror finish (nothing a microfibre cloth can’t solve).
Let me just return to that “seamless” construction a moment. If a hip flask is going to break, it’s going to do so along a seam. I’ve known someone spilt a hip flask and it’s no fun. The seamless design of the SWIG Flask removes this point of failure and makes for an incredibly strong vessel. This flask is solid, with very little give when squeezed and is a comforting weight in the hand. The screw cap, while small has a surprising weight to it as well. Both the flask and lid are engraved with the brand name and the body of the flask also carries a unique flask number, which is not only the production number of your flask, but also your SWIG Society membership number. The base of the flask is flat, allowing it to stand upright for filling.
The flasks from the Executive range are encased in a leather sleeve (brown in my case), which is moulded to perfectly fit the body of the flask. So good is the fit, that I struggled to remove it the first few times (it loosens-up a little after a while). The seam where the leather is stitched is dead-straight and the stitching is incredibly neat. The seam necessitates removal of the sleeve for filling, as the flask won’t stand upright with it on. The leather is embossed with the brand name.
I’ve taken my SWIG flask on a few business trips now and I can see this becoming a serious affectation of mine. It brings me great pleasure to use and has never failed to attract admiring comments when others have seem it. It doesn’t taint the gin with any metallic flavours (although two days is the longest it’s had anything in). Critically, it doesn’t leak, even when slung into the bottom of a suitcase and stored upside-down.
Beyond all of the quality and elegance, my SWIG flask has something else going for it – it matches my wallet and watch. In fact it’s the same size as my wallet. I’m a great believer in (although not necessarily a strict adherent to) matching accessories and my SWIG Flask looks like it’s part of a set.
A SWIG Hip Flask would make an excellent gift (I was dead-chuffed with mine). There are a bunch of sleeves and other options available; there are several different colours of leather sleeve, Harris Tweed sleeves, engraving options and even a filling funnel. There are also limited edition sleeves available on occasion. If you want to keep it simple, you can buy a bare flask on its own.
For reference, you can buy them here: http://swigflasks.com/