Sensory perception

Another vital factor is consumer perception of Poland, which Jan-Roman Potocki says has improved. “Poland is better known in markets such as the UK, where Polish products and cuisine have become more mainstream. Similarly, the French know the Poles drink vodka so there’s no need to explain anything,” he says. “In the US Polish vodka is better known than it was 10 years ago, but vodka is still primarily associated with Russia rather than Poland.”

Country of origin plays a key role in bars, where compiling a vodka menu entails an essential dilemma – there are numerous brands to choose from, but limited space.

On this subject, Julian de Feral, drinks director at Gorgeous Group, says: “When I’m developing menus for venues around the world, I put together a vodka list with a spread of brands spanning different ingredients and countries of origin, including Poland, to present a snapshot of the category.”

Cocktail bars are a ‘natural habitat’ for vodka, which has benefited more from cocktail culture than any other spirit. But for every trend there’s always a counter-trend. “The more people go up the vodka pyramid the more you see vodka on the rocks, particularly in top-end venues,” says Charles Gibb. “In the US, for example, vodka on the rocks now accounts for around 20%-30% of total consumption, whereas it used to be a tiny amount. And on-the-rocks enables consumers to really taste the vodka.”

On the rocks is also an emerging trend in the UK, France and Germany, which highlights a significant development. “More consumers value the flavour of vodka, and can differentiate between brands while recognising each ingredient gives a different flavour profile,” says U’Luvka global brand manager, Robert Zajaczkowski. “This stems from bartenders differentiating between the flavour of brands and making recommendations to customers. And this in turn reflects the tastings and masterclasses provided by brands.”

It looks as though ‘taste’ is finally joining the audio and visual parts of vodka’s sensory story.