Women Are Keeping It For Themselves (Buy Your Own, Boys)

The Wall Street Journal's Rebecca Howard discovers a new breed of flask owners: women. 

Read her article in the Wall Street Journal, or down below:

"Tomai Tahuparae is among a new generation of hip-sters daring to be different.

At home in the South Australian city of Adelaide, Ms. Tahuparae carefully packs her purse before heading out for an evening with her girlfriends. Into her pocketbook go a smartphone and credit cards. She also takes along something more unusual: a hip flask with four small silver shot glasses inside a leather case.

“I take it out when I am expecting a big night, if it’s cold or I expect some sort of long waiting and traveling times while I’m out and about drinking with friends,” the 38-year-old marketing and training assistant said. A single malt Scotch whisky or vodka usually suffices.

Once viewed as an everyday accouterment of English country gentlemen and liquor-lovers seeking to evade U.S. law enforcement during Prohibition, hip flasks are becoming hip again—and marketers are targeting many of their wares at women.

SWIG Flasks women on a boat

The gender shift is being noticed by everyone from upmarket jewelers to online retailers. That has prompted manufacturers to produce new flask designs, some encrusted with fake diamonds or hand-painted pink with glitter.

“It used to be almost exclusively bought as a gift for men, but in recent years we have noticed that many women are now buying them for themselves,” said Mairead Daly, category director for silver, china and crystal products at London-based jeweler Asprey International Ltd.

In order to meet demand, Asprey plans to add a new hip flask to its list of products that include diamond rings and silver trays, she says. Its current hip flask retails for $775.

Hip flasks are said to date back several centuries, possibly as far back as the medieval Crusades. In the 18th century they were popular among gentlemen seeking a quick drink to steady their nerves on a hunting trip or journey by horse-drawn carriage. Flasks were kept in a blazer or hip pocket, or stuffed down the side of one’s leg into a boot, thought to be the origin of the term “bootlegging,” said Laura Kelton, of Chicago, Ill., who has blogged on the history of hip flasks and carries one herself.

“I use it on many occasions, as it is often filled with something special that isn’t easy to get so I can share it with friends, or some whiskey to keep warm during the Chicago winter,” said Ms. Kelton who is a full-time bartender.

Among their later fans was author F. Scott Fitzgerald, who carried around a silver flask engraved with the inscription “Forget-me-not” from his future wife, Zelda.

New Zealander Lila Kuka began collecting vintage hip flasks in her 20s, but has now settled on a porcelain flask that was a gift for her 40th birthday. “I think they have an old-school cool about them—they’re a little bit Wild West,” said the mom-of-two, from Te Atatu Peninsula, a suburb of New Zealand’s biggest city, Auckland.

Ms. Kuka is unabashed about getting her hip flask out, even if it sometimes surprises men. “I’ve taken it out to a football game in winter and it had single malt in it, and I’ve also taken it to dinner parties at friend’s places,” she said. “I’m not a big drinker, so a wee tipple from my flask after dinner is delicious and just enough.”

Still, the reasons behind the hip flask’s modern-day renaissance—and people’s willingness to pay up to $2,600 for a top-of-the-range model made from sterling silver—can be as murky as the liquor within. A full hip flask is heavy and competes for space in pant pockets and purses with everything from cosmetics to cash.

Some draw parallels between the flask’s traditional popularity among sportsmen, such as recreational fishers and shooters, and its allure to modern-day thrill seekers. “Nowadays, although hardly to be recommended, you will often see skiers who carry a hip flask filled with liqueurs with them,” said Asprey’s Ms. Daly.

On a recent horseback ride across the Tararua ranges on the east coast of New Zealand’s north island, Rebecca Harper brought her steed to a halt and sought out a hip flask engraved with her name from within the folds of her coat.

The 30-year-old professional writer had an important reason for bringing a hip flask with her that day as she cut across New Zealand’s countryside. “I often jump really big fences, like the wire fences to keep stock in,” she said, which sometimes requires a bit of “courage.”

Ms. Harper received her first hip flask as a 21st birthday gift, and later doubled her collection by buying a glass flask in a leather case at a U.K. country fair.

“I bought it with the idea of giving it to one of my brothers,” she said. “But I liked it too much so they didn’t get it.”

Check out Rebecca's profile right here.

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