'Every time I'm in London I go out to the clubs - you don't learn anything by sitting in your office," says Charles Gibb.

The president of luxury vodka brand Belvedere is scrolling through his smartphone in the May Fair Hotel bar. He is in London for a few days ahead of a brief trip to Paris and before he returns to his New York base. Global jet-setting is a part of the job, as is a familiarity with the world's best nightspots.

He swipes briefly through his camera roll to prove the point: pop artists and sports stars pout and pose in A-list venues, most flanked by frosted glass bottles of Belvedere. The high-end hedonism which typified the luxury drinks market before the recession rages on, but the glitz and gloss masks a disruptive shift in the consumer market which Gibb is only too aware of.

"Before the financial crisis people were all about celebration, parties. It was an overtly celebratory time. But in the aftermath you saw people interrogating things more, asking more questions.

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Suddenly people were wanting to talk to us about the environment.

They weren't doing that 15 years ago," he says.

"As a brand you see the conversation changing and you ask what your role is going to be and shape your strategy accordingly. If you understand who you are at the core then you can adapt to the changing environment."

Gibb believes the brand's 106-year distilling pedigree in the birthplace of vodka will be pivotal in holding the attention of discerning drinkers.

They are increasingly concerned about the authenticity and provenance of the brands they consume, he says.

"Before the crisis, I think if you tried to tell the vodka story the consumer was less interested. Today I think the expansion of social media and access to information means that as a brand your ability to be transparent is critical to having authenticity. So we ask people to come walk around our distillery, see how we distil, meet the rye farmer. If people can't be there directly, how can we still tell this story in a virtual way? We're increasingly looking at ways that we can do that and tell that story."

Belvedere takes its name from the Belweder presidential palace in Poland. It was founded in the Nineties but uses the same distillery which has been turning Dankowskie rye and artesian water into vodka for more than a century.

Selling the story of Poland's biggest export will be key to seeing off competition from rival luxury vodka makers Ciroc, Absolut and Grey Goose.

The UK's wine and spirit association hailed 2016 the
The UK's wine and spirit association hailed 2016 the "year of gin" after spirit sales surged 19pc.

"Poland is an extraordinary country - it disappeared from the map for 100 years.

"Through Poland came the end of communism. It was in the period immediately after that Belvedere was created. It was in that spirit of the aftermath of communism as Poland was reawakening and opening itself back up to the world again. There are some wonderful stories and a richness in there that people really crave now.

"Being Polish is a real differentiator in the high-end vodka market - it's the birthplace of vodka. When I'm looking for a great malt whisky I'm going to go straight to Scotland. There are good Japanese malts coming out but they will always be stacked up - first and foremost - against whisky from the birthplace of malt whisky."

As well as battling rival vodkas for the hearts and glasses of drinkers, Belvedere is up against the perennial appeal of whisky and the resurgence of gin.

As a brand you see the conversation changing and you ask what your role is going to be and shape your strategy accordingly. If you understand who you are at the core then you can adapt to the changing environment.

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The UK's wine and spirit association hailed 2016 as the "year of gin" after sales of the spirit surged by 19pc to just over £1billion (NZ$1.7b) last year compared with steady sales of £1.28b (NZ$2.12b) for Scotch whisky. But if Gibb is worried about the perception of vodka as the less serious cousin of gin and whisky he isn't showing it.

"The American definition of vodka is 'odourless, tasteless and colourless' - which is the most neutrally boring definition of vodka," Gibb laughs. "But honestly? I don't see us taking a hit. In fact, I think the opposite - we're growing beautifully. Vodka is still growing around the world and in the top end of the market sales are growing even faster.

"People are upgrading. When they go out for a drink, they're doing so because they want to really appreciate the alcohol. So we're seeing fantastic growth at the top of the market," he says.

Gibbs says Europe remains the most exciting, "most dynamic" market for Belvedere and for luxury vodka more broadly.

Belvedere Vodka on display during the 2016 Native Son Awards. Photo / Getty Images
Belvedere Vodka on display during the 2016 Native Son Awards. Photo / Getty Images

Outside Europe, India is emerging as an important vodka market as the rising middle classes acquire a taste for luxury with the steady rise in disposable income.

The emergence of "cocktail culture" and female drinkers should continue to boost sales of vodka, which is traditionally positioned as a "female drink".

"There are two kinds of vodka: those with character and those that are neutral. In a cocktail, a neutral vodka allows all the flavours of everything else to come forward but the other is a rye vodka which has a distinctive taste profile.

"Vodka has always had a huge role to play in the drinks market because of its versatility. Gin is immediately associated with tonic, but vodka is adaptable. At the beginning of the night it's serious cocktails but by the time you're in a nightclub you see the less serious side of vodka. You wouldn't necessarily put gin or whisky into all of those occasions - but you could with vodka," Gibb says.

Belvedere's rye spirit prides itself on having a more complex taste and played to this with the launch of Belvedere Unfiltered in late 2012.

"It was described as the whisky drinker's vodka because it's a sipping vodka to have on the rocks or neat. It's made from a different strain of rye, is filtered only four times and is left unfiltered to really magnify that rye character, so it's really bigger and bolder. We're always looking at things like that," he says.

If you look at Belvedere we're pretty close to being a craft spirit, despite being sold in 120 countries across the globe.

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Belvedere's product development efforts are meant to act as a bulwark against the rising breed of upstart brands which have gained popularity by producing niche, small-batch spirits. Last month Beam Suntory, the Japanese spirits giant, said it had taken a controlling stake in Sipsmith, the small-batch London gin distillery credited with pioneering a resurgence for the home-grown British gin since it was founded in 2009.

Gibb agrees that more small batch craft spirit makers are likely to enter the mainstream as consumers become increasingly concerned about the provenance and narrative behind the brands they buy.

"If you look at Belvedere we're pretty close to being a craft spirit, despite being sold in 120 countries across the globe. We only work with seven farmers to grow our rye. We own our own artesian well which draws our water before we distil it 11 times," he says.

Gibb expects sales in the festive period to beat last year, both globally and for the UK, and he views Brexit as another opportunity to innovate.

"It's far too early to know what things will look like after the UK leaves the EU.

"What we do know is that we are still investing in our brand in the UK and Europe. Our job is to get creative, to find ways of adapting to new circumstances. We need to see everything as a potential opportunity."