|Country of origin||Russia|
|Alcohol by volume||40%|
Stolichnaya Flavoured Premium vodka
|Related products||List of vodkas|
Stolichnaya (Russian: Столичная, also known as Stoli) is a vodka made of wheat and rye grain. A well-known Soviet brand, the ownership of Stolichnaya has been disputed since the dissolution of the Soviet Union between Russian state-owned company FKP Soyuzplodoimport and SPI Group, a private company founded and owned by Russian billionaire Yuri Shefler.
Fermentation of Stolichnaya starts with wheat and rye grains and artesian water. The fermentation takes about 60 hours. Once fermentation is complete the resulting liquid is distilled three times to a strength of 96.4% alcohol by volume. This spirit is then diluted to bottling strength with more artesian well water. It is then filtered through quartz, sand, activated charcoal, and finally through woven cloth.
The Russian state-owned version Stolichnaya is bottled from artesian water from the Russian city of Samara and the Kaliningrad region, in the ITAR Distillery (Kaliningrad, Russia) within the limits of granted License of the state-owned FKP Союзплодоимпорт (transliterated Sojuzplodoimport or Soyuzplodoimport). SPI, a company controlled by Yuri Shefler produces Stolichnaya in Latvia at Latvijas Balzams using Latvian water but alcohol from a distillery in Tambov.
Name and logo
The SPI Group uses a similar bottle, where the label reads: Premium Vodka, produced and bottled in Latvia at the Latvijas Balzams plant for SPI Group and is labeled as Imported Premium Vodka.
There is confusion about the actual birth date of Stolichnaya vodka. The earliest confirmed production date is 1948, but the label design clearly predates 1946. It is likely that it was created by V. G. Svirida around 1944. However, there is a trademark registration dated 1938, which is sometimes quoted as another birth date.
In 1953, Stolichnaya was introduced at the international trade show in Bern and received a gold medal. Before the dissolution of the Soviet Union, bottles were made in Ukraine for export.
In 1972, the PepsiCo company struck a barter agreement with the government of the Soviet Union, in which PepsiCo was granted exportation and Western marketing rights to Stolichnaya vodka, in exchange for importation and Soviet marketing of Pepsi-Cola. This exchange led to Pepsi-Cola being the first American consumer product to be produced, marketed and sold in the U.S.S.R. Directly after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Stolichnaya vodka continued to be produced for export in several of the ex-Soviet republics, including Ukraine. The bottles retained their Soviet-era labels.
During the dissolution of the Soviet Union, steps were taken to transform state-owned Stolichnaya producer VO Sojuzplodoimport (later VVO Sojuzplodoimport) into a privately held company. Since the early nineties the personnel of the Vodka factory and factual control of the trademarks were held by VAO Sojuzplodoimport (later: VZAO Sojuzplodoimport), who transferred them in 1997 to ZAO Sojuzplodimport, which sold them in 1999 to the SPI (Spirits) group. SPI Group is a private company chartered in Luxembourg, founded and owned by Russian billionaire Yuri Shefler, that distributes a wide variety of Russian spirits, having purchased a number of former Soviet brands and operations. While FKP produces in Kaliningrad, Russia (for the Russian market and the Benelux market), SPI Group distributes and produces from Latvia. State owned company FKP Sojuzplodoimport and the SPI group have been in dispute over the ownership of various trademarks since 2003.
Trademark ownership and production rights
Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Stolichnaya trademark has been the object of dispute between distributors since 2003, predominantly the SPI Group and Russian state-owned Sojuzplodoimport. The SPI group has held the rights from the legal successor as a result of a privatisation, while the Russian government has held this privatisation has never fully materialised.
In August 1991, the Soviet patent office revoked the Soviet state-owned company's right to use the Stolichnaya name in Russia. However, in 2002, a Moscow court ruled on appeal that the Government of Russia would get back the rights to the Stolichnaya brand name from SPI Group since – as a result of the incomplete privatisation – it had not obtained the rights from the rights holder. An appeal of SPI with the European Court of Human Rights was rejected.
The Oberlandesgericht Linz decided in 2014 that FKP could not base its request on the nullity of the privatization/transformation, as that possibility had a term of limitation of 10 years according to the applicable law in Russia (if the term of limitation defense had been actively relied upon), and that thus FKP could not claim that SPI had not obtained the trademarks from the owner.
In 2020 the Austrian Oberste Gerichtshof (OGH) - the highest civil court in Austria - approved the 2014 decision. SPI has therefore exhausted all options in the Austrian justice system.
In the Benelux, SPI has been the distributor, but use of the trademarks was challenged in 2006 by the Russian state-owned company FKP Sojuzplodoimport. In 2015, a Dutch court held that the privatisation according to Russian and according to Soviet Union law (and a term of limitation had not been invoked regarding the transfer) had not taken place and that Benelux law and (when provisions were insufficient) Dutch law applied to the transfer of the trademarks. SPI had obtained the trademarks in bad faith from an entity that wasn't the legitimate owner, and thus that the trademarks should be transferred back to FKP Sojuzplodoimport, and that SPI could not use the term "Russian" on its vodka. After the verdict, SPI stopped distribution of Stolichnaya and started selling "Stoli" with the motto "Same Vodka. Different label", which a Dutch judge forbade in July 2015 as infringing the rights of FKP Sojuzplodoimport. FKP Sojuzplodoimport planned to start selling Stolichnaya in the Netherlands on 1 September 2015.
Other European states
SPI Group holds the rights to several Stolichnaya trademarks in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Italy, Denmark, Portugal, Czech Republic, Spain, Cyprus, Poland, Norway and Iceland. In a lawsuit before the Court of The Hague, FKP Sojuzplodoimport sought an order to return the trademarks from several SPI companies. The Hague court assumed jurisdiction based on two Brussels Regime instruments: Brussels Regulation 44/2001 (for the EU countries) and the 2007 Lugano Convention (Norway, Iceland): it ruled that as the dispute did not relate to trademark validity (for which national courts have jurisdiction) but to trademark registration, for which it could take jurisdiction as a main defendant had his seat located in the Netherlands. For the evaluation of the validity of the trademarks it will use the national law of the trademarks concerned.
PepsiCo had been the distributor of Stolichnaya based on an agreement with the Soviet Government. The change in control of the trademarks and production facilities led to several lawsuits over what company could market vodka under this name in the United States. On November 20, 1992, a US federal judge ruled that PepsiCo would maintain the exclusive right to the name in the United States, as allowing others to market under the name would bring a "risk of irreparable harm" to the trademark.
In 2009, William Grant & Sons signed an agreement with SPI Group to distribute Stolichnaya in the United States, taking over from PepsiCo. The William Grant & Sons distribution contract expired on December 31, 2013 and was not renewed, due to SPI Group's stated desire to manage their brand directly.
In 2006 FKP Sojuzplodoimport brought against the record owner of the mark Spirits International N.V., et al. in 2005. The district court dismissed almost all claims on a motion to dismiss, holding that the incontestable status of the registration meant that FKP Sojuzplodoimport couldn’t challenge ownership. However, in 2009 the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit vacated this decision, stating that FKP Sojuzplodoimport can challenge the validity of the assignment of the trademark.
After examining the grant given to FKP Sojuzplodoimport by the Russian government, the district court held in 2011, and the appeals court affirmed in 2013, that the Russian government had not transferred full ownership of the marks to FKP Sojuzplodoimport, so FKP Sojuzplodoimport wasn’t the registrant of the mark. Since FTE had dismissed all claims except for infringement of a registered mark, it didn’t have standing and the case was dismissed.
Then FKP Sojuzplodoimport and the Russian government signed a new assignment document that assigns the trademarks to FKP Sojuzplodoimport in every way possible, and FKP Sojuzplodoimport filed a new lawsuit against Spirits International N.V. The district court in 2014 heard testimony from experts on Russian law and reached a conclusion that under Russian law, FKP Sojuzplodoimport may only manage property, not own it, and, therefore, FKP Sojuzplodoimport does not have standing. However, in 2016 this decision was vacated by the Court of Appeals and the case went back to district court.
Stolichnaya is available in many varieties, including:
- Stolichnaya 80 proof (red label)
- Stolichnaya 80 proof (Cristall or gold)
- Stolichnaya 100 proof (blue label)
- Stoli Blakberi (Blackberry)
- Stoli Blueberi (Blueberry)
- Stoli Citros (Citrus)
- Stoli Cranberi (Cranberry)
- Stoli Gala Applik (Apple)
- Stoli Ohranj (Orange)
- Stoli Peachik (Peach; formerly named Stoli Persik)
- Stoli Razberi (Raspberry)
- Stoli Strasberi (Strawberry)
- Stoli Vanil (Vanilla)
- Stoli White Pomegranik (White Pomegranate)
- Stoli Wild Cherri (Wild Cherry)
- Stoli Chocolat Razberi (Chocolate and Raspberry)
- Stoli Hot (Jalapeño)
- Stoli Sticki (Honey)
- Stoli Chocolat Kokonut (Chocolate and Coconut)
- Stoli Salted Karamel (Salted Caramel)
- Stoli Gluten Free
Several of these offerings have performed well at international spirit ratings competitions. For example, the Elit label was awarded a silver medal at the 2011 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
Stolichnaya's chief rival Russian Standard aroused controversy when it questioned Stolichnaya's Russian authenticity, due to the elongated distribution and ownership chain. Pernod Ricard responded by insisting that it is an authentic Russian vodka, as nothing is added or removed during the bottling.
In Eminem's 2010 music video for "Love the Way You Lie", Stolichnaya vodka was included in several scenes. The product placement begins with actor Dominic Monaghan shoplifting a bottle of the vodka, after which he and actress Megan Fox drink from it on the roof of the liquor store. In the movie Sleeping with the Enemy, the brand makes a brief appearance when Mr. Burney grabs a CD.
Roger Sterling, a main character in the American television series Mad Men, is also a fan of Stolichnaya, keeping a bottle in his office at all times. This habit appears to be either specially facilitated or anachronistic, however, since the series takes place in New York City in the 1960s, roughly a decade before the vodka gained its first official US distribution through PepsiCo (see above).
In July 2013, columnist Dan Savage joined gay bars and clubs and called for a boycott of Stolichnaya and other Russian vodkas. The boycott is in response to anti-gay laws enacted by the Russian government.
In response, SPI released a statement expressing their opposition to Russia's anti-gay policies, stating that, "Stolichnaya Vodka has always been, and continues to be, a fervent supporter and friend to the LGBT community."
SPI have released additional statements "announced that in response to the boycott the company would be making a financial donation to an unspecified group working on behalf of Russian LGBT activists fighting against the Russian government’s anti-gay policies." The CEO of the company also insisted that the company is "not a Russian company", even though "the company operates a distillery in Russia, that several hundred of its 2,500 employees are in Russia and that it obtains its ingredients from Russia."
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