The label on an old bottle of Stolichnaya produced for export by SPI Group which refers to the Russian origin of the distilled grain alcohol.
|Country of origin||Moscow, Russia|
|Alcohol by volume||40%|
Stolichnaya Flavoured Premium vodka
|Related products||List of vodkas|
Stolichnaya (Russian: Столи́чная, also known as Stoli) is a vodka made of wheat and rye grain. A well-known Soviet brand, the ownership of Stolichnaya is disputed since the fall of the Soviet Union between Russian state-owned company FKP Sojuzplodoimport and SPI Group, 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), SGI Group distributes and produces from Latvia.
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 four 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 Soyuzplodimport). SPI, a company controlled by Yuri Scheffler produces Stolichnaya in Latvia using Latvian water but alcohol from a distillery in Tambov.
Name and logo
The brand's logo features the words "Stolichnaya vodka" in gold cursive script over a drawing of a Moscow landmark, the recently reconstructed Hotel Moskva, where Stalin once stayed and the site of one of the first Metro stations in the capital city. ("Stolichnaya" is the adjectival form of "stolitsa" ["столица"], meaning "capital city".)
The SPI Group uses a similar bottle, where the label reads: Premium Vodka, produced and bottled in Latvia 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 collapse of the Soviet Union, steps were taken to transform state-owned Stolichnaya producer VO Sojuzplodoimport (later VVO Sojuzplodoimport) in 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 transferred them in 1990 to the SPA (Spirits) group. State owned company FKP Sojuzplodoimport and the SPA group have been in dispute over the ownership of various trademarks since 2003 
Trademark ownership and production rights
Since the collapse 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 it obtained 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 the 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 spirits had not obtained the trademarks from the owner.
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 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 Sojuzplodoimport. Sojuzplodoimport will start selling Stolichnaya in the Netherlands on 1 September 2015.
Other European states
SPI Group holds the rights to several Stolichnaya trademarks in Great Brittain, 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 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, on 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 USA, taking over from PepsiCo. The William Grant & Sons distribution contract will expire on December 31, 2013 and will not be renewed, due to SPI Group's stated desire to manage their brand directly.
Stolichnaya is available in many varieties, including:
- Stolichnaya 80 proof (red label)
- Stolichnaya 80 proof (Kristal or gold)
- Stolichnaya 100 proof (blue label)
- Stolichnaya Elit ("ultra-luxury")
- 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)
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 musical Rent (one of the most popular and long lived musicals on Broadway) the intro to the song "Today 4 U" includes the lyrics "This boy could use some Stoli" in reference to the Bohemian's Christmas feast, consisting of Bustelo coffee, Marlboro cigarettes, bananas, Cap'n Crunch, firewood and a bottle of Stoli.
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 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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