Following the recent enactment of several anti-gay laws in Russia, rights activists around the world declared a boycott of Stolichnaya vodka. Hit the Ruskies where it hurts was the reasoning.
But, as it turns out, Stoli isn’t quite Russian. It’s made in Latvia, a former Soviet republic.
This must come as a surprise to Stoli’s brand loyalists, as the vodka has been marketing itself as Russian for years. Only recently has the description on the label changed from “Russian Vodka” to “Premium Vodka.” It still features an illustration of Hotel Moskva, a landmark on Moscow’s Red Square.
Brands from a region known for producing a distinctive product can often benefit through association with the geography. It’s a form of co-branding called place-of-origin branding. Many consumers ascribe positive attributes to products from certain regions, such as watches from Switzerland, perfume from France and … vodka from Russia.
In fairness, Stoli does start out Russian. Its main ingredient, raw alcohol distilled from grain, comes from Russia. “My (the vodka’s) roots are in the fertile black soil of Russia’s Tambov regions where, to this day, I own my own farms.”
However, the vodka is filtered, blended and bottled in Latvia, using water from local Latvian springs. Boycotting Stoli likely hurts Latvia more than Russia.
Stoli addresses this issue on a new page at its website, featuring a rainbow-hued logo:
“SPI Group, which acquired the Stolichnaya brand in 1997, has deep ties to the international LGBT community. We have, are and will continue to be committed supporters and stand in solidarity in the fight against prejudice. We will support initiatives to further support and celebrate the LGBT community and welcome constructive and collaborative dialogue and strong partnerships to accomplish this important goal.”
SPI Group, Stoli’s owner, is headquartered in … Luxembourg.