(NEXSTAR) – Stolichnaya is only going by its nickname these days. The Stoli Group, the owners of Stolichnaya Vodka, have announced “a major rebrand” of its product line amid confusion over the origin of its namesake spirits, which have been produced in Latvia since 2000.
“In direct response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the vodka will exclusively be sold and marketed as Stoli,” the brand announced in a press release issued last week.
Yuri Shefler, the founder of Stoli Group, said the decision to rebrand Stolichnaya as “Stoli” was inspired, in part, by the company’s “vehement” opposition to Putin and his war in Ukraine.
“While I have been exiled from Russia since 2000 due to my opposition to Putin, I have remained proud of the Stolichnaya brand,” said Shefler in a statement included with the press release. “Today, we have made the decision to rebrand entirely as the name no longer represents our organization. More than anything, I wish for ‘Stoli’ to represent peace in Europe and solidarity with Ukraine.”
The Stoli Group is also working “around the clock” on a new label for its Stoli bottles, to remove the Stolichnaya name as well as the image of a Moscow building that appears on some of the vodkas, a representative confirmed to Nexstar.
In the early days of Russia’s attack on Ukraine, a number of bars and liquor stores in the U.S. and beyond had hoped to show support for Ukraine by refusing to sell Russian vodkas, and in some cases, pouring them down the drain. In response, the Stoli Group issued a statement to clarify that Stoli vodkas were produced in Latvia, and not Russia, as some of the operators of those bars and liquor stores may have mistakenly believed.
The Stoli Group itself is also headquartered in Luxembourg.
Despite moving its production of Stoli out of Russia decades ago, the Latvian production facility had continued to source at least some of its ingredients from Russia up until recent weeks, though this practice, too, has been discontinued. The company will now “engage exclusively with Slovakian sources,” according to the press release.
The Stoli Group, however, acknowledges that a state-owned distillery in Russia is still producing its own version of the Stolichnaya brand amid a trademark dispute. The company calls Russia’s version “inferior” and says it is not sold in any of the 150 countries (including the U.S.) where the Stoli Group owns the trademark, per a statement shared on the Stoli website.
A representative for the Stoli Group added that Russia’s version, which features a label that clearly says it’s made in Russia — is only sold in Russia and a “few” other countries.