Stolichnaya vodka is changing its name, as a “direct response” to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Stoli Group announced the rebrand, to simply “Stoli,” on Friday. In a statement, the Luxembourg-based company said its founder’s opposition to the Putin regime played a major role in the decision.
“While I have been exiled from Russia since 2000 due to my opposition to Putin, I have remained proud of the Stolichnaya brand,” Yuri Shefler, founder of Stoli Group, said in a statement. “Today, we have made the decision to rebrand entirely as the name no longer represents our organization.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.”
Stoli’s production facilities have been based in Latvia since 2000, and last week the company said it was moving to exclusively use Slovakian grains to ensure a “100% non-Russian” product.
“We have employees, partners and distributors in the region directly impacted. They are asking that we take a bold stand. This is one actionable, meaningful thing we can do to make it clear that we support Ukraine,” Stoli Group Chief Executive Damian McKinney said in the statement.
Recently, Russian vodka has been pulled off shelves of some stores in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. as a sign of support for Ukraine. Stoli has gotten caught up in that — one liquor store owner in Michigan told the Associated Press last week he had yanked Stolichnaya from his shelves, apparently believing it was Russian, and started promoting a Ukrainian brand instead.
The company also said it has made a financial commitment to World Central Kitchen, chef Jose Andres’ nonprofit group that is helping feed Ukrainian refugees.
The Stolichnaya brand dates back to the early 1900s, but gained fame during the Cold War years as a rare Soviet export to the West. The state-run distillery was privatized after the fall of the Soviet Union, but Stoli Group and the Russian government have been embroiled in a trademark dispute for nearly two decades.
Stoli Group was established in 2013, and besides its signature vodka, distributes rum, tequila, gin and wine brands in more than 175 markets worldwide.