In 1986, the leader of the Soviet Union, General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, made the most ludicrous decision possible for the people of his country: He somehow decided that it would be a good idea to put a soft prohibition on alcohol - the very thing Russian people are stereo-typically known to love.

In 1986, the leader of the Soviet Union, General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, made the most ludicrous decision possible for the people of his country: He somehow decided that it would be a good idea to put a soft prohibition on alcohol - the very thing Russian people are stereo-typically known to love.

"Defeat Alcoholism!"
Bulgarian anti-alcohol poster.
Ukrainian anti-alcohol poster.
Soviet anti-alcohol poster from the 70's.
Soviet anti-alcohol poster.
Soviet anti-alcohol poster.
Soviet anti-alcohol poster.
Soviet anti-alcohol poster.

Unlike America’s complete ban on alcohol, Gorbachev’s soft prohibition did not outright ban alcoholic beverages. By cutting federal production of vodka (the only production in a socialist state) Gorbachev’s soft prohibition limited each Soviet citizen to only a couple of bottles a month. This may sound reasonable on the surface, but a Soviet citizen, on average, drank almost a bottle a person...every couple of days.

However, similar to America’s ban, the soft prohibition brought forth an age of home distillation, and it may not be surprising to hear that making alcohol at home was very illegal and very dangerous. Soviet moonshiners were punished and imprisoned, and in some cases even sentenced to death depending on the quantity of samagon (Russian moonshine) they produced. Even so, this didn’t do anything to stop the influx of home distillers.

Introducing: our grandfather and eternal badass, Oleg Pichenikin. Having grown up in the aftermath of WWII, leaving school to join the workforce and growing up with limited resources, Oleg overcame his challenges by utilizing his resourcefulness. Where do we even begin? 

This rebellious individual built a phone tapping machine for fun and listened in on official government phones, as well as a radio taking up almost the entire flat- just so he could listen to American news. Instead of putting him in jail, his ingenuity landed him a government position as a mechanic where he rose through the ranks to become the lead of an engineering team responsible for building and maintaining elevators in all the top secret and high clearance locations. 

When the soft prohibition came into effect, Oleg didn’t hesitate to distill. He used a recipe handed down in the family based on the one food that was always plentiful: split peas. In the Soviet Union, most moonshine was probably closer to nail polish remover, since most people didn’t know what they were doing, but Oleg’s split pea spirit was carefully crafted, and unsurprisingly, people came to prefer his moonshine to the government supplied stuff. His neighbors and patrons didn’t let his big secret out to the officials, and eventually, soft prohibition ended in huge economic failure. The rest is history.

Sadly, we didn’t grow up knowing the man, but through our grandmother, we have his recipe, and with it, a piece of him. Our flagship spirit distilled from split peas follows our grandfather’s specifications. The liquor is not a vodka, as everyone expects, but a whiskey that pays homage to both our company’s and grandfather’s rebellious spirit. Enjoy a dram, reminisce on an adventurous past, and think about how lucky we are now. Na zdorovya!

Aleksandr Zhdanov

Aleksandr Zhdanov

Co-CEO Head Distiller

Maksim Zhdanov

Maksim Zhdanov

Co-CEO

William Proulx

William Proulx

CPO

Yulia Kravchin

Yulia Kravchin

CMO

Robert Mattera III

Robert Mattera III

Chief Botanicalist

 
 
 

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Soviet anti-alcohol poster.

"To health!" (Artist Unknown, 1985)