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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Best Georgian vodka is always from grape. Eristoff Vodka - is it an exception or Bacardi blunder?

Couple of days ago I wrote a post about famous Georgian family Eristavi (Eristov, Eristoff). It's a great family and their impact on Georgian history and culture could not be overstated. Also if you recalling I mentioned that Eristavi is also a very high title in Georgian dukes hierarchy and it should not be confused with a surname - Eristavi.
I thing I forgot to mention - Eristavi is a great marketing brand these days. It would be surprising if businesses let such famous Georgian brand sit idle and not try to capitalize on it. Quick research shows at least two products claim association with the name of Eristavi. About one of those I want to talk today: Eristoff Vodka

First is the Vodka Eristoff. As the official webpage says, Eristoff Vodka originates from Georgia and was first created for Prince Eristoff in 1806.

Eristoiff Vodka is made from 100% grain spirit, is triple distilled and then charcoal filtered, a technique first established in 18th century Russia. A landmark in the history of the Eristoff family and Eristoff vodka came in the late 19th century when Ivane’s great grandson, Prince Alexander Constantine Eristoff moved from Georgia to Saint Petersburg. Prince Alexander went on to enjoy a distinguished military career eventually reaching the rank of Colonel in the Imperial Guard.

The last members of the Eristoff family were Prince Nicolai Alexandrovich Eristoff, whose name appears on every bottle of Eristoff vodka, who died in 1970, and his sister, Olga, who died in 1991. Neither had children. I don't have an access to the ancestry historical databases and research tools, but quick research on the web doesn't provide any more details about those particular members of Eristoff noble family. Seems like they are not relatives of Mr. Constantine Sidamon-Eristoff and his family. May be there are relatives of Prince Vladimir Eristov, one of the first pilots in Russian Empire, I don't know.

Few details about Vodka Eristoff sheds some light on what clan does it represent. Since Prince Ivane Eristoff was the one who created Eristoff vodka in 1806 and he was from the northwest province of Racha, it seems to me that they were members of Eristavi of Racha family, not the members of the two very first Eristavi clans - Eristavi of Aragvi and Eristavi of Ksani.
Anyway, Vodka Eristoff brand belongs to Bacardi Group and has 4 flavors:
  • Eristoff Red: sloe berry flavour
  • Eristoff Black: wild berry flavour
  • Eristoff Limskaya: lime flavour
  • Eristoff Gold: caramel flavour

I never tried it, but association with Bacardi tells me it should be a very good quality product.

One thing doesn't really  resonates well in this marketing brand story. Eristavi is a great name to call a good quality product, but I don't really understand, why it is 100% grain vodka??? Big question mark here.

Georgia is famous for its own original grape based brandy - Chacha (Georgian: ჭაჭა, pronounced [tʃʼɑtʃʼɑ]) is traditionally a clear strong liquor, which is sometimes called "vine vodka," "grape vodka," or "Georgian vodka." Chacha is made of grape pomace (grape residue left after making wine). It can also be produced from non-ripe or non-cultured grapes and, in some cases, figs, tangerines, oranges, or mulberries. Vodka Eristoff producers claim that Prince Ivane Eristoff of Racha originated this grain vodka. But Racha is a highland area in western Georgia and they don't grow grain. Corn - may be, but definitely not grain. And of course, grape grows there.

So, if Prince Ivane Eristoff was drinking a vodka or any other alcoholic beverage it should had been only wine or grape brandy, or grape vodka. I think Bacardi marketing groups missed this critical point. It casts doubts on authenticity of Vodka Eristoff as a real product that goes back to Prince Ivane Eristoff, Eristavi of Racha. Georgian Vodka is almost always Grape Vodka. Sorry, Bacardi...