A Little Taste of Chernobyl: Atomik Vodka from the Exclusion Zone

With only one bottle produced, it's not for sale yet, but it may open new doors.
Fabienne Lang

Vodka's not the first word you associate with Chernobyl, the Ukrainian city that experienced a horrific nuclear disaster in 1986, leaving it as a ghost town. 

The site has been an exclusion zone, a 30-kilometer parameter around the blast site, with no one living anywhere near it for decades. Radioactivity left the area unliveable. 


With time though, nature has been miraculous and signs of healthy life and clean surrounding areas are appearing.

And now, even more surprisingly, a team of entrepreneurs has created drinkable vodka from the exclusion zone called "The Atomik."

The Atomik vodka is no more radioactive than other vodkas

Made by the Chernobyl Spirit Company, the team of scientists cooked up 'slightly radioactive' rye grain that was planted within the exclusion zone. 

Most people believe vodka is made from potatoes, which was what was typically used. But nowadays grains such as wheat and rye constitute the majority of the drink.

Adding to the risk, the water used in the vodka is from an aquifer that lies within the exclusion zone - also partly contaminated. 

Why did they make the vodka, if it's contaminated?

The artisanal vodka is one of the results of a project led by Professor Jim Smith, a leading expert on Chernobyl, who told the BBC: "This is no more radioactive than any other vodka."

The British environmental scientist from the University of Portsmouth, Smith, who is also part of the Chernobyl Spirit Company's team, said: "If you're worried about radioactive vodka -- don't be."


The reason the team is able to create nonradioactive vodka is thanks to the distillation process, which ensures all and any contaminants remain far away from the final, drinkable product.

Smith continued, "Any chemist will tell you when you distill something, impurities stay in the waste product." 

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The only real issue with the vodka? It's not yet available for the public. With just one bottle made so far, you'll have to wait patiently until more bottles of the Atomik are made. 

The hope is that 500 bottles will be made before the end of the year. 

Economic importance of the vodka

Aside from its taste, the team is hoping to help the area recover economically

75% of the profits created by the sales of the vodka will go directly to the Chernobyl population that was deeply affected by the disaster, Smith states. "I think this could be the most important bottle of spirits in the world because it could help the economic recovery of communities living in and around the abandoned areas."

Currently, agriculture and investment of the land are forbidden in the exclusion zone, due to the dangers that have been associated with radiation. As the area clears up though, things have started to change too. This is precisely what the Chernobyl Spirit Company aims to do with this drink. 

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