Smirnoff sounds Russian in an ever so slightly made-up way, but its design proudly displays Tsarist symbology to clarify that it has proper heritage; further reassurance of authenticity can be found in the extra details on the base label and bottle embossing. Stolichnaya, ‘Stoli’ to its friends, sports a staunchly communist aesthetic; I feel like saluting Lenin as I walk past, stiffly.
But the new(ish) story on shelf is that of contemporary Russia, embracing capitalism in its own unique way, welcoming back orthodox religion, but still fiercely proud of the motherland. Representing this story, I presume, meet Russian Standard. From a company of the same name promising ‘to enable ordinary people to participate in a luxurious lifestyle by offering affordable products and services on a large scale’, its distinguishing feature is the cloudy-grey glass bottle with a sturdy tapering base, making it seem faintly bell-shaped. The intricately designed label with mostly cyrillic text oozes class and crafsmanship, though less so on this Belgian shelf than the paragon on the website.
The Eagle/Bear brand symbol also tells its own intriguing tale, and it all adds up to a depth that many of its competitors don’t quite achieve. If James Bond drank vodka…he’d have a Stoli, wouldn’t he?