The unique social enterprise is donating its profits to the Ukrainian refugee appeal and other good causes to support the recovery of communities in Ukraine.
27 November 2023
A unique social enterprise that produces a range of alcoholic spirits using crops grown in Chernobyl's abandoned zone is selling its first wartime production of the radiation-free schnapps.
ATOMIK is produced by The Chernobyl Spirit Company, which was set up by Professor Jim Smith from the University of Portsmouth and Ukrainian colleagues at the Ukrainian Institute of Hydrometeorology in Kyiv.
They have worked with the famous Palinochka Distillery in Ukraine to produce the drink, made with fruits from the Narodychi District, one of the still inhabited areas most affected by the accident.
Professor Smith set up the social enterprise in 2019 to show that vodka could be safely produced in the region affected by the nuclear reactor accident in 1986.
Our aim is to support the economic recovery of Chernobyl’s contaminated lands and to help people affected by the accident and now by the horrific war. Having spent my career working on the consequences of Chernobyl, I'm horrified to see the much worse impact of the Russian war on Ukraine.
Professor Jim Smith, Professor of Environmental Science
The company started sales of its apple spirit in the autumn of 2021, with two new fruit schnapps drinks, made from pears and plums launched last year. It has donated £30,000 – over half of all its profits so far – to the Ukrainian refugee appeal and other good causes to support the recovery of communities in Ukraine.
The path to market for ATOMIK hasn’t been easy. The first batch for shipment to the UK was seized by Ukrainian prosecutors on leaving the distillery, and was only released after a court hearing found no fault in the Chernobyl Spirit Company’s activities. The company also had to cross army checkpoints on the annual fruit harvest and one of their directors was called up by the army.
Professor Smith, Professor of Environmental Science at the University of Portsmouth, said: “We’re certainly the only drinks company making spirits from Chernobyl, and probably the only one whose directors aren’t taking any salary or dividends.
“Our aim is to support the economic recovery of Chernobyl’s contaminated lands and to help people affected by the accident and now by the horrific war. Having spent my career working on the consequences of Chernobyl, I'm horrified to see the much worse impact of the Russian war on Ukraine.”
Professor Smith’s colleague Dr Gennady Laptev of the Ukrainian Hydrometeorological Institute, who has studied the accident’s effects since 1986, said: “Last year, we donated food to help people recover from the Russian invasion and also provided firefighters with masks - there were many wildfires in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone during and after the Russian invasion.”
The company also gave money to help renovate the High School in Narodychi, a semi-abandoned area to the West of Chernobyl. Last year, the school’s windows were blown in by a nearby missile.
A year and a half on, the war in Ukraine is as important and devastating as ever as Kyrylo, a Chernobyl Spirit Company director knows first-hand. He was called up to the front line in August. Kyrylo said: “With all the horrors going on in Ukraine and elsewhere, it sometimes seems that our efforts with ATOMIK spirits don’t make much difference, but they do. They make people’s lives a little bit better. I hope people will bring a bit of Christmas cheer by supporting our ATOMIK project.”
For more details visit: www.atomikvodka.com
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