With a legacy of radiation-laced land and overwhelming cancer diagnoses, Chernobyl has been deemed untouchably toxic. But a team of researchers used grain and water from the exclusion zone to make the first consumer product to come from Chernobyl. And it’s a bottle of vodka. Artisan vodka, of course. “It’s the only bottle in existence,” Professor Jim Smith told the BBC, “I tremble when I pick it up.”
This particular team of researchers has been studying how the land has evolved and recovered from the 1986 accidental explosion of the Chernobyl nuclear plant and the fires and meltdown that followed.
Of course, they assure the public their vodka, ATOMIK, is “Radiative-Free.” The scientists explain that although the rye used was “slightly contaminated,” the distillation process of vodka-making filters out impurities. “They couldn’t find anything,” third party experts told BBC. “Everything was below their limit of detection.”
The creators hope to produce the bottles at scale, and for 75% of the sales to be dedicated to helping the region recover financially, as the folks who were relocated to the Zone of Obligatory Resettlement are limited in their agricultural and development capacities. The Chernobyl Spirit Company is currently being set up and will, one day, produce and sell this vodka.
Perhaps in an effort to capitalize on the world’s fascination with the small Ukrainian town where the nuclear explosion devastated the terrain and killed over 30 people, following the premiere of HBO’s Chernobyl, Ukrainian president Volodymir Zelensky has advocated to make the area an official tourist attraction.
Over the last few months, a wave of Insta-tourists has descended on the Chernobyl plant and neighboring Pripyat, which is now considered an exclusion zone. The glamorous, aspirational tone of these Instagram posts are at odds with the devastated terrain. But a renewed interest in the region’s history has opened the channels for more thoughtful and nuanced conversation surrounding the catastrophe and how those parts of Ukraine and Belarus can rise above their reputation.