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Distillery slated for ‘Novichok’ vodka branding

Novichok Edition Vodka

Bristol Dry Gin has been criticised for launching a range of 75% proof vodka named ‘Novichok Edition’ in the same week that Amesbury local Dawn Sturgess died from exposure to the nerve agent.

The West Country distillery announced its new range of vodka on 7 July. Sturgess died on 8 July after falling ill on 30 June.

Her partner, Chris Rowley, is still in hospital after also being poisoned by the chemical, while several areas of Wiltshire are on lock-down as authorities attempt to trace the source of the Novichok.

Former Russian double-agent Sergei Skripal, and daughter Yulia, were also poisoned by the nerve agent in March. Both survived.

The vodka range features heavy black and white type with ‘Novichok Edition 75% Vol’ stamped across each bottle. On Facebook, the brand kept its dark but tongue-in-cheek sense of humour by advising its smaller bottles as ‘a great solution to body cavity searches’.

Several Facebook users commented on the mistiming of the post. Berenice Elliot wrote: “As a resident of Salisbury I think your marketing team might want to rethink the name. For those of us enduring this nightmare it really is in poor taste.”

Mike King added: “There’s a line between ‘Lets [sic] be controversial for marketing’ and being short-sighed, making a poor decision...”

Others, however, found the branding amusing. John Kingsley said the post was “brilliant” while Sophie Wilkinson quipped: “Very funny! Does the vodka have the same effects if drank in the right quantities?”

The company directors have since apologised to the families of Sturgess and Rowley, although have no plans to back-peddle on the branding.

In a statement published in the Bristol Post, the company said: "Novichok Edition has been in development for some time, and was only named and released after the Skripals had recovered. It was intended to lighten the mood and ease tensions, not to cause offence, and reaction has been overwhelming positive.

“We sincerely apologise if any offence was caused, especially to the families of Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley, and understand the timing of the release of this product may have lacked sensitivity. The Novichok Edition is a limited edition, which sold out within a hours of being released, and we have no plans to produce any more."

The vodka is now listed as ‘sold out’ on Bristol Dry Gin’s website.

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