Americans say ‘nyet’ to Russian vodka

Russian vodka’s heyday may be over — at least in the U.S.

As the United States and Russia wage economic warfare in the form of sanctions, if the flow of Russian vodka entering the U.S. were to decrease to a trickle, it is doubtful that American consumers would even notice.

In 2013, the amount of vodka imported from Russia into the U.S. dropped 70% from the prior year, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the US (DISCUS) based on U.S. government data. Also, none of the top 10 selling vodka brands in the U.S. was from Russia.

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“American’s won’t lose any sleep over that because there are so many brands that are American,” said Victorino Matus, author of the book “Vodka.”

“After prohibition, our experience with vodka has been mostly American,” he said.

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The most popular Russian brand of vodka in the U.S. is Stolichnaya Premium vodka, or “Stoli,” which is actually made in Latvia.

The top five best-selling vodka brands by 9 liter cases sold in 2013 were Smirnoff
 (produced in several countries, but not Russia), Absolut (Sweden), Svedka
 (Sweden), Grey Goose, (France) and Skyy (U.S.) vodka, according to DISCUS.

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While the biggest vodka producers continue to dominate the landscape, American craft distillers are showing serious gains. According to DISCUS, there are over 500 craft distillers operating in the U.S. market.

The vodka market’s biggest gains were made by Tito’s, with volume sales growth of 68% according to Euromonitor International. Experimenting with various vodka flavors continues to be popular in the craft vodka market. While Tito’s does not have any plans to experiment with different flavors, California based Hangar 1 vodka produces flavors such as Mandarin Blossom and Maine Wild Berry.

In 2013, 65.9 million 9-liter cases of vodka were sold in the U.S., generating $5.6 billion in revenue for distillers, according to DISCUS.

For decades, vodka has been synonymous with Russia. Now, in the United States, it appears when it comes to Russian imports, Americans are saying nyet.

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