J.J Whitley gold artisanal Russian vodka

Source: Halewood Artisanal Spirits

Halewood Artisanal Spirits is moving production of its JJ Whitley vodka brand from Russia to the UK following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, The Grocer has learned.

Halewood, which owns a distillery in St Petersburg, plans to launch “British-made” JJ Whitley by the end of March.

Halewood was “100% opposed to the Russian Army invasion of Ukraine”, and as a result had moved “some production back to our site in Chorley with immediate effect”, a spokeswoman said.

“We have expressed our support to our Ukrainian customers, our largest export market.”

“Out of respect for the situation, we have removed all references to the ‘Remarkably Russian’ campaign across all our JJ Whitley communications”, she added.

Indeed, JJ Whitley’s website was updated to remove explicit mentions of Russia this week.

A website capture from 16 February 2022 revealed that the range, which is now billed as “quintessentially British”, was previously marketed as “remarkably Russian”.

At the time of writing, photographs of St Isaac’s Cathedral and illustrations of the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood in St Petersburg remained on the website, but the words ‘Russia’ and ‘Russian’ had been removed from all product descriptions.

It comes after a strong year for the brand, which saw value sales of its Artisinal Russian Vodka grow 102% to £32.1m, on volumes up 99.3% [NielsenIQ 52 w/e 11 September 2021].

Over recent days, 10 US states have banished Russian vodka from shelves in a show of solidarity with Ukraine.

However, the bans have been criticised for having a potentially limited economic impact on Russia, as many popular ‘Russian’ vodka brands are not distilled or bottled there.

Moscow-born Smirnoff, for example, is now produced all over the world, and Stolichnaya is manufactured and bottled in Latvia.