Hackney man puts spirit back into ancestors’ Ukrainian vodka distillery

MOST budding genealogists pursue their hobby in the warm comfort of their homes or quiet, well-insulated libraries.

MOST budding genealogists pursue their hobby in the warm comfort of their homes or quiet, well-insulated libraries.

But Dan Edelstyn travelled to a frost-bitten village in Ukraine with the dream of reclaiming a vodka distillery his grandparents once owned.

The 34-year-old filmmaker, of Digby Road, Homerton, chanced upon his ancestral link to a once great vodka empire while rummaging through his grandmother’s diaries in his mother’s attic in 2006.

He found that his paternal grandparents owned a sugar factory and vodka distillery in the tiny village of Douboviazovka, which was seized by the Bolsheviks during the Russian Revolution of 1917.

So Dan and his wife, Hillary, flew to the poverty-stricken enclave to discover his past.

They found the sugar mill dilapidated and out of business, but the vodka distillery was still running. Just.

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Four years later, Dan’s Zorokovic 1917 vodka is launching in Selfridges and he has been working manically to splice together hours of footage of his journey for a documentary, How To Re-establish A Vodka Empire, which is due to be screened on More4 next year.

“I had a burning desire to reconnect with my heritage, not to become an overnight businessman,” Dan told the Gazette.“What I saw in Douboviazovka was an impoverished village. I didn’t just want to tell my story in the documentary and make vodka to get money.

“I wanted to intervene in the community and create a positive outcome which will hopefully do something to stimulate their economy.”

The documentary is something of a cross between Who Do You Think You Are? and Dragons’ Den, charting Dan’s time in Ukraine, through the tribulations of finding investors, to learning how to start a vodka import business from scratch.

With 1,000 bottles going on sale this week at �29.99, Dan is on his way to becoming a vodka baron with a product he calls “the world’s first social enterprise vodka”.

How To Re-establish A Vodka Empire can be viewed now on www.babelgum.com/vodkaempire before its TV premiere next year.

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