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.


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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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