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As a reason to expand your product line, war generally ranks fairly low. Yet, for Zirkova Vodka -- a company run by a Ukrainian-Canadian, with products made in Ukraine, from Ukrainian ingredients, with Ukrainian expertise -- the invasion of Ukraine demanded a serious shift. For the first time in the company’s history, a product has been made in Canada, from Canadian water and wheat. Born of necessity, Zirkova Unity represents a new home in Canada for a brand rooted in Ukraine.
“Budmo!” If there’s one term that encapsulates Zirkova Vodka’s mantra, it’s this traditional Ukrainian toast meaning, “just be.” Launched in 2005, the company originally produced two premium vodka products, Zirkova One and Zirkova Together. Until recently, each was made at the company’s factory in the Cherkasy region of Ukraine, the birthplace of vodka. Made from artesian mineral water, quadruple-distilled, then filtered and finished, each vodka is crafted only from the centre-cut spirits, considered the most refined. This eliminates “the lighter spirits, which cause the medicinal aroma present in most vodkas, and also the heavier spirits, which cause the burning sensation people get when drinking many vodkas,” according to the company. With one product tailor-made for those who like to sip their vodka neat or with soda, the other for mixing into classic cocktails, Zirkova celebrates and stands for the freedom to be who you are.
With the release of Zirkova Unity at LCBO stores across the country this month, the company has created a truly Canadian premium vodka to join the Zirkova family. "At the start of the invasion and rightfully so, it became illegal to further produce in Ukraine," says Casey Wing, chief marketing officer for Zirkova Vodka. "Also, we wouldn't feel right about producing in those circumstances." Made in Collingwood, Zirkova Unity uses water from deep within the Canadian Shield, and the best wheat from Saskatchewan. "All three products are produced with authentic Ukrainian traditions and methods, as well as under the watchful eye of our master distiller," adds Wing. "Smooth and approachable, with the subtle essence of warm bread on the nose and a clean and brisk finish," Unity was crafted to the same exacting standards as other Zirkova products and is a unique addition to the family of products. "Zirkova One and Together come from the geographic birthplace of vodka with the environment where vodka was first brought to this world," explains Wing. "Zirkova Unity is our new world take on vodka with the best of Canadian wheat and water."
Despite its Canadian birthplace, Zirkova Unity is no less Ukrainian than the company’s original products. Unity, as Zirkova founder Katherine Vellinga describes it, “is a loving expression, smooth and approachable, the spirit of Ukraine, made in Canada.” It’s a product inspired by “the bravery and resilience of all Ukrainians and by the unity and togetherness that we have seen around the world,” she adds. “Canadians have opened up their hearts and their homes. In that spirit, we have created a home for Ukrainian vodka here in Canada.” Through Unity, the company also intends to give back, with a portion of proceeds from each sale supporting Ukraine and its people.
Created by a group of artists from Canada and Ukraine, each bottle of Zirkova Unity sports one of six unique designs. Each one “speaks to unity, resilience, humanity, bravery, strength, and the idea of a global citizen.” Through the depiction of cranes and pysankas, or decorated Easter eggs, Toronto-based artist Danielle Zafirovski’s “For Ukraine,” symbolizes strength, determination and enduring traditions. A piece titled, “The streets of Kyiv say: ‘We believe in Ukraine!’” made by Ukrainian graphic designers and artists Vika and Vita, embodies the power of Ukraine’s people.
“We will never make Zirkova One or Zirkova Together outside of Ukraine,” asserts Wing, explaining that, until those products can be safely produced there again, Zirkova Unity will be the only vodka in production for Zirkova. Yet, through Unity, the company has found a way to meet demand as it continues its mission of celebrating each and every person’s authentic self. Made for Ukraine, in Canada, Zirkova Unity is a symbol of resilience and reinvention in the face of adversity. It represents an unexpected path and the beauty that can be found even in the darkest of times.