Under Lenin’s dour gaze from a giant portrait, Soviet officials uncorked their new export supervodka and hustled American guests like born-again capitalists, with grins, backslaps and heaping bowls of caviar.
Glasnost was in full flower Wednesday night at the Soviet Embassy, and warm feelings of “openness” were stoked by frequent gulps of Stolichnaya Cristall, the ultra-premium Russian vodka that will appear on liquor store shelves in 10 American cities, including Los Angeles, this week.
“You might ask, what is the difference between Stolichnaya and Stolichnaya Cristall,” Soviet Ambassador Yuri V. Dubinin smilingly told the happy throng. “I suspect the effect is just the same, but Stolichnaya Cristall is better for your health.”
If Dubinin and his marketing comrades get their way, Stolichnaya Cristall will be good for the health of the Soviet economy, which suffers from a shortage of hard Western currencies.
The Commerce Department says the United States imported a record $1.7 billion in Soviet goods last year, compared with U.S. exports of nearly $2.8 billion to the Soviet Union. The U.S. export figure, representing largely grain, was up 87% from the previous year but below the record $3.6 billion in 1979 before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan prompted a U.S. embargo.
Stolichnaya Cristall, like the older Stolichnaya brand, is bought by PepsiCo Inc. for resale in the United States.
Stolichnaya Cristall is named for the Cristall distillery in Moscow, one of the two plants that produce the prestige export vodka. The latest version, developed in 1982, is made from the finest winter wheat and the purest spring waters from the Moscow region.
Drawn from the finest 5% of the alcohol that trickles through three sets of activated charcoal filters, Stolichnaya Cristall is “like taking the cream off the top of the milk,” a PepsiCo official said.
Retail U.S. prices will be ultra-premium as well. A bottle of Stolichnaya Cristall will sell for $18 to $20 retail.