Fancy your vodka on the rocks with a side of radioactive grain?
A very brave team of scientists have taken “slightly contaminated” rye grain planted in the exclusion zone at Chernobyl and turned it into an artisan vodka called ‘Atomik.’
You might be thinking noooope, not for me. But according to James Smith, who is part of the Chernobyl Spirit Company, the vodka “is no more radioactive than any other vodka.”
“Any chemist will tell you, when you distil something, impurities stay in the waste product,” Smith told the BBC. “So we took rye that slightly contaminated with water from the Chernobyl aquifer and we distilled it.”
The good news is, after testing the vodka at a radio-analytical laboratory there was no radioactivity detected. “They couldn’t find anything – everything was below their limit of detection,” Smith said.
Well, that’s a relief. But why make the vodka in the first place? The Chernobyl Spirit Company are hoping the sale of the spirit could provide support to communities living around the exclusion zone.
“We don’t have to just abandon the land,” Smith told the BBC. “We can use it in diverse ways and we can produce something that will be totally clean from radioactivity.”
Professor Smith has worked in Chernobyl since the 1990s and said while there are radiation hotspots, “for the most part contamination is lower than you’d find in other parts of the world with relatively high natural background radiation.”
The aim of selling the artisan vodka is to distribute profits back into local Chernobyl communities who “don’t have the proper diet, good health services, jobs or investment.” The rest of the money will be reinvested in the business.
As for the taste? According to a London bartender “it’s more of a grain spirit than a vodka, so it has much more fruity notes – you can still taste the rye.”
Perhaps it’s worth bravely downing your next shot if it’s for a worthy cause.