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Hold the drinks: Booze made from radioactive Chernobyl apples confiscated by government authorities

By Jeff Spry
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If you like your cocktails served up with a radioactive pedigree linked to the Soviet Union's Chernobyl disaster, you're out of luck, as the boutique distillery responsible for an apple-based spirit called Atomik just got their entire stash of booze confiscated by the Ukrainian Secret Police.

Back In 2019, a union of ambitious scientists and liquor lovers endeavored to craft a controversial new type of spirit named Atomik, which was an artisanal alcoholic derived from agricultural products grown in the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant's still-radioactive exclusion zone. No, the booze doesn’t glow when you turn off the lights as the distilling process removes any trace of radiation.

But according to a statement by The Chernobyl Spirit Company, before the first run of this unique beverage was offered for sale, it was seized by Ukrainian Secret Services agents for unexplained reasons. The 1,500-bottle batch was enroute to the UK when it was snatched by officials in March and taken to the Kyiv Prosecutor's office.


"It seems that they are accusing us of using forged Ukrainian excise stamps, but this doesn't make sense since the bottles are for the U.K. market and are clearly labelled with valid U.K. excise stamps," Jim Smith, founder of the company and a professor at the University of Portsmouth in the U.K., said in the statement.

Elina Smirnova, an attorney representing the distillery, alleges the confiscation was a violation of Ukrainian law.

“The actions of Ukrainian law enforcement agencies are damaging the reputation of Ukraine as an open country for doing business,” Smirnova said in the statement on the Atomik website.


Shortly after the notorious 1986 nuclear meltdown, government officials condemned the entire Chernobyl exclusion zone, a 1,000-square-mile area surrounding the power plant, as uninhabitable for 24,000 years. But it seems that Mother Nature finds a way, as flora and fauna are now flourishing in the area some 35 years after the catastrophe, as is tourism, especially in the wake of HBO’s Chernobyl miniseries that aired in 2019.

Atomik is derived from apples grown and harvested from Ukraine's Narodychi District, which borders the official quarantined exclusion zone and was blanketed by lethal fallout from the meltdown disaster. The district is home to roughly 10,000 residents, all of whom must respect the government’s prescribed agricultural restrictions.

Smith and his business partners began the company with a goal to prove that safe consumer products could be made from crops beside the exclusion zone. When they first started, the team even tested rye fields in the region and did discover that they were contaminated. But as previously mentioned, the methods of productions erase any harmful radioactive properties.


Now it’s up to the courts to decide whether Atomic ever arrives on liquor store shelves. According to the company mission statement, if by chance it does become available to the public, 75 percent of the profits will be offered up "to help bring jobs and investment to the Chernobyl affected areas of Ukraine and to further support the community.”

Would you pour a cocktail using an apple spirit crafted from fruit grown in soil that was once dosed with fallout?

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