If you want to curl up with a copy of the Nobel Prize-winning Voices from Chernobyl in one hand, leaving the other free to curl itself around something refreshing, your time begins now. Atomik vodka is not on the market yet, but it will be. Only one bottle of this “artisanal moonshine” exists, and currently the only way to consume it is to admire photographs of it tastefully laid on a bed of hay in a wooden box. But the company that distilled it expects it to attract fearless drinkers everywhere, and will plough back the profits into the welfare of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, the circle with a radius of 30 km around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, made off-limits after the meltdown of 1986.
Atomik vodka is distilled from grain and water sourced from the disaster zone, and strikes out beyond the brief of a British-Ukranian project to study the uptake of radioactivity by living systems from scorched earth. Actually, it pushes the principle of the experiment to the limit, because a distillate can be assumed to contain a greater concentration of radioactive material than the feedstock. But Atomik vodka is safe to drink, and has been okayed by the Ukranian authorities, in whose territory the exclusion zone falls.
The safety rating of the drink would not deter the adventurous, who are attracted by labels. Spirit-sellers cottoned on to this long ago in the age of exploration, when Caribbean rum was sold under the colourful name of “kill-devil”. The world is going to love the dangerous glamour of Atomik, but what of Russia, the mother lode of vodka? Chernobyl is still in their race memory, and something atomic just went bang in the north, killing five scientists and maybe creating a mini-Chernobyl. The Russians may have mixed feelings about Atomik.