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Nikoloz Eristavi - Country of Liquid Sun

Monday, May 11
The Italian vodka, Eristoff which is made by the Martini and Rossi company in Passione near Turin, is connected by its history to the name of a Georgian Prince, Nikoloz Eristavi, and is not just the first Georgian vodka so registered but one of the first classic vodkas is a first amongst classic Georgian vodkas as well as amongst an spirit beverages officially, in general registered in Europe.

Eristavi is a noble family name in all regions of Georgia which originated from the time of local governors. This title was granted by King Parnavaz in 320 to the rulers of the regions of Georgia who were the descendants of nobles.

The Enstavi family had been settled in Kartli. From 1800, after the annexation of Kartli by Russia they were oppressed and moved to Imereti in 1803. The head of the family, Ivane Eristavl, as a noble with a hostile attitude towards Empire, was exiled to St-Petersburg in 1804, being forced to leave his home together with his family members who were distinguished to the Empire in a loyal way remained in Imereti.

In 1810, Imereti became Russia's dependent and joined the Empire in 1857, Eristavi's son, the young officer, Konstantine Eristavi, was awarded the title of Prince. In 1875, Konstantine had a son, Aleksandre, who was born in Kutaisi and who finished the Kutaisi Classic Gymnasium and continued studies at the Cadets' School of Kazaks of Stavropol Cavalry. In 1893-1914, the younger Eristavi served in the Kazak's Army and was seriously wounded during World War I. For his devotion to the Tsar as well as for his bravery, Prince Aleksandre was awarded the Kazak's sword which became a family treasure. He was awarded a number of medals and prizes including the St-Vladimir Gold Cross and Sword, the St-Anna Gold Cross, the Black Star Cross of the French Cavalry, the Turkish prize "Megidie," the Gold Star of His Excellence the Emissary of Bukhara, the Medal dedicated to the 300-Year Anniversary of the House of Romanov was twice awarded the St-Stanislav Gold Cross, the gift of a gold watch from His Majesty and gold buttons with diamonds as a gift from His Excellence.

Aleksandre Eristavi served within various positions on the railway system. During his last years of military service, he was the head of the first category zone of the Lasi District Railway and of the first category station of the South Railway zone of Znamenka.

Aleksandre's son, Nikoloz, was born in 1906 in St-Petersburg. His daughter Olga followed in 1912. In 1920, due to the well-known events, Aleksandre Eristavi moved to Italy with his family. Both Aleksandre and his son participated in the Crimean War, escaping for their survival alongside the English and French- men. In 1929, the persecuted father and son joined the family in Milan, Italy. After the official recognition of the Soviet Russia the persecution against Aleksandre and Nikoloz was seized.

During World War II, Prince Nikoloz Eristavi fought against Russia and hid in Trieste, together with allies, after the fighting was over. He returned to Milan only in 1956 to attend his father's funeral and obtained Italian citizenship in 1958.

The Eristavi name was popular in Italy as, at that time, Nikoloz's vodka, Eristoff, was produced in Turin. In 1956, Nikoloz officially certified the brand -authorizing the Martini and Rossi factory and its subsidiaries to exclusively use the brand name-Prince Nikolay (or Nicholas) Alexandrovich Eristoff - in any country where the company was established.

Nikoloz Eristavi, therefore, allowed Martini and Rossi to produce vodka only according to his family recipe whilst, at the same time, he himself had to provide technical assistance in the process of the production of the Eristoff brand.

The following is a letter from Prince Nikoloz Eristavi, dated 25 June 1959, addressed to Mr Rossi, as one of the owners of Martini and Rossi, which is preserved in the Turin Archives:

To Mr Rossi, Duke of Montesella, Turin

Dear Duke,

Last evening I had the possibility to provide to you the recipe for the vodka which has been a tradition in our family and which was first made my ancestor Ivane Eristavi, in 1806. My grandfather, who had very good taste, wanted to create a vodka based upon a special recipe, only for personal use and for of the delight of friends. This recipe has survived to our days and I am pleased that Martini and Rossi will produce it in the form which still bears the name of my family. Please accept my sincere greetings.

It has been officially considered that the production of alcoholic beverages in Georgia began in the second half of the eighteenth century but the history of the Eristoff brand documentarily proves that the first officially registered vodka was Eristoff itself with a recipe created by the exiled Ivane Eristavi in 1806. At the same time, Eristoft is perhaps the oldest of all vodkas registered in the world with its official origin dating to 1806.

Over the past years, the Eristoff brand has earned a popularity in Italy and in other European countries. Its bottling, based upon the permit of Martini and Rossi, has also begun in Argentina, Spain and France and later in Portugal, Austria, Mexico and Poland. It is well known that Italy is famous for the production of its national drink, grappa, but does not have, in fact, a white classic vodka of its own. Two vodkas are made in Italy which bear the names of the Russian entrepreneur, Keglevich, and the Georgian, Eristavi, and are sold in significant amounts over one million crates per year.