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Crass or Cool? – Stolichnaya Launches Harvey Milk Vodka Bottle

For some in the LGBT community the bottle and Stoli itself is leaving a bad taste in their mouth.

Stolichnaya Vodka introduced the Stoli Harvey Milk Limited Edition bottle, as a part of the brand’s Raising the Bar program, which proceeds in part will help LGBT partner organizations, including the Harvey Milk Foundation.

“We are excited to take our partnership with Stoli to a higher level this year as we celebrate the 40th anniversary of my uncle’s historic 11 months of public service,” said Stuart Milk, Global LGBT advocate and co-founder of the Harvey Milk Foundation. “The Stoli Harvey Milk Limited Edition bottle recognizes our history and commemorates who helped lead us forward towards visibility, a visibility that will be enhanced by this wonderful tribute from a creative and passionate brand.”

“Stoli has a long-time history of championing the LGBTQ community and giving back through a variety of philanthropic initiatives,” said Stoli LGBT National Brand Ambassador, Patrik Gallineaux. “We couldn’t be more excited to continue our partnership with the Harvey Milk Foundation and honor one of the most important activists in the community.”

But to some in the LGBT community the bottle and Stoli itself is leaving a bad taste in their mouth. Especially after the Stoli boycott from 2014 and it’s continued business dealings with the dangerously anti-gay country of Russia which never ended.

Anyone who’s interested in the actual facts about SPI, Stoli’s parent company’s involvement in Russia can check out the company’s website: spi-group.com.

What information will you find there?

1) Two of SPI’s three production facilities are located in Russia (in Perm and Tambov).

2) The distillery in Tambov is Russia’s largest.

3) SPI is the world’s largest exporter of Russian vodka.

4) While SPI cannot sell Stolichnaya in Russia, it does sell a long list of other vodka brands that it produces in Russia.

5) The company purchases 85,000 tons of Russian grain per year and a statement that reads:

We are one of the few companies in the world that can claim vertical integration and are proud of our production facilities worldwide in Russia, Latvia, Spain, Italy, Mexico, Argentina and United States.

What won’t you find on SPI’s website?

1) The rainbow-colored statement of LGBT solidarity that currently appears on the homepage of stoli.com.

2) Any record of the company having spoken out against LGBT bigotry (or in favor of equality) in Russia prior to or after the boycott.

3) Any indication that employees of SPI and its subsidiaries who work in Russia are covered by a corporate nondiscrimination policy that includes sexual orientation and gender identity.

4) Any indication that same-sex spouses or partners of employees in Russia are eligible for any of the benefits that are available to opposite-sex spouses.

So what do you think Harvey would say about the bottle and his nephew’s foundation taking money from Stoli for a bottle bearing his likeness?

My guess would be NYET! 

Sound off in the comments below.

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Will Kohler

Will Kohler is a noted LGBT historian, journalist and owner of Back2Stonewall.com. A longtime gay activist, Will fought on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic with ACT-UP and continues fighting today for LGBT acceptance and full equality. Will’s work has been referenced in notable media venues as MSNBC and BBC News, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, Hollywood Reporter, and Raw Story,

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