Did you know that a penniless immigrant from Russia went on to establish and bottle the world’s number one selling brand of vodka from right here in Connecticut?

The Smirnoff Vodka distillery in Bethel was the very first domestic vodka distillery and was established soon after the repeal of prohibition in the US in 1934, according to Connecticut Magazine.

Rudolph Kunett left Russia in the wake of the revolution for New York and eventually settled in Connecticut. With knowledge of the trade from his family’s plantation, and then making a connection with the Smirnoff family in Russia who was already in the distillery business, he introduced the spirit that had been a favorite in his homeland for generations. Prior to the introduction of the Smirnoff brand to Americans, vodka had not been produced in the states at all (legally).

Heublein Incorporated of Hartford purchased the rights to Smirnoff in 1939. Mr. Kunett resided in West Hartford until retiring in 1963 and moving to California. He passed away in 1979 at the age of 85, according to the New York Times. Raise your glass to Rudolph as he was a Nutmegger we can really be proud of!

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