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The Finns discovered the art of vodka distillation from their Russian neighbours and by the mid-1800s practically every household owned some kind of distillation apparatus. This inevitably led to regulations outlawing DIY distillation, and, in 1919, two years after Finland declared its independence from Russia, distillation all but ceased with the onset of Finnish Prohibition. When this was finally lifted on 5th April 1932, the state took over exclusive control of vodka production. Alko, the state-owned monopoly company, established Finlandia in 1970 and a year later the brand became the first Scandinavian vodka to be sold in the US. It is now owned by the American Brown-Forman Corporation.
The red sun and the white reindeer on the front of Finlandia’s bottle owe their origins to a Finnish legend that goes something like this: One winter’s night, a spell was cast on a beautiful young girl transforming her into a fearsome white reindeer. Many men hunted the beast due to its valuable white hide including the girl’s boyfriend who had no idea what had become of his lover. He, like many other hunters before him, fell victim to her antlers and received a fatal wound. He, in turn, inflicted a lethal gash to the reindeer’s neck. The blood broke the spell, the reindeer became a girl again and the couple died in each other’s arms. The legend goes on to say that any wish you make will be granted if you are lucky enough to see the sun, the moon and a white reindeer at the same time. Touching.