Check Your Vodka

Now, vodka lovers can check by SMS whether their bottle is a fake.

The system is part of Rosspirtprom's effort to fight counterfeit liquors.

Rosspirtprom, which produces 60 percent of the country's grain alcohol, is testing out a code system on vodka from Kristall, said Dmitry Dobrov, the state-owned company's spokesman.

The Moscow factory supplies vodka-thirsty Russians with Putinka, Zolotoye Koltso and Kristalnaya among other vodkas and alcoholic drinks, including liquers and balsams.

Kristall is to start issuing its products eight-digit codes this summer, he said, with the first coded bottle to be produced July 11.

The code will be printed on a sticker applied to the bottle's neck and cap. When the bottle is opened, the sticker is broken.

Under an agreement with Mobile TeleSystems, each eight-digit number issued by Rosspirtprom can be used as a phone number to which an SMS may be sent.

To verify that a product comes from the Kristall factory, a buyer simply sends that number a message. A reply is given instantly.

Dobrov said it would be impossible to forge the numbers, "because at eight digits, they are too complicated."

Similar systems have been used in the Netherlands and Estonia, he said.

Depending on the new system's success, Rosspirtprom might expand it to products beyond those from Kristall or discontinue it. The company will be watching closely for problems and ways to improve the system, he said.

Pre-existing bottles without a code will not be recalled, but gradually phased out, to be replaced with new products under the new system. The company hopes these changes will take place step by step.