Rudolf Jelinek a.s.

The company RUDOLF JELÍNEK belongs among the greatest producers offruit brandy in the world at present. It follows a 400 – year – old tradition of Slivovitz — making in Walachia. Not only Slivovitz can be found in the offer of the company but also Pear Brandy, Cherry Brandy, Apricot Brandy, Apple Brandy and many other nontraditional spirits.
The company´s latest production comprises of Plum Vodka, Plum Liqueur, Pear Williams Brandy, Praděd Herb Liqueur and Luhačovická Bylinná Herb Liqueur, Gold Cock Whisky and a plenty of other different products.

Feudal period (17th – 19th centuries)
historical bottle The production of spirit in Vizovice has an age-long tradition of over four hundred years. The first written record pointing to the existence of a distillery can be found in the records of the Vizovice estate dated 1585, even though the entries are related to a later period (mid 17th century). In those days the distillery, which was situated on the main square, belonged to the lord of the manor. In time it was moved to Stepska Street, opposite the brewery belonging to the local aristocrat. In the troubled times of 17th and 18th centuries East Moravia became the target of hostile invasions. The distillery, too, was damaged and so had to wait until the generous hand of the new owner of the estate Count Prokop Gervas Gollen came to its rescue. Some time before 1725 the Count had a brand new distillery built, including five copper cauldrons, in Stepska Street, at the cost of 433 pieces of gold. Now, what was distilled there?
Initially it was especially spirit made of beer dregs; later corn was added to produce rye brandy. Around the mid 18th century the famous Slivovitz appeared as a new product. As yet it featured as a mere sideline product, but as of the beginning of 19th century its manufacture gained significance thanks to state premiums.

historical panorama of vizovic

In those days it became clear that due to the influence of the favourable climatic conditions it was here in the Vizovice area that fruit trees, especially plums, flourished quite exceptionally. For out of the considerable number of 77,000 fruit trees in the environs of Vizovice still at the beginning of 20th century a full 68,000 were plum trees. The vast amount of fruit which these trees bore was an important source of income for the local inhabitants. Plums were dried, they were processed into plum jam and of course the folk distilled Slivovitz.
The distillery in Stepska Street remained the only enterprise of its kind in the town for a long time. It belonged to the local aristocrat who made no small profit from its products. For spirits production was their monopoly and their serfs had no other option but to purchase from them. The marketing, also the aristocrat’s monopoly, was undertaken by a network of pubs which were spread out over the entire land belonging to the Vizovice estate (in Vizovice alone there were five). The quality of the products enjoyed a high standard which is borne out by the fact that foreign merchants too showed an interest in these goods.
The lord of the manor probably never actually operated the distillery; at least we do know that from the mid 17th century they rented it out. The Jewish tenants seemed to have proved their worth – the last one, Aaron Eichen, who originally hailed from Lipnik nad Becvou, bought up the distillery in 1860 from the aristocrat and continued to work it as his private enterprise. Then he sold it in 1888 to Simon Frisch who rented the neighbouring seigniorial brewery. The latter was none too successful in his undertakings. First he lost the brewery, which stopped functioning in 1891, and not long after that (1895), he also sold the distillery.

Zikmund Jelinek and Karel Singer
zikmund jelínek A tradition from Feudal days persisted in the management of distilleries, so that sometimes the owner did not operate the enterprise directly. Even before 1880 an ancestor of the famous Jakub Jelinek family appears to have served in the Eichen’s distillery and was in charge of production. Not long after him his son, Zikmund Jelinek, about whom we know that in 1882-1886 as a very young man (he was born in Luhačovice in1859) he was director of the distillery. Another youth who stood at the cradle of the subsequent fame and glory of Vizovice distilleries appeared in the town only a little later. In 1891 twenty-seven-year old Karel Singer moved from Hranice to Vizovice and very soon asserted himself. First he rented a distillery from Simon Frisch at the turn of 1892 -93, but soon afterward he actually bought it. This occurred, as has already been mentioned, in 1895.
The arrival of Zikmund Jelinek and Karel Singer corresponds to a significant turning pointing the development of the local fruit-growing business. Hitherto the farmers dried the vast quantity of surplus plums and sold the prunes to merchants who supplied the Walachian prunes to the local Austrian-Hungarian markets and also exported them wholesale abroad. Josef Weiss was one of the most adroit merchants in Vizovice, but the person who was best known far and wide was Karel Meisel from Zlin, whose firm annually sold up to 200 wagons of prunes abroad via a steamboat companies in Trieste. This boom brought in decent profits also for the Vizovice farmers. But it did not last for ever. Sometime in eighties of 19th century competition surface in the shape of plums from Bosnia. And because they superseded the Walachian ones both in quality and in a lower price the Bosnian prunes gradually managed to force Vizovice out of both the foreign and local markets. It soon became evident that prunes for business purposes did not pay and so farmers and traders began to rack their brains to think of what to do with the surplus fruit. In the end a partial solution was found –there was a big drive in the 90s of the 19th century to promote the distilling of Slivovitz. In addition to distilling in the farmsteads small industrial plants emerged soon. In the course of a single decade three competitors came on the scene as rivals to the traditional distillery in Stepska Street.
contemporary production Zikmund Jelinek was quick to make good use of the experience he gained in managing the Eichen distillery (1882 -1886) in his own undertaking. At the turn of 80s and 90s of 19th century he appeared as a publican in a Frantisek Pravdik’s inn situated in Slusovska Street, land registration no. 425. There seems little doubt that way back in those days he considered establishing his own distillery. In 1891 he rented land beyond Chrastesovska Street, and in spite of the unfavourable attitude of Vizovice Town Hall he had built there “a workshop for the production of spirits” and a storehouse. Considering that he extended the storehouse for barrels in 1893 one may assume that Jelinek’s business soon took off the ground. He did not do business for long on rented land. Zikmund Jelinek prospered to such a degree that in 1897 Josef Frankl, a distiller from Horní Lhota, mediated for him the purchase of Pravdík’s inn, Slusovska Street, land registration no. 425, where he was employed. Still in the same year he built a distillery for vinegar and spirits in the courtyard of this house. Then in 1899 he built a brand new house with an upper floor. Zikmund Jelinek did not live in this house alone – the house was run by his wife Berta who as time went by brought up five children. In addition to three daughters – Marie, Karla and Helena, there were two sons Rudolf and Vladimír Jelinek. Zikmund Jelinek continued to improve his business ventures also at the beginning of the new century. He built a gas works (1902), water works making use of the Trestenský stream (1908 -1909), he extended the distillery and built offices. His biggest undertaking before 1st World War was the construction of a storehouse for spirits and bilberry wine (which was also included in the production programme) in 1913.The inn in the house with land registration no. 425 had long ago declined at the expense of the expanding production and so he remedied the loss of this market by buying an inn at Zadverice in 1907.
Yet in spite of all his successes Jelinek was unable to compete with the distillery in Stepska Street which relied on a century-old tradition and since 1895 also on the personality of the assertive proprietor Karel Singer who successfully expanded production and subsequently added in 1902 another floor to the distillery and then in 1913 he established a new distillery. The trademark “Karel Singer’s First Vizovice Distillery” soon spread the fame of Walachian Slivovitz and juniper brandy far beyond the borders of Moravia. In 1904 the firm was honoured with a State Prize by the Ministry of Trade and Agriculture and in 1910 it was awarded a medal in Paris.

RAZOV and Moric Weiss
dobový prospekt The fruit harvests in the 90s of 19th century continued to produce a surplus and exceeded the needs of both distilleries and so the local farmers decided to take fate into their own hands and establish their own distillery firm. They joined forces in a shareholder company, they bought Manas’s mill near the road to Zadverice and in 1894 set up a distillery there. “The Farmers’ Shareholder Fruit Enterprise Vizovice” was short-lived. Soon, in 1898 it failed for lack of capital and probably also because it was badly managed, but the abbreviation (RAZOV) became a prized trademark which the new owner adopted.
The weight of tradition and the example of a successfully launched firm attracted other entrepreneurs to follow suite. Let us mention briefly that in 1902 Moric Weiss launched his production of spirits, notably on the land next door to Jelinek’s distillery beyond Chrastesovska Street. Zikmund Jelinek, who gradually shifted production to his house in Slusovska Street in the end sold this workshop to Weiss. In 1912 Jan Haba established his distillery, in 1923, Frantisek Kalenda did likewise and in the same year the Economic Coop set up a distillery. Then in 1927 Josef Bajer invested in a distillery and in 1931 Antonin Kalenda launched yet another distillery.

First Republic
laborer In the course of the First Republic (1918 — 1939) Karel Singer’s First Vizovice Distillery experienced a fairly smooth development. His products, including the dominant reputed Gold Slivovitz, gained popularity throughout Czechoslovakia. As of 1920 liquors also appeared in the production range. K. Singer succeeded in expanding his business when in 1926 he bought land from Baron Stillfried apposite the distillery where he built a residence which included a store room and fermentation room (land registration no. 382). His sons Arnost and Bedrich began to assert themselves in the firm.
Zikmund Jelinek’s firm underwent an interesting development in the 20s. The sixty-two year old founder of the firm retired in 1921 and left the management to his sons Rudolf and Vladimir. They had the firm registered under the name «Sons of Zikmund Jelinek» to honour their father. Immediately the first step undertaken by the brothers proved to be key to later developments. Early in 1921 they bought the none too prosperous Razov distillery from Emil Kopecky in order to transfer some of the production. The plant at Razov, thanks to its location in the town which provided the potential to extend production facilities to the surrounding land and thanks to its proximity to the railway line, proved to have the best prospects out of all the distilleries in Vizovice. Soon the Jelinek brothers also went on to build a siding to lead to the plant. In the years to come a new distillery, fermentation plant, four store rooms and other workshops were established. It also did not take long before the firm expanded its business abroad when in 1923 they concluded a licence contract with the French firm J. Denis, H. Mounie & Co., which assured exclusive rights for the production of wine spirits and cognac and the import of wine from the Cognac region.
They reckoned that in time the entire production would be moved to Razov, but at the end this did not occur. In 1926 the two brothers parted and each continued to do business on his own. Rudolf Jelinek kept the business in Razov and lent his name to the firm, while Vladimír kept the trademark «Sons of Zikmund Jelinek» and the workshops in Slusovska Street. Vladimír Jelinek solved the problem of limited production space in 1927 when he bought the buildings from the Economic Coop next to the station, where he was quick to build a distillery and fermentation shop. The courtyard of the house in Slusovska Street continued to serve as a storage place for the products.
contemporary production In 1934 Rudolf Jelinek launched a production programme which brought his name and the town of Vizovice world fame. This was a case of kosher spirits, that is to say products in the course of whose production only such raw materials, installations and procedures are employed which are in accordance with the tenets of the orthodox Jewish faith. Such a production line (initially it produced Slivovitz and juniper brandy) required no small investments, but soon R. Jelinek made good when he asserted his kosher products on foreign markets. The exports increased in particular before 2nd World War. In addition to kosher spirits he also included cognac, apple brandy and ale in his production programme.
«Sons of Zikmund Jelinek» firm experienced a more complicated situation before the War. With the help of loans the firm succeeded in expanding to Slovakia (a branch in Bratislava), but Vladimir Jelinek’s business did not succeed in exporting abroad until 1938.
In spite of Rudolf Jelinek’s undoubted success the First Vizovice Distillery owned by Karel Singer remained the largest firm in the thirties. Its founder ran it with the help of his talented sons: Bedrich was a co-owner and took care of the wholesale business, while Arnost was the firm’s secretary. In 1932 Singer obtained a licence to produce Napoleon French brandy and also followed Jelinek’s example in producing kosher spirits for export.

The 2nd World War
singers destillery workers, fourty The 2nd World War dealt a heavy blow to the Vizovice distillery industry. Both the Jelinek and Singer families were Jews and so extreme danger threatened them. Bedrich Singer managed to escape just before the German occupation. Rudolf Jelinek went to the USA for a while, but returned. He still worked in the distillery for one year albeit under restricted conditions, but in 1940 forced administration was imposed on him as a Jewish property holder. Karel Singer was obliged to sell the firm to the Sudeten German Pfeiffer brothers in 1941 and in the same year Ernst Gabriel a fanatic Nazi «bought» Rudolf Jelinek’s distillery. There was not such an interest in the «Sons of Zikmund Jelinek» firm. So that throughout the war it remained under forced administration.
The way the new owners managed affairs certainly did not benefit the firms. E. Gabriel far from possessed the capabilities with which R. Jelinek was endowed, and the amateurish dealings of the brothers Pfeiffer soon brought Singer’s enterprise to almost complete failure within two years.
A much worse fate, however, met the Jelinek and Singer family. Vladimir Jelinek perished in Flossenbürg, the other members of the family, including the small children were murdered in gas chambers in Auschwitz. Only Rudolf Jelinek’s two sons – Zdenek and Jiri — succeeded in surviving. The elder Zdenek went into hiding and joined the resistance movement. Jiri survived the hell of extermination camps.

Post war renewal and nationalization
young zdeněk jelínek As the liberation armies approached the new temporary bosses of the Vizovice distilleries ran off loaded with stolen property. Post-war renewal was by no means easy, because what the Germans did not manage to steal was left to the mercy of the Red Army. Nevertheless Zdenek Jelinek managed to launch production in the course of 1945, notably thanks to high government subsidies. The renewed Rudolf Jelinek firm enjoyed the favours of the state as a significant exporter and hence a source of hard currency. The agile Zdenek Jelinek also took care of the orphaned firm of his uncle Vladimir. A treacherous illness prevented him from developing his talent as an entrepreneur which he had inherited from his father. He died in the Spring of 1946 of TB. The firm lost its sense of security since Jiri Jelinek had still not come of age.
The pre-war firm’s secretary Josef Weinstein took on the management of the Singer distillery following the liberation of the country but under complicated conditions. In the autumn of 1946 the business was returned to the last owner Bedrich Singer who came back from exile in South America. B. Singer immediately launched the purchase of land near to Razov where he intended to move production away from the cramped conditions in Stepska Street.
The Communist coup in February 1948, however, thwarted all plans. Immediately on February 28 a state administration was imposed on the distillery and in April 1948 the business was nationalized. B. Singer returned to Chile to the country to which he had escaped once before in the face of the Nazis. Jiri Jelinek stayed a while in Vizovice, but in 1949 he and his wife Jarmila with their daughter Irena legally emigrated to Israel. Before his departure he gave the state permission to register the original trademark R. JELINEK.

The socialist era (national enterprise)
socialistic era Immediately in 1948 the Vizovice distillery was included in the national enterprise Moravian spirits and vinegar in Brno. In the following years it was shifted from one nationalized undertaking to another as part of reorganization projects – only in 1966 its final image was settled: Vizovice functioned as undertaking no. 6 included in the national enterprise Slovacke Caning Plant in Uherske Hradiste. Considering that the state owned the trademark which enjoyed fame abroad the production continued to be geared toward export with emphasis on making kosher spirits. The plant in Razov was designated for this purpose and hence enjoyed attention in the shape of a new fermentation plant, store rooms and gradual all-round modernization. In the socialist era the Vizovice distillery was frequently awarded the title of Exemplary Export Firm and assured up to 85% of the state’s exports of spirits. The USA, Australia and Western Europe were the chief importers. Production for the local market was limited and only the distillery in Stepska Street (formerly owned by Singer) served this purpose. In 1974 manufacturing here was brought to a halt and the buildings only served storage purposes.

Present day (RUDOLF JELINEK a.s.)
present production A marked change came about in 1989. The former branch of Slovacke konzervarny (Slovacke Canning Plant) was turned into an independent business with the title Rudolf Jelinek, state enterprise, which was subsequently privatized in the course of the second round of coupon privatization. This gave rise to a transformed company RUDOLF JELINEK a.s. [Joint Stock Company]. Initially its results were somewhat erratic, but as of 1998 a new majority shareholder took over (MORAVIA holding a.s.), and under its management a positive trend was launched and the enterprise achieved permanent profits. To a considerable degree the production concentrated on Slivovitz and other brands of spirits, while the flagship of the firm continued to be kosher spirits (especially for export purposes to the USA). In recent years Plum vodka has become the hit which confirms the image of the company as one specializing in plums. The last owner Jiri Jelinek, who died in the USA in 1990, did not live to see any radical changes. However, his family heritage and the hundred-year-long tradition of the Vizovice distilleries are being perpetuated successfully.

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