In the 1930s, Vladimir met Rudolph Kunett, a Russian who had emigrated to America in the 1920s and became a successful businessman in New York City. The Kunett family had been a supplier of grains to Smirnoff in Moscow before the Revolution. In 1933, Vladimir sold Kunett the right to begin producing Smirnoff vodka in North America. He then returned to the United States, quit his sales job, and established his first North American distillery in Bethel, Connecticut, USA in 1933 after the end of Prohibition. However, the business in America was not as successful as Kunett had hoped. In 1938 Kunett could not afford to pay for the necessary sales licences, and contacted John Martin, president of Heublein. Heublein was a company that specialized in the import and export of liquors and foreign foods. Using the $14,000 that the Heublein company made from a new product that ended up saving them from bankruptcy, Martin bought the rights to Smirnoff in 1939. His board thought he was mad. Americans were traditionally whiskey drinkers unfamiliar with vodka and so sales were very slow. In a marketing move they changed the product to use whiskey corks instead and branded it as a "white whiskey" with "no taste, no smell". Sales picked up considerably after that.
In 1990, after the Berlin Wall was demolished, Helmut Kohl made a deal with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev allowing the reunification of Germany provided that the Soviet army could remain in East Germany, due to a pre-existing security agreement between the German Democratic Republic and the USSR; such arrangements were to be paid by West Germany for three years. Suddenly, 500,000 Soviet soldiers were paid in hard currency and had almost nothing to do except drink. They then proceeded to spend their currency on Marlboro cigarettes, Levi jeans and Smirnoff vodka. The US-made variety of Smirnoff vodka was especially popular.