Borjomi mineral springs were discovered by people over one thousand years ago. This is evident in the existence of seven stone baths which date back to the beginning of the 1st millennium A.D. The baths suggest that in medieval times the water was more likely used for bathing rather than drinking. From the 16th century onwards the area fell into constant warfare; the springs were abandoned and their location forgotten.
The Borjomi springs were to be rediscovered in 1829 by the army’s Kherson Grenadier Regiment. Soldiers who were camped out in the forests found a mineral water spring on the bank of the Borjomka River. Their leader, Colonel Popov, ordered that the spring be cleared and that swift delivery of bottled water to the camp be organised. Colonel Popov, who suffered from stomach illnesses, was impressed when he discovered the curative effects of the water and he subsequently ordered his soldiers to fence the spring with stones and build him a bath and house nearby.
Less than ten years later, the Georgian Grenadier Regiment took over the area. The army’s Dr. Amirov undertook a study of the composition and properties of the Borjomi spring water and sent the first samples to St. Petersburg and Moscow.
It didn’t take long for word of Borjomi’s mineral water to spread, and by 1841 the water had become so famous that the Viceroy of the Caucasus decided to bring his sick daughter to the area for treatment. Her illness is not recorded, but it is written that the water cured her. The springs were christened by the Viceroy, who named the first ‘Yekaterininski’ (known in English as ‘Catherine’s spring’) after his daughter, and the second ‘Yevgenievski’ after himself. The Borjomi Mineral Water Park was later founded in 1850 and construction of the first bottling plant began in 1854.
As the springs became increasingly famous throughout the Russian Empire, Borjomi grew as a popular tourist resort; new palaces were built for royal visitors, and new parks, squares and hotels for the public. However, visitors found that travelling to Borjomi was no easy journey, as the horse-drawn phaetons of the time took at least eight hours to arrive from Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi. As a result, a railway connecting Borjomi to the nearest large town, Khashuri, was built in 1894, greatly improving communications and increasing the flow of tourism.
In 1890 the first “Borjomi” bottling plant opened at the Mineral Water Park. Every day the trademark dark-green glass bottles were filled by hand, sealed with wax, wrapped in hay and packed into wooden crates to be sent to all corners of the Empire.
The first glass factory was opened in 1896, where manual glass blowing techniques were used to produce “Borjomi” bottles until 1950.
In 1904 the “Borjomi” water production was modernised and became partially mechanised. Whilst glass-blowing remained a manual process, machines were employed for bottling. This allowed for large-scale production; in the same year a newspaper advertised that “Borjomi” water was now sold by the wagonload.
The water bottling industry flourished: in 1854 “Borjomi” was exporting only 1,350 bottles. By 1905, after establishment of full-scale production, this had grown to 320,000. By 1913 total exports had reached the 9 million mark.
Sovietisation of Georgia did not affect the popularity of “Borjomi”. Only the profile of the elites who arrived to enjoy the town’s climates changed as Stalin and his retinue replaced the Romanovs. After 1917 “Borjomi” water was made present at all events run by the Kremlin.
The Khrushchev thaw of the 1960s gave “Borjomi” another chance to gain recognition abroad. In 1961, 423,000 bottles of “Borjomi” were exported to 15 countries, including the USA, France and Austria. In the 1980s “Borjomi” sales sky-rocketed to 400 million bottles as it reached its status as the most popular drinking water in the Soviet Union.
With the collapse of the USSR in 1990 and the ensuing economic difficulties in Georgia, “Borjomi” bottle production declined significantly. In 1995 it bounced back with the re-launch of the Georgian Glass and Mineral Water Co. N.V.’s two bottling plants and production increased forty fold. Today, Georgian nature’s unique liquid gift is famous in at least thirty countries worldwide.
History of Borjomi: