A distillery has apologised for releasing a vodka named Novichok the day before a woman died from the nerve agent.

Bristol Dry Gin micro distillery put a picture promoting its Novichok limited edition vodka on Instagram and Facebook on Saturday.

It said: “Set at 75%, this smooth drinking spirit is no laughing matter.”

On Sunday mother-of-three Dawn Sturgess, 44, died a week after handling an unidentified object contaminated with the nerve agent in Salisbury or Amesbury.

Her partner, Charlie Rowley, 45, remains in hospital and came out of a coma on Wednesday.

Their poisoning came four months after Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal were poisoned by novichok in Salisbury.

After social media users criticised the “tasteless” joke, the distillery apologised to Mr Rowley’s and Ms Sturgess’s families.

A statement from the distillery said: “It was intended to lighten the mood and ease tensions, not to cause offence, and reaction has been overwhelmingly positive.

“We sincerely apologise if any offence was caused, especially to the families of Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley, and understand the timing of the release of this product may have lacked sensitivity.”

There were many on social media who said the joke had gone too far; however, others thought it was “very funny”.

Paula McMullan said: “You do know a woman has died as a result of novichok poisoning this week, don’t you?

“Or are you saying that your vodka will actually kill people?”

“Pretty poor taste, an innocent woman has died and a man is critically ill, I think you need to rethink your sales strategy,” Peter Hooper said.

Berenice Elliot, added: “As a resident of Salisbury I think your marketing team might want to rethink the name.

“For those of us enduring this nightmare it really is in poor taste.”

Another user said the apology “didn’t exactly come across as heartfelt”.

Charlie Rowley and Dawn Sturgess
Image:
Charlie Rowley is in hospital and Dawn Sturgess died from novichok poisoning

But others disagreed, saying the marketing decision was “brilliant”.

Sophie Wilkinson said: “Well done. Very funny.”

“The perfect vodka for a White Russian cocktail!!” Calderdale Sofos said.

Mark Kelly called it “a bold move for sure”.

Adam Brown added: “Brilliant! Where can I order some?”

More from Amesbury poisoning

Adam Eltringham said the company “will have paid for labels long before the second poisoning occurred”.

“Would you have a small business go under for making joke, which had the second poisoning not happened, [would] be funny? I’m buying some,” he added.