Borjomi (Georgian: ბორჯომი) is a brand of naturally carbonated mineral water from springs in the Borjomi Gorge of central Georgia. The artesian springs in the valley are fed by water that filters from glaciers covering the peaks of the Bakuriani mountains at altitudes of up to 2,300 m (7,500 ft). The water rises to the surface without pumping and is transported by pipes to two bottling plants in the town of Borjomi.
The Borjomi springs were discovered by the Imperial Russian military in the 1820s. They were made famous throughout the Russian Empire, making Borjomi a popular tourist destination. The history of the brand is closely associated with the Russian imperial dynasty of Romanov. By the 1890s, Borjomi was bottled in the Georgian estates of Grand Duke Mikhail of Russia. After the Russian Revolution of 1917 and subsequent Soviet takeover of Georgia, the Borjomi enterprise was nationalized and the water was made into a top Soviet export.
Borjomi is Georgia’s third largest export and is exported to over 40 countries. Since 1995, Borjomi has been trademarked and produced by the Georgian Glass and Mineral Water Company (GG&MW), belonging to the Russian Alfa Group Consortium. The use of Borjomi water has been suggested by the Georgian and Russian researchers for complex treatment of several digestive diseases and diabetes mellitus.
The Yevgeniyevsky spring in Borjomi. Photo by Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky, 1912
The mineral springs of the Borjomi valley were discovered over one thousand years ago. Seven large rock tubs discovered by archeologists dating back to the beginning of the 7th century attest to the availability and use of the spring waters, most likely for bathing purposes. The springs were abandoned before being rediscovered in the early 19th century. By that time, as a result of the incessant warfare, Borjomi and its environs had been depopulated and covered with impassable forests.
In 1829, when the Imperial Russian Army Kherson Grenadier Regiment was deployed in Borjomi for operations against the Ottoman Empire, Russian soldiers found mineral springs on the right bank of Borjomi river. Intrigued by the find, Colonel Pavel Popov, the commander of the regiment, ordered that the springs be cleaned and that the water be bottled and transported to the military base. Popov, who suffered from stomach disease tried the water first. Seeing positive results, he ordered the construction of rock walls around the spring and he had a bath house built nearby, along with a small cottage house for himself. In 1837, when the Kherson regiment was replaced by the Georgian grenadiers regiment, its medical doctor Amirov examined the water components and their effects, sending the first results of analysis to Saint Petersburg and Moscow. By 1841, the healing effects of Borjomi water were so famous that the viceroy of the Russian Tsar in the Caucasus Yevgeni Golovin brought his sick daughter to the springs for treatment. In light of the quick results of the treatment, he called the first spring Yekaterinsky (Russian: Екатерининский) after his daughter Yekaterina and the second Yevgeniyevsky (Евгеньевский) after himself.
Golovin also expedited the official transfer of the waters from the military to civil authorities. In 1850, a mineral water park was opened in Borjomi and in 1854, the authorities commissioned construction of the first bottling plant. Borjomi water gained popularity for its curing effects all over the Russian Empire and the government began building palaces, parks, public gardens and hotels to accommodate incoming tourists and patients. The commute from Tiflis to Borjomi usually took 8–9 hours by phaetons, however the new Mikhaylovo-Borjomi railroad built in 1894 significantly reduced the length of the journey. Renowned figures such as Anton Chekhov, Pyotr Tchaikovsky as well as members of the royal Russian family were among the common visitors of the springs. By that time, Borjomi was a rival of similar European spas, such as Vichy, frequented by Russian tourists, the fact that earned for Borjomi the reputation of “the Russian Vichy” and “the pearl of the Caucasus”.