You'll Never Believe What This Vodka Is Made From

Alternative vodka production has opened doors to new and more sustainable methods for making spirits. You may have heard about products like vodka made from peas (via The Drinks Report), but a vodka from Oregon utilizes a way different recipe — or perhaps we should say whey different.

As Atlas Obscura reported in 2020, the product is the brainchild of Todd Koch, owner of the TMK Creamery, near Canby, Oregon. The company's vodka was created to use excess products from the dairy (via CultrFace). Inspired after reading about Paul Hughes, an Assistant Professor of Distilled Spirits at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Koch wanted to try his own hand at fermenting whey into spirits that was "both environmentally sustainable and cost-effective for small creameries."

Even a small dairy will produce byproducts like whey, which is one of two proteins in milk. The whey protein is separated from the protein casein during food production like making cheese (via Medical News Today). Many likely don't realize that without expensive equipment, this whey byproduct isn't usable or sellable. Where a large dairy might be able to convert whey into a marketable product like protein powder, small farms will be left with waste. For this reason, finding a cost-effective solution for utilizing this excess whey inspired Koch to create a new whey-based vodka, humorously named "Cowcohol."

Cowcohol, a new kind of vodka

A sustainable vodka solution, creameries around the U.S. are increasingly turning to whey-based spirit production instead of the traditional grain- and potato-based clear spirit (via Modern Farmer). Each pound of cheese created typically produces nine pounds of whey, which can then be fermented with special yeast and distilled into vodka. "We're able to create one more product from that same gallon of milk. We feel like we're getting everything we possibly can from that initial raw resource," says Todd Koch.

Oregon State University's Paul Hughes thinks this trend will continue to increase. "In the next year or so, you'll see more whey drinks coming out, and the way to go is through fermentation and distillation," he told Modern Farmer last year.

As for the vodka's taste? Tasters from Nerds in Oregon (via YouTube) shared in 2019 that the vodka "smells really great" with only a mild hint of alcohol. As for taste, it's smooth — really smooth. Say the tasters, "Wow! It's smooth. It's very smooth," and you can see fast smiles on their faces. 

We all love innovative food and beverage that's also tasty. Sustainability makes it taste even smoother, too.