There is a new type of vodka on the market and it contains one essential ingredient that sets it apart from the rest. This particular vodka is created from milk. “Vodkow” was created by Omid McDonald and his cousin Neal McCarten, the official owners of Dairy Distillery in Almonte, Ontario, Canada.
Omid, an engineer by trade, had always had a strong interest in craft distilling, but something was holding him back from taking that jump into the industry. While having a discussion with Neal, he learned from Neal’s uncle who is a dairy farmer, that skim milk is being dumped on a daily basis. This conversation turned into the question, “can you make booze from milk?”
As they quickly learned, it turns out you can! As they began their research looking for a source of milk sugar, they were connected with dairy processor Parmalat. Parmalat had just came online with their ultra-filtered milk which was being produced at their Winchester plant. They learned that the by-product of ultra-filtered milk, produces a rich lactose liquid called milk permeate. As it turns out, there is little use for milk permeate and majority of it was being dumped. Lactose is an environmental hazard, so the milk permeate was being treated before dumping which was creating a very expensive process.
“With this waste, we saw an opportunity to turn milk permeate into tasty spirits, which would be benefitting the dairy industry and the environment,” Omid told Cowsmopolitan Dairy Magazine.
So Omid and Neal set out on their new career path into the world of distilling. The Canadian Dairy Commission and Dairy Farmers of Ontario took notice of their unique new adventure and provided them with research funding. Several dairy farmers have also invested with their Vodkow brand, along with family and friends, helping make their dream a reality.
The process of creating Vodkow didn’t happen overnight. They needed to first find a yeast that would consume the lactose and produce alcohol. They teamed up with the University of Ottawa’s biology department in order to create the right type of yeast. They now receive a tanker of milk permeate weekly from the Parmalat Winchester plant. The permeate is pumped into their fermenter and their special yeast that was created to eat the lactose is added. The fermented lactose is then placed into their gorgeous German copper sill, where the alcohol is extracted to near purity. The alcohol is then diluted with spring water and filtered through carbon.
“We’ve done blind taste tests against leading brands like Grey Goose and Smirnoff. Eight out of ten people ranked Vodkow their favourite!” exclaims Omid.
Another great feature that Vodkow offers is that it is 100% lactose and gluten free. Through the fermentation process, it breaks down the lactose into its component sugars, allowing those with lactose or gluten sensitivities to be able to enjoy a nice drink.
Omid and Neal have been overwhelmed by the response they have received so far and are very proud of the fact they are helping the dairy industry and the environment while fulfilling a dream.
“Currently, the alcohol industry is the third largest purchaser of Ontario grain. If we can make milk based spirits popular, we can create a large and new revenue source for dairy farmers.”
Vodkow officially became available for sale on November 1st, 2018 at their distillery retail store and online. It will be available at the LCBO next spring.
Photos provided by Dairy Distillery
Written by Melissa Lesy