Researchers are investigating the flavour profiles of vodkas made with dairy

As craft brands like Black Cow Vodka gain popularity with consumers, a team of scientists are investigating how the flavour of milk-based spirits differs from those made with grain.

Scientists are looking into the flavour profile of dairy-based spirits. (Photo: Black Cow)

Researchers at Oregon State University are looking at the flavour profile of vodkas made with whey, a by-product of cheesemaking.

“Even though some energy is required to transform whey into vodka, there is still a huge environmental gain by not disposing of it through waste streams,” said Lisbeth Goddik, a Professor of Food Science and Technology at OSU. “There is a significant reduction of greenhouse gases, and the creameries have the potential to also boost their revenue.”

Both “sweet whey” and “acid whey” are produced from making dairy products from cheddar and mozzarella to Greek yoghurt, Goddik said, and its disposal is particular challenging, unless they are converted into alcohol.

“Both types of whey ferment and distill beautifully,” said Paul Hughes, who leads the distilling program at OSU. “Our chemical flavour analysis suggests some differences between the two wheys and eventually we hope to isolate more of the chemical compounds and match them with flavor characteristics.”

Acid whey distillate contains terpenes, according to the researchers, which are unsaturated hydrocarbons also found in beer and wine and are found in the grass cows eat,. However the resulting distilled spirit doesn’t contain  “grassy” notes, Hughes said.

Hughes said that distillers have shown “a keen interest” in OSU’s research into whey products and taste characteristics. “We’ve never had this much interest from them since we started our distilling program.”

Many producers have already cottoned on to drinks derived from dairy. Back Cow, a UK-based creamery, launched a milk-based vodka back in 2016, and has since secured a number of partnerships with premium bars and restaurants in London.

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