Ottawa

Evolving vodka rules a shot of good news for Almonte distiller

An Ottawa-area distiller who makes vodka from cow's milk is welcoming a move by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to broaden its definition of the potent spirit.

'Vodkow' producer makes liquor out of cow's milk

Dairy Distillery of Almonte, Ont., makes 'vodkow,' a type of vodka made from cow's milk. (Omid McDonald)

An Ottawa-area distiller who makes vodka from cow's milk is welcoming a move by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to broaden its definition of the potent spirit.

Under current Canadian standards, a distillery can only label its product vodka if the liquor is made from grain or potato. In late November, the CFIA announced it would be reviewing that definition.

That was a shot of good news for Omid McDonald, founder of Dairy Distillery in Almonte, Ont., who until now has had to call his drink "vodkow" to get around the rules.

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"In Canada we couldn't call it a vodka, and that causes confusion in the marketplace," he told CBC Radio's All In A Day.

McDonald reached out to his local MP and two federal ministers before the CFIA agreed to meet with him in November. 

"I figured it would be months again until I hear anything, but the next day a friend of mine sent me a press release where the federal government announced they were going to change this."

Matching U.S., EU rules

Vodka can be made from a variety of alternatives including milk, corn, beets, apples or even grapes, McDonald said.

"All these agricultural products are being discriminated against, and really there's no reason," he said.

Vodka is distilled until it's nearly 100 per cent alcohol, then diluted with water and filtered. The final product is supposed to have a neutral flavour, but McDonald said using different ingredients can lend the drink different characteristics.

"There is always a taste difference depending if it's made from corn or grain or milk," he said.

The United States and European Union have adopted broader definitions of vodka than Canada, and the CFIA has said it's aiming to align its definition with those international trading partners.

The agency's consultations with distillers are expected to wrap up by February.

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