Black Cow was invented* by West Dorset dairy farmer and devoted vodka fan Jason Barber, who launched the drink last May to diversify the produce stemming from his 250-strong grass-grazed dairy herd.
The vodka is made by using whey as a byproduct of cheese production (after curds have been diverted), fermenting this using a special yeast that converts the milk sugar into alcohol, to produce a milk beer.
This is then distilled and treated using Black Cow’s secret blending process, before being triple-filtered and finished, then hand bottled. The brand sells the vodka online for £27.50 ($35.29) per 700ml bottle.
Gradual UK expansion
A Black Cow spokeswoman told BeverageDaily.com today: “We launched the vodka in May last year. It’s produced in West Dorset and we’ve gradually expanded it from a core market here – farm shops, delicatessens in Southwest England – into Fortnum & Masons, Selfridges and various other stores.
“Gradually, it’s expanding through wine shops and delis throughout the country,” she added. “But it’s very much been an organic growth process, rather than a ‘wham bam, let’s hit every market at once’. We’ve been very careful to do it all properly.”
Liz Hurley, Daniel Craig among fans
According to the Daily Mail, Barber spent three years perfecting the distillation process to produce the vodka that, the Black Cow website claims, has a “delicate creamy finish”, and had the idea after watching a TV documentary about Tuva, in Siberia, where locals produce vodka using yak milk.
Reviewing Black Cow on the brand’s website, Olly Ford-Lane writes: “Slightly volatile nose to begin with but that quickly turns to aromas of vanilla ice cream and cream soda.
He adds: “The palate is deliciously creamy and really stands out from other vodkas, slightly hot on the finish but not in an unpleasant way. A vodka with real charm and character.”
The Daily Mail also claims that Black Cow has become a “must-have tipple” at restaurants owned by Heston Blumenthal and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, while a celebrity following includes Daniel Craig and Liz Hurley.
*Dave McCrorie from Fonterra has disputed this claim. He said: "Ethanol made from whey for use in Vodka has been around for more than 30 years. There is no way that Black Cow vodka can claim to be the first pure milk vodka, or that they invented alcohol production from whey."