Spirits

A fine whiskey with subtle notes of beaver

27 June, 2018

It's like we can still hear Beavis & Butthead laughing. New Hampshire-based spirits brand Tamworth Distilling is using beaver castoreum, a secretion that comes from a beaver’s castor sacs located not too far from its tail by the rodent’s bottom, to flavor its whiskey House of Tamworth Eau de Musc and it's not as odd as you think.

Though beaver bum secretions might sound way grosser, with its sweet notes of vanilla and fruit, castoreum has actually been used as a flavoring additive for hundreds of years and is totally acceptable according to the Food and Drug Administration. In fact, according to the distillery government approval is where this story starts.

“As we build recipes, each one has to be reviewed by the [Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau]. This is common practice and generally bases the acceptance of these formulas on FDA certified ingredients,” Tamworth Distilling explains on its website. “The generally recognized as safe list (GRAS) is actually pretty small, especially when you are in the exploratory phase of spirits. There are a few really odd ingredients and castoreum is one of them.”

The unique details behind this particular ingredient led to further exploration, and the distillers were intrigued by what they found. “The sac excretion exhibits bright and fruit qualities (raspberry) and rich leathery notes along with creamy vanilla aroma. These notes are also very common among barrel aged spirits, so a natural progression took place,” Tamworth continues. “The result is a rich, full bodied 2-year bourbon that bolsters a vanillic nose and fruity, floral finish—a medley of charming flavors that are sure to impress.”

 

Who was the first person to put their face in a beavers butt and discover this amazingness?

Because we humans have been using castoreum for so long, the name of the adventurous person to first put their nose into a beaver’s butt (or in a beaver’s sticky scent mound on the forest floor) has been lost to time. But we know that the Romans burned castoreum in lamps because they thought the fumes caused abortions, and trappers have used it to lure animals since at least the 1850s. And it’s been used as a flavoring ingredient in foods for at least 80 years as a replacement for vanilla and in some fruit flavorings such as strawberry and raspberry.\

 

Am I eating this in any Foods now?

There's no clear list but castoreum is used in; Raspberry flavored candy, strawberry / vanilla / raspberry ice-cream. It’s also used in alcoholic beverages, baked goods, gelatin, pudding, soft candy, frozen dairy, hard candy and chewing gum. Since it is a cumbersome process to obtain it is not widely used in mass produced foods (as far as we could research).

So much for the innocence of that "Naturally Flavored" label!