Wood you like a drink? Japan team invents 'wood alcohol'

May 1, 2018
Raw material? Japanese researchers say they have invented a way to produce alcoholic drinks from cherry trees and other types of wood

Discerning drinkers may soon be able to branch out after Japanese researchers said Tuesday they have invented a way of producing an alcoholic drink made from wood.

The researchers at Japan's Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute say the bark-based beverages have woody qualities similar to which is aged in wood barrels. They hope to have their "wood alcohol" on shelves within three years.

The method involves pulverising wood into a creamy paste and then adding yeast and an enzyme to start the fermentation process.

By avoiding using heat, researchers say they are able to preserve the specific flavour of each tree's wood.

So far, they have produced tipples from cedar, birch and cherry.

Four kilogrammes (8.8-pounds) of cedar wood gave them 3.8 litres (eight pints) of liquid, with an alcohol content of around 15 percent, similar to that of Japan's much-loved sake.

Researchers experimented with both brewed and distilled versions of the new beverage, but "we think distilled alcohol appears better", researcher Kengo Magara told AFP.

Wood fermentation is already used to produce biofuel but the product contains toxins and is flavourless, making it far from a suitable cocktail component.

"But our method can make it drinkable, and with a wood flavour, because it does not require high heat or sulphuric acid to decompose the wood," Magara said.

The institute has a broad mandate for scientific study related to Japan's extensive woods and forests, but Magara acknowledged "wood alcohol" might not be the most obvious application for their research resources.

"We thought it would be interesting to think that alcohol could be made from something around here like trees," Magara said.

"It's a dream-inspired project."

The government institute aims to commercialise the venture with a private-sector partner and to have the lumber liquor on shelves within three years.

"Japan has plenty of trees across the nation and we hope people can enjoy wood alcohols that are specialised from each region," Magara said.

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5 / 5 (2) May 01, 2018
Wouldn't this be methanol... and extremely toxic to humans?
5 / 5 (1) May 01, 2018
Not methanol due to to the 'traditional' fermentation of the bark, but certainly rough on the trees !
Also, if it becomes fashionable, a risk there will be short-cuts brewed containing toxic levels of old fashioned 'wood alcohol' AKA methanol. Carry a test-kit, folks !!
1 / 5 (1) May 01, 2018
NEW from Japan : Half Bottle of 100% Alcohol From 4 Kg. of Wood of Cedar !
not rated yet May 02, 2018
Instead of drinking the stuff directly it would be a nice addition to add flavour to beer or cider.
I currently use wood chips from old barrels (they are sold, not that I do that myself).
Well, that reminds me that I need to start a new batch of my infamous cider!!
Whydening Gyre
not rated yet May 02, 2018
Pencils are often made of cedar wood, so you can leave a pencil in your favorite beer for to get some rough idea cheaply...

Yeah, but....
What about the graphite part...?
Da Schneib
not rated yet May 02, 2018
Chateau Fuji Cedar '24?

not rated yet May 18, 2018
To answer "elph" ... yes, wood alcohol is methanol and it is deadly. So Japan has hardly "invented" wood alcohol and they'd be wise to give their "invention" a different name. Back in the 1980s 8 inmates from a local prison were admitted to UCSF hospital in San Francisco for having drunk wood alcohol, and were on the verge of death. They were treated by keeping them drunk with a safe alcohol IV until the DEADLY wood alcohol was flushed from the system.

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