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Got Milk Vodka? — It's Whey Cool

Drink responsibly with upcycled vodka

Vodka can be made from fermenting almost any foodstuff that contains sugar or starch which is then distilled to increase its alcohol content. Most vodka is made from potatoes or wheat, but other grains such as corn, rice, rye and wheat are also used, and some vodkas are even made from grapes, other fruits or just sugar.

Distilleries around the world have found another food to ferment and are giving new meaning to the words "drink responsibly" in the process. They're transforming a byproduct of the cheese making process, whey, into vodka, and are reducing food waste by diverting the leftover substance from landfills.

One pound of cheese generates nine pounds of whey and disposal of this byproduct can be a major obstacle and expense for cheesemakers. Some dispose of their whey by spreading it onto their fields as fertilizer, but the amount that can be used is heavily regulated: applying too much can pollute waterways, killing fish and other aquatic creatures. Others pay large amounts of money to have the whey carted off to landfills, which isn't an environmentally friendly solution.

Some large cheesemakers have processing facilities that can convert their whey into other food products such as whey protein powder. Smaller cheesemakers, however, don’t produce enough cheese and whey to have access to those markets. As an alternative, some of them have started collaborations with local distilleries, or have opened their own, and have ventured into spirit making.

If you're in the market for vodka and want to do a little bit to help save the planet, these vodkas are clearly the whey to go.

Black Cow Distillery

Black Cow Vodka
Black Cow Pure Milk Vodka is made by a family with a 300 year cheese making tradition

Situated on England's West Dorset coast Black Cow produces the world's only Pure Milk Vodka™ made entirely from the milk of grass grazed cows and nothing else. Black Cow is the invention of dairy farmer Jason Barber, who founded Black Cow alongside artist Paul Archard in 2012. Inspired by his love of vodka and a desire to do something different with the milk of his 240-strong herd of dairy cows, Jason set about exploring the potential of the whey, a product of the cheesemaking process that typically goes to waste. By combining the ancient Mongolian tradition of making alcohol from milk with the Northern European tradition of making high proof, clear, clean vodka, Jason and Black Cow co-founder Paul Archard were able to develop an innovative, unique and superior tasting vodka, made entirely from the milk of cows. Black Cow Pure Milk Vodka can be purchased online from Wooden Cork for shipment within the United States.

Try a Vodka Tonic using whey vodka and whey tonic
Black Cow & Super Frau — a match made on the dairy farm

Broken Shed Distillery

Broken Shed Vodka
Broken Shed began distilling whey vodka in 2009

A venture that started off in 2009 in an old shed in Wanaka, a small lake town in the mountains of New Zealand’s Southern Alps, Broken Shed Vodka is distinct in its choice of base material: it’s made from whey, the liquid left over from cheese production, an unusual, but effective source of sugar. The distillation process removes any “milky” or “dairy” odors or flavors from the spirit, leaving behind a liquid that smells clean, with only the very faintest of blueberry and mineral scents. The flavors have an underlying vegetal quality, but for the most part, it is the pure and polished characteristics of the vodka that will impress. The ideologically perfect vodka for White Russians. Broken Shed Vodka can be purchased online from Wooden Cork for shipment within the United States.

Hartshorn Distillery

Hartshorn Vodka
Hartshorn Distillery makes small batches of spirits from sheep whey

Hartshorn is the first team in the world to make and release small batches of spirits made from sheep whey. Located in Tasmania, Australia, Hartshorn Distillery shares land with Grandvewe Cheeses, which makes cheese from sheep's milk. It's the same family doing different things with the same goal — reduce waste, look after each other, look after the planet. Hartshorn is one of the smallest distilleries in Australia making small 80 bottle batches using a 200L glass column still. Each bottle and label is hand painted by head distiller Ryan. They sell several variations of their Sheep Whey Vodka and also make Sheep Whey Gin and Sheep Whey Vanilla Liquer. Hartshorn Distillery only ships to Australia and New Zealand.

Local Goat Distillery

Black Cow Vodka
Local Goat Vodka is made using whey from a nearby cheesemaker, Veldhuizen Cheese

Like the diverse palate of the goat, the folks at Local Goat keep an open mind to native goods. Their socially responsible process involves using byproducts in their exotic spirits. What might be considered waste to others is what shapes their sophisticated liquors. Local Goat Vodka is craft made from 100% whey, a byproduct of locally produced cheese. The vodka is distilled through a column still until it's pure, and then it gets filtered through coconut carbon for up to 3 hours. Local Goat Vodka is only available at the distillery in Granbury, Texas.

White Sheep

Black Cow Vodka
White Sheep Distillery crafts a unique range of spirits and liqueurs handcrafted in small batches using premium New Zealand sheep milk

New Zealand Sheep roam free in some of the world’s most pristine natural environments. The sheep at White Sheep are happy, healthy and produce great tasting milk. White Sheep Distillery uses a copper pot column still to distill their sheep milk, allowing them to retain more of the natural sheep milk flavours and help give their spirits and liqueurs their unique taste. Special yeasts and plenty of care and attention allow the distillery to ferment sheep milk into alcohol. It’s a complex and time consuming process but the result is well worth it. The award winning Sheep Milk Vodka is made with premium New Zealand Sheep milk from the central North Island. White Sheep Vodka


Vodkow Vodka
Dairy Distillery's Vodkow is made from milk permeate

In collaboration with the University of Ottawa, Dairy Distillery perfected a process to convert milk permeate into an unbelievably smooth vodka. Milk from 3,500 Ontario dairy farms is sent to large processors where the cream is removed to make butter. The proteins are concentrated to make ultrafiltered milk which is used by cheese and yogurt makers. In the process of making ultrafiltered milk, a sugar rich liquid called milk permeate is produced. Most dairy farmers dispose of the leftover permeate leaving them with its disposal cost. Dairy Distillery rescues and uses this milk permeate to make their vodka and wide range of cream liquors. Dairy Distillery Vodkow is only available in Canada.


Blacklion Vodka
Blacklion Vodka is the UK’s first vodka produced using whey from pure sheep’s milk

Blacklion is a family-owned, British business with a passion for adventure and vodka. The distillery was started in 2018 with the vision to enter the spirits industry with a niche alcoholic beverage made from the milk of a rare breed of sheep, Black Lion. The Blacklion distillery converts a byproduct of the cheese-making process into the UK’s first sheep’s milk vodka. Their unique, triple distilled and filtered sheep’s milk vodka contains no artificial ingredients and uses fresh Cotswold Spring Water. Blacklion Vodka is only available in the UK.

Copper Crow

Copper Crow Vodka
Copper Crow Vodka and Gin are made from whey leftover from the cheese production process

Located in Bayfield, Wisconsin, Copper Crow is the first Native American owned distillery in the USA. Their vodka and gin are made in small batches from upcycled whey, supplied by a nearby dairy cooperative, and water from Lake Superior. The on-going partnership between the University of Wisconsin Stout in Menomonie and Copper Crow Distillery has developed another true Wisconsin spirit. Copper Crow Vodka is available at the distillery and from Total Wine (delivery areas are very limited).

Black Cow & Super Frau — A Match Made on the Dairy Farm Black Cow and Super Frau vodka and tonic

Super Frau Tonic is made from whey that gets rescued from Super Fraus's yogurt maker partners in New York. The whey is infused with complementary fruit flavors and fizz is added to make a delicious beverage that's naturally loaded with benefits for your body and your mind. Super Frau is available in 3 flavors: Cucumber Lime, Peach Mango and Pineapple Ginger. Super Frau Tonic can be purchased online from the Super Frau web site.

Black Cow & Super Frau 5 oz. Super Frau Cucumber Lime Tonic
2 oz. Black Cow Vodka
Ice cubes
Lime wedge
Cucumber slice (optional)
  1. Fill a highball glass with ice cubes
  2. Pour in the Black Cow vodka
  3. Top off with Super Frau Tonic
  4. Rub lime wedge around the rim of the glass
  5. Garnish with lime wedge and cucumber if desired