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Wood Liquor: Growth Rings Transform Into a Promising New Business

For the first time, wood from 100-year-old trees can be made into wood liquor, a new beverage that could be key to revitalizing forestry and mountain villages.



Four types of trees were used to make the first-ever wood liquor. Each species was made both into a clear distilled version and a new version that makes the most of the wood aroma. (Photo courtesy of FFPRI)

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The history of spirits dates back to 13,000 years ago, and today, it welcomes a new page. This new liquor is not made from fruits, like wine, or cereals, like sake. Its main ingredient, while familiar, has never before been used to make liquor. That ingredient is aged trees from forests. And wood liquor is made from fermenting that wood. 

Researchers at the Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute (FFPRI) in Tsukuba (Ibaraki Prefecture) spent six years experimenting and now they have a product ready to sample.

wood liquor
Senior Researcher Dr Yuichiro Otsuka with the machine needed for breaking down the wood (saccharification) for fermentation. (© Sankei by Shohei Nagatsuji)

They have produced four varieties from the wood of Japanese cedar, white birch, mizunara (a type of Mongolian oak), and the kuromoji tree (a type of spicebush). Each species of tree has a distinct fragrance and flavor profile. Close your eyes and take a sip, and it feels as though you can hear treetops rustling in the breeze.

Mellow Fragrance and Flavor

The development of wood liquor has no precedent anywhere in the world. A paper on its development was published in 2020 in a journal of the UK-based Royal Society of Chemistry.

The research team found no issues in all varieties based on continued safety testing. This author had a chance to participate in a trial tasting of the fragrance and flavor profiles of this new liquor.

Continue reading the full story on Japan 2 Earth.

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(Read the article in Japanese.)

Author: Shohei Nagatsuji


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