Ancient bison-grass vodka comes to U.S.

Poland's famous bison grass vodka has finally been introduced directly into the U.S., beginning with New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Chicago outlets.

It only took a few centuries, since this particular type of vodka has been made in Poland since the 1600s, well before the U.S. was founded.

Zubrowka Bison Grass Flavored Vodka is made with the rare aromatic herb grass. It is the only distiller using the grass, and the finished product has long been a European market favorite. It is available in a 750ml bottle for a suggested retail price of $25.

Zubrowka says the vodka "originated in the early 14th-century as a local specialty from the Bialowieza forest region, which today is Europe's last remaining primeval forest, relatively untouched by civilization and pollution. The secretive Bialowieza Forest, located deep in northeastern Poland, remains home to the largest population of European bison, and the storied, aromatic bison grass on which the herd of 400 feeds. Bison grass cannot be grown artificially, and production of authentic Zubrowka vodka has remained unchanged for centuries."

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erik_flannestad said...

It was my understanding that the FDA wouldn't allow true bison grass vodka to be imported into the US because it contains Coumarin.

Has the FDA changed its rules?

William M. Dowd said...

Coumarin, for those unfamiliar with the name, is a chemical compound also called benzopyrone. In certain concentrations it is highly toxic, however it has been found in bison grass, tonka beans, vanilla extract and even cigarettes.

Its scent, usually described as "new-mown hay," is a pleasant, sweet one which had led to its use in some perfumes since the 19th century.

The U.S. government has long had rigid restrictions -- but not an overall, outright ban -- on imported goods containing coumarin although coumarin itself is used in medical products such as warfarin and other anti-coagulants.

As restrictions have been eased in recent years in various imports, principally from India and South Korea, with no apparent ill effects, globally coumarin is being viewed with less suspicion.

According to the Pesticide Action Network North America's PAN Pesticides Database, coumarin still is not banned by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or by any country.