Ag. Dept. warns of Norseman spirit made with leather

Filling bottles at Norseman Distillery
Filling bottles at Norseman Distillery
Jeffrey Thompson | MPR News file

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is telling consumers not to drink Norseman Distillery's newly released Leathered Aquavit.

The department said the liquor was made with "non-food grade tanned leather," but Norseman owner Scott Ervin insists both federal and state officials had already OK'd the product.

Officials aren't aware of any illnesses associated with the drink, and the agriculture department said it was responding to a complaint.

In making the drink, leather is dipped into the liquor, Ervin said, then removed before filtering and bottling.

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"It's not really an ingredient," he said.

There aren't any dyes in the leather Norseman uses, Ervin said.

But the agriculture department said it's an "unapproved food ingredient" and its safety isn't certain.

"Consumers who purchased this product should not consume it and should discard of the product," the department wrote in a news release.

Bottles of the grain-based liquor shipped out earlier this month to restaurants and retailers.

Ervin said Norseman's Aquavit, which it releases as a seasonal holiday drink, is a bestseller, and the agriculture department's announcement could hurt the distillery.

"I think more so it will just damage our reputation or brand," Ervin said.