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Powdered Alcohol

powder
As of April 8-21, 2014, this was approved. The federal government approved this brand of powderized alcohol two weeks ago. The reviewing agency has been TTB (not FDA, as some press accounts have said). TTB is a sub-unit of the US Department of Treasury.

First and for a long time, alcohol was just liquid. Then it was whipped, solidified and almost vaporized. And now alcohol is powderized. A really good TV summary is here.

April 21, 2014, 5 pm ET, Update:  The Palcohol company has surrendered all seven label approvals back to TTB. Here is one of the labels as approved on April 8, 2014 and then the same label as “surrendered” April 21. The differing status is shown at the center of each document. TTB has not said much about the change of course. Palcohol has said:  “We have been in touch with the TTB and there seemed to be a discrepancy on our fill level, how much powder is in the bag. There was a mutual agreement for us to surrender the labels.”

May 8, 2014, 3 pm ET, Update:  Sen. Charles Schumer has blasted Palcohol and pressed FDA to step in, during the past week. Many sources and links on web. And, Mark Phillips does quite a good job rebutting most of the critics here.

I am not astonished that this is a real product — but I am absolutely astonished that this got approved. TTB approved seven versions of this powdered alcohol label on April 8, 2014. It is seven labels covering five products (two rum-like, two vodka-like, one Cosmopolitan-like, one Lemon Drop-like, and one Margarita-like).

Related points:

The person that pushed this through must be very patient or lucky and/or good. The product seems highly likely to raise a large number of legal issues and controversies. The company’s website (as of a few days ago) tended to underscore the controversies, saying:  “What’s worse than going to a concert, sporting event, etc. and having to pay $10, $15, $20 for a mixed drink with tax and tip. Are you kidding me?! Take Palcohol into the venue and enjoy a mixed drink for a fraction of the cost.” And:

We’ve been talking about drinks so far. But we have found adding Palcohol to food is so much fun. Sprinkle Palcohol on almost any dish and give it an extra kick. Some of our favorites are the Kamikaze in guacamole, Rum on a BBQ sandwich, Cosmo on a salad and Vodka on eggs in the morning to start your day off right. Experiment. Palcohol is great on so many foods. Remember, you have to add Palcohol AFTER a dish is cooked as the alcohol will burn off if you cook with it…and that defeats the whole purpose.

The current Palcohol website is much more tame and also has a short bio for Mark Phillips, the force behind Palcohol. Over the weekend Mark confirmed that he was in fact quite patient about this; he said:  “The TTB was cautious. It took us nearly four years to get the approval.”

California seems to have been way out in front of this with Regulation 2557. We are not aware of directly and specifically relevant TTB rules, and this may well explain why no rules blocked the initial approvals. Many thanks to John for finding these Palcohol approvals among millions of obscure government records.

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43 Responses to “Powdered Alcohol”

  1. April 18th, 2014 at 7:21 pm

    Greg says:

    How sure are you guys about this? It looks to me like TTB approved a *label*, not a product. None of your foreign examples appears to have actually shipped. The process is undisclosed, no one will sell a product or provide a sample to the trade press, to scientists, to reviewers or anyone else. You’re getting some pretty high-profile track-backs for a story of dubious sourcing.

  2. April 18th, 2014 at 7:41 pm

    admin says:

    Greg what more product approval could be done? Yes the label is approved (at least seven versions) and the product formula is approved (see box 10 of each federal approval) and Lipsmark has a distillery permit — which is also not an easy thing to get. If it takes a while to ramp up production and get various state approvals that would not be unusual especially since it’s not like he could have produced before the approvals.

  3. April 18th, 2014 at 11:38 pm

    Greg says:

    “(W)hat more product approval could be done?”

    I guess that’s my question. I see a product formula number (I assume you meant box 11, not 10 which is empty and refers to grape varietals) but I don’t know what that means. I’m hoping you guys do. There’s been rumors about a product like this for several years but as best I can tell no one has ever actually received a packet of powdered and tured it into alcohol. All the news reports read the same. Scientists/students/businessmen/ect. “have developed” a powdered alcohol product which they “hope to ship” shortly. Often there’s a part about the product being thought to sidestep age laws, taxes, or something else. But there’s never a followup story where the product is on a store shelf. Have you tried to contact them through their world’s sparsest web page? http://www.palcohol.com/home.html

  4. April 19th, 2014 at 8:54 am

    admin says:

    Oh, Gary, you are right I meant box 11, not 10. The reference to a formula is very significant. That means the “distillery” submitted a formula to TTB, to explain exactly how each of the products is made. I see about five different formula numbers among the seven label approvals. It means TTB reviewed and approved that formula. It means it is much less likely these labels just slipped through as some sort of aberration. If you are a beer guy, think of it this way. Most unflavored products and many “common” products don’t need a formula approval before label approval. Beer, ale, porter and stout don’t need formula approval. But, um, powderize them or put some juice or flavor or spice in, and you probably need a formula — if nothing else so TTB can figure out exactly what it is. Sometimes it’s not so easy. Is it sake or beer or wine. Is it natural or artificial. Is it kombucha or gluten free and hence not really a “malt beverage.” The other things you mentioned seem right, too. Yeah there should be rumors about all this over the years because the technology is apparently not so new. People have been tinkering with it for years (see Dan’s comments about patents, for example, above in the post). We were getting calls about this over the years but I usually assumed it would be very difficult to get this approved, and that’s why I am so astonished that Lipsmark apparently walked right through an unlocked door. You should also not be surprised it this has not been commercially available in the U.S. in the past because if Palcohol really is first, it would not have been legal to sell this prior to this year. We have not tried to contact Mr. Palcohol and will leave that to “real” journalists. If Mr. Phillips wants to get in touch with me and school me on how he accomplished this great feat, that would be great.

  5. April 19th, 2014 at 12:49 pm

    John Smith says:

    It turns out this was patented by General Foods in 1976 (US3956511), and the patent expired in 1991—anyone can make it. Now, we just dehydrate some cabernet flavor, make it into a dry powder to add to the Palcohol, and instant wine is also here! Adding flavoring could make a new product patentable.

    “In summary, the low sweetness level of these special dextrins is derived from the limited amount of glucose and maltose present, the low viscosity and good solubility and clarity is due to the reduced level of the higher D.P. materials, and the lack of off-flavors results from the use of enzymes for their preparation in contrast to the conventional acid and/or heat dextrinization. These features of the special dextrins make them particularly suitable for the purposes of the invention. It is not known exactly why the dextrins of the invention are capable of fixing surprisingly large amounts of alcohol but it has been established that these dextrins are amorphous substances having excellent “film-forming” properties and have the inherent capability of being converted to a high bulked physical form wherein their effective surface area to unit weight ratio is exceedingly large.”

  6. April 19th, 2014 at 3:24 pm

    Justice Scalia says:

    California’s ABC is out in front of it all right…

    They’re getting their tax money.

  7. April 19th, 2014 at 8:48 pm

    mike hill says:

    One more time, I guess. I got BATF approval for our “SURESHOT” brand powdered alcohol cocktails and hot coffee/cocoa drinks (read ‘latte’) in the late ’70s. Immediate media feast,naturally.

    Took it to test market. Slayed ‘em.

    Great package graphics, taste-panel composition and varieties, etc.
    Offers of buy-outs from the biggest of the big booze boys.

    Why isn’t Bill Gates washing my car? Interesting story.

    These Palcohol gents are certainly naive. Hope they make some money, tho.
    Even though they have already stubbed their toes badly with silly, controversial, marketing intentions… ball games, indeed!

    My wife says she still has video tapes of old network interviews, press clips… I still have some product I think.

    Shooting this to you because my youngest son’s a lawyer, and my daughter said “Dad! Guess what I saw on Google!

  8. April 19th, 2014 at 10:01 pm

    admin says:

    Hey Mike: why isn’t Bill Gates washing your car?

  9. April 19th, 2014 at 11:14 pm

    Michael G. Copeland says:

    Sporting events aside…what happens when underage children began to share these packets at school during lunch, school athletic events and after school parties? It’s bad enough that parents have to worry about their kids when the states and the feds think it’s okay to legalize pot… really? How many kids are going to have to die before we come to the realization that this is really a bad idea and a catastrophe that will have unimaginable consequences. There needs to be a public outcry now and LOUD!

  10. April 20th, 2014 at 12:06 am

    engineer says:

    OK – so exactly what is it and how do I get a supply of it – it will beat the hell out of alcoholic drinks on airplanes.
    Can’t take liquids thru security except for the ubiquitous 1 quart bag with “stuff” inside. This would solve THAT problem.

    how much does this stuff cost?

  11. April 20th, 2014 at 11:24 am

    Don Wright says:

    Mike Copeland I completely agree with what you are saying. This is ridiculous. It needs to be stopped right now before it goes any further. We do not need powdered alcohol in this country. Children and teen deaths will rocket, rapes will climb out of sight, drunk drivers, and accidents will go up. This is a disaster waiting to happen. I hope this is blocked immediately.

  12. April 20th, 2014 at 12:13 pm

    Terrence Baillargeon says:

    Seems to me that whatever the final outcome is, to approve such nonsense is to make the scourge of our highways more efficient and will make it more difficult for alcohol free venues to control ingress of alcohol by those who are irresponsible enough to flaunt regulatory guidelines and rules. I suppose, also that the powdered form will end up being snorted as is almost every other powdered substance. And there are plenty who would utilize this product in an irresponsible manner.

  13. April 20th, 2014 at 12:35 pm

    Bill Downs says:

    How can you push this powder alcohol when we have 10,000 people a year dying from the liquid alcohol because the public is not responsible enough to not drink and drive. Where is your moral standards? Where is your love for humanity? My organization will fight this with our dying breath. The deaths and injuries of this “drug” will be on your hands…

    Bill Downs, Founder
    AVID-Advocates for Victims of Impaired Driving

  14. April 20th, 2014 at 1:59 pm

    Keith says:

    When will you people realize its not about how many people die from the stuff we sale here in the states its about how much money the sorry ass politicians of this country can make & distort ur mind in any form are fashion to get u to see it their way so they can finish giving the rest of this country away.

  15. April 20th, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    admin says:

    Wow Bill who is pushing what?

    What current laws would you enforce more? And what specific new laws would you write?

    It is tough to think of any specific and current laws that this would violate. And if that is the case, do you really think an agency should ban something anyway?

  16. April 20th, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    Keith says:

    Everyone in this country should realize by now if the government can control it & make money off of it it will be legalized. Just put a warning label on it like the pharmaceutical industry does & its all good

  17. April 20th, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    Paul Latta says:

    Clever concept, but bad idea. In my drinking days I would have loved this product. Would have been great for skirting the high cost of booze in restaurants.

    “Sir, would you like a glass of overpriced wine?”

    “No, I’ll just have a glass of water.” Heh,heh, heh.

    You know that some joker is going to slip this powder into some gal’s mixed drink to boost it,get her wasted and then take advantage of her. The new roofies.

    I bet it would be great to cut your cocaine with too.

    It amazes me how we as a species, find such clever ways to poison ourselves.

  18. April 20th, 2014 at 2:31 pm

    Keith says:

    Bill the moral standard & love for humanity has been replaced by the greed for money. It is good to see people like you are still out there & care about people. But the reality of what you are preaching is there is no money in moral and humanity.

  19. April 20th, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    Keith says:

    Paul
    The fact u r amazed at our species poisoning ourselves dumbfounds me because we have been destructive people since we were created by GOD. We as a species beat & nailed Gods only son Jesus to a cross & left him to die. WAKE UP america.

  20. April 20th, 2014 at 3:38 pm

    Keith says:

    The only amazing thing is how we as a so called Christian nation sit back and let gay rights and health care laws get shoved in our lives and were not shoving the 10 laws of God back at the people who are trying to destroy what God created.

  21. April 20th, 2014 at 4:48 pm

    Incredulous says:

    And pot is still classified as a Schedule One controlled substance. I think we know who’s pulling the strings.

  22. April 21st, 2014 at 11:12 am

    Lance Steel says:

    I am still trying to wrap my brain around how this isn’t a prank.

    Dehydrating (removing water) from ethanol can at best yield 200 proof absolute/anhydrous alcohol, which is still a liquid.

    In theory (or perhaps here in reality) one could microencapsulate it to make it dry, but I imagine it would have a greater volume and weight than the free liquid form; plus stressors such as mechanical agitation and heat might rupture microspheres turning it initially into a slurry in the envelope and eventually a matrix-rich lower alcohol product if exposed to air.

    If microencapsulated I don’t see the advantage of this product over a shot of 200 proof alcohol in a packet, unless the idea is to market a Kool Aid type of instant “cocktail” product in which case the microencapsulation would be strictly for convenience/cleanliness sake as opposed to squeezing out a sticky sugar – 200 proof slurry from a packet.

  23. April 21st, 2014 at 11:36 am

    Paul Latta says:

    Keith,
    What really amazes me is that I can make an on-topic comment to a blog post, you then read it and then find yourself dumb.

    As a so-called Christian, have you ever thought that maybe, just maybe, God in his infinite wisdom, put gay people on the earth for the sole purpose of testing how truly tolerant and how truly Christian you are?

    Think about it.

    What would Jesus do if he came across a gay couple that wanted to get married? He would unconditionally love them. And at their wedding reception he would pour powdered alcohol into the water to turn it into wine. He’s just that kind of a guy.

    And he gave us just one commandment: “Love one another.” Man, if we all followed that law implicitly, we’d have a return to Eden.

  24. April 21st, 2014 at 12:04 pm

    Powdered Alcohol Has Arrived | InfoCnxn.com says:

    […] may soon be at a liquor store near you. The product was recently approved for consumption by the Federal Government, which means society could well be on its way to snorting […]

  25. April 21st, 2014 at 2:36 pm

    Maggie Fox says:

    Hi – I’m trying to get in touch with Mike Hill, who commented on this site! Thanks

  26. April 21st, 2014 at 4:36 pm

    Robert says:

    It is not that hard to make. just google 1976 (US3956511) paten
    and start making your own.

  27. April 21st, 2014 at 6:19 pm

    Tim says:

    Physics prevents alcohol from becoming a powder. Ethanol (CH3-CH2-OH, the good alcohol that we know and love) is a volatile liquid. ‘Volatile’ refers to a substance that vaporises (evaporates) readily, and ethanol evaporates extremely quickly, far faster than water (that’s why rubbing alcohol feels cool on the skin: it evaporates rapidly). At room temperature pure alcohol doesn’t last, and can’t be made into or ‘converted’ to powder. It just goes away.

    Want to know more about reality, rather than breathlessly regurgitated crap from clickbait/outrage sites about a fake product? I’d be happy to help: http://www.timvandergrift.com/?p=98

  28. April 21st, 2014 at 6:59 pm

    David says:

    Tim, your understanding of physics is at the grade school level. You clearly have no understanding of encapsulation. Molecules of ethanol can be trapped inside a cyclodextrine, a spherical sugar. So, inside each molecule of cyclodextrine is alcohol. The bulk macromolecular particles appear as a powder. On a molecular scale, it’s a drop of liquid inside of a solid. Google “alcohol powder” and learn.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcohol_powder

  29. April 21st, 2014 at 7:01 pm

    David says:
  30. April 21st, 2014 at 7:26 pm

    Terry says:

    Don’t know if this is how it works, but many chemicals bind to water, and the crystals can be a powder. Under the right conditions, the water can be released. Apparently these dextrins can bind (absorb) alcohol molecules, but when water is added, the alcohol is released and mixes in with the water (remember, most alcoholic drinks are mostly water; beer is typically 85-95% water; wine 80-90% water, etc). Dextrins are non-toxic, often used as thickeners in certain food- like corn starch. May not taste that great, but in a sugary mixed drink like a Pina Colada or margarita, it probably would not be noticed. Doesn’t sound really appealing, but it sounds like it would be ideal for all kinds of shady purposes as mentioned above.

  31. April 22nd, 2014 at 3:24 am

    Chuck Schoeller says:

    Worked with Mike Hill @ SureShot. He’s right. Flew off shelves in test markets. I’m waiting for my car wash too.

  32. April 22nd, 2014 at 9:33 am

    Palcohol Approval Was Government “Error” - TIME says:

    […] Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau granted Palcohol “label approval” on April 8 only to rescind it 13 days later, the Associated Press reports, after news of the product started […]

  33. April 22nd, 2014 at 12:13 pm

    Jeb says:

    David, maybe you should go to Tim’s site and actually read what he wrote. He addresses and confirms your issue but you are missing something right in front of you, basic math. One plus one equals two and two is greater than one.

    This is why Mike Hill, who invented Sureshot decades before this similar product, calls the inventors naive. I’d guess it is far more expensive and less convenient than the “miracle” product we’d like to believe.

  34. April 22nd, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    Justsaying says:

    This is an adult beverage. For those screaming, whining parents, perhaps parenting your child will make a difference! The adult market should not be regulated based on the needs of children. This is why they grow up feeling so entitled. Do your job parents!! Having said that, I would never trust a powdered alchololic drink. Who knows what kind of toxin is required to turn the liquid into a powder.

  35. April 22nd, 2014 at 1:35 pm

    Tim says:

    Hey David, thanks for acknowledging that it only takes a grade-school education to understand the issue here: 100 ml of a fluffy white maltodextrin powder to yield a shot of alcohol does not equal magical ‘powdered alcohol’. It equals a goofy marketing gimmick at a price point probably an order of magnitude higher than just buying a bottle of liquor.

  36. April 22nd, 2014 at 4:10 pm

    brad says:

    Ok, for everyone saying “No! Save the children!” On here… are you fucking retarded? You dont ban steak because a baby can’t chew it. Stop making our government a damn nanny state.
    And to the dude who brought weed in the argument… Marijuana legalization will makes it harder to purchase, not easier. When I was in highschool we could get everything from weed to method, but no alcohol cause you needed 21 yr old friends for that.
    Not to mention, weed testing for sports is the reason we all smoked random research chems from china with no clue on the long term effects instead of weed which is non toxic and only causes reversible mental fog in long term heavy users.

    But seriously, people already drive drunk and its already illegal. The people who do it will continue to, this won’t make reckless behavior more enticing to people who otherwise wouldn’t do it. It is just a new product, a small business, that the big alcohol powerhouses are about to try and shut down.

    You guys are unknowing corporate shills. “Protect the children” is the banner behind which every freedom will be taken from us.
    Don’t blame an object for the person who uses its actions. We don’t ban knives because they can stab, you ban stabbing.

  37. April 23rd, 2014 at 9:14 am

    Palcohol FAQ | Bevlog | beer, wine, spirits trends | beverage blog says:

    […] measures it’s bigger than Rhianna.* So, what happened? This FAQ expands on and updates our original blog post first published on April […]

  38. April 23rd, 2014 at 11:53 am

    David T Killough says:

    100 mL of powder occupies the same volume as 100 mL of liquid. It would be just as convenient to schlep several mini bottles.

  39. April 23rd, 2014 at 2:25 pm

    Mike Hill says:

    Jeez! This blog has become a forum for zealots of every stripe, hasn’t it?
    There are some considered and intelligent submissions, however. (congrats to Tim, Jeb, et al)

    To Chuck Schoeller… hello Chas., it’s been awhile since the halcyon days of SureShot and all the fun cocktails like ‘Tequila Sunrise’ and ‘Apre’sCot’
    and sho’nuf, enough time has gone by so the media is all atizzy again. I’d like to get in touch, but you’ll certainly understand why I can’t give out any contact info. Maybe you could send a personal and confidential e-mail to Bob Lehrman, and he might be kind enough to forward my e-mail address to you… then send your phone number and we can ‘stir-up’ some old times or,
    perhaps, Early Times. Regards.

  40. April 23rd, 2014 at 2:50 pm

    admin says:

    Yeah Chuck and Mike I can put you in touch if you wish and won’t send out your contact information to others.

  41. June 11th, 2014 at 7:33 pm

    Feds Say Powdered Alcohol a Mistake | Indiana Association of Beverage RetailersIndiana Association of Beverage Retailers says:

    […] Lehrman Beverage Law Blog also pointed out more recently that the Palcohol company surrendered its seven approved […]

  42. November 22nd, 2014 at 3:41 am

    bill says:

    Here is my complaint now.a company comes out with a powdered beverage that will impair the user. The comments of death ski rocketing, in creased rapes, increased DUI etc etc. And now you complain. Why aren’t we seeing your complaints on other sites regarding the sale of any alcohol beverage. I agree it shouldn’t be available. But if your going to show your true colors and complain here about it then at least get the testicle fortitude and complaint about all of it.

  43. November 22nd, 2014 at 7:08 am

    Robert C. Lehrman says:

    Where are the “comments of death,” “rapes,” “complaints”?

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