MONTREAL – Like many Canadians, Phoenix-based inventor and oenophile Mark Phillips loved the outdoors, and after a long hike, relished a “refreshing adult beverage.”
But he faced what he considered a serious dilemma. When hiking, camping or kayaking, he didn’t want to lug around bottles of alcohol to enjoy later.
So Phillips came up with an ingenious solution: powdered alcohol.
“One package weighs about an ounce and is small enough to fit into any pocket,” Palcohol’s official website notes.
“In any situation where weight and breakage is an issue, Palcohol provides the answer. That’s why we say, ‘Take your Pal wherever you go!'”
Recently approved by the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), the powdered alcohol hit a hiccough on its way to American shelves.
The TTB published the company’s proposed labels on its website as part of its standard approvals process, leading many curious imbibers to the Palcohol website, and to some sensational, “edgy” marketing copy.
According to the company, some of the website pages were still in draft form and weren’t meant to be viewed by the general public.
“There was a page visible on this site where we were experimenting with some humorous and edgy verbiage about Palcohol. It was not meant to be our final presentation,” the company said on its website.
“Even though the old verbiage was a bit edgy, we clearly stated then, and still remain adamant, that Palcohol should be used in a responsible and legal manner.”
Reportedly, the TTB has since rescinded its approval, but the company confirmed Tuesday that its product has been approved and it is just waiting for final label sign off.
Given the amount of misinformation and number of rumours, here are five things you need to know about Palcohol.
What is it?
Palcohol is premium vodka and Puetro Rican rum sold in white powder form. Each packet contains the equivalent of five ounces (or 80 calories worth) of alcohol, which, once mixed with liquid, is equal to a standard mixed drink. Users add water to one of the four flavours: Cosmopolitan, Mojito, Powderita and Lemon Drop, and voilà, an instant, gluten-free cocktail! Palcohol contains alcohol, natural flavourings and a sweetener called Sucralose.
Why have I never heard of it?
While it has shaken and stirred up a lot controversy over the past few days, the idea of hooch dust is not that new. Companies around the world like Spike Your Juice (EU), Subyou (Germany), Booz2Go (Netherlands) and Sato Foods (Japan) have all tried to get powdered alcohol sales off the ground.
Is it available in Canada?
According to Phillips, powdered alcohol is just like liquor, only in another form. He said he expects it to sell it anywhere liquor can be legally bought in the U.S. and online by the fall of 2014, and the he hopes Palcohol will be available in Canada soon.
“We will be working toward approval in Canada but we don’t have a time frame at this time,” Phillips told Global News. He also confirmed that Palcohol has not been submitted for approval in Canada.
Health Canada could not comment on whether an application was pending, but it did note that alcohol products sold in Canada were clearly defined by a set of standards and must be sold through liquor control boards.
Can it be snorted?
Its format has drawn comparisons to another white powder, leading many on social media wondering whether Palcohol can be snorted; however, the company’s response to snorting powdered alcohol was unambiguous: “We have seen comments about goofballs wanting to snort it. Don’t do it!”
It also confirmed that extra volume has been added to the powder to ensure that it would take a massive amount up the nose (more than half a cup) to get the kick of one drink.
So what’s the big deal?
Described by some as a “just add water and start boozing” product, many have expressed concern that Palcohol could make it easier for under-aged drinkers to access alcohol, for users to binge drink and for everyone to underestimate the damaging health effects of chronic alcohol use.
It’s a fact that Canadians love their alcohol. According to a 2012 Canadian Alcohol and Drug Use Monitoring Survey (CADUMS), 78.4 per cent of Canadians consumed alcohol over a 12 month-period and risky alcohol consumption, common in under-age youth, young adults, and males up to age 54, is on the increase.
The team at Palcohol seem to be conscious of the fact that the product could be abused and advise on its website that Palcohol should be consumed responsibly and treated like any other form of alcohol.
What do you think? Should Palcohol be available in Canada or is it too risky?