Scientists from Japan’s Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute have created an alcoholic beverage made from tree bark.

The drink has a 15% alcohol by volume, similar to that of Japanese rice-wine sake, and is made by pulverising wood into a creamy paste, using an enzyme to obtain sugar from the paste and then adding yeast to ferment the sugar. No heat is used in the process and the researchers claim the final product has a similar taste to alcohol aged in wooden barrels.

They experimented with both brewing and distilling processes, but concluded the product is best when it is distilled.

The scientists have created variants of the product from Japan’s famous cedar, birch and cherry trees. Approximately 4kg of cedar wood can product 3.8 litres of liquid.

Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute team member Kengo Magara said: “We thought it would be interesting to think that alcohol could be made from something around here like trees.”

The government institute aims to collaborate with a private sector partner in order to commercialise the product by 2021. It plans to use woods from different Japanese regions in order to create more specialise products.

The scientists acknowledge this is not the first time wood has been fermented. Biofuel has been produced from wood, but the final product was not suitable for human consumption as it contained toxins.

Magara said: “Our method can make it drinkable, and with a wood flavour, because it does not require high heat or sulphuric acid to decompose the wood.”

The Forest and Forest Products Research Institute was established in 1905 to carry out research on Japan’s forests and related industries.

Other research projects undertaken by the institute include the ability of animals to transport toxic Japanese star anise seeds and the effect of machinery on certain soils