The state of Minnesota has scolded Norseman Distillery, a Minneapolis maker of specialty spirits, for using nonfood grade leather in its Leathered Aquavit product and is advising consumers not to drink it.

No illnesses have been reported related to the product, which bears a label alerting consumers to its ingredients. The state's Agriculture Department issued the consumer notice Thursday afternoon. Norseman's owner and master distiller, Scott Ervin, was caught off-guard when the department sent him an e-mail shortly thereafter, demanding the firm immediately stop production.

"We've spent the last eight months going through due diligence, getting approvals at the federal and state level," Ervin said, including the product's formula and labeling. "We then took those certifications to the state — Department of Public Safety's Alcohol (and Gambling Enforcement) division — and were given permission to sell it here in Minnesota."

Aquavit is a spirit made from grain or potatoes. Norseman added the leather for flavoring and distributed its first batch this month. "It's one of our most popular spirits and now I suppose it will be the rarest spirit," Ervin said.

The state agency plans to empty the warehouse of Norseman's distributor on Friday, he said.

The Agriculture Department said a consumer complaint brought the ingredient to its attention.

The department found that Norseman used a "nonfood grade tanned leather (animal hide), which is an unapproved food ingredient."

Minnesota regulators suggest throwing away any bottles consumers may have in their homes or businesses. It was sold in a 750-milliliter bottle.

Norseman had used a raw, pink-colored leather for its infusions.

Ervin said they believed it was of high quality, being third-party certified and lacking in any dyes or colors.

Kristen Leigh Painter • 612-673-4767