“So if it’s made of corn, is it gluten-free?”
I was always torn when answering this question. And I was asked it, many times, when vending craft liquor at a local farmer’s market. My first impulse was to shout “yes! Because all hard liquor is gluten free!” My second was to take the bait and agree that yes, as all of our spirits were made from 100% corn, they were gluten-free.
I usually struck a balance somewhere in the middle, honestly explaining that all spirits are gluten-free, but as ours were made of corn, they were “naturally” gluten free. Which to tell you the truth, means nothing.
Distillation strips a spirit of gluten proteins. Plain and simple. Even if the spirit was wheat based, it doesn’t matter because what you’re avoiding is the protein.
I blame the brands that advertise as gluten-free for exploiting the fears of people who do possess what is indeed a very real allergy. And to those who are gluten-free, I don’t blame you for sticking to spirits made from non-glutenous mash. I mean, if I was really allergic to chocolate, and someone handed me a chocolate bar with the offending allergen stripped out, I probably still wouldn’t eat it.
And look, it’s not that I don’t take allergies really seriously. My brother is so allergic to eggs he’ll go into a state of anaphylaxis if he tastes one. I’m well acquainted and highly sensitive to terms like “cross contamination.” That’s a concern, but having worked at a distillery, it’s not like we throw things in the bottle all willy nilly and there are heaps of grain lying around. Everything is as clean and orderly as it would be in any other food processing facility. The chances of you getting non distilled grain into your whiskey are probably equal the chances of having the distiller’s Subway sandwich thrown into the mix.
If you’re gluten free you might want to avoid certain liqueurs that could have gluten in the added flavoring. But spirits like rum, whiskey, vodka, and gin are always gluten free. Do what you wish, but it would be great to enjoy a dram together.
Images via Shutterstock.com