Is whisky a truly gluten-free beverage?
When we talk about liquor, the image that comes to mind is always that of an amber liquid. Whisky is the most commonly enjoyed liquor in the world. The name itself has Irish origins, meaning ‘water of life’, but has other variants like Scotch and Bourbon. The liquor itself is made from grains or combination of grains such as barley, corn, rye and wheat. Now we all know that grains contain gluten, yet whiskies are considered gluten-free, so how’s that possible?
Well, let’s find out.
The Distillation Process
The whisky-making procedure includes distilling fermented grain mash and then aging the alcohol in oak barrels. Distillation is the process of heating the fermented mash into vapor and then turning it back to liquid through condensation. In this process, the alcohol separates from the fermented grain mixture. The gluten remains with the solids as it doesn’t evaporate.
Unless gluten is added to the beverage after the distillation procedure, according to the American Dietetic Association, distilled beverages are considered to be gluten-free. So even though whiskies are made with ingredients containing gluten, the end product is considered gluten-free.
Moreover, gluten-free whiskies like Jameson are made using a method known as triple distillation to remove any trace amounts of gluten from the final product and enhance its smoothness.
Any discussion on whether whisky is a gluten-free beverage requires an understanding of the labeling regulations. As per the Celiac Disease Foundation, whisky irrespective of the grains used as ingredients is gluten-free after undergoing the distillation procedure.
Generally, the regulatory agencies don’t allow beverages made from gluten-containing ingredients to be labeled as gluten-free. But, whiskies that undergo the distillation process are allowed to include "processed or treated or crafted to remove gluten" on their labels. Moreover, brands must clearly state that the beverage was produced using gluten-containing ingredients and it cannot be verified that 100% of the gluten was eliminated during the distilling procedure.
However, if you are susceptible to gluten intolerance and wish to avoid grain-based alcohols, you can opt for ones made using ingredients like sorghum. These liquors are allowed to be marketed as ‘gluten-free’ by the regulatory bodies.
Why you may experience some symptoms?
While distillation eliminates most of the gluten from whisky, trace amounts could be left due to laxity in the process. Other possibilities include cross-contamination of the liquor where it’s processed in facilities that handle ingredients comprising gluten. Or, if the distiller is using caramel coloring made from barley malt or un-distilled grain mash for additional flavor. Also, if you are drinking a cocktail, it’s possible that one of the ingredients contains gluten in some form.
Looking for a Gluten-Free Whisky? Pick up Jameson
A recent study of whiskies found Jameson to be one of the truly gluten-free whiskies in the world. Even after 200 years since its first distillation in 1780, Jameson is made using the same process at the Middleton Distillery.
Jameson gets its natural barley flavor from the perfect balance between malted and un-malted barley. It delivers an exceptional smoothness by mastering the proportions of triple distilled Pot Still whiskies and triple distilled grain whiskies. Topping that off, the whisky harmonizes its nutty sweet flavor from the Sherry casks and vanilla toasted notes from the Bourbon casks.
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