Is Whisky Gluten-Free?
There’s probably nothing better than arriving home after a long day at work and sipping on a glass of whisky to unwind and calm the mind. Whisky is an alcoholic beverage characterised by a brown colour, which is mostly derived from the barrels used for ageing. This drink is enjoyed on a global scale. However, with the celiac disease and gluten allergies affecting people, it’s crucial to ask whether whisky is gluten-free. This question also lingers in the minds of people who are watching their diets.
Why Do People Avoid Gluten?
Gluten is a protein that is found in cereals such as wheat, barley, rye, and triticale. While ingesting gluten is entirely fine for most of the world’s population, it can be downright dangerous to some people. This is because it leads to minor and severe health complications, as explained below.
A small percentage of the world population is intolerant to gluten. After ingesting gluten or cereals and grains like wheat and barley, they experience issues like headaches, chronic sneezing, asthma, stuffy nose, hives, and skin rash. Some people also experience stomach cramps, nausea, indigestion, diarrhoea, and vomiting. In severe cases, they may get anaphylaxis— a life-threatening disease that affects breathing and may send the body into shock. Gluten also affects children, but most tend to outgrow the condition.
This is an autoimmune disorder that triggers an immune response in the small intestine. This response causes inflammation, which damages the inner lining of the small intestines. In turn, this damage prevents your body from absorbing some vital nutrients, thus leading to malnutrition and severe health complications like anemia. By affecting nutrient absorption, celiac disease can also hinder the growth and development of children.
Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity
Some people also experience symptoms associated with celiac. These include mental exhaustion, also known as “brain fog”, gas, general body fatigue, headache, as well as bloating and abdominal pain. While these issues don’t cause any damage to the body, they can be very uncomfortable.
How Do Gluten And Whisky Come Together?
Whisky and all its variations, which include Scotch and bourbon, are made from a variety of grains combined with rye, barley, corn, and more commonly wheat. All of these ingredients contain gluten.
Read on to find out if all whisky is gluten-free.
The Manufacturing Process
The natural process in which whisky is produced actually removes gluten. Whisky is made through fermenting grain mash. The contents are consequently heated to produce vapour, which condenses and becomes liquid. This result is poured into oak barrels for ageing. During the distillation process, the alcohol evaporates and leaves behind the solid content, which includes the gluten.
Despite this knowledge, there are still concerns whether this alcoholic beverage is entirely free of gluten.
Why Do Some People Experience Symptoms Associated with Gluten after During Whisky?
There are instances where some people get adverse reactions after consuming whisky. Some of the symptoms they experience include bloating, nausea, gas or abdominal pain, headache, fatigue, brain fog, joint pain, as well as numbness in the legs, arms or fingers. Others may also experience diarrhoea or constipation. Several issues can cause these reactions:
- The distillation process should remove gluten from the alcohol, but there is a chance that some will pass through. This is particularly true when the process is not performed correctly. That’s why whisky comes with different quality standards.
- There’s could also be a risk of cross-contamination in the processing facility, which happens if someone handles ingredients containing gluten and comes into contact with the distilled product.
- Furthermore, some producers may deliberately add some grain mash to add flavour into the drink. Some also add caramel colouring made from barley malt. These actions introduce quite a lot of gluten into the beverage, hence may cause severe symptoms.
- There is also a chance that a bartender may mix your whisky with other drinks that contain gluten when you order cocktails. For this reason, you should ask before consuming.
What About the Labels
Unfortunately, it’s virtually impossible to look at a bottle of your favourite whisky brand and know whether it contains gluten. The labels cannot help you out also. In food products, you can find labels that indicate the ingredients used in the production, which makes it easy to know whether it contains any allergens. For distilled alcoholic drinks, the situation is entirely different as distillers do not state the ingredients in depth. They are, however, obliged to state if the beverage contains any allergens, but are not allowed to say that their product is entirely free from them even if it’s true. Therefore, the best chance you have is to call the distillery and ask them directly.
Common Brands of Whisky Believed to be Gluten-Free
The following is a list of some common brands of whisky that are gluten-free.
- Chivas Regal– Despite being made from gluten-containing ingredients, the latest portfolio of this drink doesn’t contain any allergens recognised in the European Union.
- Jack Daniel’s Black Label Tennessee Whisky– This drink doesn’t contain carbohydrates, fats, cholesterol or gluten since the distiller ensures that all these compounds are eliminated during the distillation project.
- Glenfiddich Scotch– This alcoholic beverage undergoes two different distillation processes.
- Jameson Whiskey– This whisky is boiled at 140 degrees, and the vapour is condensed to create an alcoholic liquid, which is consequently heated two more times before being aged in a barrel.
- Jim Beam Bourbon- This drink also undergoes a double distillation process.
- Wild Turkey Bourbon– This bourbon is made strictly from organic grains and undergoes a double distillation process and only contains the rich flavour of oak barrel.
- Weller Special Reserve– After undergoing the distillation process, the distiller of this alcoholic beverage conducted a test that indicated it was gluten-free.
Other whisky brands that are gluten-free include:
- Crown Royal Canadian Whiskey
- Johnny Walker Scotch
- Knob Creek Whiskey
Other Alcoholic Drinks that are Gluten Free
There are other alcoholic drinks that are gluten-free. These include:
- Wine – Most wines are gluten-free. Brands you should avoid are those that contain fruit-flavouring and cocktails. Ideally, stick to plain wine.
- Rum and Tequila – Almost all rum and tequila brands are gluten-free, but you should go for top-shelf types as they are likely to be safer than cheaper ones.
- Vodka – Most vodka brands are typically a mix of ethanol and water, which makes them gluten-free. Those that are made with wheat, barley and rye undergo a strict distillation process. Also, avoid any vodka brand that contains flavourings.
Beer is fermented but doesn’t undergo the distillation process, which means that all the contents found in the ingredients are available in the end product. Since most beer brands are made of barley, they most likely have a high concentration of gluten. Although some brands label their products as gluten-free, it would be in your best interest to avoid beer altogether.
With these drinks in mind, you need to note that even if your favourite brand is labelled gluten-free, you need to be extra cautious when consuming if you are gluten intolerant or you have celiac. Also, avoid flavoured versions of whisky since they could be exposed to cross-contamination, and you can’t be sure if the flavouring ingredients contain gluten. Again the best way to be totally sure if your drink contains gluten is to ask the distiller.