by In the PourLast Updated: 09/12/2017
Gluten is a type of protein which can be found in wheat, barley and rye. People with celiac disease or a gluten intolerance can experience digestive and other issues when ingesting even a small amount of gluten. Some people are more sensitive to others and the symptoms vary on a case by case basis. It is not something to take lightly as gluten can cause permanent damage to the small intestines of celiacs. It is therefore important to know your alcohol and err on the side of caution when drinking out.
Tip: Hangovers have similar symptoms as a gluten reaction. Consider whether you are feeling bad due to excessive alcohol consumption instead of gluten.
If a distilled spirit does not come in contact with gluten post-distillation, there is NO GLUTEN in the final product. The distillation process separates alcohol from all the other ingredients in the mash. Gluten cannot survive distillation as it cannot be vaporized and hence it does not make it into the final product.
However, what happens to the the spirit after the distillation process can possibly contaminate the end product. For example, a vodka may have flavors added post-distillation which possibly contain gluten. Some whiskeys also add their grain mash back in after distillation both for flavor or color.
You may wonder then why all vodka and other spirits do not add “gluten-free” on their bottle labels and the answer comes down to regulations. In order for a product to be labelled gluten-free, the product must be made entirely from gluten-free ingredients (according to the latest TTB ruling). This would rule out most spirits, as gluten protein is present in wheat, rye and barley, which most spirits are made from.
Warning: Glycerin, malt, coloring, flavorings, and other additives can all be added to the distilled spirit. None of these are required to be listed on the ingredients label and many may not gluten-free.
Types of Spirits
Alcoholic drinks which are generally safe are Brandy, Cognac, Calvados, Grappa, Vermouth, Sherry, Port, Ouzo and Triple Sec as these are all distilled from from grapes or fruits. As always, be careful of flavored versions of these liquors as there may be non gluten-free additives.
Gin, Vodka, Rum and Tequila are generally safe unless they are flavored. There are also vodkas and gins made from gluten-free ingredients such as potato, corn and grape if you wish to be extra cautious. Tequila should always be safe if it is made from 100% blue agave — the agave plant is absolutely gluten-free. The only thing to watch out for when drinking tequila is cheaper brands, which may use up to 49% non-agave ingredients. Always check the label for the ingredients and never drink any tequila which is labelled “mixto”.
Whiskey, Rye, Bourbon, and Scotch are a little bit trickier to assess. Technically these are all gluten-free for the same distillation reasons we already mentioned. However, many whiskeys are aged in barrels that are potentially contaminated. There is a barrel-sealing method which uses a wheat paste and this could result in a contaminated spirit. Many celiacs and gluten sensitives can drink these spirits without any reaction so the best bet is to find out whether or not these work for you. Listen to your body, you are the best judge of that.
If you are excessively sensitive or cautious, you could stick to 100% gluten-free liquors. These are made exclusively from gluten-free ingredients only. Here is a short list of options, but please do double check the labels are we cannot guarantee the ingredients do not change or that we have not made an error in our listings:
Gluten-Free Ingredients Vodkas:
- Stoli Gluten Free (corn & buckwheat)
- 44º North Idaho Potato Vodka (potato)
- Cîroc Vodka (grape)
- Hangar 1 Fog Point Vodka (grape)
- Fair. Quinoa Vodka (quinoa)
Gluten-Free Ingredients Gin:
All 100% blue agave tequilas are gluten-free. Here are a few examples:
Gluten-Free Ingredients Rums:
Gluten-Free Ingredients Whiskey:
- Queen Jennie Whiskey (sorghum)
- James F. C. Hyde Original Sorgho Whiskey (sorghum)
- New Southern Revival Brand Sorghum Whiskey (sorghum)