Eastside Distilling is Portland, Oregon’s premiere Distillery Row maker of hand-crafted, small batch spirits including bourbon, American whiskey, rum and potato vodka.
Distiller's Corner With Master Distiller Mel Heim
Gluten Free? Free Range?
Natural? What does any of it mean anymore?
Well, at least in the case of gluten, labeling it as such goes beyond marketing and is a matter of safety for a certain portion of the population. In the world of spirits, specifically, information regarding gluten seems to get lost in translation, fabricated, ignored or simply under-reported. Luckily for you I’m about to set the record straight. But first, let’s explore the basics.
What Is It?
Common gluten is a protein, or collection of proteins, found primarily in wheat grass and grains such as barley, rye and wheat. There is also a variant protein in corn, known as zein, which is similar but has a different biological make-up and is typically well tolerated by those with Celiac Disease.
When It’s Bad:
When you have Celiac Disease. I’m not going to foster a debate as to how gluten affects the health of those who do not suffer from Celiac Disease. Every person’s immune and digestive systems differ in strength, tolerance and sensitivity and diets based on individual needs can vary drastically. But for those who do suffer from this auto-immune disorder, gluten enzymes are very harmful to the small intestine and lead to an array of mild to serious symptoms and potential long term problems that affect multiple systems in the body. In this instance gluten is BAD, i.e. HARMFUL.
Getting the Facts:
The following information might blow your mind and is not intended to persuade or dissuade you from drinking certain spirits but to influence your choices as a wholly informed consumer. When executed properly, pure distillate contains ZERO TRACES of GLUTEN. It’s true. The biggest risks with gluten ‘contamination’ come from the post-distillation production of grain spirits.
It is not un-common for producers to add malt extract to the distillate for color and flavor enhancement; hence negating the still’s function as a rectifier. Your best bet is to stick to clear spirits, i.e., vodka (even grain based), rum and tequilas if you experience health problems after consuming gluten. However, science is on your side with brown spirits such as whiskey as long as the producer is forth-coming about their process. Eastside Distilling does not include any enhancers, additives or extracts to ANY of our products’ recipes.
In summation: Pure ethanol IS gluten free, as published by the Celiac Disease Foundation.
I hope you find this information resourceful.