There has been a lot of mention of gluten free diets in the media in recent years. Reasons for adopting a gluten free lifestyle can range from (the obvious one) treatment of Coeliac disease to a trendy low carb diet. Those with non Coeliac gluten sensitivity can also benefit from a wheat free diet and new food products that take the guess work out of gluten free are starting to become more widely available.

Most supermarkets carry a “free from” range and many companies are starting to label their gluten free food products more clearly so you can tell at a glance. Even beauty products are jumping on the bandwagon. My mum uses a shampoo and conditioner that proudly claims to be “GLUTEN FREE!”, although I’m not sure who’s drinking their shampoo of a morning…

Speaking of drinking, what effect has all this had on the drinks industry? Many of the most popular drinks contain wheat and/or barley, and therefore would be a no go on a gluten free diet. Or is that always the case?

Beer

So most beers are not going to do you any favours if you are intolerant to gluten. Anything made with traditional grains is going to be off limits. The fermentation process used to make beer does not remove the harmful proteins and those with an intolerance need to be careful. Fortunately there are plenty of gluten free beers on the market with more arriving all the time. Awareness of the issue has risen greatly in recent years and most breweries now have at least one gluten free offering.

To be classed as gluten free, a beer has to have less than 20 ppm (parts per million, or mg per litre). One way of doing this is to make the beer from an alternative grain such as millet, rice or buckwheat that does not contain gluten. Another process for making gluten free beer is to use an enzyme during the fermentation process that breaks down the gluten proteins and degrades the gluten levels to below 20ppm. These enzyme treated beers will have a more traditional flavour and aroma compared to alternative grain beers which can smell and taste a little unusual. It is up to the brewery to have their products tested, if they meet the criteria they can then be labelled accordingly.

Whisky

Here’s the good news, it’s not all reading labels and deciphering ppms when you fancy a tipple because… DISTILLED ALCOHOL IS GLUTEN FREE! Yep, that’s right, even though spirits such as whisky and vodka are distilled from glutinous grains like wheat, barley and rye, the gluten proteins are removed during the distillation process. This means distilled alcohol is considered to be gluten free and safe for those on a gluten free diet.

It is worth noting however, that many spirits have added flavourings that are not suitable for those with a sensitivity. These are added after distillation and the proteins would therefore still be present in the finished drink. There is also a risk of cross contamination in any facility that processes products containing rye, wheat or barley as is the case in most distilleries, so care should be taken.

Vodka

Vodka is also distilled, usually from wheat, and will therefore be classified gluten free, however vodka is also commonly flavoured and coloured with additives that might not be. There is also that small risk of cross contamination from the wheat present in the distillery itself.

A good way to be sure your vodka is suitable for a gluten free diet is to go for an alternative style made from potatoes. Perhaps not really so alternative, as vodka has been produced from potatoes for thousands of years. It had fallen out of fashion in more recent times but is currently enjoying a revival thanks to artisan producers and a demand for more interesting products. I’m sure the gluten free movement has also had a hand in it’s resurgence in popularity. Better safe than sorry after all.

Here is a quick peek at a couple of the potato based vodkas we have available:

Nero Premium Vodka

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Nero is made from nothing but 100% British potatoes. There are no additives or sweeteners so you can be sure there are no hidden nasties in this Vodka. The vodka is described as being perfect for people who may react to the glutinous grains used in the majority of vodka. Potato vodka also has the added benefit of a lower calorie count than it’s wheat based counterparts, making it ideal for those who are watching their waistlines.

On the nose: Remarkably little alcohol “burn” on the nose. Very clean with a sweet vanilla fragrance and hints of florals and citrus fruit.

On the palate: Clean and refreshing with soft creamy notes of vanilla, hints of floral sweetness and refreshing citrus flavours.

On the finish: Smooth, creamy and warming but without any harsh afterburn on the finish.

Perfect serve: Designed as a sipping vodka, Nero is best showcased alone without the addition of ice or mixers. Serve well chilled.

Ogilvy Scottish Potato Vodka

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Ogilvy is made from Potatoes grown on the same farm that is home to the distillery. It doesn’t get more locally produced that that! Production is all undertaken on the same site and the ethos behind Ogilvy is “Class production rather than mass production”. It’s a great solution for those looking for a 100% gluten free vodka and when combined with a diet mixer, provides a lighter alternative to wheat based vodkas for those counting the calories.

On the nose: Herbaceous notes of freshly cut grass, hints of apricot, stone fruits, citrus and an earthy nuttiness.

On the palate: Warming and smooth, creamy vanilla sweetness with flavours of citrus fruit and vegetal grassy notes.

On the finish: Long, rich, creamy and warming with citrus notes, a hint of pepper spice and a light wisp of smoke.

Perfect serve: To try Ogilvy in a Martini, combine 50ml vodka with 15ml of vermouth and add ice to your preference. Garnish with a lemon twist.

So there you have it, some gluten free food for thought. Cutting down on your gluten intake doesn’t have to mean you miss out on the odd tipple after all 🙂