Eat North Answers: Are grain-based spirits gluten-free?

Does the distillation process do away with all gluten-containing grains?

While the world of gluten-free food and beverage offerings has significantly expanded in the last decade or so, it can still be quite challenging to navigate and decipher all of Health Canada’s gluten-free guidelines. 

One particular question appears to be more prevalent than the rest, so we decided to do some detective work into whether or not grain-based spirits can still be offered in gluten-free form

As it turns out, any alcohol that is distilled from gluten-containing grains like rye and barley is generally considered to be safe for celiacs because—assuming good manufacturing practices are followed—the process of distillation will remove pesky proteins like gluten from the liquor. 

Additionally, since any allergen source must be declared by the manufacturer as present in alcoholic beverages, you can feel confident that any liquor labelled as gluten-free will meet the required specifications. 

If the spirit is not labelled as gluten-free it will still very likely be safe for celiacs and the gluten-averse to consume as long as no additional ingredients are introduced after the distillation process, such as flavouring or cocktail mixtures.