Does Maker’s Mark bourbon have gluten? Is Buffalo Trace gluten-free? If you’re wondering whether bourbon whiskey is safe for gluten-free diets, I’m sharing a handy resource that covers all the bases. Let’s get into it!
Bourbon is a type of American whisky that, by definition, is made from 51% corn or maize, and 49% grain mash. So, while the corn and maize are gluten-free, the remaining mash is often made from gluten grains like wheat, rye, or barley. Like many grain alcohols, what makes bourbon technically gluten-free is the distillation process.
The harmful gluten proteins in the mash are removed during distilling. As a result, according to beyondceliac.org, bourbon is mainly considered safe for gluten intolerances and celiacs.
That being said, if you’re still wondering about whether bourbon might affect your gluten-free diet, read on as we dig into the nitty gritty.
Related: Are Oats Gluten Free?
Even though something is considered gluten-free, the risk is never zero unless a product is 100% certified. The same holds true for bourbon whiskey.
Bourbon cannot legally carry the label “gluten-free” per The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) because, at the end of the day, it’s still partially made from gluten grains. Also, as with other uncertified gluten-free foods and beverages, there’s always the pesky business of cross-contamination and additives (more on this below).
So, while distilled bourbon is generally safe for celiac and non-celiac intolerances, you need to do what’s best for you. Always consult with your doctor, and try small amounts with caution at first.
Many common bourbon brands, including Maker’s Mark, Knob Creek, Jim Beam, Bulleit, Buffalo Trace, and other pure bourbons are considered gluten-free. I’ve cooked with Henry McKenna before, as it’s a good value bourbon for the money, without any issues.
Another option for gluten-free bourbon is corn bourbon. This is made from 100% corn or maize without the grain mash. While they make no claims to be 100% gluten-free, distilled bourbons like Hudson Baby Bourbon, Yellow Rose Outlaw Bourbon, and Balcones Texas Blue Corn Bourbon may be worth a shot if you find that you react to most traditional bourbons on the market.
Of course, if you’re highly sensitive to gluten, things like cross-contamination and additives will always pose a risk. Depending on how grains like wheat, barley, and rye are handled in the distillery, gluten can occasionally find its way into bourbon after it’s been distilled.
It’s also important to note that “gluten-free” only applies to pure, distilled bourbon (see the section above). Some bourbon whiskeys contain flavorings, colorings, or additives, and these aren’t always free from gluten-containing ingredients. Always pay attention to labels, and it’s best to err on the side of caution if you’re not sure.
If you’re on the fence about cooking with bourbon if you have gluten sensitivity, the good news is there are good alternatives. The flavors may be affected slightly, but most recipes turn out great with one of these bourbon substitutions:
Of course, these won’t substitute bourbon on the rocks, or in a cocktail. In this case, you may want to consider an alcoholic alternative – see the next section.
Finally, if you’re concerned about the risks of consuming grain alcohol altogether, there are plenty of options to enjoy instead. You’ll find vodkas, rums, and also many gluten-free beers and wines that are made without gluten ingredients.
For even more guidance on which foods and ingredients are safe for gluten-free diets, check out my Gluten-Free Food List – What You CAN Eat on a Gluten-Free Diet.
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