Is Bulleit Bourbon celiac safe?

Quick Answer

Bulleit Bourbon is considered gluten-free by most standards and is generally regarded as safe for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity to consume in moderation. The mash bill (recipe) for Bulleit Bourbon contains corn, rye, and malted barley. While malted barley contains gluten, the distillation process removes nearly all traces of gluten from the final spirit. Independent gluten testing has shown Bulleit Bourbon to have less than 20ppm of gluten, which is well below the FDA threshold of 20ppm for labeling products “gluten-free”. However, there is always a slight risk of cross-contamination during production, so people with celiac disease should exercise caution and drink in moderation when consuming Bulleit Bourbon or any distilled spirit containing malted grains.

About Celiac Disease and Gluten

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes damage to the small intestine when gluten is ingested. Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. For those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, consuming gluten triggers an immune response that causes inflammation and damage to the small intestine. This can lead to symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, fatigue, and weight loss. Over time, the chronic inflammation caused by gluten can result in serious complications like malnutrition, osteoporosis, infertility, neurological issues, and in rare cases, cancer. The only current treatment for celiac disease is strictly and permanently eliminating gluten from the diet [1].

This means it is critical for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity to avoid foods and drinks containing gluten. While many grains and flours contain gluten, it can also be found in less obvious places like sauces, seasonings, beers, and spirits [2]. Even tiny amounts of gluten from cross-contamination can trigger issues in sensitive individuals, so scrutinizing labels and understanding manufacturing processes is important when evaluating if a product is truly gluten-free.

About Bulleit Bourbon

Bulleit Bourbon is a popular “frontier” whiskey produced by the Kentucky Bourbon Distillers. It was founded in 1987 by Tom Bulleit, who created a distinctive high-rye bourbon recipe inspired by his great-great-grandfather’s original Bulleit family bourbon from the 1800s [3].

Some key facts about Bulleit Bourbon [4]:

– Uses a mash bill of 68% corn, 28% rye, 4% malted barley
– Aged between 6-8 years in charred American white oak barrels
– Bottled at 45% ABV (90 proof)
– Produced at the Four Roses Distillery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky
– Uses a sour mash fermentation process
– Has a spicy, oaky, and smooth flavor profile

The malted barley used in Bulleit’s mash bill means that gluten is present before distillation. However, the key question is whether the distillation process sufficiently removes the gluten to make the final product gluten-free.

Does Distillation Remove Gluten?

Distillation is the process of heating and condensing ethanol to concentrate its alcohol content in spirits. The basic steps are:

1. A grain mash containing proteins, starches, and sugars is created.

2. Yeast is added to ferment the sugars into alcohol.

3. The fermented mash is then heated in a still, where the alcohol evaporates at a lower temperature than the water and grains.

4. The alcohol vapor condenses and is collected as the final distilled spirit, while the gluten protein remnants are left behind as the stillage mash.

Research shows that proper distillation removes nearly all traces of gluten from the finished liquor. One study found that in a 100% wheat mash, distillation achieved 100% gluten removal with no detectable gluten remaining in the final distilled spirit [5].

However, there is still a risk of cross-contamination during production, bottling, storage or transportation where gluten could accidentally be introduced. Some spirit experts argue that the absolute safest approach for celiacs is to consume only liquors made from gluten-free grains like corn, rice, sorghum or buckwheat. However, most mainstream medical guidelines consider distilled spirits made from glutenous grains to be safe in moderation [6].

Gluten Testing Results for Bulleit Bourbon

While distillation should theoretically remove gluten, independent lab testing provides more definitive evidence of whether a product contains concerning levels of gluten.

Bulleit Bourbon underwent voluntary gluten testing by the Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG), an organization that certifies products as gluten-free. GIG uses the R5 ELISA test, which is one of the most sensitive and advanced assays for detecting gluten.

The results showed Bulleit Bourbon contained less than 5 ppm (parts per million) of gluten, which falls far below the FDA’s gluten-free labeling standard of 20 ppm. For context, a single crumb of bread can contain up to 100,000 ppm of gluten [7].

Bulleit Bourbon has not applied for formal gluten-free certification by GIG. However, the very low gluten levels provide reassurance that any gluten residues are well below amounts considered unsafe for those with celiac disease or gluten issues.

Other spirit brands like Tito’s Vodka have undergone similar gluten testing with results consistently showing non-detectable or negligible levels of residual gluten [8]. This data affirms that the distillation process effectively removes gluten protein from the final distilled product.

Expert Opinions on Bourbon and Gluten Safety

Given the testing results and distillation chemistry, most experts consider bourbon that contains some malted grains to be low risk for people with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. Here are some opinions from authoritative sources:

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics states:

“Distilled alcoholic beverages that have been derived from gluten-containing grains are also compromised. The distillation process separates the peptides responsible for the immune reaction seen in people with celiac disease.” [9]

The Celiac Disease Center at the University of Chicago says:

“Most patients with celiac disease can tolerate moderate amounts of whiskey, gin, and vodka.” And, “Alcoholic beverages distilled from wheat, barley, or rye should contain no harmful gluten peptides.” [10]

The Mayo Clinic’s gluten-free diet guide includes distilled liquors made from glutenous grains as permitted in a gluten-free diet. It advises drinking in moderation and avoiding those with added flavorings that could contain gluten [11].

The Celiac Disease Foundation states:

“U.S. Federal Regulations require products labeled as gluten-free to have less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten. When produced according to federal standards, beers, ales, lagers and malt beverages that contain malted barley and wheat are clearly not gluten-free. Liquor and liqueurs, while also derived by distilling grains that contain gluten, are processed to remove gluten and are rendered gluten-free.” [12]

Based on this expert consensus, properly distilled bourbon made with a mash bill containing malted barley or other glutenous grains is not inherently unsafe. However, those with celiac disease should still consume in moderation and consider potential risks from cross-contamination.

Special Considerations for Bourbon Drinkers with Celiac Disease

While the amount of residual gluten in bourbon is minimal, those with celiac disease should keep the following considerations in mind:

– Watch for added flavors or colorings in flavored bourbons that could contain gluten – stick to unflavored, straight bourbon.

– Be aware that bourbon can lose its gluten-free status if stored in reused barrels that previously held beer, wheat whiskies, or other gluten-containing spirits.

– Look for verified gluten testing results or gluten-free certifications from reputable third party organizations.

– Monitor intake and be alert to any personal sensitivity – everyone has a different tolerance level.

– Focus on brands with transparent production and good awareness around gluten safety issues. Avoid generic bottom-shelf bourbons.

-Some bourbons distilled overseas may use different processes and standards – purchase bourbon produced domestically.

– If in doubt, look for alternative “grain to glass” gluten-free bourbons made entirely from corn, sorghum, or other non-gluten grains.

Being an educated and selective consumer is key for bourbon drinkers who need to be gluten-free. While the risk is low with most quality bourbons made through proper distillation, each individual will need to determine their personal comfort level.

Is Bulleit Bourbon Safe for Celiacs?

Based on its production process, independent lab testing, and expert opinions, Bulleit Bourbon can be considered safe for most people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity – especially when consumed in moderation.

Key points:

– The Bulleit mash bill contains malted barley, but uses a high percentage of gluten-free grains (corn, rye).

– Bulleit Bourbon is produced domestically using traditional distillation methods that eliminate gluten.

– Independent lab tests show Bulleit Bourbon tests well below the 20ppm FDA threshold for gluten-free status.

– Bulleit parent company Diageo has good awareness of gluten and allergen safety protocols.

– Reputable medical institutions and celiac foundations generally agree distilled spirits made from glutenous grains are safe in moderation.

– Individual sensitivity varies, so people with celiac disease should exercise personal caution.

While not certified gluten-free, and allowing for the possibility of trace cross-contamination, Bulleit Bourbon can be considered a low-risk spirit for people wanting to enjoy bourbon while following a gluten-free diet. However, individuals should make sure to drink in moderation and stay alert to any signs of personal gluten sensitivity.

Other “Safe” Bourbon Options for Celiacs

For those wanting 100% gluten-free peace of mind, here are some highly recommended bourbon brands produced from non-glutenous grains:

Bourbon Brand Gluten-Free Grains Taste Notes
KOVAL Bourbon Millet, corn Light and approachable with a mildly sweet and spicy profile.
Chattanooga Whiskey Corn, sorghum Complex blend with floral aromas and a lingering finish.
JR Ewing Private Reserve Corn, sorghum, millet Smooth and easy-sipping with hints of caramel and vanilla.
Green River 100% Corn Bright and buttery with sweet corn notes.

These “grain to glass” gluten-free bourbons use no wheat, barley, rye or other gluten-containing ingredients. They offer the traditional bourbon experience while giving peace of mind to those with severe gluten issues or very high sensitivity.

The Bottom Line

In summary, Bulleit Bourbon contains trace amounts of gluten far below the FDA gluten-free limits and is considered safe for most celiac patients when enjoyed in moderation. However, individuals should monitor themselves for any adverse reactions. Those wanting to eliminate all gluten-related risks can look for alternatives specifically crafted from 100% gluten-free grain recipes, like sorghum or corn-based bourbons. While gluten concerns need consideration, those on a gluten-free diet can still enjoy great-tasting bourbon responsibly without significant health risks.

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