I have been blissfully unaware of the debate about whether or not gin is gluten free. In the US it has to be designated as gluten free, whereas in the UK there is wide acceptance that the distillation process removes the gluten. However, some sensitive coeliacs can react to gins that somehow retain a trace of gluten in the distilled spirit – thankfully I am not one of them.
The spirit from which most gins are made is mass-produced and distilled from fermented grains, which include wheat and barley. What I did not know until recently was that many of the more mainstream gins are produced from this bought-in generic white spirit which is then flavoured to create the unique nature of each gin. Scotland, is a country that has a great artisan gin vibe building up, and finding gin that has “traceability” means you know where the spirit has come from. The good Scottish producers are catching on to the wish of consumers to know more about product sourcing.
One such is Arbikie’s Kirsty’s gin. Pronounced ar-bee-kee, the core spirit for this new gin is produced from potatoes grown on a farm in Arbroath which has been farmed by four generations of the same family. So not only has the spirit in Arbikie’s delicious tipple never been near any gluten containing ingredients, the drinker also knows it has come from a well managed and family run farm which has a focus on sustainability and good farming techniques. Distilled in a copper still and then flavoured with some seriously unusual and exciting botanicals including kelp, blaeberries and something called carline thistle (do I know what this is? No, but it sounds amazing), this is a wonderful example of a locally sourced and produced gin.
This gin has that essential underlying juniper flavour, which is the most important element in gin, in my view – I do not appreciate overly spicy and flavoured gins. It has a kick to it, possibly from the kelp, and it also has a lovely dry freshness that the blaeberry does not take away by making it sweet. It is a great product and went down well in my gin-drinking family.
The bottle is marked “gluten free” and while the product is not aiming to hit the niche in which we GF people find ourselves, there are plans to market in the US where the guidelines on gluten free labelling are more stringent – and I think anyone would love the back story of this product.
For the gin lovers amongst us, I can tell you that it is hard to find out which gins are guaranteed gluten free, though by UK standards they all are as the gin should not pass through the process. However, I have come to the conclusion that the best thing to do is to just keep testing them all!
In Edinburgh Arbikie can be found in: Cranachan & Crowdie; The Whisky Still; Royal Mile Whiskies; Valvona & Crolla; Great Grog and The Whisky Trail. You can also buy online.