A trend has appeared over the last year, where customers are asking if ‘Explorer’s Gin’ is ‘free-from’?
WHAT IS 'FREE-FROM'?
Free From is a term used to denote food and drink that has been designed to exclude one or more ingredients to which at least some consumers can have either an allergic or an intolerance.
What is an Allergy?
An allergy is usually defined as a specific response by the immune system to a substance which it mistakenly believes to be harmful.
What is an Intolerance?
An intolerance is when a person suffers an adverse reaction to a substance or a particular food, which has not sparked an immune system response.
These responses are normally classed as intolerances or sensitivities and have a very wide range of causes, symptoms, and degrees of severity. Some conditions, such as coeliac disease are caused by specific foods or food components, such as gluten.
RISE OF THE LIFESTYLER
The food and beverage industry has seen a major shift in consumerism due to the rise ‘lifestylers’ and social media. These lifestylers, rather than those affected by intolerances, are driving the trend towards ‘free-from’ foods and drink. It is estimated 1 in 10 consumers are making the switch to gluten and lactose free produce, whilst 97% of households now buy some form of food or drink that has been labelled as ‘free-from’. Where once it was the specialist ‘Whole Food Market’ shops selling these items, supermarkets shelves are crammed with products proudly labelled ‘Gluten Free’ or ‘Lactose Free.’
The spirits industry has seen brands seize this marketing opportunity by labelling their spirits as ‘free-from’. Whilst the ‘low-and-no-alcohol’ category can also be seen proudly displaying labels declaring that they are gluten, vegan and lactose free thus ticking all the boxes for urban millennial.
But how is alcohol free-from these elements?
Most distilleries will use wheat, barley, or rye for the base of the spirit. They all contain gluten. The grains are then mashed and fermented before being distilled.
During fermentation, the gluten protein is broken down but not removed. It is during distillation that gluten is removed from alcohol, as the protein is both heavier and non-volatile unlike alochol and is unable to pass across in vapour form. The collected alcohol is neutral in flavour and has to be 96% ABV so that it can be used for making gin. The alcohol is called neutral grain spirit (NGS).
At Downton, we then add our botanicals to the NGS prior to further distillation. Explorer’s Gin s a London Dry, meaning nothing is added to the gin post distillation except our spring water to bring it down to bottling strength.
Do some Gins and Spirits contain Gluten?
Yes, they can, as some distilleries will add flavouring or other ingredients post distillation. Facilities may process gluten products so cross contamination could occur. If unsure check the label or contact the distillery, they should be able to inform you.
Sugar is a heavier particle and non-volatile, meaning it is left behind during the distillation process. We do not add any sweetners or flavours post distillation.
Do some Gins and Spirits contain sugar?
Please note that ‘flavoured’ gins and ‘old tom’ styles will have sugar added to them, a previous article discussed how much sugar was going into pink gins.
Lactose is a type of sugar found within milk. At no point in our process do we use any form of diary.
There are some distilleries that use ‘Whey’ to create their NGS, but all forms of lactose are lost within the distillation process and are therefore safe to consume.
Good news, yes, it is. There are no non-vegan ingredients within Explorer's Gin or Chilli Tails.
What Ingredients are viewed as non-vegan friendly?
The following non-vegan friendly ingredients can be found within alcohol.
- Honey is often added as a sweetener (Old Toms)
- Milk and cream can be found within liqueurs to give a creamy, rich flavour (Bailey’s)
- Whey, casein, and lactose can be used as ingredients.
- Egg white protein is often used as a fining agent in wine.
- Gelatine can be used as a fining agent.
- Carmine, a red dye made from scaly insects called cochineal, is added to some alcoholic beverages for colour.
Some of the above will be found within some brands and styles of gin. The Gin Guide by Paul Jackson is informative as to which brands use what.
All 'London Dry Gins' including Explorer’s Gin will tick all the boxes for being ‘free-from’. If you are in doubt check the back label and contact the distillery. Downton Distillery will be marking up it's products to show which 'free-from' criteria match our products.
If you think you might have an intolerance try the 'York Test', I did this last year and thought it was well worth the cost.