In Liquor-Related News…

whisky.jpgRecently Paula Guran at Juno Books posted a great article about absinthe on the event of St. George Spirits in Alameda getting the legal okeedokee to offer the greeny liquor for sale. It’s been illegal in the US, though available illicitly, since the teens.

The initial run of absinthe from St. George sold out almost immediately; I had some at a New Year’s Eve party and it was freakin’ awesome. For those who don’t know, absinthe is a licorice-tastin’ liquor that’s bright green, gets cloudy with water, and is often served poured over a sugar cube. It is very strong and very much to my taste. It was a favorite of freaky artistic types in the Belle Époque, so how very strange that I should like it.

I also posted on Techyum about the liveness of whiskey reference site Whiskipedia:

I have been a devoted whisky drinker for some time, and have always been kind of horrified at the lack of simple and accessible info about whisky on the web; there are a handful of great blogs but not a good reference source.

Now there is, or (hopefully) will be. A post on The Scotch Blog alerts me to the fact that my prayers have been answered: Whiskipedia is live.

In related news, back in October there was an interesting article on moonshine from Slate:

Two Georgia men pleaded guilty on Wednesday to charges of operating a moonshine still in the Chattahoochee National Forest. One of the bootleggers faces up to 35 years in prison for his crimes: making the brew, selling it, and not paying taxes on the proceeds. Back in college, the Explainer had friends who brewed their own beer, and that wasn’t against the law. So why is moonshine still illegal?

Read more here. Lately I have been thinking a lot about what goes into liquor, as I appear to have a pretty serious wheat sensitivity, which limits what I can drink (as well as what I can eat, but who cares about that?). Not that I was planning on operating a still, but the idea had certainly crossed my mind given how hard it is to find liquor I can drink any more.

Eliminating wheat from my diet rules out most vodkas and other grain alcohols, but it’s really ambiguous from the available medical information (both mainstream and hippy-dippy) whether my beloved Scotch is a problem. From real-life experimentation, it is. Scotch is made with barley and has “other whole grains” added, and the other whole grains appear to include wheat. Doesn’t seem like the allergens should make it through the distillation process, but they seem to based on my, er, experimentation.

For the time being my working hypothesis based on what I’ve observed and read is that barley is OK for me (which it isn’t in sufferers of true Celiac Disease), and so is rye. That means that bourbon may or may not be OK for me to drink; corn whiskey, Canadian whiskey and Irish whiskey are also ambiguous, as they may or may not include wheat and distillers are typically close-mouthed about their ingredients. Rye whiskey, of which about 4 varieties are available locally, is distilled from rype instead of barley but may also contain wheat. Bushmill’s Single Malt says it is distilled from 100% barley; having had it, I can say it rocks, and it also is $35 a bottle.

Back down in my price range, the kind folks at Jim Beam inform me in an email:

Our bourbon is made from the fermentation of corn, rye, and malted barley. The fermented Bourdon is then distilled and aged in oak barrels. It is known that gluten can be found in the small grains such as rye, barley, oats, etc. However, it is generally accepted that the process of distillation excludes gluten in the finished product.

That’s about it…. most other whiskeys seem to not say what they don’t contain, just occasionally what they do. If barley and rye are safe, then Jim Beam is safe, though they seem to also be saying that even wheat-distilled whiskeys should be fine. Incidentally, they also advise me to speak with my physician about whether I should drink, which would doubtless be immensely helpful.

Similarly, Budweiser seems to be made of barley and rice, with no wheat invited. I am a little of a whiskey snob but not much of a beer snob at all, though I do enjoy the fine brewskis. Looks like it’s Bushmill’s single malt, Jim Beam and Budweiser for me for the time being… a strange cocktail, but oh so appropriate for the convention in Vegas next week. What kind of lunatic could make it through that clusterfuck sober?

Image from Wikipedia.

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