The SCD Diet and Alcohol: Part III – The SCD Guide to Liquors

by Steven Wright

In Part II, we discussed wine which is made through the process of fermentation. In this guide, we will examine liquors, which are drinkable liquids containing ethanol made by distilling fruits, grains or vegetables. If you missed Part I, make sure you go back and read it to have a better understanding of how alcohol affects your digestive system.

Understanding Liquor and Liqueur

A liquor, or spirit, is a liquid of at least 20% alcohol by volume (ABV) made using a distillation process. A liqueur, or cordial, is an alcoholic beverage that is made with added sugar and flavored with spices, herbs and or other aromatic flavor enhancers. A liqueur can be of any alcoholic content by volume where as most liquors are federally mandated to be at least 40% ABV. Labeling laws of developed countries are the one clue we can use to decide if an alcoholic drink is legal on the SCD diet. If a bottle of liquor doesn’t specifically call out what kind of product it is (whiskey, vodka, etc.), then it is probably certain to be a liqueur of some type. To get familiar with the many types of liqueurs check out this list.

The Illegal List

If you are anything like me, you’ll want to understand more about why certain types of alcohols were illegal. I already covered sweet and dessert wines in part II. Beer is in the same boat with sweet wine, the fermentation process isn’t completed therefore beer contains plenty of sugars, grains and is made using yeast (illegal). We covered why Liqueurs and cordials are illegal and yes American Schnapps is a type of liqueur. But what about Brandy, Cognac, Port Wine, and Sherry?

Brandy is considered a spirit and is made from distilling wine, however the problem lies in the fact that most brandy is finished with sugar and caramel color additives. Cognac is actually a type of brandy that is very heavily regulated. I originally had high hopes only to find out that it is usually finished with sugar and caramel additives as well (except probably some extremely expensive brands). Port wines are wines that are prematurely stopped during the fermentation process by adding a natural grape spirit called aguardiente. This leaves residual sugars in the port wine making it illegal. Lastly, Sherry is drink that starts off as a fully fermented wine but then it is fortified with brandy making it illegal.

The Legal List

Vodka

Vodka is considered by many to be the “cleanest” liquor available. This is because it has the lowest level of fusel oils and congeners compared to other liquors (all distilled alcohols will contain some level of these by-products). Vodka can be distilled from any plant matter high in sugars or starches. Many types of vodka are made from grains such as corn, rye, wheat, and sorghum. However, vodka is also made from potatoes, molasses, sugar beets, soy beans and grapes. Vodka is usually distilled multiple times and distillers use many means of filtering (usually charcoal) to eliminate colors and flavors. This is what contributes to vodka being considered the cleanest of liquors.  In the United States and Europe, by law vodka cannot have a distinct aroma, character, color or flavor. Vodka is normally distilled to at least 80% alcohol and sometimes as high as 96% ethanol. It is then cut down by water to 40% for sale.

Gin

Gin is a distilled liquor flavored from juniper berries and made from any type of neutral spirit (odorless, colorless, flammable alcohol). Gin, by law, is created two different ways. In what is considered the higher quality; a neutral spirit is re-distilled with the addition of juniper berries to flavor and create gin. The second method is called compound gin and it is created by mixing neutral spirits with “natural flavorings” without re-distilling the liquid to get the juniper berry taste. Gin’s natural flavors are usually citrus and spices. There are many different types of gin defined by international law, the largest and most well known subgroup of gin being London dry gin. London dry gin can be flavored in any way but no sugar can be added and it can only be cut down with water (usually distilled to at least 80% ABV). Gin is required by law in the U.S. to be at least 40% alcohol.

Whiskey

Whiskey is distilled liquor made from grain mashes. Whiskeys are strictly regulated worldwide and can be made from several types of grains including: barley, malted barley, rye, malted rye, wheat and corn (maize). Whiskeys are broken down into sub-classifications based on the grain that is used. However, all whiskeys are distilled to 80 to 90% ABV and then cut down with water. Whiskey obtains most of its flavoring from the type of cask (usually wooden) it is used to age in. Even without understanding the sub-classifications of whiskeys it is useful to know that all whiskeys are legal on the SCD diet.

  • Bourbon Whiskeys are primarily American whiskeys made from at least 51% corn mash
  • Rye Whiskeys are broken down into two sub-types: American rye whiskey, which is made from at least 51% rye, and Canadian rye whiskey, which doesn’t necessarily have to be made from rye but most possess characteristics of Canadian rye whiskeys to be labeled a rye whiskey
  • Corn Whiskey must be made from at least 80% corn mash
  • Scotch Whiskeys are required by international law to be made in Scotland. They are distilled two or three times and then aged for a minimum of 3 years in oak casks
  • Irish Whiskeys are required by international law to be made in Ireland. They are usually distilled 3 times and are required to be aged in wooden casks for at least 3 years

The “Drink at Your Own Risk” Liquors

Rum and Tequila are not called out in the legal/illegal list on pecanbread’s list. However, I did find an old letter from Elaine saying that consuming light rum was okay but not dark rum, but I was unable to find anything in the SCD world that speaks on Tequila.

Rum

Rum is made from sugarcane by-products such as molasses and sugarcane juice. It is produced by adding yeast and water to the sugarcane by-product to start the fermentation process. Once fermentation has taken place the resulting liquid is distilled. After the distillation process the rum is usually aged in wooden barrels or metal casks. Rum is a rather unregulated word that leaves producers open to use any kind of production process. Because of this rum can only be broken down into general sub-classifications:

  • Light Rums, also known as sliver or white rums, have very little taste and are usually filtered after the distillation process to remove coloring
  • Gold Rums, also known as amber rums, have more color and flavor than light rums due to being aged longer in wooden barrels and are not usually filtered
  • Dark Rum, also known as black rum, are darker in color and have a stronger flavor than gold or light rums. This is usually due to be them being aged longer in charred wooden barrels. The taste is usually slightly spicy with caramel and molasses overtones.  These are the types of rums usually used in baking
  • Spiced Rums, which get their flavors from added spices and sometimes caramel, and many times artificial coloring or flavoring is used

Based on the fact that Elaine stated she was okay with the occasional use of light rum, I think it is fair to assume that light and gold rums are relatively safe to consume on the SCD diet. When evaluating dark and spiced rums, the picture becomes a bit more clouded unless you get written validation from the manufacturer that these rums may have artificial additives, therefore making them SCD illegal. I would also caution people that rums are made using yeast which may or may not be completely consumed during the fermentation process making rum a more risky liquor to consume on the diet.

Tequila

Tequila is a blue agave based spirit. It is produced mainly around the city of Tequila, Mexico (hence its name). The production starts by harvesting the piñas (core) from the blue agave plant. The piñas are then broken down and yeast is added to start the fermentation process. After fermentation is complete, tequila is usually distilled 2 or 3 times. The tequila is then diluted down to be sold at 40% ABV. There are two main types of tequila: the first is made using only the blue agave during the production process and it is called 100% agave (heavily regulated by the Mexican government). The other type of tequila, called mixtos, are made up of blue agave and up to 49% of other sugars. Per Mexican guidelines to be called “tequila” the liquor must be made in Mexico, made with 100% natural ingredients, and contain at least 35% ABV.

My take on tequila is that you should probably avoid it while on the SCD diet. According to the Mexican government regulations, all natural ingredients must be used in the production of tequila. Manufactures may add caramel coloring, glycerin, and sugar based syrups to flavor it. Also remember that yeast is used to ferment the blue agave sugars which could cause trouble for people with digestive problems.

Wrapping It Up

If you choose to indulge in a drink or two on the SCD diet you will probably not cause any significant digestive repercussions. However, in my mind there are two key points to take home from our discussion of alcohols. The first is that moderation is the key; stick to one to two drinks once or twice a week at most. The second is to become informed and diligently choose a type of SCD legal alcohol to drink.

Hopefully this article has cleared the air around consuming alcohol on the SCD diet. However, if you think I left anything out or want a more thorough explanation leave some feedback below.

-Steve

Is Your Body Secretly Suffering from a Leaky Gut?

Take this 3-minute quiz to find out if you have the #1 problem missed by modern medicine... Take the Quiz NOW
(NOTE: The results of this quiz could save your life)

About the author

Steven Wright Steve Wright is a health engineer and author. In 2009, he reached a breaking point when IBS took over his life and the doctors didn't know how to help. Since then, he has transformed his health and started SCDLifestyle.com to help others naturally heal stomach problems. You can check out his story here and find him on Google+, Facebook or Twitter.

The Specific Carbohydrate Diet Works

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

jem wong July 20, 2012 at 2:29 pm

Hi guys,just like to clarify…. Bailey’s is consider liquer I think but is made from whiskey.. who illegal or legal?

Reply

Steven Wright July 20, 2012 at 2:45 pm

@ Jem It is illegal, it usually contains milk proteins and colorings that aren’t a good idea to be drinking.

Reply

Bessie September 9, 2012 at 3:12 pm

How soon after starting scd can you indulge in a drink or two on a weekend?

Reply

Steve Wright September 14, 2012 at 11:28 am

You can start whenever you think it won’t hurt your healing progress. So if your still having acute digestive symptoms it’s probably a bad idea.

Reply

Kathy March 18, 2013 at 3:11 am

Are all Vodkas SCD legal?
Are there certain Vodkas that are better than others for some reason?
Is Vodka made from grians considered to be gluten free?

Reply

Steven Wright March 19, 2013 at 11:03 am

As far as we know all vodkas are legal.

Reply

Lez December 12, 2013 at 5:30 pm

Vodkas that contain wheat are illegal, like grey goose.

Reply

Kyle December 17, 2013 at 4:24 pm

All the harmful components of the wheat will have been converted to alcohol, or discarded, making “most all” vodka legal unless they did not follow regulations.

Reply

Brian April 8, 2013 at 7:45 pm

Is vermouth legal? I think they are considered fortified wines. Should they be treated like wines?

Reply

Ryan March 28, 2014 at 1:23 am

Hi Steve
I loved your take on alcohol’s legality while one is on scd. I’m from India where whiskies are commonly blends based on neutral spirits that are distilled from fermented molasses with only a small portion consisting of traditional malt whisky, usually about 10 to 12 percent. But they do go through a tripple distillation process. Are molasses based whiskies ok in moderation when one is on Scd due to SIBO???

Reply

lakeland fl live entertainment April 8, 2014 at 11:00 pm

May I simply say what a relief to find somebody who really knows what they are discussing on the internet.
You certainly realize how to bring a problem to light and make it important.
More and more people have to look at this and understand this side of the story.
I was surprised that you aren’t more popular because you certainly possess the gift.

Reply

John September 9, 2016 at 3:50 pm

I’m sorry to say but my experience with alcohol contradicts a good part of this list.

First and foremost, I have found Tequila to be the cleanest alcohol around, especially 100% agave blancos which are not allowed to have any additives.

Whiskeys generally make me sick, lethargic and give me a headache. The distillation process is not as foolproof as people think and gluten compounds do make it through to the final product. The same goes for any vodka distilled from grain.

Even corn based vodkas and other clear liquors give me brutal hangovers, while aged tequilas and even brandy gives me little issue. I’m not sure if that relates to gut issues but it might be worth noting.

All in all the only thing I would recommend drinking based on my experience would be tequila. Aged rums and brandy would come second but they almost definitely have added sugar.

Reply

Mariel Heiss September 12, 2016 at 2:45 pm

Hi John – thanks so much for sharing your experiences with alcohol! This just goes to show we’re all one-of-a-kind and just because it works for me, doesn’t mean it will work for you!

Reply

Keny Delgado May 22, 2017 at 8:44 am

Hi!
What about Sake? I have been drinking it, not always, just on special ocassions, and I feel ok, is it legal?

Reply

Lori Jo Berg May 22, 2017 at 1:52 pm

Hello – Sake isn’t legal but it’s up to you to find out what you can tolerate on occasion and it sounds like you’ve done that:)

Reply

Leave a Comment