Is whisky gluten free?

Yes. Only the most allergic risk any issue as the distillation process, particularly of grain whiskies removes most of the protien. All products that contain less than 20 ppm (parts per million) of the protein are considered gluten-free. This whisky can be said to be gluten-free.

Those with celiac disease cannot tolerate most grain products and should avoid them. Scotch whisky is also made from grain. In the case of single malts, malted barley comes into the stills, with blends it is a mixture of different types of grain. Nevertheless, whisky is gluten-free and can also be enjoyed if you are intolerant to gluten. As mentioned above, various cereals containing gluten are used to produce whisky. This does not matter because of the way it is made, as the gluten is no longer in the finished spirit.

Gluten is removed when making whisky

When producing whisky, a mash is first prepared, which (similar to beer) is fermented by yeast cultures. In the wash backs, the solid components of the grain are separated from the liquid. The wash is a cloudy liquid that can still contain gluten.

Now the whisky is distilled: Scottish single malts are usually distilled twice in pot stills. Grain whisky is also distilled for Scotch blends (e.g. Johnnie Walker, Chivas Regal, Ballantine’s etc.). The distillation takes place in so-called column stills, high column stills, which can continuously produce alcohol.

Both types of distillation are sufficient to make the whisky gluten-free. Even fine traces of the protein are removed. This is also confirmed by renowned organizations such as the Scotch Whisky Association and the UK Celiac Society.

Why are most whiskys not certified as gluten free?

The Europe wide gluten-free symbol with the crossed-out ear of wheat can now be found on a number of products in the supermarket. In principle, this would also be possible for whisky. For this, however, a license agreement would have to be concluded with the responsible celiac disease company. An effort that most whisky manufacturers probably shy away from.

Is anything added to the whisky after distillation?

Some online guides on celiac disease or gluten intolerance read that only single malts are gluten-free. Other types of whisky, such as Scotch Blends, are added to malt extract or another cereal product before bottling. That is a fallacy. The Scotch Whisky Regulations are very strict with regard to additives in whisky: only water and caramel color (E150) for coloring may be added. The sugars for this caramel color can be obtained from wheat starch, but here too the product is processed so strongly that it no longer contains gluten.

It is quite possible that a translation error has led to this misunderstanding: Scotch blends are first composed of single malts, then ‘grain’ is added. However, this refers to the distilled and whisky aged in wooden barrels, which also contains no gluten.

Even people with celiac disease can enjoy a dram of a beautiful whisky every now and then. Sláinte!

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