Are Irish whiskeys gluten-free?

Irish whiskey is growing in popularity worldwide. Many people enjoy the smooth, complex flavors of Irish whiskeys like Jameson, Bushmills, and Tullamore D.E.W. However, for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, an important question arises: Are Irish whiskeys gluten-free?

The Short Answer

Yes, Irish whiskeys are gluten-free. Irish whiskeys are distilled from a gluten-containing grain (usually barley), but the distillation process removes the gluten. As long as no gluten-containing additives are introduced after distillation, Irish whiskeys are considered gluten-free.

What Is Irish Whiskey?

Irish whiskey is a distilled alcoholic spirit made in Ireland. It is distilled from grain mash, primarily barley malt along with other grains. The use of malted barley distinguishes Irish whiskey from other types of whiskeys such as Scotch or bourbon.

To make Irish whiskey, the malted barley is first mixed with water and allowed to germinate. This process converts the grain’s starches into fermentable sugars. The malted barley is then dried and ground into a flour called “grist.” The grist is mixed with water in a mash tun, producing a liquid called “wort.” Yeast is added to the wort to trigger fermentation, converting the sugars into alcohol.

The fermented liquid is then distilled. Distillation involves heating the liquid to separate and concentrate the alcohol from the original fermented mash. Irish whiskey is traditionally distilled three times in copper pot stills. The resulting distilled spirit comes off the still at around 60-95% alcohol by volume (ABV). It is then diluted with water to bring it to bottling strength, usually around 40% ABV.

Why Whiskey Is Gluten-Free

Although Irish whiskey starts with gluten-containing grains like barley, the distillation process removes the gluten protein. Gluten is too large a molecule to evaporate and travel through the distillation equipment with the alcohol vapor.

Scientific testing of various distilled spirits has confirmed non-detectable levels of gluten. According to analysis by the Gluten Intolerance Group, an independent certification organization, whiskeys made from wheat, barley, and rye contain less than 10 parts per million (ppm) of gluten after distillation. This level is considered gluten-free.

However, it is important that no gluten-containing additives are introduced after distillation. Additives like flavorings or colorings with gluten could cause Irish whiskeys to have detectable gluten levels. Reputable whiskey brands use gluten-free additives to ensure their products are gluten-free.

Certified Gluten-Free Irish Whiskeys

Many major Irish whiskey brands have obtained independent certification to verify their gluten-free status:

  • Jameson Irish Whiskey is certified gluten-free to less than 10 ppm by the Gluten Intolerance Group.
  • Tullamore D.E.W. is certified gluten-free by the Coeliac Society of Ireland.
  • Bushmills Irish Whiskey is verified gluten-free by the Gluten-Free Certification Program.
  • Greenore Irish Whiskey is certified gluten-free by the Coeliac Society of Ireland.
  • Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey is certified gluten-free by the Coeliac Society of Ireland.

The certification processes verify that these Irish whiskeys test below gluten detection levels and do not contain any problematic additives. This provides reassurance for gluten-sensitive drinkers.

Avoiding Cross-Contamination

In addition to checking for certified brands, those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity should also consider potential cross-contamination when choosing Irish whiskeys:

  • Look for Irish whiskeys produced at dedicated gluten-free facilities, when possible.
  • Avoid whiskey blends or finishes that may introduce gluten. Some Irish whiskeys are finished in beer or sherry casks that previously held gluten.
  • Beware of whiskeys with added flavorings, as flavorings can sometimes contain gluten.
  • If drinking Irish whiskey at a bar or restaurant, inquire about their gluten-free handling procedures to avoid cross-contamination from shared equipment or surfaces.

Following these tips in addition to verifying the brand’s gluten-free certification can provide added assurance that the selected Irish whiskey is safe to drink on a gluten-free diet.

Irish Whiskey and Gluten Sensitivity

Most people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity can tolerate distilled spirits made from gluten grains, including Irish whiskey. The distillation process eliminates gluten content below levels that can trigger symptoms or intestinal damage.

However, a small percentage of those sensitive to gluten may react even to highly purified gluten-free foods and beverages. The reasons are still unclear but may relate to a reaction against residual peptides from the original gluten protein. If uncertain, individuals should try a small serving of Irish whiskey to evaluate tolerance before drinking larger quantities.

Drinking Irish Whiskey on a Gluten-Free Diet

Here are some tips for enjoying Irish whiskey on a gluten-free diet:

  • Look for Irish whiskeys with gluten-free certification from a reputable third-party organization.
  • Call distilleries in advance to ask about gluten-free production methods if certification is unavailable.
  • Avoid whiskey blends or finishes where gluten could have been introduced.
  • Enquire at bars and restaurants about gluten-free ingredients and preparation methods before ordering.
  • Start with a small serving to assess personal tolerance if uncertain.
  • Enjoy Irish whiskey in moderation along with gluten-free mixers like soda, ginger ale or sparkling water.

Following these guidelines allows those with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity to partake safely in high-quality Irish whiskeys as part of a gluten-free lifestyle.

Making Your Own Gluten-Free Irish Whiskey

While most commercial Irish whiskeys are made with barley, it is also possible to craft gluten-free Irish whiskey substitutes at home. Some options include:

  • Corn whiskey – Made entirely from corn.
  • Rice whiskey – Made entirely from rice.
  • Millet whiskey – Made entirely from millet.
  • Sorghum whiskey – Made entirely from sorghum.

Any gluten-free grain or starch can potentially be used to make whiskey through a process of cooking, fermenting, distilling and aging. Vodka can even serve as a gluten-free neutral spirit base for infusing whiskey flavors.

Here is an overview of the home gluten-free whiskey making process:


  • 10 lbs gluten-free grains or starch source
  • Water
  • Yeast
  • Flavorings (optional)


  1. Cook gluten-free grains/starch in water to form a mash. Allow to cool.
  2. Mix in yeast to kickstart fermentation. Ferment for 1-2 weeks.
  3. Distill through a still. A pot still is preferred for whiskey.
  4. Dilute distillate with water to desired ABV.
  5. Optionally age whiskey in charred barrels or with whiskey-soaked wood chips.
  6. Flavor further with spices, smoked malt, etc. if desired.

With some practice, homemade gluten-free whiskeys can take on unique mash bills and flavor profiles not found in commercial offerings. Just be sure to follow all legal requirements if distilling spirits at home.

Popular Irish Whiskey Cocktail Recipes

Irish whiskey’s smooth taste mixes beautifully in a range of classic and creative cocktails. Here are some delicious Irish whiskey cocktails that can be adapted to be gluten-free:

The Irish Coffee

  • 1.5 oz Irish whiskey
  • 5 oz hot coffee
  • 1-2 tsp brown sugar or maple syrup
  • Lightly whipped dairy-free cream (for topping)

Add Irish whiskey and brown sugar to hot coffee and stir to dissolve. Top with lightly whipped coconut or nut-based cream.

Irish Mule

  • 2 oz Irish whiskey
  • 4-6 oz ginger beer
  • Squeeze of fresh lime juice
  • Mint sprig (garnish)

Combine Irish whiskey, ginger beer and lime juice over ice in a copper mug. Garnish with mint.

The Emerald Isle

  • 2 oz Irish whiskey
  • 1 oz apple cider
  • 1/2 oz lime juice
  • 1/2 oz honey syrup
  • Dash aromatic bitters

Shake ingredients with ice and strain into rocks glass over ice cube. Garnish with apple slice.

With some gluten-free adaptations, classic Irish whiskeys can still be fully enjoyed by those adhering to a gluten-free diet.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Irish whiskey gluten-free?

Yes, Irish whiskey is distilled, so it is free of gluten proteins and considered gluten-free. As long as no sources of gluten are added after distillation, most Irish whiskeys are safe for people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance.

What grains are used to make Irish whiskey?

Irish whiskey is traditionally distilled from barley malt as the main grain, often along with other grains such as wheat, corn or rye. The use of barley malt sets Irish whiskey apart from other whiskies.

Does the distillation process remove gluten?

Yes, the distillation process removes gluten from the original grains. Gluten molecules are too large to evaporate with alcohol during heating and condense with the distilled spirit. Testing shows gluten levels in distilled spirits are below 10 ppm.

Could Irish whiskey contain traces of gluten?

Most Irish whiskeys are distilled in equipment also used for gluten-containing grains. However, any traces are removed by thorough cleaning between production runs. Certified gluten-free Irish whiskeys also verify the absence of detectable gluten.

Are there any gluten-free Irish whiskey brands?

Yes, many major brands such as Jameson, Bushmills, Tullamore D.E.W. and others have obtained gluten-free certification through testing by organizations like the Gluten Intolerance Group and Coeliac Society of Ireland.

Is Irish whiskey safer than beer or liqueurs for gluten sensitivity?

Yes, the distillation process of Irish whiskey provides added assurance that gluten has been removed compared to gluten-containing beers or liqueurs which are simply fermented. Anyone with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity can generally tolerate Irish whiskeys.

The Bottom Line

Irish whiskey offers a tasty gluten-free sipping spirit for those on a gluten-free diet. While made from gluten-containing grains, the distillation process removes gluten protein prior to aging and bottling. Major Irish whiskey brands have obtained gluten-free certification to verify undetectable levels of gluten and reassure gluten-sensitive drinkers. With proper precautions to avoid cross-contamination from blending or finishing processes, Irish whiskey can be safely enjoyed as part of a gluten-free lifestyle.

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