What Scotch is gluten-free?

Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. For those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, consuming gluten can cause serious health issues. Thankfully, some Scotch whiskies are distilled from gluten-free grains like corn or rice, making them safe options for those avoiding gluten.

Quick Answers

Here are quick answers to common questions about gluten-free Scotch:

  • Most Scotch contains gluten because it’s made from barley. However, some distilleries like Daftmill and Tamlag offer gluten-free Scotch made from corn and rice.
  • Scotch labeled “gluten-free” has been certified to contain less than 20ppm of gluten. This very low amount is generally considered safe for those with celiac disease.
  • Some blended Scotch whiskies may be gluten-free if all the malts and grains used are gluten-free. Checking the label or contacting the distillery can provide clarity.
  • Those highly sensitive should opt for Scotch distilled, matured, and bottled in gluten-free facilities to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Gluten-removed Scotch whiskies, which use enzymes to break down gluten proteins, may not be truly gluten-free and could still cause reactions.

Why is Most Scotch Not Gluten-Free?

The reason most Scotch contains gluten is because it’s primarily made from malted barley. Barley is a gluten-containing grain. According to Scottish law, Scotch whisky must be distilled from water and malted barley (to which only whole grains of other cereals may be added).

During the malting process, barley grains are soaked in water to initiate germination. This activates enzymes that convert the grain’s starch into fermentable sugars. The malted barley is then dried and ground into grist for mashing and fermentation. It is this malted barley that imparts Scotch with its distinctive flavors and contributes to gluten content.

Exceptions to the Rule

While malted barley is standard, there are some exceptions within Scotch regulations:

  • Single grain Scotch – Made at a single distillery from unmalted cereal grains, like corn, rice, or wheat.
  • Blended Scotch – Contains both single malt and grain whiskies from different distilleries.

Therefore, single grain Scotches distilled from gluten-free grains, or blends containing them, have the potential to be gluten-free. However, due to equipment sharing and cross-contamination risks, testing and certification are still required.

Gluten-Free Scotch Brands

While selection is still limited, the gluten-free Scotch category has grown in recent years. Here are some brands producing certified gluten-free expressions:


Daftmill distillery opened in 2005 in Fife and focuses entirely on single grain Scotch production. Instead of barley, Daftmill uses corn and rice to craft light and approachable whiskies. Their expressions are certified gluten-free.

  • Daftmill 2008 Summer Batch Release
  • Daftmill 12 Year Old
  • Daftmill 2007 Vintage Release


Tamlag distillery uses unique “teaninich” stills to produce single grain whisky distilled from corn. Their whiskies are verified gluten-free through the entire process from farm to bottle.

  • Tamlag Speyside Single Grain Scotch

The Glenlivet

A famed Speyside distillery, The Glenlivet offers a high-end single malt called The Glenlivet Nàdurra First Fill Selection that is distilled from 100% Scottish barley and is certified gluten-free.


This Highland distillery owned by Brown-Forman produces the gluten-free single malt Glendronach Cask Strength Batch 8.


Speyside’s Benriach distillery crafts the gluten-free single malt whisky called Benriach Curiositas. It’s aged for 10 years in ex-bourbon, virgin oak, and ex-sherry casks.

Sourcing Safe Gluten-Free Bottles

When selecting a gluten-free Scotch whisky, here are some tips:

  • Check the label for a “gluten-free” certification mark from an organization like the Gluten Intolerance Group.
  • Call or email the distillery to ask about their gluten-free production process and certifications.
  • Opt for brands that test every batch or note “gluten-free” on the label.
  • Stick to single grain Scotches made from gluten-free bases like corn or rice.
  • Inquire if malt whisky is produced in a dedicated gluten-free facility.

Also, consider your individual sensitivity. People with celiac disease or who are highly gluten intolerant may want the added assurance of Scotch processed in a gluten-free facility.

Gluten-Free vs Gluten-Removed

Some Scotch whiskies undergo proprietary processes to try to remove gluten from the final product:

  • Glutenzyme – Uses enzymes that break down gluten peptides into non-reactive amino acids.
  • Clarity Ferm – An enzyme added during fermentation to degrade gluten.

However, there is some skepticism that these methods completely eliminate gluten. The amount remaining may be negligible for some but still problematic for those who are highly sensitive. Proceed with caution and consult your doctor when considering “gluten-removed” whisky.

Cross-Contamination Risks

Even if made from gluten-free ingredients, cross-contamination is a concern in facilities that also handle gluten-containing grains. Gluten could potentially be introduced via:

  • Shared equipment and vessels
  • Shared storage areas
  • Airborne dust particles

Reputable gluten-free brands will take steps to avoid cross-contamination, like using dedicated equipment and storage for gluten-free expressions. But without testing and certification, contamination can still occur.

Gluten Thresholds

For a Scotch to be legally marketed as “gluten-free” in the United States, it must contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten according to FDA regulations. In Europe, the threshold is stricter at 10 ppm.

For context, these are very tiny amounts compared to a slice of bread which contains approximately 5,000-10,000 ppm of gluten. However, some celiacs react to amounts as low as 5 or 10 ppm.

Very Low Gluten

Some whiskies with gluten levels above 20 ppm may still be labeled as “very low gluten” if they test below 100 ppm. This level is generally safe for most celiacs per latest research. However, those who are highly sensitive may want to exercise additional caution with these bottles.

Drinking Gluten-Free Scotch

Here are some tips for safely enjoying gluten-free Scotch:

  • Check for certifications on packaging or directly with the distillery.
  • Rinse glasses thoroughly before pouring gluten-free Scotch if they were previously used for gluten-containing drinks.
  • Avoid blending with mixers or other ingredients that may contain gluten.
  • Don’t share bottles with others who’ve had direct contact with gluten.
  • Use a dedicated gluten-free section in home bars or liquor cabinets.
  • Travel with gluten-free Scotch in sealed containers to avoid cross-contamination.

While uncontaminated gluten-free Scotch is considered safe for celiacs, individuals should consult their healthcare provider with related concerns.

Gluten-Free Whisky Alternatives

Beyond Scotch, other whisk(e)y categories like Irish, American, and Canadian also offer certified gluten-free options. While production methods and flavors differ, these provide additional gluten-free choices:

Brand Style Offerings
Dingle Irish Whiskey Dingle Original; Dingle Single Malt; Dingle Single Pot Still
Old Line Spirits American Whiskey Old Line American Single Malt
Kinsip Canadian Whisky Kinsip Light Whisky

Those who prefer vodka or gin can also find certified gluten-free versions from brands like Deep Eddy, New Amsterdam, and Hendrick’s.

Bottom Line

Although historically off-limits for gluten-free diets, some Scotch whisky producers now cater to health-conscious drinkers through specialized distillation and rigorous certification. While options are still limited compared to traditional barley-based Scotch, those who are gluten-averse have more choices than ever in trusted gluten-free brands. Do diligent label reading, double-check procedures with producers, inquire about equipment and facilities, and when in doubt, contact your doctor.

By taking informed precautions, those avoiding gluten can safely enjoy the complex pleasures of a traditionally gluten-full spirit.

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