Is Whiskey Vegan? “Whiskey”, hold on, is it actually “Whisky”? Oh, great now I must spend hours trawling through the internet to find out the answer…because I must know. The good news is that if you also MUST know then I put the answer at the bottom of this article which means MUST read it or you can just scroll to the bottom. Okay, back to Whiskey. Whiskey is my favorite go-to spirit. Not only does it come in so many different forms – Scotch, Rye, Bourbon, Irish Whiskey, Canadian Whiskey, Japanese Whiskey, Moonshine…Indian Whiskey (yes, India makes Whiskey and it consumes more Whiskey than the whole of the US) – it is a liquor that seems to have so many different rules, which depending on where you are at any given time are completely different. It is golden, it is complex, and completely varied. And, yes, whilst it is not the most popular liquor in the world (that accolade goes to vodka) – it is still a drinking staple. That means we need to answer those all-important questions – what is whiskey, how it is made, and most importantly is whiskey vegan (together with a breakdown of all the main whiskey brands)?
Is Whiskey Vegan?
As a general rule, most whiskey is vegan including Jim Beam, Jameson, Skrewball, and Bird Dog. The main non-vegan whiskies are whiskey creams that contain dairy and those that contain honey. There are also some brands of whiskey that do not want to claim vegan status for various reasons.
Spoiler alert – a rough and ready calculation of the vegan vs non-vegan whiskies on Barnivore shows 93% of whiskies as vegan vs 7% of whiskies as not vegan. PHEW!
What is Whiskey?
Whiskey is the result of the distillation of fermented grain mash. A variety of different grains can be used to make the drink such as barley, corn, rye, and wheat. Usually, whiskey will be barrel-aged in wooden casks for varying periods of time.
How is Whiskey Made?
Whiskey production is a four-stage process – (1) producing a malt; (2) fermenting the mash; (3) distilling fermented mash; and (4) aging.
The first stage is the malting process. This is where the grains used for whiskey are soaked in water for two to three days forcing them to germinate. This process is designed to force the release of enzymes to turn unfermentable starch in the grain into fermentable sugars. The grain is then dried to create malt. Without the malting process, the grain would not produce sugar which can then be fermented by yeast.
Note, malting applies mostly to barley (hence malted barley). Corn, for example, will not be malted, but corned-based whiskies such as bourbon will have some malted barley in them. These whiskies will have enough barley to provide enough enzymes to help with the breakdown of sugars in the corn.
Fermenting the Mash
The “mash” is a term to refer to the mixture of grain (which has been malted), water, and yeast that will be fermented. Sometimes you may see “Sour Mash” on a bottle – this just refers to the Mash being started off with leftovers from previous mash batches.
Distilling the Fermented Mash
If you want to learn more about distilling, I cover it in detail in my piece Is Alcohol Vegan? How to Know the Truth. In this process, the whiskey mash is heated to separate the alcohol produced from the fermentation from the water. The result is a concentrated substance of alcohol which you can then age. Some Whiskies such as Irish Whiskey will undergo numerous distillations.
Tennessee Whiskey is legally required to be filtered through maple charcoal before being aged.
This is the process of storing the distilled whiskey in barrels for a set period. The goal is to add flavor from the barrel and to remove any harsh flavors from the whiskey. Oak is mostly used, but other types of wood barrels are used.
The rules of aging get specific. In the US all whiskey must be barrel-aged for at least two years. Bourbon, on the other hand, must be matured in charred new oak containers and has no set limit for barrel aging.
The longer the aging the more expensive the whiskey. For example, one whiskey aged for over 250 years sold at auction recently for $110,000.
Is Whiskey Vegan – Types of Whiskey
There are several main categories of whiskey. These are as follows:
- Bourbon – must be made from 51% corn and aged in new barrels of white oak that have been charred on the inside.
- Kentucky Straight Whiskey – must be made in Kentucky and meet the same standards as Bourbon.
- Scotch – must be made in Scotland and from only malted barley and water.
- Tennessee Whiskey – must be made in Tennessee.
- Irish Whiskey – must be triple distilled and made in Ireland from un-malted barley and grain whiskey.
- Rye Whiskey – must be made from at least 51% Rye.
- Moonshine – can be made from any mix of grain but is usually mostly corn and is not aged.
Is Whiskey Vegan – Brand Breakdown
How to read this blog, I will start by going through the main big whiskey brands individually to look at whether they are vegan or not. I will also look at bourbons, scotch whiskey, and peanut butter whisky to see if these types of whiskies tend to be vegan.
For ease of reference, I have put together a table summarizing the main vegan and non-vegan whiskies which can be found later in the post. I will finish by looking at the most popular whiskey cocktails to see if they are vegan and if not, how they can be vegan-ized.
Is Jack Daniels Whiskey Vegan?
We start with – the best-selling Whiskey in the world – Jack Daniels. According to a recent announcement (January 2022) from Jack Daniels, wool is used in processing Jack Daniels making ALL Jack Daniels whiskies not vegan. *Updated February 2022.
Is Jim Beam Whiskey Vegan?
Is Skrewball Whiskey Vegan?
Is Peanut Butter Whiskey Vegan?
Ok, so the above leads to the question – is all peanut butter whiskey vegan? And now we are on the topic – what even is peanut butter whiskey? It is exactly as it sounds – whiskey flavored with peanuts. Peanut butter whiskey has really grown in popularity over the past few years. We have already established one of the main peanut butter whiskey brands, Skrewball, is vegan. What about the other big peanut butter whiskey brand Sheep Dog. Is that vegan?
Is Sheep Dog Whiskey Vegan?
Sheep Dog peanut Butter Whiskey is not vegan, although it is not clear why
Is Jameson Whiskey Vegan?
Is Crown Royal Whiskey Vegan?
Canada’s main whiskey is No.4 on the best-selling list of Whiskey. However – no, Crown Royal Whiskey is not vegan.
Is Fireball Whiskey Vegan?
Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey is not vegan as a few ingredients they purchase from third-party vendors contain a trace amount of animal-derived materials. They say they are working towards an animal-free product line up which is promising.
Is Maker’s Mark Whiskey Vegan?
I found Maker’s Mark’s response to Barnivore on the vegan status of their whiskey fascinating –
“Our products are not made with any animal or fish products; however, it is filtered with diatomaceous earth which may contain microscopic animal skeletons, and carbon from coal which may also have been exposed to prehistoric animal parts. By strict standards, our products should be avoided by Vegans, unless the above filtration materials are acceptable.”
Pretty honest right.
On a side note, I love the fact that butterscotch is a flavor note in Maker’s Mark whiskey, yet it doesn’t contain any dairy. Just because a spirit has tasting notes like caramel or butterscotch doesn’t mean that it contains dairy. You can read more about it in the post I wrote about whether Tequila is vegan – Is Tequila Vegan? How to Really Pick Vegan Tequila.
Is Bird Dog Whiskey Vegan?
Types of Whiskey – are they vegan?
Is Bourbon Whiskey Vegan?
Bourbon is a type of whiskey, but not all whiskies are bourbons. Basically, the main difference is that legally bourbon needs to be made with at least 51% corn to be called bourbon – the corn gives bourbon its signature sweet flavor.
Also, as mentioned above, bourbon needs to be aged in newly charred oak barrels – this gives bourbon its nutty taste. Whiskey, in comparison, needs to be aged in oak barrels but the barrels do not need to be newly charred. Finally, to be called bourbon it needs to be distilled to no more than 160 proof and entered into the barrel at 125. For other whiskies, the liquid must be distilled to no more than 190 proof. If you want to check out the rules you can see the relevant ATF rules from Cornell University here.
Most Bourbons are vegan. There are some that are not vegan due to either gelatin or dairy in bourbon creams. I have summarized the main non-vegan bourbons I came across in the below table.
|Non-Vegan Bourbons||Why Non-Vegan|
|Jeremiah Weed Bourbon||Contains Gelatin.|
|Jeremiah Weed Sweet Tea Bourbon||Contains Gelatin.|
|Big Spring Cream Bourbon||Contains Cream.|
|Black Button Bourbon Cream||Contains Cream.|
|TX Bourbon||No Animal ingredients in the Bourbon itself but the caps are made of leather.|
|Amador Double Barrel Bourbon||Not Vegan – but the reason is not provided why this is the case.|
|Angels Envy Bourbon||This Bourbon is finished in Port Wine Barrels which contain traces of Gelatin.|
What was that? You want to know of three vegan bourbons that you can purchase on Amazon. Okay, your wish is granted!
- Four Roses Bourbon – Click to see it on Amazon here.
- Basil Hayden’s Bourbon – Click to see it on Amazon here.
- Evan Williams Bourbon – Click to see it on Amazon here.
Is Scotch Whiskey Vegan?
What is Scotch? Scotch is a malt whiskey or a grain whiskey (or a combination of the two) that is made in Scotland.
Good news if you are a scotch fan – scotch whiskey is almost always vegan. The main non-vegan ingredient that can cause a scotch to not be vegan is honey. The only Scotch Whiskies I came across that were not vegan (due to honey) are the following two:
- Drambuie Scotch Whiskey – not vegan due to honey
- Demijohn Bramble Scotch Whisky – not vegan due to honey
On the topic of scotch whiskies, sometimes a scotch whiskey will contain a caramel color to give it its hue. You do not need to worry about this – the caramel color does not come from dairy. Instead, it comes from burning sugar, and sugar in Scotland is almost always vegan (it just tends to be the US that processes sugar with bone char).
Vegan Scotch Whiskey
Here are three vegan scotch whiskies you can buy on Amazon:
- The Glenlivet Single Malt Scotch Whiskey – click to see on Amazon here.
- Laphroaig Single Malt Scotch 10 Year – click to see on Amazon here.
- Glenfiddich Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky 12 Year – click to see on Amazon here.
Summary of Vegan Whiskey
For ease of reference, I have summarized the above in the below table. Please note that this is not a definitive list.
|Vegan Whiskey Examples||Non-Vegan (cannot claim to be vegan) Whiskey||Non-Vegan Whiskey That Contains Dairy||Non-Vegan Whiskey That Contains Honey|
|Jim Beam |
(available on Instacart here)
|George Dickel||Salamanca Cream Whiskey Liquor||D’Entrecasteaux Honey Whiskey Liquor|
|Bird Dog (available on Instacart here)||Amador Whiskey||Revelton Whiskey & Cream||Mississippi River Queen Bee Honey Whiskey|
|Skrewball Whiskey (available on Instacart here)||Fireball (trace amounts of animal-derived ingredients from third suppliers)||Hellyers Road Whiskey Cream Liquor||Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey|
|Jameson (available on Instacart here)||TX Whiskey (vegan whiskey but have leather caps)||Big Spring Cream Bourbon||Jack Daniels Ready-To-Drink Range|
|Angel’s Envy Bourbon Whiskey (finished in barrels cleared with gelatin)||Black Button Bourbon Cream||Drambuie Scotch Whiskey|
|Vat 69 (no animal produced used but don’t certify as vegan)||Demijohn Bramble Scotch Whiskey Liqueur|
|Penderyn (cannot be 100% sure if vegan)|
|Old Camp Whiskey|
|Sheep Dog Peanut Butter Whiskey|
|Cotswolds Distillery Whiskey|
|BenRiach Whiskey (casein-based adhesive used to stick the labels)|
Vegan Whiskey Cocktails
Yes, most whiskey is vegan (bar some exceptions that contain honey, cream, or some random reasons not known). How about whiskey cocktails? Are they vegan? Often, yes, whiskey cocktails are vegan, but there are a few things to watch out for.
Are Old Fashioned Cocktails Vegan?
An Old-Fashioned cocktail is the most classic whiskey cocktail. It is essentially made by muddling sugar with water and bitters, adding whiskey, and garnishing with a cocktail cherry and orange slice. Let’s look at how we can make sure a homemade old-fashioned is vegan.
Angostura bitters are the most well know bitters. Yes, Angostura bitters are vegan and can be bought from Amazon here. This also appears to be the case for all bitters when looking at bitters on Barnivore.
Be careful of some cocktail cherries as the cheaper ones can contain cochineal (crushed bugs) to give them a red color. I found these cocktail cherries on Amazon which are vegan.
All you need now are old-fashioned whiskey glasses to drink your old-fashioned out – I love these whiskey glasses on Amazon. Interesting fact – old-fashioned whiskey glasses predate the cocktail.
Is Whiskey and Coke Vegan?
Cola is the perfect mixer for whiskey. However, is your cola vegan? You can read all about it in the posts I wrote about Coca-Cola (Is Coca-Cola Vegan? Secrets to Know About Coca-Cola Drinks) and Pepsi (Is Pepsi Vegan? Secrets to Know About Pepsi Drinks). If you are a fan of Diet Pepsi and are based in the UK, you may be disappointed.
Are Whiskey Sours Vegan?
Whiskey sours are often not vegan. Pre-made sour cocktail mixes can often contain egg and/or dairy. For example Fee Brothers Whiskey Sour Mix contains dairy and Bar-Tenders Instant Whiskey Sour Cocktail Mix – contains egg whites.
I did find this sour mixer that is listed as vegan on amazon – Powell & Mahoney Craft Cocktail Mixers – Lemon Sour. Just pair it with a vegan whiskey and you have yourself a vegan whiskey sour!
Also, be careful when ordering whiskey sours in a bar – they often are made with egg whites so make sure to ask for yours without the egg.
Are Hot Toddies Vegan?
Hot toddies are often not vegan as they usually contain honey. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a hot toddy at home though – we love making a hot toddy with maple syrup instead. Here is my go-to Maple Syrup on Amazon for any hot toddy, but any maple syrup will do – they tend to all be vegan.
Are Irish Coffees Vegan?
Irish coffees are not normally vegan as they contain cream and often sugar. However, it is easy to make yourself an Irish coffee at home. We love using this coconut sugar from Amazon to sweeten along with this vegan cream from Amazon on top.
Is Whiskey Vegan? The Final Sip
Is Whiskey Vegan? Yes, most Whiskey is vegan, and it is mostly a vegan-friendly liquor option. There are a lot of different styles, flavors, and tastes of whiskey on the market you can go for. While personally, I am an Irish Whiskey person – I have to admit after researching for this article my next purchase is going to be a peanut butter whiskey because (a) I love peanut butter; (b) I like whiskey; and (c) I am probably a sucker for a gimmick. Just remember the most important thing, however you drink your whiskey, is that you always need a good whiskey glass – if you don’t have one now is the time to get one (and if you need a recommendation here is one just for you).
Now, I did promise to tell you if it was “whiskey” or “whisky”. Well, like anything to do with Whiskey it is complicated. If you are in Scotland, Canada, India, or Japan you spell it “WHISKY”. If you are in Ireland or the USA, you spell it “WHISKEY”. To make it even more complicated the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms in the US used to spell it “WHISKY” and many US laws still refer to it as “WHISKY”. At the end of the day it is like supporting a sports team – take aside and show die-hard loyalty – WHISKEY it is then.
- You can double-check the vegan status of whiskies in the link to Barnivore in the references below.
Beverage makers may change ingredients and/or manufacturing processes. Always double-check ingredients before purchasing any beverages.
Please Drink Responsibly.
Like What You Are Reading
Need to know more? Think your favorite beer or wine is vegan? How about your favorite Vodka, Tequila, or Gin – think those are vegan? Time to find out – check out some of my other articles:
- Is Tequila Vegan? How To Really Pick Vegan Tequila
- Is Gin Vegan? How To Really Tell Vegan Gins Apart
- Is Vodka Vegan? Hidden Surprises to Know About in Vodka
- Is Beer Vegan – Introducing the Secrets to Finding Out
- Why is Wine Not Vegan – How to Know the Truth?
- Is Champagne Vegan? Revealing the Truth Behind the Bubbles
- Is Cider Vegan? How to Know the Pressing Truth
- Is Hard Seltzer Vegan? How to Really Tell
- Is Ginger Ale Vegan? Everything You Need To Know
Vegan and non vegan whiskies on Barnivore (as at 30 December 2021)