Can I buy a barrel of Scotch and age it myself?

I spent a deliciously lazy day at St. Andrews a week or so ago, and got to thinking. On my bar, I have about fifteen different single malts and a couple excellent blends. I also have a soon-to-be-two-years-old Dudeling, and I’ve been wondering what kinds of things to get him for his birthday. Toys? Check. Clothes? Yawn. Books? Gotacha. College fund? Check! … you get the idea.

I know spirits don’t continue to mature once they’re in the bottle—so what if I got a cask and let it sit (well tended) in the basement until he turns 21? Possible? Advisable? If not Scotch, what about a domestic or Irish whiskey? Is anything out of Canada worth holding onto for about 20 years?



I did it. Not Scotch, but domestic spirits. Copper Fox distillery in VA will sell you the raw spirits and a barrel if you like. I let mine age 6 months, tasting along the way. It’s an interesting drink, I’m not sure I love it, but it was fun. Actually, as I remember now, they sold me the barrel but I had to get the raw spirits from a liquor store. I got it online.

The finished liquors you see on the market shelf took a LOT of trial and error to find the correct combination of aging and other factor.

Take a tour of a distillery and then think about it.

For Scotch, you’re gonna need smoky peat fires. Fine Kentucky sippin’ bourbon, you’ll need clean oak barrels, and then you have to scorch the wood to a certain degree. This “toasting” creates compounds that will dissolve into the alcohol and give the finished product certain flavors.

To add to the confusion, there’s a certain amount of evaporation in the aging process. What begins as a full barrel will only result in maybe a half-barrel finished product.

Oh, and don’t forget temperature and humidity. All must be controlled.

So you go through YEARS of work, and you get a couple of bottles of…paint thinner, maybe?

Man, just go to the store and BUY what you wanna drink!

I’m in the process of doing the very same thing with the same barrel from the same distillery. I’m aging white rye whiskey I got from the liquor store. After four months it’s about the color of reposado tequila. Still has a moonshine taste to it. I agree completely - I’m not sure I love it, but I’m sure it’s fun!

Right, I’m not looking to distill anything or figure out what kind of barrel to use. I’m hoping a distillery or distributor will sell me a cask off the line so to speak, and a handful of basic instructions (keep at x humidity at y temperature; turn every z months…). I don’t anticipate too much work, other than controlling an already largely controlled environment. I guess it’s somewhat similar to growing my own vegetables–I can always pop over to the farmer’s market, but spending a season tending a small plot has intangible rewards.

Yes, a 20-year old bottle of Springbank can be gotten for only $100 or so, but to have taken care of a cask of it over that time would be pretty neat (heh… ‘neat’).
I’ll look into the Copper Fox. It looks easy enough to find around here, so a-tasting I will go!

The Angel’s share is much lower then 50%:

From What is the Angel's Share? (with pictures)

There are a handful of Scottish distilleries that will sell a cask direct to a member of the public, but the deal is that they store it for you alongside their regular ageing stock, which makes sense if you want a controlled, finished product. I know Arran does, as they have casks marked for Princes William and Harry ,and Ewan McGregor amongst others on site. It might be a bit spendy though, what with 20 years storage costs, and you’ll be liable for the excise duty and VAT.


What size casks are you guys talking about using?

Standard Bourbon aging casks are around 50 gallons, I think - that’s a LOT of booze!

(And that’s at “cask strength” - it’s even more when diluted to bottling proof).

A proper gentleman would often lay down a pipe of port to celebrate the birth of an heir. That would be approximately 48 cases of wine.

Um, that’s how we ended up with the Dudeling in the first place :slight_smile:
The basement is big enough to accommodate just about anything, within reason. Several standard cartoon barrels wold fit nicely into one of the nooks, even if I eventually built a rack. Sounds like one or two casks would set him up for a while.
I sent an email to Arran (, will see what they say cost-wise. Would make for a delightful 21st birthday present–going to pick up his 2nd birthday gift. Any chance there’s a list of distilleries that do that, or should I just go through the bar and send inquiries all around?

If you are ever in Sperryville, VA, you can take a tour of their distillery and buy both the barrel and unaged spirits from their distillery. I like their single malt, but have never aged it myself.

Here’s another place.

Can’t find a list - but Glengoyne do it as well. Here’s a page with links to their prices:

I imagine that those are typical. Note that the excise is likely to be several multiples of the initial cost, and the bottling is a chunk of change too. I can’t imagine that your cask will be allowed to leave the bonded warehouse until you decide to bottle it, and the duty is paid.

Heh, the smallest they offer is an initial 190 litres, going up to 500. That’s a lot of whisky.


Putting the Barra numbers together:

Initial cost, $1,630 (Pounds converted to Dollars via Google calculator). Likely amount at ten years: 320 .7L bottles. Current duties on 320 bottles: $3,731.

That’s $5,361, not including V.A.T., bottling, or shipping home.


Then again, 320 bottles at, say, $60 (on the low(ish) end for a bottle of single malt) comes out to $19,200–so the five grand isn’t so expensive on its own.

Maybe it would make a good wedding present?

The Barra distillery doesn’t exist yet.

I saw a kit at my local liquor store awhile back that had two bottles of 110-proof unaged whiskey and a miniature barrel for aging it in.

I was curious, but I didn’t have $150 on hand so I passed.

Isn’t the ageing of whiskey a chemical reaction? So can you accelerate it by upping the temperature a bit?

I believe temperature changes are more important than keeping a constantly high temp. From what I understand you want the liquid to be soaked up by the wood and then expressed back into the barrels with changes in temp and humidity. Each time the liquid travels back and forth it grabs a little bit of flavor from the green wood and the burnt wood layers.

This thread inspired me to crack open the lone remaining bottle of the whiskey I aged. It’s strong (124 proof) with a nose that has hints of tequila mixed with whiskey for some reason. It’s pretty harsh, but has a great color. It makes a decent Manhattan, but sipping it straight it a little rough.