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How Long Does It Take To Make Whiskey? (2024 Updated)

How Long Does It Take To Make Whiskey

Last Updated on March 28, 2024 by Lydia Martin

Alcohol, like whiskey, can easily be purchased at liquor stores. However, making homemade whiskey allows you to create different flavors that may suit your taste. But really, how long does it take to make whiskey at home? 

Stop looking elsewhere and save your time searching for a solid answer. Keep scrolling to learn more about the whiskey-making process.

How Long Does Producing Whiskey Take?

Whiskey Old Fashioned Cocktail

Producing whiskey takes about four months, beginning to end, depending on how you want your whiskey to taste. Making whiskey is a time-consuming process that requires several whiskey ingredients and a lot of patience. 

It starts with malting, which takes about 3-4 days. Then, it goes through distillation which can take up to six hours. Finally, the whiskey must mature in barrels for at least three years. 

Disclaimer: The Federal Law states that making beverage alcohol at home is illegal.

Length of Whiskey-Making At Home

Length of Whiskey-Making At Home


Whiskeys start as raw grain. When making malt whiskey, barley undergoes special treatment to obtain its sugars.

Malting refers to raw material preparation for brewing, employing controlled grain germination in moist air [1].

Malting is where the grains are allowed to germinate between 48 and 72 hours. It is when the enzymes in the malted barley convert the starch into fermentable sugars. 

Once the barley begins to rupture, it’s spread out in a room with controlled temperature and humidity to allow the grains to sprout.

The germination stops once the grains start to germinate and are dried by heating.

Mash Bill Preparation

Whiskey Mash Bill

Before fermentation, mashing happens to extract the sugars in the grains used. The grains, like corn, wheat, rye, or malted barley, will be placed in a large tank for hot water steeping. 

The grain used is heated and agitated. The water seeps into the starch granules and is eventually activated and gelatinized. Drain the mash. Add more hot water to extract more sugars. Then repeat the “wash” 3 to 4 times. 

Different grains have different temperature requirements to gelatinize correctly. The final product is a porridge-like mixture. Once the sugars have been extracted, the fermentation stage follows. 


If the mixture is strained of solids, it is now called mash or wort. The mash will then be transferred to washbacks to begin fermenting. During this step, add yeast. You can use any yeast as long as it converts starch into sugar. 

During fermentation, the yeast will convert sugars into alcohol. The resulting liquid is like beer. It is called the distiller’s beer or wash. It can last up to 48 to 96 hours with different yeast strains and fermentation times. 

Distillers can choose to ferment the liquid longer to add more character and complex flavors. After fermentation, the mash will have an alcohol concentration of about 7 to 10%.

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Distillation Process

Whiskey Distillation

To start the distilling process, transfer the concentrated liquid into stills, which will be heated with hot steam, evaporated, and re-liquified. Use Copper stills to remove unwanted flavor and aroma compounds in the spirits. The concentrated liquid undergoes distillation twice to control the alcohol concentration.

Pot Still Distillation

The liquid can be distilled through a pot still and column still. It is a batch process when done in pot stills. Pot stills are like large kettles with a heat source on the bottom or by the steam coils within them [2]

The alcohol is brought to a boil. Alcohol evaporates, and the vapor is separated into a condenser through the pot’s long neck. The water continuously runs in the condenser, which brings the vapor back into liquid form.

Column Still Distillation

Column Still Distillation

The distiller’s beer or wash is fed into column stills or Coffey stills. Coffey stills can be used to produce bourbon and, nowadays, even Irish whiskey. The wash enters the top and descends, passing through perforated plates steamed from underneath. The hot steam heats the liquid, evaporating it and causing the lighter alcohol vapors to rise. 

As the vapors hit the plates, they condense, removing heavier compounds and increasing the alcohol content. The lighter compounds rise to the column, purifying and refining the liquid. A distiller will not need the batch process of pot stills because column stills work continuously.

Maturation Process

Typically, in a distillery, whiskies are generally stored in oak casks. Corn whiskey, being the exception, can either be aged or unaged. Meanwhile, bourbon, rye, and other American whiskeys must be matured in new charred oak barrels. 

Some distillers source wooden containers that have stored another spirit from another distiller to give the spirits added flavor. Ensure that the alcohol content is between 58% to 70% alcohol by volume (ABV) before transferring it into the casks.


Whiskey Bottling Production

Once the whiskey reaches the desired maturation, it is ready for bottling. The whiskey is bottled at no less than 40% alcohol by volume (ABV). It is the legal minimum ABV that whiskey must meet to be sold. However, it can also be bottled at cask strength with around 60% ABV. 

When bottling, it may be chill-filtered to prevent the spirit from becoming too cloudy when ice or cold water is added.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How long does whiskey have to age to be straight bourbon?

Whiskey must be aged for two years to be called straight bourbon. It must also be made from a mash bill of at least 51% corn.

How long is whiskey aged in barrels?

Whiskey is aged in oak barrels for a minimum of three years. The length of the liquor aging varies with the type of whiskey. A bourbon must be at least two years of age to be called straight bourbon. Meanwhile, Irish whiskey must mature for at least three years and no more than four years.

Does it take longer to make wine than whiskey?

No, making whiskey doesn’t take longer than making wine. Whiskies take more time to create than wines. Whiskey uses distilled fermented grains, such as rye, corn, or wheat. It’s then stored in oak containers for at least two years. Wine is made by fermenting grapes, which takes about a month. Aging wine can take an additional one to twelve months.

How long does whiskey take to mature?

Whiskey typically takes several years to mature, with the aging process crucial for developing its flavor and character. The exact time required for maturation varies depending on factors such as the type of whiskey, the aging environment, and the desired flavor profile. Generally, most whiskeys are aged for a minimum of three to four years, although some premium expressions may age for much longer periods to achieve desired complexity and depth of flavor.

How long does whiskey take to ferment?

The fermentation process in whiskey production typically takes several days to complete. During fermentation, yeast converts the sugars present in the mash into alcohol and carbon dioxide, producing a liquid known as “wash” or “distiller’s beer.” The duration of fermentation can vary depending on factors such as yeast strain, temperature, and desired flavor profile, but it usually lasts around two to five days.

Why does whiskey take so long to make?

Whiskey production involves several steps, each crucial for developing its distinct flavor and character. From milling and mashing grains to fermentation, distillation, and aging in oak barrels, each stage of the process contributes to the final product’s quality. The aging process, in particular, plays a significant role, as whiskey requires time to interact with the wood of the barrels, allowing it to develop complex flavors and aromas. Overall, the lengthy production process ensures that whiskey attains its desired quality and character.

Is 100-year-old whiskey safe to drink?

Whiskey does not continue to mature once it is bottled, so a 100-year-old whiskey would not be unsafe to drink in terms of its alcohol content. However, the quality and taste of whiskey can change over time, depending on factors such as the storage conditions and the integrity of the bottle’s seal. It’s essential to consider these factors when evaluating the drinkability of an aged whiskey, as well as consulting with experts if unsure.

What whiskey takes 100 years to make?

No whiskey takes 100 years to make in terms of active production time. Whiskey production involves various stages, including fermentation, distillation, and aging, but the aging process typically lasts several years rather than a century. Whiskeys labeled with age statements, such as “25 years old” or “30 years old,” indicate the time spent aging in barrels, not the total production time. Therefore, a 100-year-old whiskey would likely refer to its age at the time of bottling rather than the duration of its production.

How long does it take to age whiskey at home?

Aging whiskey at home is challenging due to the influence of smaller barrels and varying environmental conditions, but a common guideline is that one year of aging in a smaller barrel might equate to several years in a larger commercial barrel. The specific duration depends on factors like barrel size, wood type, and personal taste preferences, making the aging process a subjective and experimental endeavor.

How long does homemade whiskey last?

The shelf life of homemade whiskey depends on storage conditions, alcohol content, and proper sealing. Generally, if stored in a cool, dark place and sealed well, homemade whiskey can last indefinitely. However, over time, it may undergo subtle changes in flavor due to oxidation and other environmental factors, so it’s advisable to monitor and taste the whiskey periodically.

How long is whiskey drinkable?

Commercially produced whiskey, when stored properly, can remain drinkable for an extended period, even decades. The high alcohol content acts as a preservative, preventing spoilage. However, the taste profile might evolve over time due to factors like oxidation and changes in the barrel. For optimal enjoyment, it’s recommended to consume whiskey within a reasonable timeframe and store it in conditions that minimize environmental impact.

What is the best age for whiskey?

Determining the best age for whiskey is subjective and varies depending on personal preferences. While many enjoy whiskeys aged between 8 to 12 years for their balance of flavors and complexity, others appreciate older expressions for their depth and maturity. The best age for whiskey ultimately depends on individual taste, with some finding enjoyment in younger, vibrant expressions, while others prefer the richness and smoothness that extended aging provides.

Can you speed up whiskey aging?

Several methods claim to accelerate the aging process of whiskey, such as using smaller barrels, adding oak staves or chips, or subjecting the spirit to high-frequency vibrations. While these techniques may impart certain flavors more quickly, they cannot replicate the nuanced interaction between whiskey and a large oak barrel over an extended period. Accelerated aging methods can influence the taste, but they might not fully replicate the complexity achieved through traditional, time-consuming aging in larger barrels. Experimentation is key, but the results may vary, and purists often advocate for the patience required in the natural aging process.

So, How Long Does It Take To Make Whiskey?

It takes about three years for whiskey to be ready for consumption. The process varies by region or distillery since each distillery has different traditions and techniques.

However, consider that making your whiskies at home is illegal in the United States under federal law. Like making bourbon, you need to have proper licensing. Head to your local distillery to know more about making whiskey and how to secure a permit.


  1. Malting
  2. Distillation
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