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How To Buy A Barrel Of Bourbon: Full Guide (2023 Updated)

Last Updated on December 28, 2022 by Lydia Martin

Having a barrel of bourbon is a dream for every bourbon enthusiast. But this dream can turn into reality—as bourbon barrels are now available in the palm of your hand.

However, you can’t just roll one barrel from the distillery in Kentucky to your home.

Read on to learn how to buy a barrel of bourbon and more about the procedure, needed licenses, allocations, and programs you can apply to get a barrel. 

9 Steps To Buy A Bourbon Barrel 

1. Secure A Liquor License

man holding papers

If you buy a bourbon cask or barrel, make sure you have a liquor license. Every establishment dealing with the alcohol or brewery business must have one.

But if you don’t have a liquor license and still want to purchase a cask, you can ask someone from your bourbon clubs who has a license to buy a barrel for you.

2. Learn About The Federal Regulations

You must be mindful of federal regulations and methods when buying and owning a bourbon cask. It might include the type of barrel, its size, and if it’s charred. 

Federal regulations might differ depending on the state you are located.

So make sure you can comply with the regulation set in your location to avoid any conflict.

3. Check Liquor Allocations

It’s important to remember that every liquor vendor has an allocated certain number of spirits to market.

These allocations are not done by the producers but by the distributors.

If you’re going to produce bourbon, you can’t directly market it to liquor stores because of the alcohol distribution system—you need to buy it from your distributor and then sell it.

4. Verify Customer Demand 

Competition for sales for certain brands can be stiff, so you need to have an established demand in your location before getting a barrel.

To grow a bourbon brand business from those barrels, you need to validate customer demand to make it profitable.

5. Ready Your Budget

hundred dollar bills

Buying bourbon barrels isn’t cheap. A standard 53-gallon bourbon cask can cost around $250 [1], but it could cost up to thousands and thousands of dollars per barrel.

You need to have a budget to purchase new barrels every time you make bourbon to replace the used ones, in compliance with US-mandated law.

6. Visit The Distillery For Tastings

Before buying a bourbon, visit the distillery that offers complimentary tours and tastings.

Most distilleries selling bourbon cask offers a barrel program.

The tour and tasting programs from the distillery include touring from the blending facility to the tasting room and blind-tasting. 

7. Personalize Your Bourbon Flavor

A bourbon enthusiast will surely love this next step—personalizing the flavor of your bourbon.

After your final preference of bourbon barrels, you can mix and create a custom flavor.

8. Pay & Wait For Your Bourbon Barrel

Due to state liquor laws, distilleries will ship bottled orders to your nearest local retailer and liquor store.

You can also pay and track your order from your local retailers.

The total price is calculated by the number of bottles your barrel yields by its retailer’s price. Don’t forget the local sales tax on your purchase. 

9. Apply For Select Programs 

wooden barrels

Single Barrel Select

A Single Barrel Select program is a unique experience to craft your own barrel.

Companies from the bourbon industry, like Buffalo Trace, and Eagle Rare, offer this kind of single-barrel program.

Applying for a single-barrel selection program allows you to be the master distiller when choosing single barrels and first-hand tasting for private barrels.

Once you’re a member, you can have a private tour at your chosen distillery to taste and customize your own barrel picks.

Small Batch Select

A Small Batch Select program allows a vendor to create a custom bottle of bourbon by blending two or more barrels. [2]

But you also can have bourbon experts create a unique blend for you.

“I say, go with your gut. Your first instinct is usually the best.”

– Beau Beckman, Barrel Select Manager/Consultant

At Woodford Reserve, a retailer can choose six barrels of different ages, and four barrels make it to the batching round to make your final selection of flavors.

Distilleries That Offers A Barrel Of Bourbon 

Jim Beam Distillery

Jim Beam Distillery

Jim Beam Single Barrel Select program allows retailers to buy bourbon barrels.

Retailers get to choose a barrel from the three samples sent out by the Beam Suntory distilling team.

The chosen private barrel sample will then be bottled and shipped to their retail store.

Barton 1792 Distillery

Barton 1792 also offers barrel tours and tastings, called the Barton Tradition Tour.

However, according to its website, they no longer offer public tours, effective June 30, 2022.

Buffalo Trace Distillery

Buffalo Trace Distillery

Buffalo Trace is a well-known brand offering a Single Barrel Selection program.

This private barrel selection allows you to visit the distillery, choose, and taste four barrels with uncut flavor.

Like Jim Beam, if you cannot visit Buffalo Trace distillery and warehouse, they can mail you the private-barrel samples you can taste and choose from.

How Much Does A Barrel Of Bourbon Cost? 

The cost of a bourbon cask or barrel may vary mainly depending on the brand, quality, and yields, but a barrel usually costs around $200 to $15,000 per barrel.

The bourbon cask age is also a great factor in its price; some barrels can go up to $20,000 or even higher.

What’s The Three-Tier Distribution System?

Three-tier distribution system talks about the structure of alcohol distribution—from manufacturers to wholesalers to retailers.

This system intends to keep alcohol sales traceable.

First-tier includes all manufacturers and importers of foreign alcoholic beverages, wholesalers act as intermediaries, and retailers are the last tier before reaching consumers.

How Many Bottles Of Bourbon Do You Get From A Barrel?

Liquor Bottles

An average bourbon cask could yield between 130 to 220 750ml bottles. The bottle yields differ in every barrel because of the evaporation of liquid. 

In making bourbon, the evaporation of liquid naturally occurs in the aging process—and the lost amount of bourbon every year from the barrel is known as the angel’s share.

Is It A Good Investment?

Yes, these bourbon barrels can be a good investment if managed correctly.

It might take time to mature in barrel bourbon, and it’s never a bad idea because it’s usually a long-term investment.

Every investment has risks, but the bourbon industry has a strong market demand making bourbon barrel investment at a fairly low-risk level.

How Do You Get A Barrel From Distilleries? 

Legally, a consumer can’t get a barrel directly from a distillery.

If you want the whole thing, the barrel and the bourbon, you need to find a liquor store that will agree to handle the transaction.

FAQs

Do distilleries sell empty bourbon barrels?

Yes, distilleries sell empty bourbon barrels. However, the empty barrel price varies depending on the brand, quality, condition, and tax sales, if any.

How many times can you use a bourbon barrel?

Under American law, you can use a bourbon barrel once if you’re making bourbon. [3] But you may use it up to 4 times in other spirits, like the Scotch that uses ex-bourbon barrels. [4]

How long does a barrel of bourbon last?

Most bourbon barrels could last for decades and up to 60 years if carefully crafted, properly cured, and stored. 

In Summary 

You can now own a bourbon barrel with these steps we provided.

But first things first, you need a liquor license before owning bourbon barrels, especially when you’re a retailer.

Remember, a consumer can’t buy a barrel directly from the distillery. You need someone with a license or retailers to buy on your behalf. 

But even if it’s a single barrel or small batch, your private barrel has disclosed distillation dates and barrel numbers, which is a one-of-a-kind selection in the world.

References:

  1. https://www.thedailybeast.com/why-is-bourbon-so-damn-expensive
  2. https://www.forbes.com/sites/johnmccarthy12/2017/04/04/how-to-buy-a-barrel-of-bourbon 
  3. https://www.cnbc.com/2015/06/04/5-rules-that-make-it-bourbon.html
  4. https://www.eater.com/drinks/2015/8/13/9113965/whiskey-guide

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