Facebook Pixel Code
 

Best Whiskey Barrels

Updated October 2018
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 25 Models Considered
  • 9 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 185 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best whiskey barrels

    Last Updated October 2018

    Any whiskey connoisseur knows that the aged stuff is always better, but it sure can be expensive. With your own whiskey barrel, you can age the cheaper whiskey into a sip-worthy liquor.

    If you're new to the art of whiskey aging or you're buying a whiskey barrel as a gift, deciding which one to buy can seem a bit confusing. It's tough to know where to start, especially when you're not sure what makes a good whiskey barrel.

    To help you out, we at BestReviews have selflessly sipped the spirits to find the best whiskey barrels on the market, and our shopping guide will tell you what you need to know.

    You can find whiskey barrels with a range of stains and finishes, so you should be able to find something that will match your décor.

    Whiskey barrel features to consider

    Simply put, using a whiskey barrel will make your liquor taste better. The finest oak-aged whiskey is quite similar to the cheaper whiskey when it goes into the barrel, but it's something special when it comes out. Rather than shelling out the big bucks for top-shelf whiskey, you can choose a cheaper bottle and age it yourself in a whiskey barrel. Here are some of the things to look for as you shop.

    Material

    The vast majority of whiskey barrels are made from oak because it's generally considered to give the best flavor to aged liquor. In fact, some types of whiskey – namely Scotch and bourbon – can only be sold as such if they've been aged in oak. That said, you can find some whiskey barrels made from other woods, including hickory and maple, but they're not as readily available.

    Wood origin

    American white oak is the superior choice for oak whiskey barrels and is generally what high-end options are crafted from. However, many barrels are simply made from generic oak. You might prefer American oak, not only for the flavor but also to reduce your carbon footprint when compared to oak that's shipped from overseas.

    Hardware

    Whiskey barrels have metal bands around the circumference holding the staves together. This hardware can come in many finishes, from bright bronze to cast-iron black. The finish on the hardware doesn't affect the performance of the barrel, but it does change the look somewhat. Which color hardware you prefer is a personal choice, so take a look at a range of options and see what catches your eye.

    Size

    You'll find whiskey barrels ranging in size from one liter (which holds about a fifth) up to 20 liters (which holds approximately five and one-quarter gallons). Most people opt for smaller barrels for home use because they take up less space. However, we wouldn't generally recommend anything smaller than two liters because a one-liter whiskey barrel won't even produce a full bottle of whiskey once it's aged and you've factored in some loss of liquid due to evaporation.

    Personalization

    Some manufacturers offer to personalize their products by either printing, engraving, or laser etching the whiskey barrels. This is an excellent idea if you're buying a barrel as a gift, although that's not to say you wouldn't want one personalized for your own use. Personalized whiskey barrels are also ideal for marking special occasions, such as weddings, anniversaries, or landmark birthdays. If you do choose a personalized option, check to see the extent of personalization offered. Some companies will only add one or two names to the barrel, while others will write any message you choose up to a certain character limit.

    EXPERT TIP

    If you'd like to distill your own whiskey, you'll need a "distilled spirits" permit.


    Staff  | BestReviews
    EXPERT TIP

    Experiment by adding extras to your whiskey, such as maple syrup or vanilla beans.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    How to age whiskey in a barrel

    Once you've bought your whiskey barrel, you need to know what to do with it. Although you might want to look up more detailed instructions, here are the basics.

    1. Cure your whiskey barrel. All barrels must be cured before using or they'll leak. To do this, fill your barrel with water, put the bung in the top, and leave it someplace where it doesn't matter if it leaks. Keep topping it up with water until it stops leaking. This usually takes 24 to 72 hours.

    2. Wash your barrel. Before you put anything alcoholic inside your barrel, rinse it out a few times with hot water until the water that comes out is completely clear.

    3. Add your spirits. You can either further age a regular whiskey to improve the flavor and smoothness or start with a white, unaged whiskey to age it yourself.

    4. Wait. Only time spent in a barrel can age your whiskey, so now you just need to wait for it to be ready. The larger the barrel, the longer it takes. Everyone likes different flavors in their whiskey, so it's hard to tell you exactly how long to age it, but to get the equivalent of one year's worth of aging takes around 80 days in a two-liter barrel and 175 days in a 20-liter barrel.

    5. Decant your whiskey. Once the aging process is complete, empty the contents of the barrel into a bottle or decanter and enjoy. We'd recommend doing this through a strainer to catch any particles of wood. If you leave it in the barrel, the flavor will keep developing, which isn't ideal if you've already got it just how you want it.

    6. Refill the barrel. It's best to start aging your next batch of whiskey right away. If you leave the barrel empty for too long, it will dry out and you'll need to repeat the curing process.

    The first few times you use your new whiskey barrel, start tasting the whiskey after around two weeks. With a new barrel, it's easy to over-oak your whiskey, but it will mellow after two or three uses.

    Whiskey barrel prices

    The price of whiskey barrels varies depending on the size, overall quality of materials and craftsmanship, and any extras you get. You can expect to pay between about $30 and $200 for one barrel.

    Basic one- to two-liter barrels with no extras start at around $30 to $50, while 20-liter whiskey barrels made with American white oak can cost up to $200.

    Tips

    • Whiskey barrels are for more than just whiskey. You can age other spirits or wine in a whiskey barrel, and some people use them to age hot sauce and vinegars.

    • Consider using essences. For a slightly different approach to aging whiskey, try using essences. You add these essences to a neutral alcohol (such as vodka) in your barrel and, depending on the essence, end up with a product that tastes like Scotch, Irish whiskey, bourbon, or any other whiskey of your choosing.

    • Check whether your chosen barrel comes with any extras. Some come with funnels, filters, essences, manuals, and other extras that you might find useful.

    • Top off your barrel. Due to the effects of evaporation, you'll end up with less whiskey than you put in. However, you can top off the barrel every couple of weeks.
    Many whiskey barrels come with a stand, making them easier to store on their side.

    FAQ

    Q. Why does aged whiskey taste better?

    A. The color and flavor of aged whiskey is very different from that of unaged whiskey. Why is this? When whiskey sits in a barrel, it absorbs some of the compounds from the wood, such as vanillin and tannins, which enhance the flavor. The wood also absorbs some of the impurities in the whiskey, leaving it with a smoother taste.

    Q. Can I reuse my whiskey barrel?

    A. Yes, you can reuse your whiskey barrel many times. In fact, slightly older barrels are less likely to over-oak your whiskey and can impart subtle flavors from other batches aged in it in the past. Assuming you take proper care of it, a high-quality whisky barrel can last up to ten years.

    Q. What is the "angel's share”?

    A. If you've been doing your research into home aging, you might have heard the term "angel's share" and wondered what it is. When you age whiskey in barrels, some of it evaporates, which leaves you with less than you started with. The longer you age it, the more you lose. This portion of evaporated whiskey is referred to as the angel's share. We're not suggesting that angels really took it, but it's good to learn the lingo.

    Q. Do I need to clean my whiskey barrel?

    A. Alcohol is a natural disinfectant, so there's little chance of harmful bacteria growing. The only worry is that the flavor (which is absorbed into the wood) will affect your next batch. If you're only aging whiskey (or using the same type of spirit each time), there's no need to clean your barrel between uses. However, if you're experimenting with aging various liquors, you can buy specialist cleaning solutions that will get your barrel clean without leaving behind harmful or bad-tasting residue.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Bronwyn
      Bronwyn
      Editor
    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Jacob
      Jacob
      Editorial Manager
    • Katie
      Katie
      Editorial Director
    • Lauren
      Lauren
      Writer
    • Linsay
      Linsay
      Editor
    • Melinda
      Melinda
      Web Producer
    • Rich
      Rich
      Writer

    BestReviews wants to be better. Please take our 3-minute survey,
    and give us feedback about your visit today.

    Take Survey