How to bottle your own whisky?

Have you ever wished you could bottle your own single malt whisky? It's a conversation we have with friends, new and old, surprisingly often. And, the good news is that it's not as hard as you might think. It is true that there are a few things that require careful thought, but we’re here to help you each step of the way. Here’s our five step guide to bottling your very own whisky.

Step 1: why do you want to produce your own bottle?

This might sound like an obvious question to ask, and it is; but, it’s also an important one.  All the subsequent steps and considerations will flow from this starting point. So it’s well worth sitting down with a dram and carefully reflecting on what your end goal is.  

That end goal could be many different things.  Perhaps you’re getting married, and want to put something on the table.  Maybe your family knows you’re a massive whisky fan, and you want to surprise everyone with a special christmas present.  You might have your own bar, restaurant, club or even social media channel and may want to put something out under your own brand.  You could even be planning on becoming an Independent Bottler and launching your own company.

Step 2: how many bottles do you want?

Remember I said step 1 was a basic but important question?  Clearly your end goal will influence how many bottles you need.  

You’re unlikely to want 350 bottles to gift your friends and family at Christmas; unless they’re going to get the same Christmas present for the next ten years!  Equally, if you’re planning to launch as an Independent Bottler, it might be useful to have a decent starting number of bottles - you might even want a number of different bottlings, so you can go to market with some variety.

Put simply, the number of bottles you want will influence the size of cask you’d look at (you can read more about cask sizes here).  But there are some ways to think laterally; for example, we worked with a few bars in Singapore who wanted to produce a unique bottling, and clubbed together to share a cask amongst themselves - producing a manageable number of bottles for each bar.

Step 3: what type of spirit do you want?

This may, or may not, be important to you.  You might be more focused on maturation technique.  What you probably will have reflected on is whether you want non-peated, lightly peated or heavily peated spirit.  But if you are a fan of a particular distillery, maybe Deanston is your favourite, or English Whisky Company is down the road from you; finding spirit from that distillery of choice can be a way to make your bottling even more special.

Step 4: how do you want your whisky matured?

There are three key considerations here, each of which impacts flavour (happily) and cost (sadly!).

First, what style of cask do you want your whisky matured in? An ex-bourbon cask is a common, classic, approach.  Using ex-sherry is also a frequent approach, albeit slightly more expensive than ex-bourbon.  But there are other options too, ranging from ex-port, to ex-beer, and beyond.

Second, how long do you want your whisky to be matured for? Length of time will influence the flavour of your end product, how much liquid you’re left with (after evaporation), and cost (with older casks more expensive than younger casks).

Third, do you want to use a cask finish? Finishing is where the liquid is transferred from its primary cask into a secondary cask for an extra finishing period. The amount of time you finish for will vary depending on the size of the secondary cask, and the end impact you want to have on the liquid. But this technique can be a clever way of layering additional flavours on to your whisky.

Step 5: now you have the liquid, it's time to bottle!

The final step, and chance to get creative.  Broadly speaking, you again have three key considerations.

First, what strength to bottle at. You have the choice of either keeping the whisky at the same strength you find it in the cask, or adding some water.  Keeping it as you find it allows you to print “cask strength” on the label, and gives the end recipient the chance to decide whether they want to add water, and if so how much - to their taste.  Adding water yourself allows you to control the flavour, if for example you decide that a certain strength optimises the flavour profile. It will also reduce the cost of the bottles; you’ll have more liquid to bottle, and lower duties to pay on each bottle (duty cost depends on alcohol strength).

Second, glassware. In the UK, the common bottle size is 700ml.  In the US it has to be 750ml.  But you may have other options to consider.  For example, some Independent Bottlers use a 500ml bottle; clearly this means your recipients get less liquid, but it will mean a higher bottle count, and a lower cost.  The style of glass bottle is also entirely up to you, you could go classic, modern, artsy, and anything in between.

Third, label design. There are some things you’ll have to print on the label (size and strength for example).  And there are some things you’ll likely want to print, but have choice over (for example an age statement).  But largely you have free reign to design a label that you love. Its a chance to get creative.

Bottle your own whisky with The Single Cask

If these five steps have inspired you, and you’re excited to bottle your own whisky, then The Single Cask is here to help you.  As well as bottling under our own brand, and being a cask broker, we also help people with the end to end process of creating their own bottling.  Use the form below to contact us today and one of our specialists will be pleased to help you.