Having a well-stocked bar or wine cellar can be impressive. But it’s child’s play compared to owning an entire barrel of your favorite brand. A number of wineries and distilleries allow you to buy by the barrel—and even give you a say in what goes into the cask. In other words, you’ll not only get a couple hundred bottles worth of booze, you’ll also get to brag about pouring your own “special blend” — and maybe even give a couple away as gifts. Talk about a cool wedding party favor. Grooms, are you listening? Here’s how you can buy whiskey, tequila and wine by the barrel.
A barrel of Jack: Arguably America’s most recognized whiskey, Jack Daniel’s is one of the few distilleries that allow you to buy by the barrel. A barrel of Jack will set you back anywhere between $9,000 and $12,000 (equivalent to some $40 or $50 per bottle), so you might want to split it with friends. Why no fixed price? Because it all depends on the ‘angels’ share,’ the term used to refer to the liquid that evaporates as the spirit ages.
If you’re going invest in an entire barrel, you may as well splurge on a trip down to Lynchburg, Tennessee to select it. You’ll get to meet with Master Distiller Jeff Arnett, who will help you pick a barrel that best suits your taste. If you can’t make the trip, he’ll happily choose one for you. Once your barrel has been selected and bottled, you can expect to receive about 250 hand-bottled decanters, each displaying the individual barrel number it came from, the date it was bottled and a medallion proclaiming it yours. You also get to keep the actual barrel as a trophy.
A barrel of bourbon: To buy a barrel of Four Roses bourbon, the first thing you’ll need is a licensed retailer to act as a middleman. (It’s the same deal with Jack Daniel’s and other distilleries that sell by the barrel.) Of course, the good folks at Four Roses can always help you find a local retail connection, if necessary. Master Distiller Jim Rutledge will help you hand pick your bottle, but only after much sampling. You’ll taste your way through more than a dozen pre-selected barrels that Jim sets aside before you arrive. (If you can’t make it to Kentucky, the distillery will send you samples.)
Once you’ve narrowed it down to your favorite, simply sign your barrel and head home knowing that a ton of bourbon is headed your way. The bottles will arrive with a special label that identifies the bourbon as hand-picked and hand-bottled. You’ll also get the barrel, which you can use for anything from a side table to a badass planter.
A barrel of tequila: If Emmitt Smith can buy his own barrel of reposado, then you should be able to, as well. Tequila Herradura kicked off its Buy-the-Barrel program last year with the NFL star (and Dancing with the Stars winner). The distillery encourages prospective barrel owners to travel to its Hacienda San Jose del Refugio, near Guadalajara in Mexico, where they can select their own double-barrel reposado tequila (that is, 100% blue agave tequila aged for 11 months in oak, then finished in a new toasted oak barrel for an additional month).
Once the tequila is bottled, the barrel is varnished, branded and shipped to you with a framed certificate of ownership. At $10,000 for some 240 bottles, it’s a pretty good value—just over $40 per bottle. Not to mention what should amount to a lifetime supply.
A barrel of wine: Think you have to live amid rolling hills to be a winemaker? Not so with Brooklyn Winery. Located right in New York City, this wine bar-slash-winemaking facility allows you to buy wine by the barrel and even make it yourself. You can be involved from crush to bottling, if you like, or simply pick your varietal or blend and hand the reigns over to winemaker Conor McCormack.
The most interactive option includes winemaking classes for you and up to seven of your friends. You get to press the grapes, customize the label, come in for barrel sampling and keep up with your wine’s progress with regular updates from the winemaker. The best part? The 288 bottles you end up with. The total cost comes out to as little as $20 per bottle. Of course, your sense of pride at having had a hand in turning grape juice into fine wine will be priceless.
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