Whiskey is often aged, or matured, in barrels. This aging process can last from three to many years. Barrel aging is said to add more than half of the flavor and color to whiskey, both through the type of wood used to make the barrels and the way the wood was treated. Some barrels are charred inside, for instance, and the burnt wood affects the flavor. Although buying whiskey by the barrel is uncommon, especially from the larger distilleries, many smaller distilleries may be willing to sell barrels of whiskey still in the aging process or aged barrels at a bulk price. They save money by eliminating the bottling process.
Search online for a brand of whiskey you'd like to purchase by the barrel to get the necessary contact information. Company representatives should be able to answer your request or put you in touch with someone who can. If your preferred whiskey is produced by a large corporate distillery, don’t get your hopes up for buying a barrel. Many simply will not sell it this way for a variety of reasons, including health regulations. However, it’s worth asking, as some may reserve a few barrels each year for individual sale.
Scout out whiskey distilleries in your state or neighboring states. Some offer tours and tastings, letting you sample the whiskey before buying a barrel. These smaller distilleries are much more likely to sell whiskey in this form. If you're lucky enough to have a good distillery in your area, you may be able to pick up a barrel directly. Otherwise, you'll have to ask about delivery options and fees.
Ask your local liquor store for any connections it may have in the whiskey industry. Although your store may not have a direct connection with a distillery, its distributors likely do. Many local liquor stores will be more than happy to help connect you with its distributors. Ask these companies if they can help you find whiskey by the barrel.