Finishing off a bottle of whisky can be bittersweet. It means you have to restock, but you also might reflect on the drams shared that got you there. Before you totally say goodbye and recycle the bottle, consider upcycling it so you can cherish those memories—or have the chance to show off a particularly enviable bottle—longer.
You can put as much or as little effort as you want into repurposing old whisky bottles—there are projects for every skill level. Keep in mind that some require power tools and other equipment, so put safety first. Don’t drink and DIY.
Give an Old Bottle New Life With These DIY Projects
Turn It Into a Carafe or Vase
If it holds whisky, it can hold any beverage—and more. Simply wash out the bottle and use it to hold water, iced tea, or anything you desire. Empty bottles also make a great flower vase. You may want to remove the label and paint or otherwise decorate the bottle, a method often deployed by restaurants.
Make an Infinity Bottle
When you have just a few drops of whisky left in a few bottles, try combining them into a home blend, often referred to as an “Infinity Bottle.” No need for a fancy decanter. Reuse a particularly striking empty bottle, or even a plain one. Keep the last one or two ounces of whisky in the bottle, and the next time another bottle is almost gone, pour its last dregs into the first bottle. Stick on a blank label and keep track of everything you add.
Some people strategically build their infinity bottles, only adding one whisky style or even one region or brand, carefully blending each component along the way. Others see it as more of a medley of memories and believe anything goes. The only hard and fast rule is that a little peat goes a long way—so if you aren’t looking for a big punch, add judiciously. Whatever your method, be sure to taste along the way to monitor how the bottle changes.
Plant a Bottle Tree
It won’t grow whisky for you, but a bottle tree makes whimsical yard art and, unless you use a real tree, doesn’t need to be watered. First, install a wooden post. Then, drill holes at intervals along the post, then insert sturdy narrow rods or metal spikes. Decorate with your bottles, and voila! You can also find bottle tree kits online and in home improvement stores.
Decorate your bottle tree at the holidays by adding lights or using bottles painted in seasonal colors. If you have a green thumb, you can train creeping vines or other plants to grow around the branches of your tree.
Some people use real trees—often those that are already dead—as bottle trees. Just make sure the branches are sturdy enough to support the weight of the bottles.
DIY a Soap Dispenser
Add a dash of whisky to your bathroom décor by finding a soap pump that fits the bottle. If your bottle has a screw top, first measure the cap in millimeters from the inner wall to the opposite side. That gives you the diameter. Then look at the threads on the bottle top and use this guide to determine how many times they pass each other. Those two numbers give you the closure number to look for, which is a fraction such as 24/410 or 28/415. You can find soap pumps on Amazon or simply take your bottle to any home décor store and see what fits. If your bottle has a T cork, search for a soap pump with a diameter as wide as the top of your bottle. Slide the top of the cork (the cap of the “T”) off and drill a hole in the remainder that’s large enough for the pump to fit through. Then fit the pump into the bottle. If you’re into bragging rights—or just like the look of it—keep the label on the bottle.
Decorate With Twinkle Lights
This is perfect for parties. Buy battery-powered twinkle lights online or in stores like Target or Walmart. Thread them into the clean, empty bottle. Hide the battery pack by taping it behind the label on the back or by placing decorations around the bottle.
Light Up the Backyard With Tiki Torches
Ready to play with fire? Whisky bottles make excellent vessels for homemade tiki torches. You’ll need Teflon tape, a copper coupling that fits your bottle, a tiki replacement wick, tiki torch fuel, and a funnel. If your coupling doesn’t fit tightly into the bottle, wrap it in Teflon tape enough times that it will firmly fit into the bottle opening, then feed the wick up through the coupling. Now use the funnel to add tiki fuel to the bottle. Insert the wick and secure the coupling into the bottle opening. Cut the exposed wick to 1 inch and let it absorb the tiki fuel for 10 to 15 minutes before lighting.
Make Your Own Candles
Light up the night inside by following these steps from John Parker, owner of Bottoms Up Candle Company, who makes scented candles in old whisky bottles. (If you don’t want to DIY this project, you can visit his Etsy store.) You’ll need a Dremel tool with a diamond wheel, a sponge, k220-grit or higher sandpaper, a wick, candle wax, and scented oil (optional). Many craft stores sell candle-making kits.
Decide how tall you want the candle holder to be and draw a line on the bottle with a Sharpie, being careful to make it straight all the way around. (The top of a label can be a good guide.) Prepare a bowl of water and a sponge, then wet the bottle and put on safety glasses and rubber-coated gloves.
Start the Dremel at medium speed and begin cutting on the line. This will take some time; do not use a lot of pressure or you’ll break the bottle. Use the sponge periodically to squeeze water onto the bottle as you cut to prevent it cracking from the drill’s heat. Once the bottle top is cut off, use wet sand paper to sand the edges to a smooth finish, then wash out the bottle to get rid of any sanding dust.
Tape a wick to the bottom of the bottle and wrap it around a pencil that can sit cross-wise on top. (This will hold the wick straight.) Use a double boiler to heat up the wax until melted. When melted, mix in the scented oil if desired. Let the wax cool until it is thick and slushy, then carefully pour it into the bottle within one inch of the top. Let it dry overnight before removing the pencil from the wick. Cut the wick about 1/4 inch above the top of the candle, then enjoy.
Transform It Into a Lamp
This project is for the most confident DIYers; for everyone else, numerous artists, including Wineworkz and WinealittleTreasures, sell whisky bottle lamps for purchase. Ready to wire up your whisky? You’ll need a glass-cutting drill bit, a bottle lamp kit (available from Amazon and home supply stores), and a half-inch grommet. This video shows the process.
Examine the clean bottle and decide where to drill the hole for the cord, ideally somewhere on the back that’s flat and an inch or so above the bottom. (Being too close to the base may cause the bottle to shatter when you drill.) Put on a safety goggles.
You want the bottle to stay wet, so you can either fill it with water; place it in a sink or container with water, or use molding clay to form a circle around where you’re going to drill, and fill that with water. When you are ready, use a glass-cutting drill bit (about 10 millimeter is best) on the lowest setting and slowly, gently drill the hole. It’s essential to go slow and steady. Rushing will cause the glass to break.
Once the hole is drilled, rinse the bottle of any dust and pour out the water. Then use wet 200-grit or higher sand paper to smooth the sharp edges. Thread the cord from the bottle lamp kit through the grommet, then carefully feed the cord into the bottle, threading it out of the opening of the bottle. Fill the bottle with something decorative like stones or beads, if you wish.
Bottle kits come with fittings, but if your whisky bottle originally had a screwcap, you can drill a hole in it for the metal rod. Screw the base of the socket on top of the rod, then thread the cord through it and secure the cap or fitting in the bottle. Make hooks with the wires and put them on the screws of the socket, tightening them back down and putting the socket completely together. Add your lampshade and bulb, then plug it in and switch it on.