A bottle of local whiskey makes a tasty souvenir, but only if you can get it past airport security and onto your flight. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) imposes strict rules on traveling with hard liquors like whiskey, so if you don't pack accordingly, you could be forced to surrender that bottle at the airport and leave it in the country where you bought it.
You're allowed to take hard liquor like whiskey on your flight in your carry-on luggage, but the amount you can take depends on where you buy it. The TSA restricts the amount of liquid you can take through security to travel-size containers of 3.4 ounces or less, which must be carried in a single 1-quart plastic bag with a zip-top. This may include miniature liquor bottles, which you can find at most stores that sell beer and liquor. These restrictions only apply to alcohol purchased before you go through security. Once you clear the security checkpoints, you can purchase a larger bottle of whiskey from an airport vendor.
Checked Baggage Limitations
If you want to travel with quantities of whiskey greater than what you can carry in 3-ounce bottles, you will need to pack it in your checked luggage. Even if you do, though, you can't travel with just anything. The TSA prohibits any type of air travel with whiskey – or other liquors – more than 140 proof. It also restricts just how much liquor you can travel with, limiting each passenger to 5 liters total.
Though the TSA does not have specific regulations on how you pack your whiskey – other than recommending that you do so carefully, so it doesn't break – you should always check with your airline before you pack. Packing regulations for alcohol vary by airline to minimize breakage and damage, and the airline reserves the right to refuse your luggage's contents even if the TSA does not. Some airlines, for example, require that each bottle be packed in a leak-proof bag and sealed with tape in a cardboard container.
You may be a fan of single malt Scotch, but that doesn't mean you'd want to wash your clothes in it. That's what will happen if your prized bottle of Glenmorangie or Laphroaig breaks in transit. To transport alcohol safely, make sure the bottle is unopened, pace it in a self-sealing bag, and remove as much air as possible, and pad the bottle by wrapping it in an article of clothing such as a sweater or sweatshirt. Position the alcohol toward the center of the bag to insulate it against the indignities of baggage handling.
Returning to America
In addition to abiding by TSA rules, you have to follow the rules of U.S. Customs when you bring alcohol like whiskey home from a trip. According to federal regulations, you must pay duty and tax on any quantity of alcohol over 1 liter. The amount of that duty, or fee, depends on where you are coming from and the combined value of whatever else you purchased abroad. Make sure that you understand state laws wherever you plan on taking your whiskey. Certain states have their own laws regarding how much alcohol you can legally bring with you, and those laws may be stricter than federal regulations.