How to Store Whisky

There comes a point in every whisky lover’s journey when he or she surveys the box/cabinet/shelf/underwear drawer in which his or her whisky collection is stored and wonders how long all those open bottles are going to keep. Anyone who enjoys wine at home has also faced this conundrum: Do I finish the bottle or save the last fifth for tomorrow? Will it still be any good?

You can relax, whisky lovers, because the wine people have it WAY worse. Not only do open bottles of wine deteriorate faster than potato salad at a summer barbeque, wine collectors also have to fret and worry and wring their hands over the sealed ones, because wine continues to age in the bottle. That means every bottle of wine has an implied “drink by” date. For some of the better (read: expensive) reds, this date can be well over a hundred years. For your average $15-$30 bottle, though, you’re probably looking at between three and ten years of life, depending on the varietal/blend. After this date (which is always a matter of guesswork or research) the wine starts to go downhill, losing its character and ‘punch’ – eventually becoming either vinegar (if bacteria-laden air has leaked into a deteriorated cork) or the liquid equivalent of those twenty-something year-old spice containers in your folks’ kitchen cabinets.

Whisky doesn’t do this. A properly sealed and stored bottle of whisky (even $15 swill) will taste the same in two-hundred years as it does today. Don’t believe me? Check this out. Whisky’s high alcohol content serves to preserve it indefinitely, and freezes all of its esters, congeners and volatile alcohols in suspended animation. While the whisky itself might last forever, the whisky market’s fickle nature and cyclical waning and waxing mean that its value won’t necessarily continue to increase. You can certainly put away whisky now for drinking at an undefined future time, but don’t expect your collection to put your grandchildren through college. True whisky collecting requires a lot of research and a good sense of what modern releases will be rare and sought-after in the future. Just like collecting coins, stamps, and signed celebrity chef cookbooks – in fifty years there will be some valuable collections, and a lot of worthless ones.

How to Store Sealed Bottles

A sealed bottle of whisky has two enemies: light and temperature. Light and wide temperature fluctuations both serve to catalyze chemical reactions in volatile compounds and will eventually degrade those tasty esters and congeners in your whisky. An improperly-stored bottle of whisky will still be 40% ABV (or whatever it started at) after a decade or two, but it will taste like you spent $15 on it. Store your Stitzel-Weller bourbon, 2008 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, and Glenfiddich Snow Phoenix away from light (especially direct sunlight) and somewhere the temperature doesn’t fluctuate (the South Pole works!). A basement, wine cellar, or root cellar is best for this, but any box, cabinet, or closet inside your air-conditioned home will be fine. I’d avoid the attic unless it’s insulated or finished. Non-air-conditioned storage units are also prone to large fluctuations in temperature – I’d avoid those too.

Unlike wine, whisky won’t be affected by constant freezing temperatures, vibrations, or the occasional round of show-and-tell for your jealous friends.

How to Store Opened Bottles

An opened bottle of whisky (stored away from light) with more than two-thirds of its contents remaining can be expected to remain unchanged for about one year. After that, oxygen begins to work its destructive magic and effectively rusts your whisky. Okay, it’s not rust, but it’s the same basic principal: oxygen readily binds with lots of chemical compounds – a process called oxidation – turning them into other compounds. Add oxygen to copper and you get copper oxide, that green crusty stuff on old pennies. Add oxygen to iron, and you get iron oxide (rust), which is red-brown and crumbly. Add oxygen to whisky and you get whisky oxide… just kidding. You get lots of compounds that don’t taste like they used to. The more contact the air has with the whisky, the more oxidation occurs. This means the more air (or headspace) in your bottle, the more oxidation happens. Luckily, the process is slow, so an inch of headspace will not be detectable by your taste buds for a year or so. If 75% of the bottle is air, though, you’ll probably notice a degradation in quality after as little as a month. To see (taste?) this in action for yourself, leave a half glass of whisky out overnight and try it in the morning. Yuck.

A good rule of thumb in whisky circles is to invite some friends over to enjoy a bottle when it hits the one-third mark. You’ll get a lot more enjoyment out of that third of a bottle by sharing it now than you will by miser-ing it away until it turns flat and tasteless. An alternative, if you must be miserly, is to funnel that remaining whisky into smaller glass bottles with good seals (I like the 2- or 4-oz brown glass bottles here, with the POLYSEAL caps). This method isn’t foolproof, as some oxidation will have already begun, but you can definitely extend the whisky’s life this way. Another method is to use an inert gas to provide a layer of protection between your remaining whisky and the oxygen in its headspace. I like this product [Sponsored Link]: Oenophilia Private Preserve Wine Preserver. Just remember that you lose this protection every time you open the bottle. I save the air spray for open bottles that I know are going to remain untouched for awhile.

Even if you’re plowing through your open bottles in a few weeks, this knowledge does have practical application. If you see a bottle of something rare and special at the bar – sitting on the highest shelf and covered in dust – make sure to ask how long it’s been open and check out how low the level is. If the bottle’s been there for years with most of it gone, I guarantee you it won’t taste nearly as special as it’s supposed to.

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112 Comments

112 Responses to How to Store Whisky

  1. Good Article – thanks. Explains why the tiny amount of 1994 Lagavulin I hung on to 6 months was hardly worth it in the end. I’m sure I read somewhere that, unlike wine, you should stand your whiksy bottles up rather than laying them down. The idea being that if you lay it down the high alcohol content can start to damage the cork… have you heard this?

    • Thanks for the comment, WW. I had heard that, yes – I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I stand my bottles upright because it’s more convenient anyway. ;) Whisky bottle corks tend to be a little less tight than wine corks, in my experience, so I’d also worry about leaks in a horizontal position.

    • Eric says:

      The upright position is ideal for opened whisky bottles because storing them horizontally would increase the surface area of the whisky within the bottle, thus hastening its oxidation.

      I’m not much of a wine afficionado, but I assume that horizontal wine storage is the norm because wine is mostly stored unopened. This makes for more convenient storage with little additional degradation, if any.

      • Anonymous says:

        Wine is stored on its side so the cork doesn’t dry out.

        I assume you don’t store bottles of Scotch on the side because exposure to the cork will change the flavor profile.

  2. Zeke says:

    Any suggestions on cabinets ..or the fixture or the shelves you or other readers use?

    Maybe just a book shelf?

    • Hi Zeke,

      I prefer a cabinet with a door, to prevent light from playing a role. I do keep a bottle or two out on a bookshelf or desktop if I know I’ll be drinking it all in relative short order (a few months). Once open, I always keep the bottles upright, since I don’t trust the “corks” to not leak when horizontal.

      Someday I’d like a cabinet with electrically-darkenable glass, to both show off my collection and also keep it protected from light… but that’s kind of a pipe-dream. ;)

  3. Adam says:

    Has anyone tried vacuum sealing wine corks to solve the oxygen issue?

    • Kate B says:

      ralfy.com says the wine suction corks only hold for a few days. He says decant into small glass bottles or use the Private Preserve gas.

      • Agreed. I personally use Private Preserve for anything I know I want to keep longer than 6 months while open. I only decant into smaller bottles (which is a pain) when I want to keep a portion (250ml or a little 100ml sample) from a bottle that I can enjoy in the distant future.

  4. Dar says:

    It gets really warm at my house in the summer (hard to keep it below 80 during the daytime) so I started storing my Scotch upright in a wine refrigerator to keep it in the low-mid 60s. I’ve heard whisky is more tolerant to cold temperatures than warmer ones so I thought that was a good idea.

    I’m sure I could store everything in my normal refrigerator as well but I wouldn’t have any room for food!

  5. Brett says:

    Regarding the Specialty Bottle glass bottles, is the polyseal cap you mention the same as the “Std Cap” described on the website? Thanks!

    • Hi Brett,

      It looks like Specialty Bottle doesn’t list the Polyseal caps as an option anymore… you might try contacting the company to see if they still carry them. They used to be a drop-down option when adding bottles to your shopping cart, but that option is missing now.

  6. Harsh says:

    Hi,I would like to know in how time should a single malt bottle be consumed after opening it, in order to enjoy it’s taste,before oxidation hits your dram?

    • This depends on the amount of air (headspace) in the bottle. If the bottle is nearly full, it will last for more than a year. If the bottle is more than half full, I would try to consume it in 6 months or so. If the bottle is mostly empty, I would try to consume it within a month or two. Those are very rough estimates… you may not notice any oxidation for years. Suffice it to say that whisky (and other spirits) are very resilient and even if open for a long time will not “go bad” – even once oxidation sets in, it might take a long time to really affect the flavor. Cheers!

  7. Harsh says:

    Thank you so much.Cheers!!

  8. bonnie says:

    i opened a bottle of 45 year old chives regal blended scoth whisk 12 yrs. i need to replace it i was told it was worth 4,000 dollars. dose anyone know how much i owe foe a dumb mistake,i do kono it didnt tast like it was worth that when i was done thanks to someone.signed a real dumb ass

    • Hi Bonnie,
      It’s a little difficult to tell what you’re asking – you opened a bottle of Chivas Regal 12-year that was made 45 years ago? A whisky that was 12 years old 45 years ago will still taste like a 12 year-old – whisky does not age in the bottle. I don’t know how to calculate the market price of “standard” blends that are antiques because of their bottling date, since usually those are worth too little to interest auction houses. Did the bottle that you opened have a date or year of bottling on it? I wouldn’t give anyone $4000 for that unless they can prove that it’s worth that much. I would guess that it’s worth about $30. If you’re talking about a bottle that says “45 years old” on it, however, that’s worth thousands because the liquid spent 45 years in a barrel, maturing.

  9. freddy says:

    hi i bout some bottles of whiske at the auchsone and some of the corks are slitley loos so do i lay them down so they will exspand yours fred

    • Hi Freddy,
      If the auction house specializes in whisky or wine, you may want to ask them for advice. I’ve never dealt with a loose cork before. It’s true that wet corks expand, so I would try laying them down and keeping a close eye on them for a few days to detect any leaks.

  10. Terry says:

    Hi, I read an article a few years ago just as Glenfiddich Snow Phoenix started hitting the shelves. I stumbled across some good prices and stocked up with 12 bottles. I drank one, and gifted 2 others, so I still have 9 bottles left. I know cool and dark is the way to go, bowever, I’m still not sure if I should store the tins they came in vertically or horizontally. Any ideas?

    • Terry,
      I would store them vertically, to reduce the risk that contact between the spirit and the cork could deteriorate the cork over time, and (more importantly) reduce the chance of a weak cork leading to a leak. I store all of my “long-term” bottles upright, and the collections I’ve seen online and in print do this as well. Cheers!

  11. Terry says:

    Thank you so much for the response, that’s exactly what I was looking for. This is definetly a “long-term” collection as I see it. Thanks again!

  12. Jesse says:

    I was sitting at a bar last night and randomly the cork shot out of a bottle of templeton rye whiskey. It popped like a champagne cork landing two or three feet away from the shelf. The bottle had about one shot taken out. What would cause pressure to build up like this?

    • Jesse,
      That’s crazy! I’ve never heard of that happening to a whisky. The only thing I can think of would be the buildup of CO2 caused by yeast/bacteria feeding on the residual sugar… although that’s pretty unlikely in a 40%+ ABV spirit. Usually fermentation of any kind stops around 13% alcohol, give or take. Maybe if the bottle was in direct sunlight it might have caused some evaporation that built up pressure behind the cork, but that’s a wild guess.

      • Jesse says:

        The place is rumored to be haunted. I’m just trying to figure out the most logical explanation. Fermentation was our guess, but that sounds unlikely.

        • Mark says:

          Ok, this is SO weird. I got here by google-ing what recently happened to me. October 28th around 5:30 I cracked the seal on a bottle of Templeton Rye and removed exactly one tablespoon. I was doing a side by side comparison with some WhistlePig. At around 10:15 that evening I heard a horrendous noise in the other room, like something fell of the wall and hit the floor or something. I got up, went in the other room and turned on the light. I started looking for something out of place when I spied the cork stopper to my bottle of Templeton Rye lying on the floor! The bottle sits on a shelf about 5′ off the floor. Given by all the noise I heard, the cork had left the bottle at a high enough speed to hit the ceiling before landing on the floor. I sorta joked to my wife about the place being haunted. My Grandfather died in this house. Anywho, yesterday after work, I poured myself a small glass. Tonight after work I come home to find the cork lying on the shelf. What the heck is going on??? This is not my first bottle of Templeton Rye by a long shot, and have never experienced this before! Oh, BTW I’m 55 years old and a VERY LIGHT drinker.

          • Hi Mark,
            That’s very weird! Normally, corks pop in wine and beer due to residual in-bottle fermentation… but that’s impossible in a 40% ABV spirit. The ONLY thing I can think of is that wide variations in temperature are causing the airspace in that bottle to expand, thus pushing the cork out. Still, I’m amazed it has that much force!

          • Mark T says:

            I can’t resist. Mark, did your Grandfather like whiskey? Invite him, pour 2 small amounts, make a toast to him and to sharing a dram, drink yours, and leave his for him in the evening. Also mention to him that you’re willing to share, just maybe not so often, and he can pop the cork if he thinks you waited too long. And don’t forget to include him when you do enjoy.
            Enjoy your spirits!
            Mark T.

  13. Gary says:

    Have there been any studies that verify a range in storeage of scotch- with the regard to temperatures lets say 30 degrees to 85 degrees [like the storeage in an attic] with effect the flavor of a scotch- with gradual changes of temperatures over several months – not a daily fluctuation- also can the cork change the flavor all that much- Im no expert but I would think air from a close to empty bottle and light would do far more damage to any whisky

    • Hi Gary,
      I’m not aware of any such studies (I could only find hearsay and speculation when I researched online). You’re right that the damage done to a whisky is almost entirely due to the air (not so much the light) in a nearly empty bottle. For light to have a negative effect, the bottle would have to be exposed to strong sunlight for a long period of time – say in direct sunlight on a bar shelf for a year or two. The cork is only likely to effect a whisky (it’s very rare) if it’s infected with the bacteria that cause “corked” wine. I have heard that this can happen, but that it’s extremely rare. Also, since whisky is best stored vertically and there is little-to-no cork-whisky contact, it’s even less likely, even with a contaminated cork.

  14. Gary says:

    Thks for your quick reply I have a limited budget but have a rather large collection of scotch that cant be easily replaced I plan on keeping the bottles for many years-I enjoy sharing about 10 samples of different brands at one setting with a few very close friends giving them alittle of each- the collection is about one year old and this fall I kept them stored in my attic for security reasons (will be making a secured room or buy a safe soon) the temperature was between 25 to 60 they were stored on their side (a local scotch enthusiast told me it was better) they are now stored upright and will be moved before the hot summer-most people on here would probably say drink a buy one at a time but thats not me- my collection is getting quite impressive and cant be replaced easily- king george johnny walker- chivas regal royal salute- laphroaig 25- dalmore 18 and 28-glendroniach 33- ballatine 30- jury prophecy- highland 18- dewarts signature to name a few- at less then half full I will transfer them to smaller containers ( for the air reason) and keep them in a room that is made in my garage that is attached to my house probably 6 by 8 with three quarter plywood on both sides of the wall using 2 by 6 walls- the room will have no windows-thats my plan any other suggestions besides drink the scotch within a year-

    • Hi Gary,
      Your plan sounds good – store the bottles upright, away from light, and protect them against very high temperatures (cold won’t hurt them). It’s a great idea to transfer the contents of half-empty bottles to smaller bottles – that will make a huge difference in longevity. You could also consider getting a “wine preserver” – an inert gas you spray into a bottle that protects the liquid from oxygen… I use one called “Private Preserve”, although it’s better for bottles that are opened rarely, since you lose the gas when you pour from the bottle. I personally keep about a dozen bottles open at once, and I try to finish them off within a month when they drop below 1/3 full (or within six months when they drop below 1/2 full).

      Amrut Fusion is indeed a great whisky, and very much strong competition for scotch single malt. Their Portonova special release last year was also amazingly good.

      Cheers!

  15. Gary says:

    One more comment I just purchased Amrut Single Malt Whisky made in India– all I can say is move over Scotland an India scotch is here– yes I know it cant be a scotch—- to be fair to Scotland it has imported peat barley and blended with India barley- I heard of this before and sure most of your readers are familiar with this- I just ran into it at a local shop- and would match this against any of the mentioned scotchs in my collection-

  16. Gary says:

    Oh it was the fusion malt (sorry i lead a sheltered life dont get out much)

  17. TR Mahorn says:

    I once read that to prevent oxidation occurring when storing for several years to wrap the bottle in Saran Wrap. Have you ever heard of and/or used this technique? Might this cause the label to bond to the plastic and rip the label? What are your thoughts on is? Thank you.

    • Hi TR,
      The principal cause of oxidation is the air already inside of the bottle. Unless you have a faulty stopper, the plastic wrap won’t prevent the air inside the bottle from oxidizing the whisky. Again, the larger the headspace in the bottle, the more air is available to oxidize the spirit. If you do have a faulty (crumbling or ill-fitting) cork/stopper, the plastic wrap might be a good idea, if you can actually get it airtight… you might have to use plastic wrap AND tape… or just use another stopper that fits – I save a small basket full of various sized corks for this purpose. Cheers!

  18. eHPee says:

    Hi , I currently live in Thailand, with day time temperature ~ 30 degree Celsius ( moving close to 40 in summer) wondering if I need a refrigerator cabinet ? Have some expensive bottles in my collection which I’ve collected and currently store it in a wooden cabinet away from any light. Any tips?

    • I don’t think you need to refrigerate the bottles (unlike wine, which will degrade quickly in high heat). The only concern I’d have is that if any of your bottles have imperfect stoppers or corks, they will evaporate more quickly in that heat, and you’ll lose some liquid (and increase oxidation) due to the exchange of vapor and hot air through the cork. 95% of your bottles will be unaffected, but one or two might have leaky corks. Of course, the same thing is likely to happen with bottles that are open, at a faster rate than would happen in an air-conditioned space.

      If you have a cellar or any other kind of protected or air-conditioned space, I would relocate the bottles there to be safe (or at least the ones that are open or that you suspect of having air leakage). If you have a wine refrigerator with space in it, obviously that would work too, but I would not spend the money on a dedicated refrigeration unit.

      Caveat: I do not collect whisky, and every unopened bottle in my collection will likely get drunk within 1 to 2 years, so I’m not an expert on proper long-term storage of whisky. I suggest asking your question on the whiskymag forum (Whisky Magazine), and the whiskywhiskywhisky forum. There are bound to be some collectors there who have more experience. Cheers!

  19. Martin says:

    Hi. I’m starting a whisky collection and i have a few opened bottles, my main concern isn’t taste its evaporation i was wanting to basically show the bottles off. I was wondering how long it would to take for about half a bottle to evaporate? Any ideas?

    • Hi Martin,
      As long as the bottles are tightly closed, the evaporation should be minimal. To give you an idea of evaporation rates: In hot Kentucky rickhouses, annual loss to evaporation from barrels is between 4% and 10%, depending on temperature and barrel placement. In the much-colder Scotland, it’s around 1.5% to 2%. If you mentally compare a hot, breathable barrel to a room-temperature stoppered bottle, you should be able to rest easy. :) As an experiment, take two empty bottles and fill them each with a few inches of vodka. Seal one bottle with plastic wrap and tight rubber bands, and leave the other open. Mark the levels with a permanent marker and put them in your storage cabinet for a few weeks/months. Evaporation rates of vodka and whisky will be almost identical (with a slight variation due to ABV differences).

  20. Alistair says:

    I have mine in a closet in the basement so light is not an issue. Regarding temperature it fluctuates from 60F in coldest months to 80F in hottest months. The change in temperature is very gradualy and no more than 1 degree over 24 hours. Is that acceptable ?

    • Hi Alistair, that is absolutely fine. the kind of temperature fluctuations that would eventually damage whisky would be the kind you’d see with unprotected outdoor storage: changes from near-freezing to above 100 over the course of several years. This kind of treatment would both chemically affect the whisky, and would almost certainly degrade the cork or seal and let air in.

  21. asker says:

    i just have a question, last Friday i traveled to a hilly area from a city where temp was around 47 and place a bottle of Chivas in trunk horizontally, temperature was not fine there, when we consumed it , the taste was so pathetic that we could even go for a single round, we wasted it all and still were suffering from headic and ridiculous hangover, when we woke up….could someone suggest what happened to the blended scotch over here??

  22. ty says:

    I just have a question. If you put whiskey in a whiskey jug made out of pottery will the flavor change and if you put different whiskeys in the jug will the flavors change.[of course i mean the bottle is empty before changing whiskeys]

    • Ty, that’s a good question and I don’t have an exact answer for you, but I have seen one or two whiskies sold in ceramic jugs (such as Tullamore Dew), so I think it can be done. I would imagine that unless the ceramic is glazed on the inside that it would absorb at least some of the liquid. The remaining whisky would not be likely to change in flavor unless the stopper on the jug is loose enough to let air in. However, if the jug did absorb some whisky, that whisky would leech into the next batch, possibly changing its flavor. If you stick your finger in the jug (or shine a flashlight in) you should be able to determine if the inside is glazed/sealed or not. Hope that helps!

  23. ty says:

    Thanks a lot that does help.

  24. nat says:

    i have unopened bottles of “black velvet 102 canadian whiskey” and “seagram,s vo” has to be about 20 years old since first purchased. Will it still be drinkable (other than opening to try) It has been stored in a cabinet.

    • @nat, If the bottles still have an intact seal, then they should be identical to the way they were when purchased. If, however, a flaw in the seal (degraded cork, for example, or a manufacturing defect in the cap) allowed air to get in, then it’s possible for a bottle that old to have oxidized to the point of blandness. Most likely, though, they’re perfectly fine.

  25. mandi says:

    help! i just got back from the store and my bottle of whiskey appears to be leaking. visual examination didn’t reveal a broken seal, but there’s definitly the smallest leak ever coming from somewhere. it’s just a bottle of old ezra so it doesn’t have a cork or anything. in your professional opinion, is it safe to drink? thank you so much in advance!

    • Hi Mandi,
      First, if the bottle continues to leak (i.e. didn’t just have drips on it from a bottle on a higher shelf), you’re well within your rights to return it to the store, show them the leak, and ask for a replacement. However, whisky can never be “unsafe” to drink – no bacteria, fungus, virus, or any other kind of living contaminant can live or grow in liquid with that high a percentage of alcohol. The worst thing that could possibly happen is that a leak allowed air to circulate into the bottle, thus beginning the process of oxidation. However, it would take a bottle decades to acquire noticeable oxidation with a tiny amount of headspace (air space in the bottle) containing oxygen. Such oxidation, if it did happen, would only serve to give the whisky “off” flavors, or make it bland. Hope that helps!

  26. Ch.Rama krishna reddy says:

    Hi,am Rk i stored the 3 bottles of scotch in 3 different years one is in 2011 June-30th i.e.Black Dog 8 years scotch.And the 2nd one is ,SINGLE TON , which i stored 2012 & the final one is JHONNIE WALKER Double black lable, on 21-09-2013. So these 3 bottles were stored in mud Pot with sealed bottles under the soil with 3 feets depth so it is enoughf r else make more depth. The period of duration is 10 years from above said dates so it may be good r bad after the 10 years it may evoprates r not it is sealed bottle s so experts can suggest me the storage process is correct r not it is storing under soil with depth of 3 feets thanks and bye

    • Hi Ch.Rama. If I understood your question correctly, you’re doing a lot of unnecessary work. A sealed bottle of scotch will keep perfectly fine for 10 years, as long as it is kept out of direct sunlight (such as in a cabinet with a door on it). There is absolutely no reason to bury it.

  27. Alistair says:

    Hi,

    I normally mark the ullage line when i buy a new bottle for collection so i can monitor it. I recently found that a bottle i bought in May 2013 already lost some content in just 6 months. Not much about 5mm in the narrow part of the neck. It is kept in the basement and temperature was up to 27.5 degrees this Summer. Do you think the seal is compromised ?

    • Hi Alistair,
      It does sound like some vapor is finding its way out of the bottle. If it’s a bottle that you intend to keep unopened for a long time, I would suggest finding a way to seal the top (dip in hot wax, for example). If it’s something you plan to open but are worried about oxygenation, you might try finding another cork that makes a better seal (I usually have a tin full of saved whisky stoppers for that reason). Even with an air leak, the bottle isn’t likely to suffer too much oxidation with such little headspace, unless it continues for many years. You might be able to lessen the impact by sealing it in a vaccuum-sealed bag or at least a large zipper-lock plastic bag with as much air removed as possible.

      • Anonymous says:

        Thanks for your reply. I also read that alcohol expands and contracts with temperature (that’s in fact the reason why bottlers make room for the ullage). I know that I marked the neck of the bottle in Summer when temp was 25C and I saw the lower mark recently with temp at 21C. Therefore it can be a simple case of the alcohol contracting in the bottle rather than compromised seal. Does that make sense ?

  28. Ember says:

    I like my Scotch, and want to make sure it is properly stored, but in the movies and in stores I see all sorts of decanters that it is kept in. I like the way they look but would it be a bad storage choice? I know you mention keeping light out, but whiskey decanters seem to be fairly common.

    • Hi Ember,
      Decanters are indeed a trade-off between slow whisky degradation and aesthetics. They are safe if you keep them in a dark cabinet (but what’s the point?) and have an airtight seal (rubber gasket, not glass-on-glass). You can also safely use one if you keep the whisky in it for a short amount of time (weeks if well-sealed, a day or two if not), say for a party. Finally, you could use them for the “bottom shelf” whisky that won’t be a waste if the air and light cause it to oxidize, while your good stuff is kept safely in a dark cabinet when not in use. Hope that helps. Cheers! -Nathan

  29. K.R. says:

    Hey, it’s pretty cool that you’re still answering comments on this post after so long :) I have a bottle of the Balvenie Portwood, which is one of my favorites, that I had kept stored in the original bottle (and box) in my closet, intending to save it for celebratory occasions. After having opened it, the next time I got it out there seemed to be rather less of it left! I asked my brother if I was doing it wrong, and he joked that it had evaporated, implying that I had drunk it and forgot. We concluded that it was unlikely to evaporate in the closed bottle.

    He received a bottle of the same stuff as a gift recently, and mentioned to me today that maybe it was evaporating after all, as his own bottle seemed to have lost some volume. We are the only ones in the house, so it’s not sneaky kids! Haha.

    I’ve read your post and the comments, and now realize that the remains of my own bottle is probably much the worse for being stored :( But I also notice that evaporation is a possibility. I do not think the cap is faulty unless it is a chronic problem with the distillery or something — I should hope not, for the price these things go for!

    My question is simply, how much volume can be expected to be lost to evaporation in a bottle that is stored after being opened? How much does temperature affect this? Will the wine preserver approach help mitigate evaporation?

    I’ve already got answers to what I *should* do in this case, I am mostly just curious about what may possibly happen and what can be done about it.

    • Hi K.R.- Tough question! In the wine world, the volume of air (headspace) is referred to as “ullage” and is expected to increase slowly over time due to evaporation through the cork (which is not 100% air tight). In a closed bottle of wine under normal (cool) cellaring conditions, this happens at a rate of very approximately 1 inch per 30 or 40 years (down to the ‘shoulder’ of the bottle). Wine is different than whisky, and alcohol evaporates at a lower temperature than wine, so if the cork is less secure and the aging conditions warmer, it could happen much faster. I’ve personally never noticed level drops in any of my open bottles, although I haven’t paid close enough attention to notice small changes. I’m afraid you have a mystery on your hands. I would first try to find a tighter-fitting stopper, just in case the factory one is bad. Then, I would move the whisky into smaller bottles when you drink enough of it, to avoid ever having a large amount of airspace. Finally, I would use something like the Wine Preserver to reduce the chance of oxidation. The wine preserver is not likely to have any effect on evaporation – it just keeps the oxygen away from the surface of the liquid. Hope that helps. Cheers! -Nathan

  30. Jerico says:

    Hi, I am starting a whiskey collection and got some good bottles at hand. I only have some beginner’s question for you: 1) I live in an apartment, no basement of course.I don’t have temperature problem during winter, but on summertime when extreme heat and humidity hits, the lowest temperature I can get is 27 degrees Celsius with the air con unit on and could reach up to 35 degrees if I’m not home and without the unit on. Does the changes of temperature over the course of a day hurt the whiskey? 2) I keep my bottles on an open shelf inside their respective boxes. Does the boxes give enough protection from light, specially thick ones like The Dalmore king Alexander and Glenmorangie Signet, or do I need more light protection from light?

    • Jerico says:

      Oops too much light there, sorry got a few shots already

    • Hi Jerico, only extreme temperature swings are likely to increase oxidation occurring inside the bottle. I would say that as long as you’re not storing them outdoors, they’ll be fine. The boxes provide sufficient protection from light, yes. For mid- to high-priced bottles that come without boxes, I’d recommend either re-using old cartons or keeping them in a cabinet. Cheers!

  31. Christian says:

    I have recently seen a bottle 40 year old Balvenie at an airport shop. The bottle is on permanent display,outside of its wooden box. Does the light really can have damaging influence?

    • Yes, light does negatively affect whisky in a clear bottle. Not a lot of retailers know (or care) about this, ditto with bars. The effect is (far) worse with direct sunlight than fluorescent lights, and is also worse with an open bottle than a closed one (my understanding, although I have no source for this, is that light catalyzes the oxidation of molecules in the whisky exposed to air, thus the more air in the bottle, the more damage light can do). Unfortunately, I have no hard evidence for the amount of damage done to a clear bottle in daytime fluorescent light over the course of a variable amount of time. It’s entirely possible that a year could do so little damage as to be unnoticeable, or it could be noticeable within a few months. Given the choice, I’d go for the bottle still in its box in the back storeroom. :)

  32. Christian says:

    Thanks!!! What a pity about that bottle, just 150 made and then they let one get bad….

  33. Walt says:

    I have a (faux) cut glass decanter(?) with a glass cork-like cap. You know the kind that looks like what rich people put their scotch in, have it on a serving table with the glasses and ice right there. As seen on TV. Anyhow, how long would my scotch last in there?

    • Hi Walt, I don’t have any hard evidence for exactly how much damage would be done over how much time. As I mentioned to the commenter above who asked about decanters, I don’t use them. They have three main problems: 1) Allow in light, 2) Are rarely full, and thus have a lot of air space, 3) Are almost never fully sealed, unless they have a rubber gasket or actual cork. If I put a decanter out for a party, I would personally pour it back into the original bottle before going to bed, unless it had an airtight seal of some kind. If it had a seal, I would feel comfortable storing it (with whisky) in a dark cabinet for about as long as I store half-empty bottles – 4-6 months. If I wanted to store the air-tight decanter (with whisky) somewhere exposed to light, I would try to finish it off within a few weeks. Of course, all of that is estimation (ie. hot air) and not based on any hard evidence.

      If I were really serious about decanters, here’s what I would do: buy two bottles of reasonably good scotch, but not expensive – something in the $35-$45 range. I would drink a glass or two from one, and then store it in a dark cabinet, and then I would pour the other bottle into my favorite decanter and leave it sitting out, capped. I would periodically sample whisky from the decanter (every few days or weeks), until I noticed a decrease in quality – I would use the bottle in the cabinet to confirm this lowered quality, and I would perform this taste test several times to rule out a “bad tastebud day”. That would give me the approximate amount of time that I can safely use my decanter. Science! (Sortof)

  34. Brad T. says:

    Very nice article.

    I’ve been drinking scotch monthly for a few years now, so I don’t consider myself especially new to it, but I am new to education!

    I wonder now why I took me so long to find a way to preserve the flavor of my scotch 0__0

    I’ve started keeping my scotch in the dark and in an area I consider cool. I have a couple aquariums and I never really don’t want new fish, aquatic plants, and aquariums lol

    I keep my scotch in a dark cabinet in my room that stays pretty cool and when I started I only had a bottle of Dewar’s 12 year. The bottle was about an inch from half full at the time, and I waited probably a month before I went back to it. I was amazed when I went back to it and it was as fresh as when I drank the first two glasses!!!.

    Today I have basically a glass and a half left and it tastes horrible :( There’s no warmth, not smoke or fruitiness (which there’s basically no smoke in a blended Dewar’s, the fruit is the upside) none of that mossy, wet, taste that only scotch offers. Basically liquor with no aroma :(

    I’ve never put in wine preserver because I thought it may alter the flavor.

    Thank you for the advice in your article!

  35. Liam Morris says:

    Hi, read your article and wanted clarification that whiskey doesn’t ‘age’ in the bottle after it’s opened? Clearly it ages in terms of degrading, but is there any instances in which it would age in terms of getting better? My old man had a crock of Tullamore DEW which he opened on his 18th birthday, then saved for 20 years or so until my 18th when we opened it again, and it tastes amazing. I’m 26 now and we still have a little bit on special occasions and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever had. I’m no distiller, but when whiskey is maturing in the casks it’s exposed to the air, couldn’t the same process happen in an opened and re-sealed bottle, just without the wood flavour being imparted? Cheers

    • Hi Liam,
      First, you’re correct – whisky (or any spirit) does not age in the bottle. Whisky requires wood and air in order to “improve” via aging. In fact, some distillers will keep a “vintage” of whisky in airless stainless-steel tanks in order to keep it from changing – for example, when the whisky has had too much wood influence, but can’t be released yet due to market conditions. A bottle that has a little bit of air in it will continuously (and very slowly) oxidize the whisky. Oxidization is not always a bad thing – it’s one of the primary causes of the flavor of oxidized fortified wines like Marsala and Sherry. Usually, though with whisky, it causes delicate top notes (florals and citrus, among other things) to vanish, and overall causes the whisky to become blander. Sounds like you got lucky, but I’d be careful about letting too much air get into the bottle as you slowly drink it – you could overdo the oxidation. Cheers!

  36. Peter says:

    Another way to help with whiskey storage is to add clean glass marbles to the bottle to make up for lost volume. This decreases the head space and keeps the bottle “full”.

  37. CJ says:

    I’ve had a few bottles of Canadian whisky in a cupboard in the laundry room for a few years. The Canadian Club 12 Year Classic and the Gibson’s particularly look like someone emptied half of them and filled them up with water. They are both a very light, clear brown. I have another bottle of Canadian Club in my basement that is probably just as old that looks like it’s brand new. It is a nice dark golden color, just like out of the store. It seems to me that the heat from the dryer ruined these bottles. What do you think?

    • Hi CJ. I’ve never heard of whisky changing color in the bottle for any reason, temperature or oxidation or otherwise. Even “ruined” whisky left overnight in a glass or in the bottom 1/8 of a mostly-empty bottle will remain the same color. As far as I know, only dilution and filtration could change the color.

      However.

      Canadian whisky that is sold in the United States often (not always) is heavily colored and might have some other ingredients such as sugar added (the laws are very lax regarding additives in Canadian whisky that is to be imported into the US). I have no idea what effect temperature, time, or oxygen might have on those colorants or other additives. That said, my guess is that someone has been watering down your whisky – any High Schoolers in your house? ;)

  38. Loren says:

    Freezer??

    • Hi Loren, freezing whisky is only useful if you like ice-cold scotch (I don’t, unless it’s in a cocktail, in which case the shaking/stirring with ice makes it the correct temperature without taking up freezer space). If you have an open bottle and are concerned about long-term (> 6 months) storage and air leakage, the freezer would *slow down* (but not stop) the oxidation process, as all chemical reactions occur more slowly at lower temperatures. This would barely be worth the effort, though, since you’d just be extending the oxidation time, not preventing it, and you wouldn’t be able to pop it open for a quick room-temperature dram. At any rate, freezing it cannot hurt the whisky. At worst, it might get a little cloudy, which is perfectly normal at that temperature.

  39. Joel says:

    I have taken to adding the last remaining ounces into my “mash up” bottle. It is an every changing drink that is a step above the cheap stuff in the cabinet.

  40. rod says:

    I have always kept my whisky in the fridge…have one dedicated to the practice. keeps right around two dozen 750ml bottles comfortably; need room for gallon of sweet tea too. I have forty year old bottles of pinch that still taste and smell awesome…if you want to let it breathe, help yourself. scotch is for drinking I don’t have time to gander at it and make conversation.

  41. Paul says:

    I recently purchased a bottle Ardbeg 10 from a liquor store. I could tell; the bottle had been sitting for a long time. Took it home and found through he bottle numbering that it was bottled in 2005. I went to open it up that same night as I bought it and the cork broke off leaving the body of the cork stuck in the neck. I was able to remove it using a wine screw. I have a wine bottle cork in right now that is cleaned up and looks like it is providing a good deal. In this situation, what would you do? Would you take it back to the store you bought it from and ask for a exchange since it happened the night i bought it and it was obviously an old bottling?

    • Hi Paul. I would taste the whisky, and if it isn’t obviously gone bad (bland or tastes like cork or mold), I would keep it with the wine cork (or a cork from another bottle – I keep a bunch around for this purpose). Chances are that Ardbeg bottled in 2005 is going to be superior to Ardbeg bottled today (this is true of “official” bottlings across the board), so you might actually have a better bottle than you thought you did. Cheers!

  42. eeeecc says:

    Hello
    I have a whiskey kind of king Robert and placed in a tea flask for several days
    The question is whether whiskey sour?
    Or be harmful?

    • It’s generally considered a bad idea to store spirits in flasks, because the metal used isn’t guaranteed to resist corrosion by the alcohol, and they’re rarely airtight. As long as the flask was sealed (the top screwed on), it’s unlikely that the whisky degraded much. It wouldn’t sour under any circumstances, but it could become bland or “off-tasting” via oxidation (exposure to air). The only possibly “harmful” effect would be dissolved metal ions from the flask. That’s not likely to hurt you, unless the thing is made out of lead. :) Taste it – if it still tastes good, then it’s fine.

  43. eeeecc says:

    Thank you my friend for your kindness
    But I have another question
    Do you pick up whiskey from tea flask without hesitation? Or conducted some tests of whiskey before eating?
    What is the test that gives me the correct results? Is it the color? Or smell? Or taste?
    Thank you

    • I would taste it. It will either A) taste fine, B) taste bland, or C) taste metallic. If it’s A, I’d drink it. If it’s B, I’d pour it out because it wouldn’t be enjoyable. If it’s C, I’d pour it out because I wouldn’t want to ingest that much metal. C is very unlikely.

  44. Greg says:

    Hello, I have enjoyed scotch for about 20 years; however, now have the means to collect. I have about 30 bottles in my collection, all unopened and in their boxes. I have no intention of drinking these (I have a separate cabinet for that), but want to display them. After reading many of your comments I will not have a display case built on the main level of my home, but will put downstairs. There are two windows (~1.2m x .4m), that do not let in any direct sunlight. Should I keep the bottles in thier boxes, or can I display the bottles? PS the room is always cool and does not exceed 19-20C and the only time lights are on is when I am playing pool.
    thanks

    • Hi Greg. I’m not a collector, and I’m don’t know if whisky auction houses have any particular requirements regarding storage, but I would assume that as long as the bottles are not receiving direct sunlight at any time, they won’t be damaged.

  45. Maheshwor Ghimire says:

    We have stored the whiskies in a glass bottle sealed with aluminium cap.There is some what water sip-page at store and after two years sedimentation (like caramel collection) at the bottom of the bottle were found. Is it due to these types of storage practice or what may be the reason?

    • Hi Maheshwor, sediment at the bottom of whisky bottles is unusual, but it does happen. There are a few causes – most likely it’s the accumulation (crystallization) of particulate matter that has come out of solution. This is especially possible with whiskies that have not been chill-filtered. Sometimes particles (such as barrel char) can make it past the filtration process – those would have been in the bottle from day one. Finally, sediment caused by the degradation of the cork could end up in the whisky… although I would think that would float. No matter what the cause, the whisky is safe to drink – I would just leave the sediment in the bottle when you reach the bottom, or filter it out with cheesecloth or fine mesh.

  46. Newbie says:

    Thank you for all the great advice. I recently found an unopened bottle of Johnny Walker Black Label in my parents’s place which I was told was purchased at least 25 years ago. It was stored without its box in the back of a shelf and was exposed to non-direct sunlight all these time. Temperature range from 10 centigrades in the winter to 33 centigrades in the summer. I would like to know if it is still good whisky. Don’t want to open it to find out.

  47. Newbie says:

    Thanks in advance for your comment.

  48. Jon says:

    No question for you! I’m just starting with Scotch and wanted to thank you for all the fantastic advice on your site. I’ve bookmarked it and already know I’ll be visiting often.

    P.S. Last night I bought a Balvenie 12 Double Wood and thoroughly enjoyed it. Tonight I’ll try it with a good cigar!

  49. A M says:

    Thanks so much for the information, very helpful. I was wondering about peated whisky. I have a bottle of some lightly peated whisky and am storing it as you recommend above. Will the peat dissipate over time as a foregone conclusion or is there anything that can be done to keep it the same as if it was brand new. The bottle is sealed and hasn’t been opened since being bottled. Thanks.

    • Hi A M. Peat character should not alter in the bottle. The only “dissipation” of peat that occurs is while it’s aging in the barrel – peated whiskies aged for longer amounts of time (20 years +) in barrel tend to be milder than younger ones. Your bottle will remain unchanged forever as long as it is not compromised by air intrusion (oxidation) or direct sunlight. Cheers!

  50. Thank you so much for all of this great information and your consistency in looking at and replying to comments!

    Can you give me your opinion on some containers? I am thinking about “downsizing” my scotch in these: http://www.amazon.com/Cap-Bottles-Amber—–Case/dp/B00BZ3HYF0/ref=sr_1_5?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1411960700&sr=1-5&keywords=EZ+Cap+bottles

    I like the dark glass to help protect from light. I also hear that the caps are very secure. The two problems I can foresee are these:

    1. The size may be too large. At 16 oz, does it almost defeat the purpose? I wish I could find this bottle at 12 oz.

    2. Do you think this cap will corrupt the flavor at all? I suspect that because this is well received by home beer and wine folks, that it shouldn’t alter flavor profiles. But, I would like your opinion on wether or not this would alter scotch.

    Thank you for your time!

    • Hi Michael,
      Those would work, sure. Swing-top bottles provide an excellent seal against air. I would store them vertically, though, because you can’t be sure what kind of chemical interaction might occur between the rubber gasket and the alcohol. This is true of any bottle, really, even cork — which alcohol can degrade and slowly eat away at. I keep all of my bottles of whisky (of all types) vertically. Those are pretty large (more than half of a 750ml bottle), and pretty expensive… I would think you could find the same bottle type at a home brew supply store (locally or online) for cheaper than that. I buy all of my bottles from http://www.specialtybottle.com/ — they don’t appear to have brown glass swing-tops, though. I personally use these http://www.specialtybottle.com/corkbostonglassbottle85oz250mlwcork.aspx because they’re exactly one-third of a 750ml bottle, have a cork, and I like the shape. I keep them in a closed cabinet. Cheers!

    • Hey, another question has come up. I put in a pretty decent size order from your suggested website. Getting excited! But I got to thinking… I am downsizing a bottle of The Macallan 30 Year Old Fine Oak for my dad. I do not want to lose even a single drop. Nor, however, do I want to use a funnel that imparts any flavor to the nectar. Thoughts on this one? Or will any one do?

      http://www.amazon.com/OXO-Grips-3-Piece-Funnel-Strainer/dp/B000079XWD/ref=sr_1_1?s=kitchen&srs=2598021011&ie=UTF8&qid=1412742649&sr=1-1&keywords=funnel+oxo

      • That one’s tricky. To be truly “safe” you’d need a glass funnel (I don’t even know if they exist). I bet a stainless-steel funnel would be unlikely to transfer ions into alcohol (unlike aluminum, which might). Either way, I’d be very surprised if you could taste the influence a plastic food-grade funnel would have on the whisky. The very act of pouring it from one bottle to another (and thus exposing it all, briefly, to oxygen) would probably have more impact than the funnel. I wouldn’t worry about it myself – I’ve certainly used a plastic funnel to transfer whisky plenty of times and never noticed any off flavors.

  51. Mark says:

    What do you think of using a pump that removes the air from the bottle? I’ve used these for wine bottles and it works to preserve the wine. Thanks.

    • Hi Mark,
      Yes, that would work with whisky as well. My understanding, though, is that no pump is able to completely remove all oxygen from the airspace in the bottle, only reduce the air density by a large degree. You’ll still have oxidation occurring, although it will be much much slower. I wouldn’t do this with the intention of keeping the bottle for decades, but it should work fine to keep a bottle fresh for months or a year or two. I prefer the use of spray-in heavy gas (like Private Preserve, mentioned above) because the blanket of heavier gas rests on the surface of the liquid, thus preventing ANY oxygen from reacting with the liquid. Undisturbed, such a bottle should (theoretically of course) last indefinitely. Cheers!

  52. Steve says:

    My Father-in Law bought a bottle of Glenfiddich 20 years ago and opened it shortly after that. He hasn’t touched it in years and the bottle is still 80% full. Will the scotch be any good now?

    • Hi Steve,
      It will probably be fine, although side-by-side comparisons with a “fresh” bottle might reveal that the older bottle has lost a small amount of flavor (become blander). 80% full is still a relatively small airspace (if it had been 20% full for years, it would probably taste like brown vodka). I suggest cracking it open and having a taste test. If it’s still in good shape and your father-in-law intends to keep the bottle around for another several years, I’d recommend using Private Preserve (discussed above). Cheers!

  53. brian Bancroft says:

    I have a bottle of 21 year Chivas Regal that was given to me in 1975. It has been stored (upright in a liquor cabinet) for some 40 years or so, in its silver container and blue bag. The decanter appears to be porcelain, green/blue in colour. The seal is intact and numbered. When I shake the bottle it appears to be almost empty of product. Is this possible? Does the bottle etc have any special value for resale?

    • Hi Brian, I can’t help with the price (you’d have to contact a whisky auction company), but I can tell you that the same whisky is available today for around $150. I also have heard that those porcelain jugs have a problem with evaporation (possibly due to the cork not sealing against the bottle opening?), which is unfortunate. If the bottle was made by Wade instead of Spode then the empty bottle might have a small resale value, but that information comes second-hand from a forum, so I don’t know if it’s reliable. Good luck!

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