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. MAKE SURE to get Polyseal caps for your bottles! They seal far better than the plain twist caps. Polyseal caps are not listed on the website so to order them for $0.15 each, place your bottle order with Visa, MC, or AmEx card on the website (not Paypal). Then, reply immediately to your Order Confirmation Email with ‘CHANGE ORDER’ in the body of the message. Specify that you would like Polyseal Caps (and how many), and they will subtract the cost of the standard caps, add the Polyseals, and adjust the total). 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.
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.
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.
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.
I had a bottle of laphroaig 15 i had stood straight up that was about a glass or 2 empty and the cork broke off the cap. I now keep all my corks wet.
I keep extra corks around for that reason. I just toss corks from finished bottles into a Laphroaig tin. 🙂 I prefer not to keep the corks wet for fear of leakage.
The idea behind storing wine horizontal as mentioned is to keep the cork touching the wine to help ensure the cork stays moist and the wine helps to prevent air from slipping in.
I’ve read that Scotch isn’t supposed to touch the cork as it will definitely add flavors to the high alcohol scotch that are not intended to be there. Even to the point it can wreck your whiskey.
Any suggestions on cabinets ..or the fixture or the shelves you or other readers use?
Maybe just a book shelf?
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. 😉
Has anyone tried vacuum sealing wine corks to solve the oxygen issue?
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.
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!
Regarding the Specialty Bottle glass bottles, is the polyseal cap you mention the same as the “Std Cap” described on the website? Thanks!
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.
I emailed them. They said the polyseal caps are not available online and you have to call to get them. Kinda inconvenient, but better than not having them at all.
Good to know. Thanks for checking Brett!
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!
check this out everybody who ever reads this, I had a bottle that was more than 1/2 empty for many many months and it tasted fine but it was a high grade whisky and I was making an infusion out of it, oh it was very potent too, oh lord yes it was a happy birthday for me.
Thank you so much.Cheers!!
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
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.
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
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.
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?
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!
Can I buy one of those bottles off of you?
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!
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
The same thing just happened to me. I actually found this site by searching for a cause as to why this would happen. I bought an inexpensive bottle of V.S.O.P. Brandy (40% ABV) and as I was removing the seal the cork shot out of the bottle, flying across the room a good 7-8 feet. I have been a bartender and worked in a bar for years and I have never in my life, ever had this happen. My question is it safe to drink?
Yes, it’s safe to drink. The only thing that builds up CO2 in a bottle and is dangerous is bacteria. Bacteria cannot live in anything above 15% ABV, let alone 40%. I believe some bottling plants inject CO2 or inert gasses into the bottles as they are corking them to prevent oxidation in the tiny amount of airspace. Some, instead, vacuum out the air. It’s possible that the machine injected a little too much air into the bottle as it was corking your bottle, and put it under enough pressure to eject the cork. I wouldn’t worry about it. Cheers!
I’ve had the cork on a bottle of Koval Bourbon pop out recently. This happened 3 times so far. The bottle is approx. 2/3 full. First time 2 times was next to the bottle. The 3rd time it was far away. The bottle sits atop the fridge. Perhaps vibration and/or warmth from the fridge is causing this? The cork isn’t that tight to begin with.
Best guess is that as the temperature changes (up or down?), more/less alcohol evaporates from the surface of the spirit and increases the air pressure inside the bottle enough to pop the cork. Maybe. I don’t really know, never had it happen. 🙂
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
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.
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-
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.
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-
Oh it was the fusion malt (sorry i lead a sheltered life dont get out much)
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.
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!
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!
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?
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).
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.
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??
You drank chivas???
’nuff said. you deserve the hangover.
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!
Thanks a lot that does help.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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 ?
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.
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 ?
It does make sense, yes. You can confirm it by waiting until the ambient temperature returns to around 25C and check if the liquid level returns exactly to the line.
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.
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
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
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?
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!
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. 🙂
Thanks!!! What a pity about that bottle, just 150 made and then they let one get bad….
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)
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!
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
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!
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”.
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.
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? 😉
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It should be fine. Without exposure to air or direct sunlight, it’s unlikely to have suffered any damage.
Thanks in advance for your comment.
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!
Thanks Jon, glad you enjoyed the Balvenie. 🙂 Cheers!
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!
Thanks, very helpful (and I’m very glad to hear it).
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!
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!
Great link. Thanks!
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?
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.
Thank you for your insight! My wife thinks she has seen glass ones so I will look.
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.
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!
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?
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!
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!
Thank you very much for this article. I recently opened my Jura Superstition and Laphroaig Triple Wood after over two years – both were about half full – and they were undrinkable. In fact, I tipped them both down the drain.
I thought it was last untainted for years but I now understand the reason they didn’t! I will be following your advice on here and aim to drink them all a bit quicker!
hey, guys i have a bottle of Glenlivet 12 yr i opened a couple months back .. an put in this decanter that was handed down to me.. there is maybe 2/3rds of the bottle.. i just tryed having some tonight.. an it tasted off.. its maybe been sitting in the decanter sinces august.. not sure if its cause if its a cheap seal.. or the air got to it
Usually, decanters don’t have air-tight seals. This is especially true of the ones that are all-glass. Unless it has a rubber gasket or cork, it’s probably not airtight. Because of the exposure to daylight, I generally advise only using decanters for short periods of time (during a party, for example, or when you expect the whole bottle to be consumed within a week or less), unless they have airtight seals and are kept away from direct sunlight. Even then, they tend to have a lot of airspace which will oxidize the whisky over time.
Hi Chris,I have a spode crock of Douglas Laing 25 year Rare Old Scotch Whisky and the pottery stopper has pulled out of the cork, can you suggest how to remove the cork from the jar.
What about a windowpane cabinet for whiskey storage in a room with artificial light, but no direct sunlight? Will the artificial light affect the whiskey?
I’ve never seen any hard evidence either way. I would guess that fluorescent light might do more damage than incandescent/halogen/led, and sunlight (even indirect) would do more damage than either. The intensity of the light would also matter. Unless you’re leaving clear bottles in direct indoor light, partially empty for longer than a year, I doubt you’ll notice any degradation. The oxygen in the bottle headspace will damage it way before the light does.
This latest journey just keeps getting better and better. However, not having any experience with Scotch, why do I detect (or think I detect) a metallic aftertaste? I get this even when sampling airline type bottles. On the other hand, I may be detecting a particular taste and am mislabeling it. sigh…
Hi Jeffrey. I’m not sure what would cause a metallic aftertaste, unless something in the alcohol is reacting with a metal filling in your mouth? Airline bottles are the most likely to be “contaminated” by bad seals, long storage, plastic bottle residues, or simply defects (I’ve always thought that some companies put their sub-standard batches into 50ml miniatures, but I have no proof). I suggest finding a well-stocked bar with a decent single malt selection (at least 10) and try 2 or 3 malts, neat, and see if you have the same experience. Try something like Balvenie DoubleWood 12, Macallan 12, or Dalwhinnie 15 and see if you still taste the metal. Cheers!
Hi, I live in the tropics and my room temp Whisky cabinate sits at 29 degrees (have purchased a digital thermometer to keep track). It has a glass front but all bottles are kept in their original boxes, and those that don’t have a box are kept at the back. I am just hoping that this temp is not too warm for storing Whisky? There is no real fluctuation in temp and I have placed insulation around the cabinate where possible.
Relatively constant high temperatures should not affect the whisky, and it sounds like your strategy for avoiding light exposure should work fine. Cheers!
I apologize if I am in the wrong forum. I’m not a drinker of anything however, my husband does enjoy dark liquours like scotch and dark tequila. He mentioned wanting to buy Macallan and I want to surprise him with a bottle for Christmas. I am wondering if Macallan is the best bet for fine whiskey. And if not, what would you suggest in the $100 max range?
Macallan has a very good reputation, and makes excellent single malt whisky. I personally think they charge more than they should, but then it is a highly-regarded brand name. The “best” Macallan, the 18 year-old, is considerably more than $100 – around $200 actually. The 12 year-old is a decent whisky, but it’s $50. I haven’t had the “Fine Oak” 15 year-old, which is around $90, but that’s because I prefer Macallan that’s aged in sherry barrels (like the 12 and 18), not in ex-bourbon barrels (like the “Fine Oak” series). If you can find GlenDronach 18, that’s very similar and around $120. You might also consider Glengoyne 17 or Glenfiddich 18 which are much cheaper (around $70). These prices are all near me in northern California – they may differ from your local prices.
Thank you for the information. 🙂 Happy holidays to you and yours.
Hi,I am Rk I stored the double label black label scotch in the year 2011 June 30th in under the earth with depth of 4 feets with sealed bottle , with full protection I stored him so any damage may occurs to scotch it is possible to drink now are else it may be spoil, the expert may suggest it actual I want to store it for 10 years from the above date
Rk, I don’t know if this is a joke or not, but there’s absolutely no reason to bury whisky. It won’t hurt it, but there’s no reason to do it. If the bottle is sealed and thus airtight, you could drink it now, in 2011, in 2021, or whenever you want to drink it. As mentioned in the article above, whisky does not age in the bottle and thus will not improve like wine does.
Hi recently had 2 bottles of Johnny Walker in my Hutch cabinet for about two years sealed..when i opened a bottle it tasted a bit woody..how can I get rid of that taste?
Unless the seal on the bottle was breached during storage, the taste was there when you bought the bottle, as whisky does not change in the bottle. Perhaps it came from a different batch than the one you had tried before (although blends like JW are renowned for their consistency batch-to-batch). Your best bet is to pour a glass and let it sit for 15 minutes or so to aerate and then try it again. Also try it on a few different occasions (before and after eating, for example). Perhaps it was just the state your palate was in when you sampled it.
Hi, I bought a bunch of Scotch back in the early to mid 1980s. Mostly blended ones like Cutty Sark, Teacher’s Royal Highland Deluxe Blended Scotch 12 years, Highland Baron 12 years, and a Single Highland Malt Old Fettercairn 8 years, to name a few. So, nothing fancy and none have corks, just regular screw on caps. They were always stored in a cabinet and in their original containers (cardboard tubes if they had one) in upright position. The first ~20 years they were stored in a cabinet in a cellar of my parents. Now, I live in Arizona and have the bottles in my pantry for the last 10-12 years. Temperatures in my house are between 80F (26C) and 85F (30C) in summer with A/C, and right now, in winter between 65F (18C) and 69F (20C). Sometimes during 2014, I marked the fill level on the neck of two closed bottles. I dragged my bottles out today and noticed that the fill level had dropped by about 5-8 mm. It is currently 68F in the house and I think I marked the bottles when it was about 80F. The fill level of most of my bottles is now at the lower end of the neck / upper end of the shoulder of the bottle (all are still closed and sealed). So, I would say the ullage has increased over the years. Now, I’m wondering if air leaked in due to insufficient (dried out) cap seal and evaporation took place and all those bottles have oxidized over the years and went flat (not that I would notice if I open one since I don’t know how they tasted in the first place) or if this is due to temperature related contraction? Over the years, I checked the caps on all bottles and tightened them if they felt a little lose. How should I continue to store the bottles – upright or horizontal – since they don’t have cork (can’t drink them all – 12 bottles is too much)? I’d appreciate your feedback.
Hi Dirk, that’s a bit tricky. I would imagine that the seals on screw caps are not rated for storage that long, and possibly have leaked. If so, the increased ullage would be due to evaporation. If the seals *are* intact, the ullage will change based on ambient air temperature, so you’d have to measure them at 80F (the temperature when you marked them) in order to be sure the seal has been compromised. If they have been compromised, I would open one of them and taste it (and, well, drink it too) to see if they’re still enjoyable. Even with a compromised seal, it’s possible that they haven’t significantly oxidized (the airspace is still minimal) and maybe you’ve only lost an imperceptible amount of quality. If the one bottle tastes fine to you, I wouldn’t worry about the rest. If not you could always mix cocktails (where any degradation will be hard to notice), throw a party, or possibly transfer each bottle to a 750ml bottle with a swing-top stopper (check http://www.specialtybottle.com) That last step seems a bit excessive to me, but if you’re hoping for another few decades of storage, it might be a good idea. Unless the seals are actually leaking liquid (not just air), horizontal or vertical storage won’t make any difference. Hope that helps. Cheers!
You could also open them all and spray in a little Private Preserve (check Amazon) wine preserver to protect them. While I do use Private Preserve, I don’t know if I would trust it for much longer than a year… not that there’s any reason not to trust it, I just don’t have experience with it being effective that long. This also seems like a last-ditch effort, since it would mean opening bottles that are still theoretically “sealed”.
Thanks for the feedback. I tasted a bottle I had opened a few month ago (still ~ 2/3 full). It tasted woody, oaky, smoky and still had quite some bite from the alcohol to it. To me, and I’m not an expert, it tasted like whisky is supposed to taste. I’m not sure how “flat” whisky actually tastes.
I’ll check the levels in summer again to see if they went back to the line and if I remember, get back to you. Cheers.
I am new to Whisky and I have been experimenting quite a bit in the past few months. My favorites so far has been the Macallan 18 and the Balvenie Caribbean Cask.
Not a new idea, but I would like to purchase a few higher end bottles and sit on them for awhile until my kids turn legal age to drink.
Is it possible to tell from the bottle what year the aging process started and in what year the whisky was bottled?
Thank you for your time.
Usually only vintage dated (like Glenrothes 1994) or single-barrel bottles contain that information. Single-barrel bottlings usually include both the year of distillation and the year of bottling, such as “1990 – 2011”. If both years (or one of the years plus a total age) aren’t clearly marked on the bottle then it’s unlikely you’ll be able to find out. Sometimes certain label changes can be used to narrow down the release year of bottles, but only rarely. Of course, once the whisky is bottled it doesn’t age any further, so the primary benefits to buying whisky to put aside are investment (assuming rarity or overall market increases will cause the bottles to be worth more), price protection (if Macallan raised its prices twice this year, they will probably continue to go up), or collecting limited release bottlings (like Glenfiddich Snow Phoenix that will never be on the retail market again).
Can anyone tell how to avoid broken glass partical during selling of Gualala cap.
I have a concern regarding evaporation from bottles that are stored unopened for long periods of time.
I have a bottle of Ben Nevis 1973 (26 year) that I bought 13 years ago. Over that time, I have been good about storing it out of direct sunlight, but the Angels have taken more than their normal share. The fill level has reached the point where it is now even with the lower shoulder of the bottle, and I really don’t want to see it dip any lower until I open it, which will hopefully be years from now.
Are there any tips for maintaining what’s left?
It’s possible that the cork was faulty originally, because that sounds like a lot of evaporation from a bottle stored only 13 years. From a quick search on the web, it sounds like a good way to reinforce the seal is with Parafilm: http://www.amzn.com/B006RAXTFU … I’ve never used it, but it sounds like what you want. Hope that helps. Cheers!
Well it was bottled in 1999, but yeah, I have bottles older than this that haven’t lost nearly as much.
Thank you for the tip–I will definitely look into this.
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I’ve readed quite different post on the matter. what do you have to say about this one from the FAQ of http://www.scotch-whisky.org.uk/understanding-scotch/faqs/
How should I store my Scotch Whisky?
Unlike wine, whisky does not mature in the bottle. So even if you keep a 12 year old bottle for 100 years, it will always remain a 12 year old whisky. As long as the bottle is kept out of direct sunlight, the Scotch Whisky will neither improve nor deteriorate, even if it is opened. Whisky that is stored at very low temperatures can become cloudy, but the cloudiness should disappear when the whisky is returned to room temperature.
Hi Tommy, good question. Put simply, the SWA is wrong about open bottles. This is all the proof I need: Whiskey, Age and Oxygen (If you’re not familiar with him, Sku is a renowned whisky blogger and one of my favorites), and then there’s plenty of other evidence on the web. You can be assured that the effects of oxygen-related deterioration are subtle, but few people who buy bottles of whisky worth dozens or hundreds of dollars are willing to take the risk.
The rest of the SWA’s statement is correct – unopened whisky (which assumes the bottle’s seal is intact) will remain unchanged forever, regardless of temperature. Sunlight, which they don’t address, has been anecdotally shown to affect the color of whisky, and theoretically could affect the flavor. Again, that’s not a risk I’m willing to take with a $100 bottle of Mortlach, nor the rest of my bottles. 🙂 Cheers!
Hi, thanks a lot for your answer. its very interesting. I saw many answer going into various ways, but I thought that one was the closest to my experience. I do have around 20 bottles at all time, around half open. And I’ve experience a lot with friends, to see if we could see any difference, and its always very subtle to my opinion. (subtle to the point were all flavors are still there, only an overall alteration. (not always negative at all). with a brand new bottle. even after 2 years+ opened at 50%+. but anyways here is the answer that represent the most my experience :
Pretty much its… I agree with your article, but the pace at witch it happens, is truly slow. so unless your a pallet maniak that absolutely want exact original bottle taste, its going to be really subtle even after few years.
I once put the question to a famous English whisky writer with a huge collection of opened bottles and he told me whisky will last for a year or so before it begins to change, if it changes much at all. And when it does change, it does so at a glacial pace. It might become faintly more caramel-like in flavour and texture or more candied – sweeter, if you will – but that’s just my subjective impression. Some people claim to like whisky better after it’s been open for a few months or even years.
The alteration, if you can detect any, will depend on the volume of spirit left in the bottle. If it’s much less than 50 per cent, it will change more rapidly because there’s more air with which to react and more space for the alcohol and water to evaporate into. We’re talking barely perceptible degrees here.
You can perform a simple test to accelerate the process and see what you think: Pour a tiny dram into a drinking glass and leave it, uncovered, on the counter for a day or two. Alcohol, which is more volatile than water, will evaporate more quickly, so the spirit should get slightly less strong, and the solid extract might become faintly stickier and more syrupy as both fluids evaporate. Eventually you’ll be left with a sad, brown deposit on the inside of a dry, empty glass – that’s the whisky component that is neither water nor alcohol.
This said, I have whiskies at home that have been open for a few years (a crime, I know) and I’m not too worried. They still taste fine, if not precisely as they did when I first cracked the seals.
thanks for your answer by the way, really interesting and nice to share here.
My Auntie has whisky in a decanter which has been in there for 30 years to my knowledge! She insists that it won’t have deteriorated. That can’t be right can it?
Hi Nicola. If the decanter is well-sealed (has a cork, rubber, or similar stopper or has a rubber gasket of some kind), then it’s essentially the same as a regular bottle. In my experience, though, most decanters are glass-on-glass, which freely allows air to circulate (over time) and will (over time) change the whisky. It won’t go bad, it will just oxidize, which changes flavors – some go flat, some become a lot more pronounced. For the majority of whiskies, this is a deterioration, although it takes awhile and may or may not be easily detectable. The old “leave a tablespoon of whisky in a glass overnight” test is very instructive in what will happen. Also, if the decanter has a lot of airspace in it, this will happen faster than if it’s nearly full.
Again, this is a matter of degrees. A mostly-full decanter with a pretty OK seal for 30 years will definitely change the whisky, but the amount it changes it might not be detectable unless you had the original (sealed) bottle to compare against. It might taste “fine”, but not as good as it used to. Some (few) whiskies actually improve with a little oxidation, but there’s no telling in advance which ones, and usually it’s just a little aeration that they need to improve, and will go flat with too much oxygen. Cheers!
In none of the decanter questions/answers have I noticed the issue of lead. Many maybe most crystal decanters have lead content that can be absorbed by the contents. Lead ingestion is hazardous even in a liquid that tastes good. Consequently, when liquids are placed in a decanter for social purposes the residual should be removed to normal safe storage at the conclusion of the event.
Good point, Al, thanks.
theres a springbank 12 cask strength sitting on the top shelf very near one of the lights on a track lighting apparatus at the neighborhood liquor store. i would guess it has been up there for a year and a half or so. safe to buy or caution?
My understanding is that the problem is UV light, which the sun delivers in abundance, but which is very weak in indoor (even fluorescent) lights. I would probably not worry about your Springbank. Cheers!
I’ve had a bottle of whisky with a cork stopper stored on its side for 5-8 years, after investigation it seems that this may not be a good way and now am in a quandary as to what to do.
Being first and foremost a wino but now in latter years becoming more apprecative of a good dram I stored this whisky in a wine rack thinking as with wine the cork should be kept wet to retain a good seal against the outside air and not thinking about any effect the cork may have on the whisky.
Do I now put the bottle upright or leave as is ?
The general consensus with spirits is that they should not touch the cork, as the high ABV can degrade it. I would sit the bottle upright, and (if possible) investigate whether the cork is compromised and might need to be replaced. If the cork can’t be inspected, I would either leave it alone, or wrap the top of the bottle in plastic wrap (or, much better, Parafilm) to avoid air intrusion. Even if some gets in, though, with the tiny amount of headspace in a full bottle, it’s going to take decades to do any real damage. If this is an investment bottle, I’d go with the Parafilm. Cheers!
This is one of the most informative and well thought out posts and discussions I’ve read in a long time, scotch or otherwise. Thank you for facilitating this.
Perhaps this is a bit extreme, but I want to make a limited release last decades (so I can have a dram with the birth of my boy in March, and when he comes of age two decades later), without altering the main essence of the whisky. Would a system similar to the article referenced be the surest way? That is, using a syringe through the cork? And if that would work, would oxidation still be an issue, given the infinitesimal exposure to oxygen based on the insertion of the syringe?
Again, thanks for the continued discussion regarding this. Cheers.
I can’t really say whether the syringe would be significantly different than just pouring and re-sealing the bottle. I doubt you could reliably create an airless vacuum in a corked bottle, even with a syringe, so you could still have headspace with oxygen in it either way, and it’s time+oxygen that leads to oxidation. (Also most whisky caps have a wooden or plastic top to the cork, which would make inserting the syringe extremely difficult. If it were me, I would take one of the following two approaches: 1) Pour half of the bottle into a 375ml empty bottle with a good cork or screw-cap with as little headspace as possible (but don’t let the liquid contact the cork or plastic of the cap while in storage). Seal and wrap the neck of the bottle with Parafilm to guarantee no air leakage into the bottle. Or, 2) Pour out a small-ish amount (3-4 oz) for a tasting now, then use a wine preserver like Private Preserve in the rest of the bottle to provide a barrier to the oxygen. Then proceed with the Parafilm to ensure a good seal, and keep the bottle upright with minimal agitation in storage (to keep the gas layer intact). Cheers!
Hello! I have a small collection of Hennessy and Johnnie Walker sealed bottles. Tonight I went down into my basement and noticed that one of my Hennessy bottles and my 21 yr JW bottle were upside down. I don’t know how long they’ve been like that. I corrected them immediately but I’m scared that I may have ruined my limited bottles. I don’t see anything floating around the JW. And the Hennessy is too dark to tell. Do you think I’ve ruined the taste? Or perhaps ruined the seal and they will slowly but surely begin to evaporate? Thank you so much for your help. I don’t plan on opening them anytime soon. They’re for me to keep as my collection.
Hi Bryan. I have no way to know whether your bottle are OK or not. All of the things discussed above are ways to reduce the chances of oxidation/contamination… nothing is a guarantee either way. It’s entirely likely that your bottles are just fine. It’s also possible that the alcohol might have damaged the cork, leading either to future air leaks or (if the cork happened to be tainted with TCA — extremely unlikely) cork taint. My recommendation is to buy some Parafilm and wrap the necks and tops of the bottles securely, just in case the seal was compromised – that will vastly reduce the chance of future oxidation through airflow. Cheers!
This is a great post and a very interesting discussion in the comments section as well.
Assuming that I have opened bottles that are two-thirds full or more and I want to store them for many years, aside from storing them upright in an ideal environment do you think that using Private Preserve is enough or is the use of Parafilm necessary too? I’d ensure these bottles have proper sealing corks, unlike the Cardhu 12 which would fail the “upside-down” test.
It’s hard to say exactly. If you want to store them untouched for many years, you’re really better off decanting them into smaller bottles with little or no airspace. That’s assuming you aren’t going to want to open them for an occasional dram. If you do want to open them once in awhile, the Private Preserve is sufficient (just re-apply it each time you re-cork the bottle).
If the smaller bottles isn’t an option, Private Preserve plus Parafilm should be sufficient, but I have no evidence of that, just my gut feeling.
I was trying to find the best way to store some of the nicer bottles I had which can’t be replaced and where I’d consume a dram a year until it reaches a certain level and just finish the whole thing.
That was my gut feeling too, but I was trying to figure out if Parafilm was really necessary on top of Private Preserve. Where the oxidization becomes more noticeable to an amateur palate depends primarily on factors like the age and peatiness of the malt I’d assume (chill-filtered vs non too) but better safe than sorry. Thanks again!
This could be placebo effect but I tend to notice the flavors deteriorating very quickly(within days) with the high proof stuff. Certainly the higher in alcohol the greater the effect of oxidation, but would it act that fast? I’m talking about 110 proof and above.
PS: I realize I’m very late to the party lol.
A good question, and one I do not have an answer to. There isn’t a lot of science around the subjective quality of taste (at least not with whisky), so “degredation of flavor” isn’t something that I’ve seen measured in any meaningful way. Theoretically, one could measure the rates of oxidation in whisky bottles under certain circumstances, but there’s no data on what aggregate quantity of oxidation is needed to cross some kind of “flavor quality threshold” and thus be detectable by the human tongue or nose. Also, some oxidation, under some circumstances, might actually improve the quality of a whisky, so a single metric wouldn’t be sufficient. If anyone knows of any studies done on this topic, I’d be very interested. Cheers!
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I believe single malts should never be stored on their side as the cork will degrade from the alcohol and alter/ruin the whisky taste. I have unopened older bottles (especially from the ’90s when there was a reputation of bad cork) that I have to be very careful with when first opening to avoid splitting or crumbling corks. If one looks like it may be splitting I replace it with a good one from a previously used bottle that fits well. If it does crumble I pour out all the whisky and use a fine mesh filter to strain cork bits out and then replace in the distilled water rinsed and dried bottle with a new good cork, or if its one I would drink quickly I may put it into a dried spring water bottle. I’ve tried tasting it after not removing the littlest bits of cork and was not happy. Older bottles have corks that sometimes seem to stick as you open and slow and patient care must be taken to avoid splitting them.
Good stuff. I bought 2 bottles of Glen Fiddich Snow Phoenix from Scotland back around 2011. Drank 1, figured I’d save the other for an investment. Do you think this one of a kind scotch is worth holding as a long term investment, or no. Thanks for your thoughts and information.
I think it’s a matter of personal taste. I like collecting things, so I can see how that could extend to whisky. I’ve also seen how even short term investments in whisky can have returns (the results of auctions lately reveal that). That said, I don’t personally invest in whisky, beyond 2 or 3 “special” bottles that I will either sell in 30 years, or drink. 🙂 It’s impossible to say which “one of a kind” bottles are “worth” investing in, and there are so many one-offs every year (the Snow Phoenix included) that who knows which ones will be seen as valuable someday (maybe all of them!). Cheers!
I plan to pour my scotch into little bottles like your article suggests…
But I want to keep the 2 oz brown bottles on their side in a card catalog drawer.
Will the polyseal cap last if the bottles are on their side?
Is anyone else keeping these small refilled bottles on their side for the long term (20+ years) ?
Personally, I would not store them on their sides. The polyseal (or any seal) caps are some sort of plastic, and could theoretically be slowly degraded by the alcohol (which is a solvent, after all), leading to leaks or oxygen penetration or both. Also, the plastic could potentially affect the whisky, which is why we don’t store (good) whisky in plastic bottles. Metal caps might be an option, but would be difficult to seal without a bottle-capper machine or similar. Also, I have no idea whether 80-proof spirits would corrode metal caps or not. Sorry!
Maybe I am way-overthinking things, but once a bottle is opened, assuming other conditions are met (kept in a cool, dry place, away from sunlight) does it make a difference if the whisky is stored in its box/tin verses outside of it?
It doesn’t matter, no. The only practical purpose of the tin (aside from resale value and appearance on the shelf, if you like them displayed that way) is to block sunlight and (maybe) reduce the chance of breakage if dropped or shipped. Cheers!
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generally speaking, how much longer does Private Preserve extend the life of a whisky? and does the volume of liquid in the bottle matter at all if you’re gassing it after each opening? thanks!
Great questions. I’m not sure anyone knows the answers exactly, but in theory the layer of argon gas (or whatever it is) should prevent most oxygen intrusion into the whisky as long as the layer is sufficiently thick. The canister says how much to spray into a bottle based on its total volume (for 750ml, it’s one long spray and 4 short bursts), which gives you that volume, and then the heavier gas (heavier than oxygen) sits on top of the liquid. Because it doesn’t have to “fill” the rest of the bottle, it doesn’t really matter how empty the bottle is. Do store the bottle upright. Fluid dynamics being what they are, there is probably some continued oxidation despite the presence of the heavier gas, but it should be vastly reduced. The canister says “months…even years!” so take from that what you will. I personally use the stuff on any bottle that I forsee keeping open for more than about 6 months. Cheers!
thanks for the detailed reply, Nathan! and cheers to you as well. (p.s. you’re an influencer in my book, and the only whisky blog i read with any consistency.)