Who better to answer, “does whiskey expire,” than our friends at BLACKENED American Whiskey.
DOES WHISKEY EXPIRE?
Whether you’re serious about starting a whiskey collection or just dusting off an old bottle from your liquor cabinet, you may wonder: does whiskey go bad? Some alcohol, like wine, gets better in the bottle over time, but this isn’t true for all types of booze, including whiskey. Unopened whiskey can last indefinitely, but a bottle that has been opened will eventually expire due to oxidation.
WHAT IS THE SHELF LIFE OF UNOPENED WHISKEY?
If you haven’t opened the bottle, you’re in luck. When stored properly, unopened whiskey has an almost indefinite shelf life. That’s right. Your prized whiskey will be as good years from now as it is today.
HOW LONG DOES WHISKEY LAST AFTER IT’S BEEN OPENED?
Whiskey is meant to be enjoyed over time, but once you open a bottle, the clock starts ticking. Most scientists believe that if your bottle is at least half full, it can last one to two years, but if it’s almost empty, with a quarter or less whiskey left, it’ll expire in about six months. Why is this? It all comes down to oxygen. The less whiskey in the bottle, the more oxygen it has, and the quicker oxidation can occur. Oxidation can change the flavor of the whiskey over time and eventually lead to expiration.
DOES WHISKEY GO BAD IN HEAT?
Exposing your bottles to direct sunlight, heat, and temperature changes won’t make your whiskey go bad overnight. Still, it can affect the spirit’s taste in both open and unopened bottles—swings in temperature cause whiskey to expand and contract in volume, picking up oxygen along the way. UV rays can remove pigments in whiskey over time, altering its color. And high temperatures can cause more whiskey to evaporate. Choose a cool, dark place to store your whiskey bottles to avoid this.
HOW TO PROPERLY STORE & SEAL WHISKEY
Want to avoid having your favorite bottle of whiskey go bad faster than it should? These tips for properly storing your whiskey will help preserve its taste longer than if it wasn’t stored properly.
- Stash in a dark place. Light is the enemy of alcohol, so avoid putting your whiskey bottles on display on a bar cart by a window and opt for a pantry, wine cellar, or liquor cabinet that doesn’t get direct sunlight.
- Keep your bottles cool. Whiskey lasts best below room temperature, but if you don’t have a cool place to store your bottles, room temperature storage will suffice. Just avoid excessive heat or sudden changes in temperature.
- Store upright. Never store a corked whiskey bottle on its side. Whiskey corks don’t seal as tightly as wine corks and can leak or lead to more evaporation over time.
- Retighten regularly. Corks and screw caps can loosen over time, so make sure to go into your collection and keep the seal tight now and again.
- Redistribute opened bottles. Extend the shelf life of opened whiskey by pouring it into smaller bottles. The smaller the bottle, the less room for oxygen and the slower the oxidation process.
DOES WHISKEY GET BETTER WITH AGE?
Unlike wine, whiskey that’s been bottled does not get better with age, so there’s really no reason for you to let your whiskey collect dust in a cellar, especially when you can enjoy it with friends or family or while relaxing with a nice whiskey cocktail. Like other hard liquors, whiskey gets its flavor during the distilling process as it ages in the barrel. Once the whiskey is bottled, maturation ends. For master distillers, it’s a carefully monitored process. The longer the whiskey ages in the barrel, the more flavorful and complex it gets (and the more desirable it is for whiskey aficionados). But it’s all a balance: Letting it mature too long will make it woody and bitter.