Does Whiskey Go Bad?

Does Whiskey Go Bad

Can whiskey spoil? The simple answer would be YES. However, careful storage can help maintain its taste for an extended period of time.  

Keeping it tightly sealed and storing it in the proper environment can help your whiskey last a long time, according to wine connoisseurs. The “everlasting” theory was proven by the Ernest Shackleton 1907 expedition.

That expedition was abandoned on its way to the Antarctic, but over a hundred years later, three of the whiskey-filled bottles they brought with them were discovered stored in environments reaching 30 degrees Celsius below 0 – still perfectly drinkable.

While not many would store their bottles for such a long period, the simple key to keeping your bottles safe is to shun air (specifically oxygen), temperature and light.

How to Properly Store Whiskey:

Air is your whiskey’s greatest foe. To safeguard it from this, do the following:

  • When storing, keep your bottles standing.
  • If you’ve consumed more than half of a bottle, avoid storing the rest. Finish it.

The rationale behind the upright position is that it helps keep the cork nice and dry. Experts recommend storing wine bottles on their side, but with whiskey, it is best to keep the contents away from the cork stopper.

With whiskey’s high alcohol content, it can easily destroy the cork and pass undesirable flavors into the mix. That also allows easy air intrusion into the bottle.

Storing An Opened Bottle:

Storing An Opened Bottle

As for the second requirement, experts recommend consuming the remaining content if the bottle has less than half left. If it has only a quarter left, the ‘expiration date’ is four months.

This is because oxygen in the air that has replaced the emptied part of the bottle will begin to oxidize the remaining content, which then causes a modification in taste, and therefore, loss of quality.

The more oxygen there is inside the bottle, the faster your whiskey will degrade in quality. So keep the air-to-alcohol ratio low. Below are two ways to do this:

  • Decant your remaining alcohol into a smaller bottle.
  • Push the alcohol’s level up and drive away air by dropping marbles into the bottle.

Follow one of these methods and you can rest assured that your whiskey will remain in great quality for far longer.

Things to Remember:

The temperature should be kept cool, although short exposures to higher temps will not harshly affect the whiskey. Anything that falls in the range of 7 – 21 degrees Celsius is fine for your beloved scotch.

Finally, your whiskey will fare well if exposure to light is minimized. This is also why a good majority of beers bottles are either green or brown in color.

If there’s dark storage space in your house, keep the bottles there. That space will suffice. If you can keep them in a cabinet or a cupboard, it would work just as effectively.

You must avoid exposure to direct sunlight. The reason is UV rays kill tannins, natural chemicals that are not present in whiskeys in large quantities but are still there. Tannins are actually given off by casks and passed on to the bottles.

What To Do After Opening A Bottle

What To Do After Opening A Bottle

There are very simple steps you can follow after opening a whiskey bottle to keep it from going bad. First you must understand that once opened, it’s only a matter of time before the contents go stale.

  • 1
    Make sure the lid is tightly closed.
  • 2
    Store it away from sunlight. This helps the whiskey maintain its taste.
  • 3
    Do not decant the contents of your whiskey bottle into a different container, even if there’s only less than half of it left.
  • 4
    If you bought the whiskey in a plastic bottle, it would be best to transfer its contents to a glass container. This would help it maintain its taste better and for longer.

How Long Can You Keep An Opened Bottle?

By and large, distilled spirits can endure time quite well. An unopened bottle of whiskey can last for generations. An unopened bottle of scotch or rye running for 10 or 12 years should be good as if it is new (assuming that it has been stored properly and has not been subjected to extreme temperatures, etc.).

A few important conditions you must keep in mind:

  • 1
    The room temperature should be maintained at 15 - 18 °C. Temperature fluctuations may cause damage to the whiskey’s overall quality and taste.
  • 2
    It must be kept dark, with very little light and heat entering it. You may notice that most whiskey bottles are often dark green in color – there is an important reason for this. This color deflects sunlight much more efficiently compared to the clear glass bottles. While you cannot always choose the bottle color of your whiskey, this is still something important to keep in mind.
    What if you don’t have a cellar to keep your whiskey in? If this is the case, make sure you leave your bottle in a part of your liquor shelf that is furthest from direct sunlight. Do opt to keep it covered at all times, using dense materials such as wood. This keeps sun rays from touching it.
  • 3
    The bottle should always be vertically positioned. As emphasized earlier, this prevents the whiskey from wetting the cork and prevents it from decaying. If your cork is constantly wet, it may begin to disintegrate and loosen up, thus allowing oxygen into the bottle and starting the process of oxidation.

The thing with corks is this: Some can be made of such low-quality materials that it may begin to disintegrate no matter how much care you put into them. It would be smart to keep a few corks handy, one from previously opened bottles which you can use as a replacement should the aforementioned happen.


Alright, so we’ve established the fact that whiskey does spoil – but there are also ways of prolonging its shelf-life and keeping your unopened bottles safe from any form of oxidation. One important takeaway from this is that storing unopened bottles is much easier than storing opened ones. As such, many experts suggest having only a few bottles open at a time—especially if you tend to enjoy the drink by yourself or only with a small group of people.

That said, it’s completely up to your discretion. Just keep the above tips in mind and follow them well when storing your whiskey; you should be able to enjoy your bottles for a long while.