How To Store Whiskey: 6 Tips
If you know how to properly store whiskey, a good bottle can last a lifetime. Now, whether you’re willing to wait that long—that’s entirely up to you. But there are distinct bottles worth preserving, whether for 5, 10, or 20 years for special celebrations.
Much love, labor, and patience go into making a single bottle of whiskey. So if you know how to preserve its unique flavor and complex aromas, it’s an invaluable skill to whisky enthusiasts and collectors alike.
How to Store an Unopened Bottle of Whiskey
Many things can affect the taste and flavor of whiskey over time. Knowing how to age whiskey and how to store whiskey is crucial to ensuring each whiskey bottle is at its finest when that celebratory day comes.
Just imagine storing a whiskey bottle for ten years only to cork it and taste a flat and dull whiskey. No thank you.
If you plan on storing a bottle for years, you’ll want to be acquainted with a couple of whiskey keeping’s long-standing nemeses: light, temperature, and air.
Understanding how these three elements can affect taste and aroma over time is critical to properly storing whiskey.
Step 1: Keep Your Bottle at Attention
We know it’s tempting to store your whiskey on its side, especially after seeing countless movies do it or perhaps even visiting some of your favorite wineries. It certainly looks aesthetically cool, but it’s a hard no if you want to maintain the integrity of the whiskey.
Wondering about does whiskey age in the bottle? Wine and whiskey age differently; unlike wine, whiskey does not age in the bottle. While cork moistness is vital for each, the much higher alcohol content of whiskey would gradually degrade the cork if the liquid was constantly in direct contact with it. If that were to happen, unwanted oxygen would eventually leak into the bottle and negatively affect the whiskey’s flavor.
With whiskey, there is no need for the liquid to come into direct contact with the cork. The high alcohol content of whiskey far surpasses that of wine, and the higher ABV creates a strong enough vapor in the whiskey's headspace to keep the cork consistently moist.
Step 2: Control the Environment
If you want to store your whiskey properly, it’s crucial to keep temperature fluctuation to an absolute minimum. Ideally, this means storing your whiskey indoors in a cool, dry, and dark place with a temperature range between 59-68F.1
It’s also beneficial to keep humidity at a minimum to preserve the physical bottle and label from deterioration and mold.
Exposure to sunlight and other extreme light sources will break down the whiskey’s quality over time. The sun’s intense UV rays can cause a chemical reaction within the bottle, adversely impacting the whiskey’s flavor, aroma, and color.
Suppose you’re a collector, retailer, or simply someone concerned with a bottle's aesthetics. In that case, it’s also important to be mindful of how harsh lighting can damage the bottle apart from the whiskey.
Too much exposure to direct light can cause the labels to fade and corks to dry out. The latter could result in a problem much more significant than looks.
The conditions above are vital to preserving the whiskey’s great taste and pleasant aroma. Some great options to store your whiskey at home are in a wine cellar, cabinet, pantry, or even in boxes. But if you’re someone who likes to show off their collection, consider dark bottles that reduce the amount of light contact or UV protectors for any glass or windows the whiskey bottles may be behind.
Step 3: Moisten the Cork
Nine times out of ten, this will not be a problem. But if you’re storing a special bottle of whiskey, it’s always better to play it safe and rotate the bottle from side to side a few times throughout the year for at least ten seconds to moisten the cork.
The cork is crucial to preserving a whiskey’s great flavor. It protects the whiskey from outside elements, such as air, which can lead to oxidation. The potent vapors from the whiskey’s high ABV content should keep the cork at a balanced moisture level, provided the bottle has been properly sealed from the factory. But it’s not always the case.
So if you have a special bottle you’re not planning to open for a while, it’s wise to rotate the bottle or turn it upside-down every now and then to prevent a dry or crumbly cork from leaking air or falling into your prized whiskey.
Step 4: To Freeze or Not To Freeze
There are a lot of folks who will say don’t freeze your whiskey. And a cold whiskey will indeed lack its original vigorous flavor and aroma, but its effects are only temporary. It’s undoubtedly not the first place we’d recommend storing a bottle of whiskey, but it’s neither the last.
That said, if your freezer or fridge does not provide enough space to keep the bottle upright, you’ll need to look elsewhere.
Additionally, if you store your bottle in the fridge or ice box, you can remove it and allow it to come to room temperature before the visitors arrive. As long as no real whiskey aficionados are coming over, we doubt anyone will notice a difference.
If possible, try storing your whiskey at room temperature and away from light. And if you still want to add a chill to your whiskey, consider an ice cube or whiskey stones to keep the flavor as close to neat as possible.
How to Store an Opened Bottle of Whiskey
Now that you’ve read how to store an unopened bottle of whiskey, storing an opened bottle should be a piece of cake. All of the previous steps mentioned above apply equally. Yet, the most essential element to preserving an open bottle is ensuring it’s sealed tightly to avoid oxidation.
Step 5: Ensure Your Whiskey is Sealed Airtight
When oxygen comes into contact with whiskey, all sorts of chemistry begins, and it’s always for the worst. The more contact the whiskey has with the air, the likelier oxidation will occur, which means a slow, sad degradation for that once robust whiskey.
So how do you avoid this? Well, it all depends on how much whiskey remains in the opened bottle.
Say you open a sealed bottle and have a drink with a friend. In that case, you likely still have around 75% of the whiskey left in the bottle. And as long as it’s tightly sealed and properly stored, that bottle should go unchanged for about a year.2
Now let’s say you’re having a grand ol’ time and have less than half a bottle remaining. This ratio of air to whiskey will result in a much more rapid oxidation process.
To avoid ruining a great whiskey, an excellent option to preserve the whiskey’s great flavor is to transfer the remaining whiskey into small airtight decanters or bottles that seal tight. This way, you’ll be able to savor its great taste for far longer.
Tip: If you use a decanter, make sure it isn’t made from leaded crystal. It may be bright and attractive to the eye, but it’s not worth risking the chance of lead leaking into your whiskey, which could result in poor flavor and be dangerous for your health.3
Step 6: Gas-Based Sprays
Instead of transferring whiskey to smaller decanters or airtight containers, there’s a variety of gas-based sprays that can also help preserve whiskey.
These sprays use inert gasses, usually argon or nitrogen, to create an invisible barrier between the remaining whiskey and air within the bottle’s headspace.
More commonly than not, they’re advertised as wine-preserving sprays but are equally efficient at preventing oxidation in whiskey and other spirits. You can find them in your local wine and liquor store or purchase them easily online.
Barbank: Stock Your Bar with Style
Now that you know how to properly store whiskey, you may think twice before ordering that top-shelf single malt that’s two-thirds empty. Or you’ll at least ask the bartender how long it’s been sitting that low. That way, you’ll be getting your money’s worth.
If instead of going out, you want to taste test high-quality whiskeys from the comfort of your home, Barbank can stock your home bar with style. With same-day dispatch and flat-rate shipping, Barbank allows you to order without ever putting on your boots.
Barbank also offers a variety of whiskeys, including bourbon, scotch, rye, and Japanese single malts. Or, if you want a taste tour of the Lone Star State, try the Balcones Texas Whiskey Bundle, which includes several distinct styles.
Order with comfort and confidence, order with Barbank’s online liquor delivery.
- Drink Hacker. Why Don’t Whiskey Corks Dry Out? https://www.drinkhacker.com/2020/02/27/why-dont-whiskey-corks-dry-out-and-what-you-should-do-if-they-do/
- Advanced Mixology. 6 Secrets of Storing Whiskey that Every Connoisseur Should Know. https://advancedmixology.com/blogs/art-of-mixology/how-to-store-whiskey
- Advanced Mixology. How Safe Are Decanters? The Dangers of Lead Poisoning. https://advancedmixology.com/blogs/art-of-mixology/how-safe-are-decanters