How Long Does Whiskey Last Unopened?
Whiskey is one of the most famous and iconic alcoholic beverages in the world. It portrays class and elegance. While there are many brands and types of whiskey, the fundamental theory behind them is the same. Having a good time.
In this article, we’ll focus on how long does whiskey last unopened. But before that, it’s important to understand how whiskey is made and what is the difference between different types and origins.
How is Whiskey Made?
The name whiskey might sound fancy, but the chemical components are very simple. Although the elements needed for distillation are widely found, not everyone can make a bottle of whiskey. It needs dedication and years of experience to perfect the art.
Whiskey is typically a distilled beverage made from fermenting grand mash. One can use many types of grains like wheat, barley, corn or rye. Barley is the most commonly used and they cost less as well.
The flavor of each whiskey type depends on a wide array of factors. Distillation, the wooden cask it was aged in, artificial flavors and filtration influences the final flavor a lot.
There are numerous chemical compounds that ultimately make up the whiskey we know. Even the scientists haven’t been able to figure out all of them. Only 200-300 of the chemicals are known to men so far.
Aging the Whiskey
The aging process of whiskey is a debated topic. Typically, the more a whiskey has been aged, the more expensive it is. But whiskey has been aged for decades doesn’t necessarily mean it’s superior to other recently malted whiskeys. However, aging has a rarity value.
Aging a whiskey strictly means aging in wooden casks. Whiskey doesn’t age inside bottles. So, the age of whiskey is the time between distillation and bottling. Don’t let people fool you by giving you a whiskey that’s been sitting around on the shelf for years.
In terms of casks, American oak and French oak are the most common ones. Extraction, oxidation, filtration, coloration, evaporation, etc. happen inside a wooden cask that ultimately gives the whiskey it’s the final flavor.
Whiskey doesn’t age forever as well. Whiskey ages for a maximum of two decades. Any more than that, it’s not going to impact the flavor to any significant extent.
Types of Whiskey
We often see labels on the bottle that say ‘Scotch Whiskey’ or ‘Irish Whiskey’. What do they mean?
It’s nothing but different ways of fermenting and distilling the whiskey. For example, scotch whiskey is distilled twice, while Irish whiskey is distilled thrice. These factors somewhat influence that flavor of the final product that people cherish so much.
Other than Scotch and Irish whiskey, there are American, Japanese, Indian, English, German, Finnish, etc. types of whiskeys.
There are two main kinds of whiskey. Malt whiskey and Grain whiskey. Malt whiskey is primarily made from malted barley while Grain whiskey is made from grains. Then there are single malt, blended malt, cask strength and other kinds that share different characteristics.
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Does Whiskey Go Bad?
Coming to the point of today’s topic, how long do you think a bottle of whiskey will last? We know that beer and wine go bad if not treated correctly. But what about whiskey?
Theoretically, an unopened bottle of whiskey should last forever. As whiskey is a distilled beverage, it won’t go bad or develop any toxicity over time. But in practice, a bottle of whiskey doesn’t last forever. But you can prolong the life of an unopened bottle by following some simple protocols.
The main enemy of an unopened whiskey bottle would be sunlight. If you store the bottle where the sun has direct access, it will have significant impacts. The UV rays in the sunlight work as a catalyst and cause the chemicals in the bottle to react.
As a result, the whiskey might lose its charismatic flavor and aroma. UV light exposure can cause free radicals to build up inside the bottle. Free radicals are really bad for our health, especially the skin.
Overall, exposure to sunlight will cause the whiskey to evaporate. The color won’t be the same as well.
If you can keep your whiskey away from UV rays and heat, it should last decades. Then again, it depends on the manufacturing factors the most.
How Long Does Whiskey Last?
Let’s say you opened a bottle and could finish it. You don’t have any plans to drink it for moths. You might be wondering how long can you keep whiskey? Well, it depends.
If you seal the bottle properly, it becomes an unopened bottle again. But the slight exposure to light and air will deteriorate the whiskey over time. The temperature too. For the first few months, it might even be a good thing.
Spirit evaporates and if you keep the bottle open for long, the whiskey becomes smoother. Unless you want that, make sure you pour the pegs very quickly. Also, transferring the whiskey in a smaller container is a good idea. The amount of air won’t be an issue if you manage to do that.
We’ve all had experiences with leaving an opened bottle of whiskey behind and forgetting. Once we remember it after a month or two, it tastes better than before. But over time, the whiskey will start to oxidize. As a result, it would lose its aroma and flavor.
But how long can you keep whiskey? There is no definitive number. Some say, up to 2 years is fine while others say you can keep it for 4-5 years. It depends on the conditions you keep the whiskey and the method it was fermented.
How to Preserve Whiskey
In order to keep a bottle of whiskey in its peak condition, whether opened or not, you need to follow a strict protocol.
The first one would be light. Exposure to light is the biggest enemy of whiskey. You might have noticed that some whiskey bottles are dark and tinted. Why do you think that is? To protect the whiskey from exposure to light.
It’s best to put the bottle inside a cabinet. Away from all kinds of lights. Also, the temperature tends to remain the same inside a cabinet. Temperature is the next big factor that impacts the life of a whiskey bottle.
Room cellars or basements are hotter than room temperature. Whiskey is best stored at room temperature or below. Try to store it somewhere cool. Ideally, 15 to 20 degrees Celsius would be the perfect temperature to store whiskey.
If you tend to leave whiskey bottles often, it would be wise for you to invest in a vacuum sealer. It’s widely used in bars to keep the drinks fresh for longer periods of time. But again, if you open the sealer often, it won’t do you any good.
Always store the bottles upright. Spirit cannot damage glass but it surely can eat corks away. So, if you’re planning to store your opened or unopened bottle of whiskey for long, keep the bottle upright.
If your bottle has a screw in cork, make sure to retighten it every once in a while. The evaporation of the whiskey will cause the cork to loosen and you will lose your precious whiskey gradually.
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How to Know if Your Whiskey Went Bad?
The sings would be quite obvious. It’s not like you see a bad bottle of whiskey every day, but you will be able to identify it.
The first sign would be the color. Whiskey has a distinct brownish color that makes it iconic. We’ve seen numerous movies with great scenes involving whiskey and the brown color is prominent in all of them. The color will not be the same if it has gone bad.
Next up would be the sell and the taste. Any enthusiast can smell whiskey with their eyes closed. The chemicals in the whiskey are responsible for the taste and the smell. If you think either one of them isn’t making sense, it’s time to discard it.
Finally, you might notice debris or mold at the bottom of the bottle. It’s a very rare case, but it might happen. If you’ve discovered a 20-year-old opened bottle of whiskey, it’s better not to drink it.
Whiskey is something you can’t help but love. It’s responsible for so many good memories of our lives. It accompanies us in our good times and bad times. But it will go bad if you don’t treat it properly. Remember the points we mentioned above in order to properly store a bottle of whiskey. It’s best if you finish it before you need to store it.