Does Whiskey Go Bad?

Whiskey is one of the most popular alcoholic drinks in the US. It’s not only a drink per se, it’s a way to celebrate a job well done.

Whiskey is a go-to drink to relax after a hard day at work. Who doesn’t like to sip on an Old Fashioned when having a moment to themselves?

So, after coming home from work, you’ve found an old bottle of whiskey you got as a gift years ago. Your intuition is telling you that hard liquor does not go bad, but is it right? Can you safely drink whiskey bottled a decade ago?

If you’re worried about the state of your whiskey, and you want to know how long does it last and what is the best way to store it – we’ve got your back! Read on to find out the answers to these, and more questions!

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Does Whiskey Go Bad?

The best whiskeys are produced in just a couple of countries in the world. Scottish whiskey is the largest-selling whiskey in the world, and the American holds the second place. Let’s see the shares of the biggest whiskey manufacturers:

Market shares of whiskey in % (per country)

Scotch whisky26.9%
American whiskey9.02%
Canadian whisky5.39%
Irish whiskey1.98%
The rest of the world56.71%

Every whiskey lover knows that a bottle of Scotch can be stored for a very long time. But, does whiskey go bad?

And the grand reveal is: No, whiskey does not go bad.

Like all similar hard liquors, whiskey is distilled. Distillation is a process of purifying a liquid by heating and cooling. That process makes whiskey virtually impossible to expire.

Fun fact about whiskey: when fermented, the whiskey is actually a transparent liquid (like vodka or gin). It acquires the golden color during the aging process. The aging process is done in charred white oak casks.

Whiskey’s nutritional value per shot (1,2oz):

Calories72
Proteins0g
Carbohydrates0g
Fat0g
Fiber0g
Pure alcohol10.4g

How Long Does Whiskey Last?

Whiskey, as we revealed earlier, does not go bad. But it’s important to know how long it retains its best quality. What’s the point of enjoying Scotch in a crystal glass if the quality is no longer premium?

Something interesting we wanted to inform you on is that a bottle of whiskey doesn’t get any better if you keep it unopened for a few years. The aging process is done once the whiskey is bottled, so there are no benefits from storing away. 

Since the bottle won’t be any better over time, so you can pretty much enjoy it at your earliest convenience. A 50-year-old bottle will taste pretty much the same as the bottle bought today. 

When it comes to unopened bottles, they pretty much last indefinitely. We do recommend that you use them within a few years to avoid drinking whiskey that’s not up to par.

For opened bottles, the shelf life is somewhere between six months and a year. After opening, the whiskey is exposed to air more. The air will affect the whiskey and change the taste – it may become better, but it could also become worse.

Keep in mind that these are only estimates. The pristine condition of your storage space will ensure you get the most out of your bottle.

Whiskey consumed per capita in the top 5 countries (2018)

CountryAmount consumed
France4.54pints
Uruguay3.74 pints
Australia2.74 pints
Spain2.72
USA2.41 pints

This data may surprise you – it surprised us as well. Who would’ve known that France loves whiskey so much, huh?


How To Store Whiskey?

Storage is the most important factor when it comes to maintaining the best quality. Following the guidelines given and the instructions on the box ensures that you always have a fresh bottle of whiskey. 

So, there are a few things to remember about the storage. First of all, choose a cool and dark place to store it. The pantry or the basement are the ideal places.

Sure, you can see actors in films keeping their bottles of Scotch on the kitchen counter or on a shelf in the living room. These simply aren’t the best storage conditions, but you can do that as well if you like. Make sure to finish the bottle in a few months, though.

Direct sunlight will affect the taste in a way that it will become bland and unappetizing. If you cannot find a place away from a window, place the bottles inside a cardboard box.

The story is pretty much the same when whiskey is exposed to a source of heat. Its compounds will start to evaporate, and when you open the bottle you will find that it tastes like whiskey diluted with water.

For opened bottles, make sure to tightly close the cap after use to stop the air from getting in. Also, it’s best if you store the bottle upwards – you will further reduce air exposure. We recommend that you pour the leftover whiskey into a smaller bottle or even a jar. It will keep the best quality longer this way. 

A lot of people find that whiskey simply tastes best when you consume it a few days after opening. Why is that? Because the air evaporates the volatile compounds and the taste is smoother afterward. 


How To Check If The Whiskey Has Gone Bad?

Maybe you have found a few bottles in the basement, and you’re wondering if they’re any good. There are a few things to keep in mind when you want to check the wellness of your whiskey. So, read carefully to learn how to do that.

First, check out the exterior of the bottle. If you can spot rust on the cap (for metal caps), or mold on the cork, it’s not only a sign your whiskey is no longer good – it’s also a sign you kept the bottle improperly. If the bottle is leaky, it’s best if you throw out the whiskey (and perhaps recycle the bottle).

If you can see sediment in the bottle, do not worry. Sediment is typical for unfiltered whiskeys (some manufacturers state that the whiskey simply tastes better unfiltered) and the whiskey in question is perfectly safe. Make sure you don’t pour the sediment into the glass, though.

Next off, do a sniff test. If you don’t recognize the signature smell, and you find the smell off-putting or unpleasant, it’s a cue that the quality has been compromised, unfortunately. Skipping this bottle might be the safest option.

If the whiskey looks and smells fine, do a taste test next. When it comes to taste, it can be affected by many things. Air exposure is the number one cause. Even the unopened bottles are exposed to a tiny amount of fresh air.

If you find the taste bitter or just bad, don’t drink it by any means, and throw out the entire thing just to be safe. However, if you find the taste savory and satisfying, pour some more into a crystal glass, and enjoy your drink without a care in the world!


Does Whiskey Go Bad – Conclusion

Whiskey is a very popular drink. It can be served alone, or if you find the taste too strong, you can make a cocktail with it. Either way, it’s present in many cultures across the globe.

There are so many different types but they all share one important characteristic: they do not spoil! The shelf life of this spirit is infinite, as long as the bottle is unopened. Once you open it, you have more than half a year to finish it up.

On the other hand, the quality of hard liquor can be affected by inadequate storage. If you safe keep it incorrectly, it will lose the signature flavor. Tightly close the cap or cork, and you’re good to go.

Inadequate storage will show its ugly face if you leave the bottle in there for a while. Rust or mold will appear, or worse, the contents will start leaking. There is nothing you can do about it now except throw the whiskey out.

As we mentioned previously, sediment is nothing to worry about in a Scotch. Although, be wary about off-putting smells – consider them a warning sign that the quality is substandard.

The taste is a whole different story – it all depends on how you perceive it. If you find it bad, it’s time for whiskey to go in the trash. If you find it very tasty, sit back and relax with a glass in your hand!

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