How Long Will Whiskey Last Unopened?

How Long Will Whiskey Last Unopened? 

An unopened bottle of whiskey will last indefinitely if stored properly, away from direct sunlight and large temperature swings. Although it won’t mature any further outside the barrel, the whiskey may reduce in volume (due to natural evaporation) over very long periods of 10 years or more.

Maybe you’ve received a special bottle as a gift? Or you’ve recently made a buy-and-hold investment. Ensuring the safety and longevity of your whiskey involves keeping it stored upright and airtight in a stable environment such as a dark, cool spirits cupboard.

Not only does this preserve color and volume,  but gives you peace of mind that the whiskey is safe from any chances of degradation until it comes to opening or re-selling.

How Do You Store an Unopened Bottle of Whiskey?

Storing an unopened bottle of whiskey is like keeping a secret; it’s best done out of sight and under the right conditions. To keep your whiskey fresh and vibrant, shield it from UV rays by tucking it away in a cool cabinet with a sturdy door. 

Stored properly, an unopened bottle will keep your whiskey fresh for decades. If it doesn’t see the light of day too often or feel the sun’s warmth, your whiskey will remain as mysterious and inviting as the day it was sealed.

But what about the whiskey you’ve already opened?

Scroll below for more advice.

How long will whiskey last unopened?

How Do You Store An Opened Bottle of Whiskey?

The best way to store an opened bottle of whiskey is upright and airtight in a dark storage cupboard. Ideally, the temperature should be cool with little to no variance to help prevent loss of volume via evaporation.

Like perfume or freshly roasted nuts, spirits like whiskey contain many delicate complexities that can be lost over time. Top notes in the aroma and taste are the first to be lost after opening the bottle. The more air exposure (oxidisation) the whiskey undergoes, the greater this degradation occurs.

Once a bottle of whiskey is opened, proper storage becomes crucial to maintain its quality. Stored properly, an opened bottle can be kept for a few years, but it’s best to savor the full range of flavors within a few months.

4 Tips to Preserve an Opened Bottle of Whiskey

#1 Smaller bottle method. If you’re more than halfway through a bottle of whiskey, the amount of air inside the bottle increases, also known as ‘head space’. A great way to reduce this is to decant the whiskey into a smaller air-tight bottle which reduces the overall air-exposure.

#2 One at a time. As tempting as it is, avoid opening multiple bottles of whiskey at once. This lets you work-through one whiskey at a time, increasing the rate of consumption whilst reducing degrading the flavor over several months or longer. (This is a tough ask, as I actually like to drink two whiskies in the same evening to enjoy the contrast!)

#3 Infinity bottle. I’ve never actually tried this, but if you’re near the bottom of a bottle, simply pour the little remaining whiskey into a bottle of other remnants to make your own ‘blend’ of sorts. This is a fun hack that results in some interesting flavor combinations without wasting any golden nectar.

#4 Keep the packaging. Another savvy and somewhat sentimental way to store your opened whiskey bottle is to keep it inside the original packaging tube. If you like to keep your whiskeys on display, this protects the bottle from any daylight, potentially keeping it cooler too. Plus, each time you fancy a dram, you get that ‘new’ feeling taking it out the box. Win win.

How Long Can You Keep Whiskey Once Opened?

Once opened, whiskey can be kept for up to two years if the bottle is at least half full. However, 2-3 months is the typical timespan you can expect before any significant change in flavor occurs.

After you’ve opened a bottle of whiskey, air exposure begins to alter the whiskey’s flavors. For cheaper, younger whiskeys this can sometimes make it smoother with the evaporation of alcohol. But more typically, the flavors become dull and lost which isn’t ideal for top-shelf, more mature whiskeys.

Do You Refrigerate Whiskey Once Opened?

Whiskey doesn’t require refrigeration after being opened, but this spirit does appreciate being properly sealed. A cool (but not cold) environment like a dark storage cupboard with a good seal on the bottle, ensures that each time you return to it, it’s as you remember.

Furthermore, storing your whiskey in the refrigerator can actually cause it to go cloudy. This tends to happen with non chill-filtered whiskeys where chemical compounds can clump together (flocculation) creating a turbid ‘milky look’ in the whiskey or even little white floaters. 

If cold whiskey is your thing, serve it with ice cubes which will slowly melt and dilute your drink whilst you sip it. And yes, this might still cause it to go cloudy if it’s non chill-filtered.

But many whiskey fans say that flocculation is a sign of quality!

How to Tell if Whiskey Has Gone Bad

If you detect an acidic smell, a color change, or a taste that’s turned sour or flat, these are telltale signs that your whiskey has indeed gone bad.

It’s rare for whiskey to spoil, but if it does, you should be able to tell by discoloration and smell alone before you drink it. Like any food or drink, trust your senses. They’re the most reliable guides to discerning whether your whiskey is still drinkable.

How long will whiskey last unopened?

How to Tell if Old Whiskey Is Still Good

To determine if old whiskey lasts and is still good to drink, look for any discoloration, sediment, or changes in clarity. If it passes the visual test, trust your nose and palate to guide you through the next chapters of its sensory story.

Whiskey lasts and maintains its character well, especially if treated with care. So, if your old whiskey looks clear, smells rich, and tastes as it should, it’s likely still in good condition for drinking.

Does Old Whiskey Lose Its Alcohol Content?

Does a sealed bottle of whiskey lose its kick over time? The alcohol content in a bottle of whiskey can last for decades without significant change as long as it’s stored correctly. When a bottle is opened, however, that’s when the alcohol evaporates, and the strength of the spirit may begin to wane.

For your whiskey to last as long as possible, the bottle must remain unopened and stored properly. Keep the bottle upright and in a cool place, away from temperature fluctuations, to maintain the alcohol content and flavor profile. Stored like this, whiskey stays robust, with its unique flavor and alcohol strength preserved, ready to be enjoyed when the time is right.

Final Thoughts

As you’ve learned, whiskey isn’t like fortified wines that should be drunk within a few days of being opened. In fact, opened whiskey is still perfectly enjoyable for months, even years after opening. To re-cap, here are the key takeaways;

  • Unopened whiskey can last indefinitely if stored correctly.
  • Store your whiskey upright in a cool dark cabinet for longevity.
  • Open whiskey is best consumed within a few months to avoid degradation of intricate flavors and eventually alcohol content.
  • Once half empty, you can avoid oxidization by decanting the whiskey into a smaller bottle with less ‘head space’.
  • Don’t store your whiskey in the refrigerator
  • Whiskey can remain good to drink if it shows no signs of discoloration, sediment, or changes in clarity.
  • The sensory characteristics of whiskey, such as its aroma and taste, are good indicators of its condition.
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