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I'm not a wine man but I believe the general rule is to keep the cork wet, although the story is entirely different with whisky due to the effect of its high alcohol content breaking down the cork.

If the rule for whisky is to store the bottle upright, will it not suffer the same fate as wine stored upright? Assuming I open a number of bottles for enjoyment rather than waxing the seal for longevity, how can I make my spirits last?

Edit: for clarification, this question is focused on whisky that comes with a cork and by extension what to do with the cork, not whisky storage in general.

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Hard spirits naturally degrade over time once opened

You've already opened the bottle because you wanted to actually enjoy the drink, here are step you can take to help ensure the slow and unstoppable flavor degradation takes as long as possible.

  1. Store out of the light in a cool and dry place.

A good general rule of thumb for just about any type of alcohol is to store the bottles in a cool, dry, and dark location this will prevent any fluctuation in the environment from causing changes and prevent UV radiation from getting in.

  1. Keep the bottle completely sealed.

Whiskey and other spirits will not mature like a wine in a bottle over time, in fact using an open cork will likely contribute to the breakdown of the flavor as the spirit will have more opportunity to oxidize. A proper rubber stop/cork will do the job just fine.

If you are looking to "age" a whiskey your best bet would be to store it in a small used whiskey cask or in a sealed class bottle with whiskey cask staves added. Both will allow the whiskey to absorb more flavors over time.

  • A good answer. Your comment about replacing the cork with a rubber stopper is what I was looking for. I'd considered using them for screw caps, but for some reason the thought never occurred to me for cork stoppers. – Phil D. Jun 11 '16 at 2:25
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You should not keep the cork wet. The high alcohol content of most distilled spirits will begin to dissolve the cork, which is highly undesirable. They should always be stored upright. This applies to metal screw tops as well, as metal catalyzes the breakdown of organic compounds.

To improve the lifespan, the best thing you can do is keep the bottle in a cool, dark place. While it is true oxidation cannot happen without air, it is far slower without energy present, and reducing light-heat is much easier than removing air.

If you are able to keep the bottle in complete dark and below ~70F, it will last far longer. I store mine in a cabinet in my kitchen, and I have an Islay Scotch that has been open for 4 years and shows no signs of degrading, despite smoke being among the most easily destroyed flavors.

Always void sunlight. UV will quickly degrade the flavor of spirits. While the glass of most bottles blocks some UV, any getting through is extremely harmful.

Something else that can be done is to transfer partially filled bottles into smaller bottles. If you have half of a 0.750L, you might transfer it into 0.375L. This would reduce surface area and the amount of air in the bottle.

If you are committed to preserving a bottle that you do not often use, wine stores sell cans of Xenon which can be sprayed into bottles. The Xenon is heavier than air and covers the surface, preventing oxygen from coming in contact with the liquid. However, this is fairly expensive and will not prevent forms of heat/light degradation other than oxidation

  • Thanks, though my question was to do with the cork, not storage in general. The question was along the lines of if cork degrades if it gets dry but you can't use the bottle's contents to keep it wet, then what do you do. The marked answer suggests replacing the cork with a rubber stopper, which might not look as good as some of the cork stoppers but at least it'll do the job. – Phil D. Jun 15 '16 at 23:13

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