I've recently made the decision to put my whisky collection into storage and slow down my drinking habit.

Assuming I keep the bottles under moderate temperature, and out of sunlight, is there a ballpark figure to how long they'll remain palatable?

More specifically, I'm interested in real numbers, and not just 'a long time'.

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Whisky will never go bad after it's opened and kept closed and away from sunlight.

How should I store my Scotch Whisky? Unlike wine, whisky does not mature in the bottle. So even if you keep a 12 year old bottle for 100 years, it will always remain a 12 year old whisky. As long as the bottle is kept out of direct sunlight, the Scotch Whisky will neither improve nor deteriorate, even if it is opened. Whisky that is stored at very low temperatures can become cloudy, but the cloudiness should disappear when the whisky is returned to room temperature.

Aged Whiskey has gone through the majority of its chemical changes during barrel aging. It has been oxidized and condensed. The final product is generally stable, however further evaporation of liquids will occur over time just as in the barrel aging process, so storage in airtight containers would be recommended.

Sunlight has been known to increase the amount of substances like hydroxymethlyfurfurals in stored alcoholic beverages like mead and wine. I have not read any studies in direct correlation with whiskey, but with residual sugar present the production seems likely, thus storage in darkness, or non-UV light would also likely be a positive for long term storage.

Whiskey's shelf stability, especially if sealed, will bypass that of wine providing one of the most harsh environments for any sort of spoilage organism to take hold, with it's high ethanol content, as well as being more acidic than many more neutral liquors such as vodka.

In addition to other answers it is worth noting that there are some noticeable changes when the bottle is nearly empty, presumably due to evaporation inside the bottle.

Because of this many people either finish the last bit quickly, or decant it into smaller containers. If you have any bottles like this, it may be something to consider with long term storage.

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