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Mastering Whisky: Guidance for Storing Your Whisky

Learn the best way to keep your whisky in pristine condition at home

Whisky is a drink designed for slow consumption. This almost inevitably means that you will have more than one bottle in your bar, and if you are a serious collector forethought about how you store your spirits is essential. How and where you keep your whiskies will impact their taste and longevity for opened bottles, while preserving your unopened bottles that you may be saving for a special occasion is equally important. Just as with other spirits, the conditions whisky is exposed to will influence its taste, aromas and distinguishing characteristics. While a cellar is the ideal place to keep your single malts, for those who do not have such a space in their home there are ways to easily store your whisky and keep it in pristine condition. 

 

Does Whisky Go Bad?

The high alcohol content of whisky might lead some to believe that it cannot go off. While it is not as extreme as other spirits—such as wine—oxidation can impact your whisky and cause a change in taste. Oxidation and dissipation play an important role during the maturation process, breaking down the alcohol module in the casks. While whisky will not continue to age once it is bottled, these processes can continue to occur once a bottle is opened if it is not sealed properly. 

Sunlight and temperature are other environmental factors that can cause whisky to go bad before its time. These elements can cause your whisky to evaporate faster, as well as lose its colour and negatively impact its flavour. The ultraviolet rays in direct sunlight will slowly bleach the rich colours of your whisky. Temperature has similar influence on whisky, which is why we are very intentional with the temperature of our warehouses when maturing our spirits. Higher temperatures may cause your whisky to evaporate, while extreme low temperatures can cause your whisky to take on a cloudy appearance (although this should disappear once the bottle is restored to room temperature). 

Finally, it is important to be mindful of the condition of your cork that you are using to seal your whisky. Corks can become cracked or degrade if they are in contact with the spirit, which in turn can contaminate the whisky. As your cork is the primary tool used to keep your bottle sealed, ensuring it is in good condition is key to the long term storage of your whiskies. 

All of these elements serve to speed up the oxidation process, so mindful storage of both your opened and unopened bottles of whisky is essential.

Storing your Sealed Whisky

Quality whisky is an investment. Some people buy a whisky with a particular occasion in mind, such as a special birthday or anniversary. Others may acquire a limited edition or particularly rare whisky, and decide to set it aside for an extended period. Whether you have unopened whisky that you would like to keep for a few months or for years, proper storage of your spirits is essential to preserve its flavour, aroma and colour.

 

Store your whisky in a dark place

As mentioned, the amount of light your whisky is exposed to will have a direct impact on its longevity. In fact, this is the singular most influential factor on your whisky; too much sun will cause your spirit to lose its colour, and degrade its flavour and aromas. The direct light can actually break down compounds in the whisky, causing it to go almost rancid in flavour after too long. Furthermore, if your whisky is a particular collection item, sunlight will also serve to fade the label and other distinguishing packaging. You can safeguard against this by keeping your whisky stored away from windows, such as keeping it in an elegant cabinet or a dark corner of the room that allows for access without compromising your spirits.

 

Store your whisky upright

Alongside light exposure, the position of whisky bottles is important to consider. Unlike wine bottles (which are recommended to be stored horizontally), whisky should be stored upright. Where wine corks are made to stay in contact with the spirit to keep it moist, they are not made for repeated use once opened. In contrast, whisky corks are designed for extended use once opened, but should not be consistently wet or they will cease to be effective. This is because the high alcohol content in the spirit will start to degrade the cork over time. 

 

Wet your whisky cork periodically

While it may seem to directly contradict the tip above, a perfectly dry cork will become brittle over time, which can be just as damaging for your whisky in the long run. A brittle cork will lose its seal, and can even break off into the bottle. With this in mind, every so often it is beneficial to tip your bottle over to briefly wet the cork and keep it moistened.

 

Store your whisky at room temperature

The temperature your whisky is kept at will also influence its condition in the long term. When whisky is too warm it can expand, which can cause the liquid of a sealed bottle to come in contact with the cork, causing the same issues noted above. Do not store your whisky in the freezer; for while it won’t be permanently harmed whisky that is too cold may dull the flavours, as well as cause the colour to become cloudy. Inconsistent fluctuations in temperature will change the character of the whisky; it should be stored at room temperature between 15 and 18 degrees celsius.

Storing your opened Whisky

While opened whisky will not undergo immediate oxidation and eventually ‘spoil’ like wine, it will oxidise more quickly than a sealed bottle as there is more air in the bottle. The more air there is in the bottle the quicker this process will happen, and the higher likelihood there is of a change in taste. 

 

Store your whisky in a smaller bottle

As a measure to help prevent this, once your whisky has less than a third in the bottle, transferring the liquid to a smaller bottle will help preserve it for longer. As there will be less air in contact with the spirit, less oxidation will occur. 

 

Storing your whisky in a decanter

Whisky decanters have seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years, as they make an attractive statement for your whisky when serving. However, unless your decanter seals properly, it is not recommended for long term storage as it will undergo the same issues as an unsealed whisky bottle. In order to best preserve your whisky, decanters should be used primarily for serving, and not long term storage.

 

The Best way to store your Whisky

After all these cautions, for want of a cellar you may be unsure where to keep your whisky. Aesthetics are also important to consider, as many bottles have unique labels and packaging that deserve display. Some of the best places to store your whisky include: a dedicated whisky cabinet or shelves, or if you do not them being hidden away, secure boxes or a dark area that will remain consistent in temperature. Investment in a solid, glass-fronted whisky cabinet, some sheltered shelves or bar cart will allow you to elegantly display your whisky without worrying about its longevity. Being mindful of these environmental factors will guide you in where to keep your whisky long term, ensuring years of enjoyment.  

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