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Mastering Whisky: Guidance for Storing Your Whisky

Jun 04 2019

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 may 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 could 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 change during storage?

The minimum alcohol content of whisky is 40%. Oxidation of whisky is not as likely as with other alcoholic drinks such as wine due to the alcohol strength. The most significant change of a whisky with longer term storage in bottle is likely to be due to evaporation. 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. 


Light and temperature are other environmental factors that can cause whisky to deteriorate before its time. These elements can cause your whisky to evaporate faster, as well as lose its colour and impact its flavour. The ultraviolet rays in direct sunlight will slowly lighten the rich colours of your whisky. 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. With removal and replacement of corks over an extended period they may become cracked or damaged. 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 may impact on the quality of the whisky, so mindful storage of both your opened and unopened bottles is essential.

The Macallan in a Drinks Cabinet with Glasses

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. 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.


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.  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 whisky to become cloudy, although this will clear once the whisky is at room temperature. Fluctuations in temperature are not ideal for the whisky; it should be stored at room temperature between 15 and 18 degrees celsius.

Mac-Rare Cask-cork-Stopper

Storing your opened Whisky

While opened whisky will not undergo immediate evaporation, it will evaporate 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 evaporation 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 mind 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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