Does whisky ever go bad? If stored correctly, a bottle of whisky can last for years, if not decades. We share our top tips to help you guard against the elements of change.
Building a collection of rare and aged whisky can be a considerable investment. From both a monetary and personal perspective, retaining the integrity of your whisky is paramount – and storing it incorrectly could impact the cosmetic appearance, lead to unnecessary evaporation – or worst of all, impact the elevated flavour within.
Fear not! Storing rare and aged whisky need not be stressful or complex. Ensuring your whisky is stored under the correct conditions will preserve your golden liquid in mint condition until it is ready to be uncorked, poured, and slowly savoured.
The Fundamentals of Storing Whisky
The House of Hazelwood is home to some of rarest Scotch Whisky available in the entire world. As a result of this, we’ve developed several protocols to ensure that from cask to bottle, every drop is delivered to the drinker in pristine condition.
When it comes to storing a bottle at home, we can look to the processes used by the whisky makers to help guide our efforts. Once a cask is filled, it is left to slumber in a warehouse for years. Over this time, warehousemen will monitor the resting places to ensure the spirit lays undisturbed in the ideal conditions: a cool, consistent temperature, free from unnecessary elements and direct sunlight – coincidentally the ideal conditions to store a bottle.
Although there are elements during this maturation phase that do not apply once a whisky is bottled – for instance, larger scale evaporation via the Angel’s share influenced by warehouse airflow, it is important to be mindful if you choose to decant or open your whisky, leaving a moderate amount behind in extended contact with oxygen could prompt a similar process, without the added benefit of imparting flavour through wood.
A rare and aged whisky should always be stored at a consistent, cool temperature, in a location that is unlikely to fluctuate in heat drastically. The optimum temperature for storage of a whisky tends to sit just under room temperature at a minimum of 15 degrees Celsius, up to a maximum of 20 degrees.
Colder temperatures are likely to impair the flavour of the whisky – and in the case of a non-chill filtered whisky being exposed to a low temperature and the alcoholic strength of the whisky, the liquid may become hazy. This risk is considerably higher for rare and aged whisky, as our methodology when bottling from cask is to opt for minimal intervention and avoid chill filtration to offer a closer representation of the whisky as the distiller intended.
The good news is if this cloudiness occurs, the haze is purely cosmetic and the result of esters and fatty acids within the liquid bonding. More concerningly, however, is the risk of a very cold extreme creating a reaction resulting in the dulling down of the flavour within the whisky.
Similarly, if rare and aged whisky is exposed to extreme warm temperatures, it is reasonable to expect an impact on flavour, changing the tasting notes through oxidisation – sometimes with unpleasant consequences.
Whisky should always be stored in a place free from direct sunlight – the darker the environment, the better. If stored improperly, ultraviolet rays from the sun will be one of the largest offenders in changing the cosmetic appearance of your whisky. Prolonged contact with sunshine will harshly bleach the contents within, and in some instances even the damage the label on pack – a heart-breaking occurrence if your whisky has been gifted due to a special occasion with a bespoke label, or auspicious number relating to vintage or age.
The position in which whisky is stored in is relatively straightforward: whisky bottles should always be stored upward. Whisky that is stored on its side will lead to the cork within being in contact with the liquid for a significant period, which in turn will give way to degradation due to the high alcohol content and break down the integrity of the seal.
This said, corks should still be periodically immersed with a quick but careful tip of the bottle for a up to ten seconds every few months to ensure it remains moist and avoids completely drying out. Dried out corks can become brittle and break off inside the bottle if not cared for properly.
Storing whisky using a decanter
If planning to move your whisky from bottle to decanter, although both vessels are relatively airtight in their nature, it should be kept in mind that this action can aid quicker oxidisation. As a greater volume of the whisky is poured from the decanter, more air will be present within – therefore once the whisky levels drop below two thirds of the volume, it is highly advisable to port over to a smaller vessel unless planning to deplete the bottle in a matter of weeks.
Insuring your rare and aged whisky
When building a whisky collection, peace of mind is invaluable. From the minute your bottle is dispatched from the House of Hazelwood inventory, we ensure your bottle is fully insured for the duration of the transit until the point of delivery – this service is complementary. However, if you are nervous of whisky storage once you take possession of the bottle, it may be wise to consider your own insurance to cover the value of your prized liquid gold.
I think my whisky is going bad. What do I do?
Storing whisky is a relatively simple and straightforward process, but if you suspect something is not quite right such as an odd look, smell, or taste, get in touch with the producer straight away. Producers may request samples, videos or photograph to help test and identify the source of the problem, so it is imperative you hold on to the whisky until advised otherwise.
Confident with storing whisky and ready to start your rare collection? Take a trip back in time and explore the House of Hazelwood inventory.