How should I store whisky?
And then came the call we’re always waiting for. ‘Gentlemen,’ the caller always says, ‘we’ve reached the one-third mark.’ There is no better call the whisky aficionado can receive.
Homer Simpson explained that a woman is like a beer. They smell good, they look good, and you'd step over your own mother just to get one. In that respect, whisky is a lot like beer and women. You can't stop at one; you always want to drink another woman. Eventually, you end up with the problem whisky drinkers hope to face: having too many bottles. There comes a point when you survey the box/cabinet/shelf/underwear drawer where you keep your whisky collection and you wonder how long all those open bottles are going to keep. Well, fret not, because having a massive collection of open whisky bottles is problem for your bank balance, not your pallet. And it could be worse; you could be a wine drinker.
Not only do open bottles of wine go down hill faster than a Swiss bobsled team, wine collectors have to anguish over unopened wine, which continues to age in the bottle. Every bottle of wine has an implied “drink by” date. For some of the better bottles, ones that cost as much as Nicolas Cage’s dinosaur skull or Lady Gaga's ghost-detecting machine, this date can be well over a hundred years. For your average £20 bottle, though, it’s more in the three and ten years range, depending on the varietal/blend. After this date the wine loses its character, eventually becoming expensive vinegar if bacteria-laden air has leaked into a deteriorated cork.
But, don’t panic, whisky doesn’t do this. Even a £12 bottle of Bells will still taste like a £12 bottle of Bells in a hundred years; although inflation might have brought the cost to £15. Whisky’s high alcohol content serves to preserve it indefinitely.
How should I store sealed bottles of whisky?
Everyone knows the rules to take care of a Gremlin: Don’t feed him after midnight. Don’t get him wet. Don’t expose him to sunlight. Don’t let him near your Furby, or he’ll will kill it and wear its synthetic skin as a prize. Similarly, a sealed bottle of whisky has two natural enemies: light and temperature. Light and wide temperature fluctuations catalyze chemical reactions in volatile compounds and will eventually degrade those tasty esters and congeners in your whisky. An improperly-stored bottle of whisky will still be 40% ABV (or whatever it started at) after a decade or two, but it will taste like you spent £15 on it. So, store your whisky away from direct sunlight and somewhere the temperature doesn’t fluctuate, the South Pole for example, and you’ll be fine to open the bottle in 50 years, if you can wait that long. You don’t need to have a basement, wine cellar, or one of those fancy things that raises out from your floorboards; any box, cabinet, or closet inside your air-conditioned home will be fine. Try to avoid keeping whisky in your loft unless it’s insulated or finished. Unlike wine, whisky won’t be affected by freezing temperatures, vibrations, or showing off to your friends.
How should I store opened bottles of whisky?
This is a problem you’re probably more concerned with. We’re not sure we’d like to meet anyone with the willpower to resist drinking a bottle of whisky for 50 years.
An opened bottle of whisky (stored away from light) with more than two-thirds of the whisky can last for about a one year. After that, exposure to oxygen makes the whisky rust. Well, it’s not rust, but it’s the same basic principal: oxygen readily binds with lots of chemical compounds – a process called oxidation – turning them into other compounds. Add oxygen to copper and you get copper oxide, that green crusty stuff on old pennies. Add oxygen to iron, and you get iron oxide, the red-brown and crumbly stuff on iron gates. Add oxygen to whisky and you get whisky oxide. Okay, we might have made that last one up. But, the more contact the air has with the whisky, the more oxidation occurs. This means the more air in your bottle, the more oxidation. Luckily, the process is slow, so an inch of air will not be detectable by your taste buds for a year or so. If 75% of the bottle is air, though, you’ll probably notice degradation after as little as a month. Have you ever accidentally left whisky in a glass overnight? If you have, you’ll know what we’re talking about. It’s like someone came and replaced
If you see a bottle of something rare and special at a bar sitting on the highest shelf and covered in dust, make sure to ask how long it’s been there and check out how low the level is. If it’s been sitting there for years with most of it gone, you’ll basically be paying to drink rusted lawn furniture.
Invite some friends over to enjoy a bottle when it hits the one-third mark, you’ll get a lot more enjoyment out of that third of a bottle by sharing it now than squirreling it away away until it turns flat and tasteless. Also, you’d hope your finds would invite you around when their whiskies hit the mark. If you don’t have any friends, you can decant into smaller bottles or just give us a ring and we’ll help you out. That’s the kind of altruism you can expect from us, your friends at Top Whiskies.