How long does whisky keep in a bottle?

Learn why whisky does not keep indefinitely in an opened bottle and how to extend the storage time.

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Question: I have several whisky bottles in my bar. How long does whisky keep?

Answer: We distinguish between opened and unopened whisky bottles.


Whisky is stored standing up. However, unlike wine, whisky in unopened bottles does not get better (or worse) when stored. The bottles must be stored standing up, as the cork does not close as tightly as in wine. The cork on a whisky bottle is a use cork as opposed to the disposable cork on a wine bottle. Therefore, it does not fit quite as tightly.

The whisky must not be exposed to direct sunlight. Otherwise it will fade. A bar compartment or box protects the whisky from light. In this way, storage for more than 10 years is quite possible. However, the liquid level will decrease during this time due to slight evaporation via the cork. To keep an eye on a bottle, it is advisable to make a small mark with a felt-tip pen on the back. This way, you can check whether the evaporation remains within limits.

If you want to store a whisky for a longer period of time, you have to think more about it. First of all, you should make sure that the temperature is lower than room temperature. The lower the temperature, the less will evaporate. An extra cap over the cork also helps. However, please make sure that this cap does not contaminate the original sleeve. This reduces the value of the bottle just like sealing wax, for example.

Bottles with simple screw caps must be regularly tightened by hand, as they always loosen by themselves and then the whisky evaporates more. The G&M bottles are typical representatives of this type.

If you store the bottle in the cellar, you should also protect it from moisture. The label starts to mould relatively easily in a damp cellar. A thin plastic bag in which you pack the bottle airtight is ideal. But be careful! The plastic bag must not contain any softeners or other chemical substances. They could bleach out the label and affect the bottle contents via the cork.


Opened whisky also behaves differently. It changes its taste. However, this happens much more slowly than with wine, which becomes undrinkable within a few days. Opened whisky keeps for about 6 months. What happens in the bottle during this time?

First, alcohol evaporates and the whisky becomes softer in taste. The air in the bottle also contains active gases that react very slowly with the flavours of the whisky. How the taste changes is unpredictable. Sometimes it gets better; often it gets worse.

Avoid these changes by leaving less air above the whisky. You can achieve this by decanting into a small half bottle or filling the bottle with small glass balls (marbles, clickers, shooters). However, please do not use a carafe for decanting. We do not know of any high-quality carafe that is really leak-proof over a long period of time. The carafe must have a plastic seal.

However, it is best if you do not have so many whisky bottles open and drink up the ones you do open within a few months.