Can your scotch whisky go off?

Can your whisky go off?

Have you ever worried that your scotch whisky might go off? Imagine you’ve finally bought your dream bottle of whisky. Not a whisky to collect. The whisky you’ve always wanted to crack open and enjoy. You’ve saved it for a special occasion, poured yourself a good measure and taken a sip.

It’s everything you dreamed it would be. So, you put the top back on and wait for another special occasion. But have you made a horrible mistake? What if you wait years before you try it again? Can whisky go off? Can your whisky go out of date? 

Let’s do an experiment: 

  1. Pour yourself a small whisky. Any whisky will do. 
  2. Take a sip. Write down three tasting notes. 
  3. Now, and this is the tricky part, put the glass aside. Leave it until tomorrow.
  4. Take a sip the next day. Write down three tasting notes.

Did your tasting notes match? Unlikely. The whisky was gross, wasn’t it? 

Can your scotch whisky go off?

What happened? The whisky oxidised. Oxidisation is the same reason cars rust. Oxygen breaks down the compounds in your whisky, and that’s why it tastes dull and lacklustre the next day. Oxygen ‘rusted’ your whisky. 

So, yes, whisky can go off. Leaving a glass of whisky overnight is an extreme example of how whisky can go bad. 

Another factor influencing the whisky over time is dissipation. When you pour your whisky, those molecules dispersed into the room. Chemists and physicists call this dissipation. It’s a chemical process that can’t be reversed. Each time that whisky is poured, the air inside the bottle is displaced affecting future pours. For more information about dissipation, check out this great article from Mark Bylok.

Does scotch go out of date?

Ernest Shackleton left some unopened whisky in his Antarctic hut, and it was still good 100 years later. A sealed bottle of whisky doesn’t have a sell-by date. That said, the quality of an opened bottle of whisky decreases over time. 

As soon as you open a bottle and pour a few measures, it starts to oxidise. But don’t worry, whisky isn’t wine. While an opened scotch whisky can go off, the oxidation rate for whisky is much slower than for wine.

A good rule of thumb is that an opened bottle that is two-thirds full will last for about a year. When it gets down to one third, you should think about finishing the scotch sooner, rather than later (like you need our encouragement!). 

What can you do to stop whisky from going off?

Top Tip: take some of your unique whiskies and pour them into smaller bottles. If your small containers are airtight, you can save them for later. You won’t have to worry about oxidisation or if your scotch whisky will go off. 

And, of course, if you’re worried about open bottles going off, The Dram Team have the answer.

We send six miniature whisky bottles to our members every month. It is a fantastic way to taste a range of high-quality whiskies. And you won’t have loads of unfinished bottles.

If you like exploring premium whisky, join the club.  

Warmest whisky wishes,

Chris (Founder, The Dram Team)

P.S. I write to our members a few times a month, and I try to make the emails interesting for any whisky fan. You can get those emails by signing up here.

P.P.S. Please don’t forget to confirm your registration to our email newsletter, and to whitelist my email, so it doesn’t get lost 🙂

Do you like chocolate? Do you like scotch whisky? You might like our blog, How to Pair and Chocolate

Logo for The Dram Team, a scotch whisky monthly subscription box