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Storing whiskey – instructions for good bottle storage

Instructions on how to store whiskey the right way
How to store sealed whiskey bottles?
How to store opened whiskey bottles?
Ralfy’s tips on keeping whiskey fresh

If you’re wondering a thing or two about storing whiskey, here’s a quick article and few tips on how to store whiskey. I got news for you: whiskey can take a hit if you don’t take few things to consideration. If a bottle of whiskey is properly sealed and stored, then you can store it free of worry. Because it will not go bad even if you decided to store it for hundreds of years. So relax, whiskey enthusiasts have a lot less to worry about when compared to wine drinkers. For example, wine ages in a bottle so it has an implied prior to date. Open wine bottles can deteriorate very easily, if you don’t take lots of things to consideration.

Whiskey has less stuff to worry about, because of its high alcohol content, which preserves it indefinitely. There are few things you have to think about. Let me list the important stuff.

Rule number one, which is valid for sealed and opened bottles of whiskey:

  1. Always store your whiskey vertically – you don’t want the strong alcohol messing with the cork
How not to store whiskey

John Turturro’s character, lawyer John Stone in TV miniseries The Night Of, is storing whisky the wrong way

How to store sealed whiskey bottles?

Light and temperature are the main factors. Light and wide temperature fluctuations are big catalysts for chemical reactions in volatile compounds. These two factors will certainly degrade tasty esters and congeners in whiskey. Badly stored whiskey bottle will hold its alcohol per volume level (40% ABV for example), but the taste will suffer.

  • Store your sealed bottle vertically and avoid contact with light, especially direct sunlight is bad. If the whiskey comes in package, keep the package for storage purposes, even though it might be tempting to showcase your bottle. Cabinet with closed doors is good for bottles without package. Of course contact with light is acceptable if it’s not constant. You don’t have to drink your whiskey in a dark room.
  • Keep your bottles where the temperature will not fluctuate: basement, cellar or cabinet/closet inside a properly air-conditioned home will do fine. Even an attic can be harmful, unless the attic is nicely insulated. Storage units with no goo air-conditioning can have large fluctuations in temperature, so it’s wise to avoid them too.

How to store opened whiskey bottles?

NB! Decanting whiskey is something I won’t recommend. At least with the good stuff. Decanting won’t necessarily harm your whiskey, unless the seal is not tight. But even with a good seal, I like to avoid unnecessary pouring. In my opinion, the best place for whiskey is its own bottle. Decanters look great, though. So if you still want to decant your whiskey, read more about whiskey decanters from this article.

Store your opened whiskey bottle with same principals, as the sealed one. Besides that, know a little bit about a process called oxidation.

  • Properly stored whiskey with more than two-thirds of its contents remaining, will probably remain unchanged somewhere around one year. The taste can even change a little bit right after you’ve opened the bottle. It’s called oxidation. But the change won’t be so dramatic.
How to store whisky – Lagavulin 16YO stored in smaller bottles

My latest bottle of Lagavulin 16YO was under halfway so it had to be “relocated”

So what exactly is oxidation?
  • After a sealed bottle is opened, oxygen starts to work destructively towards your whisky. With the same principal as rusting: oxygen starts to bind with chemical compounds and turns them into other compounds. So you’ll end up with lots of compounds that won’t taste the same like they used to.
  • The more you give the whisky some contact with air, the more oxidation will occur which will change the way your whisky tastes. So whenever your bottle gets more air space, the more your whisky will have oxidation.

Remember that the process is slow, and that an inch or two of “headspace” in the bottle won’t make big exceptions on taste. At least for a year or so. But if at least 75% of the bottle is air, you are probably going to notice a degradation in quality in a quite short period of time. It may happen in a month. If you want to test this in rapid speed, leave a half glass of whisky overnight and taste it the next day.

There’s a nice little “rule” in whisky communities. When a whiskey bottle has hit the one-third mark, you invite a group of friends over to enjoy it. It’s nicer to share it with friends and fellow whisky enthusiasts, than to dwell on your misery, drinking the flat and tasteless whiskey all by yourself.

  • One neat trick is to store your whiskey to smaller bottles or glass containers with good seals. When available, I always put my favorite whiskies to smaller bottles when the big bottle is more than halfway through. You can use old miniature or sample bottles or order empty ones from ecommerce sites selling miniature glass bottles. Storing the whiskey in smaller bottles is not foolproof, because the oxidation has already begun. But it will extend the whiskey’s life circle.

One method is to use an inert gas, like a wine preserver product. Those products will provide a protective layer between your the whisky and the oxygen. This protection will be lost every time you open the whiskey bottle so it’s wise to save the spray for open bottles that will remain untouched for awhile.

Here is Ralfy’s post about keeping open whisky bottles fresh:

“How to keep hold of that whisky flavour without it fading over time.”

Tips on how to store whiskey
Johannes Lindblom
Johannes Lindblom
Finnish whisky enthusiast and the author of WhiskyRant! A digital marketing professional by day – a whisky reviewer and informer by night.


  1. AL Moran says:

    What if it was purchased in a sealed decanter decorative bottles . Wild West or even wild turkey bottles etc is that the same as a new bottle

    • Johannes Lindblom says:

      If it’s sealed and full of whiskey, I’d say it’s good as new. At least if it’s an official release by the distillery or well known independent bottler. So that we can know for sure that it’s been properly bottled with actual whiskey in it.

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