Does Whiskey Go Bad and How Long It Lasts?

by Dane Wilson | Last Updated: July 16, 2022

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While it is common to know that whiskey is aged for an insanely long period of time such as 10, 18, or even 21 years, you may wonder if it is possible for whiskey to ever go bad. While the ages whiskey is kept in very regulated conditions, can your half-full bottle of whiskey at the back of the cupboard stay there for just as long without going off? Thankfully, this article will mention everything you need to know about the shelf life of your whiskey.

captain morgan original spiced gold bottle

Does Whiskey Go Bad?

To cut to the chase, the unfortunate answer is yes. Whiskey does go bad. Although there is a semblance of hope as if stored correctly, whiskey can last for an insanely long time without going bad.

The main way that whiskey can go bad is by bacteria or mold infecting the environment inside of the bottle. Whiskey is extremely high-proof alcohol that has a strong alcohol content. This high alcohol content makes it very hard for any bacteria or mold to actually settle and develop in the bottle.

If your bottle is unopened and secured, there is an incredibly low chance that any bacteria will be able to get in. However, if your bottle of whiskey is opened, then the alcohol content can start to slowly evaporate, allowing for bacteria and mold to have an easier time developing inside of the bottle.

This is why it is super important to have your bottle sealed tightly when storing it. An unopened bottle of whiskey is also a lot less likely to go bad as it is airtight and secured. Make sure you store bottles upright so that the seal holds and does not let anything in or out.

How Long Does Whiskey Last?

The time whiskey lasts is all dependent on how much whiskey is left in the bottle. The shelf life can fluctuate a lot depending on if it is an opened bottle or an unopened bottle. Similar to other unopened bottles of distilled spirits, whiskey will last for years if not touched and stored correctly.

If you are trying to store an open bottle of whiskey for a long period of time, the length at which it will remain of high quality is highly dependent on how much whiskey is left in the bottle. If the bottle is opened but almost full, it will last up to five years if stored in the right conditions.

If you have an opened bottle of whiskey that is only half full, it will only last for a year or two. This is because the lower volume of whiskey allows for more oxygen to be in the bottle. The higher volume of oxygen increases the rate of oxidization which is what in turn makes whiskey go bad.

Best Whiskey for Coke_Sound Brewery

How To Properly Store whiskey

When trying to store any bottle of alcohol, especially the strong ones such as vodka, rum, and tequila, it is best to keep in mind that they must be stored in a dark and cool place. The harsh sunlight is not ideal for a bottle of whiskey if you intend to store it for a long time, however, if you are going to drink the whiskey entirely within the next few months then you will struggle to find a way to incorrectly store it. No matter how it is stored, it should still be fine to drink within the next few months.

You can easily and effectively store whiskey in the pantry or in a cupboard as they are dark and cool, allowing for your bottle to remain fresh for a long time. Direct sunlight should be avoided if possible.

Can You Store Open Bottles Of Whiskey?

While you might ask ‘will an opened bottle remain safe to drink?’, the answer is completely dependent on how you store it. Whiskey is prone to evaporating as it is so high-proof. You will notice that if you leave the bottle unsealed, the next time you go to drink some you might find that the liquid dropped considerably since last you checked.

This is more noticeable in smaller bottles and is why it is best to store unopened whiskey bottles for long periods of time and not the opened ones. If you own a liquor cabinet or a wine cellar then the shelf life of your drink will be a lot longer as storing whiskey in these conditions will allow it to remain fresh for a long time. Most whiskey should be stored upright so that the alcohol remains in the bottle, although this is more an issue for opened bottles as the alcohol pressing directly on the seal might evaporate quicker than expected. Cheaper bottles of whiskey might have a dodgy screw cap that is at risk of falling off, so storing your bottles upright will eliminate the risk of this being an issue.

Can You Store A Half-Full Bottle Of Whiskey?

As mentioned, you can certainly store a half-full bottle of whiskey although the amount of time it will remain fresh for is considerably shorter than that of a full bottle. The more oxygen present in your bottle will speed up the time it takes for oxidation to occur and for your alcohol content to be affected as well as the overall quality of the whiskey.

clear drinking glass with water

Can You Drink Expired Alcohol?

Alcohol itself does not technically expire in the same ways that other drinks might. Hard liquor especially, as long as it has not had too much air exposure, will still be fine to drink. Old whiskey, as mentioned earlier, is completely fine to drink no matter how it has been stored as the only thing you risk when ignoring the expiration date is a duller taste. If you want your drinks to taste smoother, then store them properly and unopened.

FAQs On Whiskey Going Bad

How can you tell if whiskey has gone bad?

While whiskey is not prone to going bad in a way that produces a bad smell or a visible change, you will be able to notice the difference in taste. Bad whiskey, gone off and not of low quality, will taste a lot duller than it initially would have.

Can old whiskey make you sick?

Old whiskey will not make you sick as it does not expire in the same way that other beverages might. The only bad thing about old whiskey is the fact that it will taste a lot duller than it would have when you first bought it.

Can you drink 100-year-old whiskey?

Whiskey is purposely aged so that it tastes smoother and is a lot nicer to drink. While it is rare, some distilleries will age their whiskey for up to 100 years and sometimes more than that. This is rare as it costs a lot to store it for so long and the bottle that will be sold afterward would sell for an insane amount of money.

How long can you keep an unopened bottle of whiskey?

An unopened bottle of whiskey can be kept for as long as you want. As long as it is stored in the proper conditions of a dark and cool place, the bottle will last for years. If you really wanted to, you can leave the whiskey for decades. This is quite common in countries such as the USA as fathers will sometimes buy a nice bottle of whiskey when their child is born and then let it age until their child turns 21.